It has been in release only a few weeks, but already the Raspberry Pi Zero is making waves in the DIY community. Why? It’s a fully capable computer. You power it via a micro-USB port – the same as your Android phone – and it has a micro-HDMI port so you can hook up a monitor, and another USB port you can plug a hub into so you can add other things, like a mouse and keyboard, and a Wi-Fi adapter – and it boots from a micro-SD card.
Two important things set it apart from its predecessors, which were already ground-breaking technology:
- It costs $5.
- The computer itself is about one fourth the size of the $5 bill it takes to pay for it.
It’s faster than the original Raspberry Pi, so it’s strong enough to run as an actual workstation doing things like watching movies, word processing, running Minecraft server, and posting to Facebook. Here are the vital statistics:
- A Broadcom BCM2835 application processor
- 1GHz ARM11 core (40% faster than Raspberry Pi 1)
- 512MB of LPDDR2 SDRAM
- 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
- The smallest ever form factor for a Raspberry Pi, at 65mm x 30mm x 5mm
There are a few caveats:
- The GPIO (“General Purpose Input and Output”) connector is missing, but you can add one yourself, or you can just connect hookup wire directly to the pads you need and skip the connector entirely.
- If you want to actually talk to your computer you’ll also need to add peripherals, which can cost considerably more than $5 if you don’t have old ones just lying around.
- The Zero is also missing Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and sound output.
If you want it these capabilities, though, and you’re handy with a soldering iron, the hacker community has already solved all these problems.
- Add Wi-Fi: Hackerspace figured out how to take apart a USB Wi-Fi card and wire it directly to the Zero. You’ll need some soldering skills but otherwise it’s a pretty simple project.
- Add Ethernet: Raspi.TV shows you how to manually wire in an Ethernet port to the Pi’s GPIO.
- Add Audio Out: Adafruit put together a guide for manually wiring in Audio Out into the GPIO. You’ll also need a breadboard a few other additional parts to get it up and running.
Why would you want to do this when you can buy a Raspberry Pi 2 for $25? The form factor might be the deciding factor. If the Raspberry Pi Zero isn’t the tiniest single board computer there is, it’s pretty close – and it’s the smallest one at that size that gives you access to a general purpose interface for hooking up your own special modifications. This computer is small enough to easily fit inside the helmet of your Iron Man cosplay – and it’s cheap enough that you could even have one computer in each gauntlet and connect them to one another via your own personal Wi-Fi network.
There is this great magazine dedicated to Raspberry Pi do-it-yourself-ers, and while a three month subscription to it is $37.50, the first issue comes with a Raspberry Pi Zero right on the cover.
It is available today in the UK from The Pi Hut and Pimoroni, and in the US from Adafruit and in-store at your local branch of Micro Center.
The potential of these little wonders is virtually limitless. Is your brain fizzing yet?
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