Raspberry Pi Zero

I just had to have one as soon as I saw it.


A Broadcom BCM2835 application processor
–1GHz ARM11 core (40% faster than Raspberry Pi 1)
A micro-SD card slot
A mini-HDMI socket for 1080p60 video output
Micro-USB sockets for data and power
An unpopulated 40-pin GPIO header
–Identical pinout to Model A+/B+/2B
An unpopulated composite video header
Our smallest ever form factor, at 65mm x 30mm x 5mm

It’s a complete computer on a board, costing just $5.

And my one came free on the cover of MagPi magazine issue #40. It arrived this morning.

When this was launched in the UK a few weeks ago, the initial build of 20,000 units sold out inside 24 hours.

It takes me back to the days when I used to programme in assembler hex on a Motorola 6800 D2 kit, which cost about £200 back in 1977, and had all of 256 bytes of memory, and was probably the size of at least four $5 bills laid side by side.

I’ll need to get a few adaptors. And I’ll have to download the Raspbian operating system. It’ll probably be weeks or months before I plug everything in, and see if it works.

What do I want to use it for?

Nothing. Nothing at all.

I just had to have one.


About Frank Davis

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28 Responses to Raspberry Pi Zero

  1. Nice!

    And… for those looking to back their stuff up against cyberattacks or EMP pulses… I was at the local Costco/SamsClub/WarehouseShopping place last weekend with my brother and we picked up a two pack of flash keys for $22.

    Why was that notable? Because they were 32 GIGABYTE flashkeys… at $11 apiece.

    Thats roughly ONE MILLION TIMES the free memory that was available in a Commodore 64 computer when we were younguns (or middluns)! In something smaller than my thumb.

    For $11.

    Instead of spending 20 or 30 hours backing up my 25 gigs of reference/storage stuff in the My Documents folder of my computer to a Cloud Service, I backed it all up in about 20 minutes to the flash key that I can stick on my key ring in case my house gets creamed by a fly-by-asteroid-companion!

    32 Gigs. I wonder if I could fit the entire stock of printed material at the New York Public Library on that thing?

    – MJM

  2. Tony says:

    Wow! I’ll have to get one too.

    I remember being insanely jealous of a friend who had a Cambridge MK14 back in the late 1970s. Had fun programing a ZX80 soon after and then bought a Dragon 32 in the early 1980s. Massive 32K memory and amazing 6809E processor that could be run at about 2Mhz if you knew where to poke it.

    The manual incorrectly stated that it had a more basic 6800 processor so I had to poke around to guess the instruction set before writing a primitive assembler.

    Happy days.

    • Pete J says:

      Heaven’s another Dragon owner. Mine was correctly identified though,so probably a later model.
      had all sorts of fun with that, I made a text to speach processor for it that ran of the printer port, and a combined lap counter/timer for my scalextric.
      Happy days, we made us own fun in demand days.

    • Frank Davis says:

      I bought an Z80 Exidy Sorcerer in, oh, 1978 or 79. The choice back then was pretty much Commodore PET, Tandy, Sorcerer, or Apple. I would have liked to have bought an Apple, but it was twice as expensive as the rest. Anyway the Sorcerer was a neat little machine, and I used it for years. I still have it, covered in the lethal thirdhand smoke which probably killed it.

      I don’t remember the Dragon, but I remember the 6809 processor. Very nice chip. I did a whole bunch of programming for the 6809, and later for the 68000 series descendants of it.

      I’ve never written an assembler, but I once wrote a disassembler that converted machine code hex back into assembly language.

  3. Joe L. says:

    I haven’t gotten my hands on the Zero yet, and I must say the need for USB/HDMI adapters is a bit of a turn-off, but for $5, it’s hard to pass up. I’ve got a few of each of the previous models, and I must say the Pi 2 is a powerful little machine. Happy tinkering, Frank!

    • Frank Davis says:

      I seriously considered getting a Pi 2, but was put off by the HDMI/composite video, since I’ve only got VGA monitors. But it seems that you can get HDMI-to-VGA adaptors.

      I’m also a bit concerned whether my USB PC keyboards will work with it. I imagine they probably will. But at this price, who cares?

      • beobrigitte says:

        There are plenty of HDMI to VGA adapters, so don’t let this put you off Pi 2.

        I stumbled across Pi 2 a few days ago when discussing with a colleague how to compile a basic linux distro completely from scratch.
        It looks like Pi 2 is ideal – but it costs £75 for a starter kit.

      • Joe L. says:

        Yeah, the lack of a VGA port is a bit off-putting since VGA was the standard for so long, but I assume they scratched it due to the bulkiness of the connector. Like beobrigitte says, there are plenty of HDMI-to-VGA adapters out there, and they seem to have come down in price quite a bit since I last checked. However, I have never used one so I can’t vouch for their quality.

        Regarding your USB PC keyboards, they will work just fine, however, since the Zero only has one micro-USB port (the second one is dedicated to powering the board), you’ll need a male micro-USB to female USB A adapter, and most likely a multi-port USB hub connected to that if you would like to tinker with other USB devices.

  4. smokingscot says:

    Classic example of Impulse Buying

    Google says:

    “the buying of goods without planning to do so in advance, as a result of a sudden whim or impulse.”

    You of course might well say it’s an advance Christmas present, while our Ken Livingstone might well chastise me and say that’s terribly naughty and outdated. He’d insist it be described as a Mid Winter Celebration present.

    • Frank Davis says:

      It’s not really an impulse. I started drooling over these little boards way back in the 1970s, and I still do. I have a long history of insane desire for these things.

      It’s probably an addiction of some sort.

  5. woodsy42 says:

    I want one too – but I can’t actually think of anything useful to do with it – but for anyone with a programming background on early computers (UK101 was my first) m they are just so damn cute.

    • Frank Davis says:

      With its GP IO, it could be used as a microcontroller. But Raspbian comes with a web browser, an email client, and some office software called LibreOffice. And I see that they’ve managed to install Java on the Pi 2, so that’s almost certainly possible on the Zero.

      The only thing missing is a little Basic interpreter!

  6. Frank Davis says:

    In MagPi there are lots of projects using Pi’s as microcontrollers.

    There’s a little robot that uses stepper motors and ultrasonic sensors. A mood light. A GPS logger (and pothole mapper). Projects using conductive paint circuits. A random number generator. A pipe temperature monitor. A 3D viewer. Various games.

    I occasionally wish I had my own weather station, and maybe with with one of these USB temperature/pressure/humidity sensors I could build one.

    It seems that there are now some Raspberry Pi’s on the International Space Station.

    Other possibility might be to give the Zero its own USB mini keyboard and mouse (£11) and 7 inch mini LCD touch screen (£34)

    5 inch 800 x 480 LCD display costs £24 (clear plastic case for it £8.70)

  7. Frank Davis says:

    OT, I’ve been wondering whether the Paris Climate Conference achieved anything. Not according to James Hansen:

    Mere mention of the Paris climate talks is enough to make James Hansen grumpy. The former Nasa scientist, considered the father of global awareness of climate change, is a soft-spoken, almost diffident Iowan. But when he talks about the gathering of nearly 200 nations, his demeanor changes.

    “It’s a fraud really, a fake,” he says, rubbing his head. “It’s just bullshit for them to say: ‘We’ll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’ It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.”

    George Monbiot feels the same way:

    By comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster.

    Who am I to doubt them?

    • Tony says:

      You’ve been wondering what has been achieved??

      Have you not looked at the Eiffel tower and seen the enormous sign saying 1.5 degrees?

      The temperature of the Planet has fluctuated by tens of degrees in both directions, millions of times, over the last 4 billion years. But last night everything changed. These powerful, courageous, brilliant people have found a way to place an upper limit of 1.5 degrees on the temperature of the entire planet.

      This has to be the most astounding, impressive human achievement of all time. In fact almost certainly the most extraordinary achievement of any life form, anywhere, since the birth of the universe or any other universe for that matter.

      If you really think that is nothing, then gordelpus!

    • beobrigitte says:

      This does remind me of a question: HOW MUCH did the Paris extravaganza cost the tax payers? Wouldn’t it be MUCH cheaper to subsidize e.g. farmers for more plants and trees? After all, plants require CO2 to live, so we should have bumpers harvests these days….. (More questions in this area looming)

      I looked for some answers to my questions but got really bored with the shrieking blah-blah very quickly. The nonsense “Targets” fashion just does not go away.

  8. Marvin says:

    The hardware and the price of the Pi are certainly impressive, but like other commentators, I’d have no idea what to do with it, that an 8bit microcontroller cannot do much more simply. I have built projects using an 8bit Microchip PIC18F running at 48MHz, which can read an SD card, communicate with the PC over USB, write to a 3.2″ TFT display and with the addition of an ENC28J60 chip can serve webpages, all with my own code. The only advantage I can think of using the Pi, is to playback video at 30fps. The PIC struggles where fast video rendering is required, hence one of my projects ended up being an electronic photo album!!

    I think these devices are aimed at youngsters, who want to learn “programming”, but I’m not convinced they will do that either, all it will teach them is how to link ready made libraries together, but is that really “programming?” – maybe I’m just old and stuck in my ways.

    • Roobeedoo2 says:

      I have no idea about the technology…

      but the idea of linking libraries together… that’s appealing ;)

    • Frank Davis says:

      I think these devices are aimed at youngsters, who want to learn “programming”, but I’m not convinced they will do that either

      Actually, neither am I. The early personal computers like Commodore PET, Sorcerer, et al, all had Basic interpreters that you could immediately start typing instructions into, as soon as the computer had booted up. They encouraged people to start programming.

      But as the computers ‘improved’, the Basic interpreters got sidelined more and more. In PCs, the Basic interpreters got shuffled off to the Command Interpreter as an application (BASICA?) that you had to invoke. And then finally, the Basic interpreter was completely removed. Also everyone said that Basic was an awful language, and people should use structured languages like C to learn programming. Anyway, as far as I know, PCs aren’t shipped with any built-in interpreters or compilers any more. So there’s zero encouragement for anyone to write computer programs.

      A little story. One of my brothers’ young sons asked me over lunch about 20 years ago whether it was hard to program computers. So I said, “After lunch I’ll show you”. And so after lunch we dug out a Tandy computer and a TV that they kept in a box, and fired it up, and a nice little command prompt appeared on the TV screen. And I started typing out a little program with numbered lines to draw coloured circles of different sizes on the TV screen. It was a very simple program, only about 10 lines long that used a For loop (or was it a Do loop?) and some random numbers for different sized circles and colours. And I explained how you could add extra lines to do different things, and take lines out. And after about an hour, I said you could also save these little programs onto disk, and so I saved it as “Blobs.bas”, and showed how you could reload the program and start it working again. I wasn’t sure how much of it had gone in, but I ended up saying something like “If you can just write a little program like that, you’ve learned pretty much everything you’ll ever need to know about programming computers.”

      I thought no more about it. But 20 years on, when he was holding down a highly paid job in the computing department of some bank, I asked him over lunch when he’d first got into computing. “When you showed me how to write a little program called Blobs”, he replied.

  9. beobrigitte says:

    I am a very late-comer to computers. I even managed to dodge anything to do with computers for almost 3 years university (the mature student syndrome at the time….). Then I had to write a project and dissertation on the university’s computers in the library. I struggled like hell.
    When I went back to Uni for my masters, I made a point of learning to use a computer!!!
    The year after I was given (!) an old PC (harddrive = 800mb; RAM=32mb) and when the thing wasn’t working, I got a screwdriver and opened it up. Luckily I still had a soldering iron and could fix the loose connection.
    Then I got into building a PC. I still have my first one but need to get a slot for hooking both PC’s up together. I am hoping to add the Pi2 (because it runs linux!!!) to practice compiling my individually tailored OS.

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