james ainooson

On Raspberry Pis

Posted on 1st November 2021 under Making

I bought my first Raspberry Pi in 2016, when the Model 3B was released. Although shipping this tiny board to Ghana cost me a pretty penny, I really thought it was worth it. After all I had several wonderful projects planned; projects that were going to give me a lot of fulfillment, even if they didn't generate any financial rewards. But the keyword in my statement here is “planned”, given that’s the state in which all the projects have remained. Since I never realized any of my projects, the tiny little computer board has remained in my drawer ever since.

Interestingly, not finding a use for this board didn’t deter me from purchasing others. Since 2016, I have bought a variant of every single raspberry pi board that has been released. And with each of these boards, I still justify the purchase with a list of projects that will never be realized. All that ever happens to these boards are the occasional flashes with random operating system images I come across.

A sample of boards from my collection

Because I have been collecting since 2016, my lot of these single board computers have steadily grown. Currently I own a Raspberry pi 3B, 3B+, 4, 400 (the one with the keyboard), Zero, several Picos, and my most recent addition, the Zero 2W. This list does not include impulse purchases for other single board computers like a RockPI 64 and an ESP 8266 (with its programmer).

A Point of Reckoning

A few weeks ago, a freshly purchased Raspberry Pi Zero 2W arrived in the mail. As usual, I flashed it with the latest raspbian, booted it up, and marvelled at its speed. This time around, however, something was different. Just as I was about to toss this board unto the pile of its drawer-domiciled compatriots, I took a moment to think about how wasteful I have been. It suddenly became apparent that none of these boards will ever be used—they’ll just become obsolete, or even worse, just get damaged idling about.

This situation is obviously not exciting, and something about it has to change. I just can't continue wastefully acquiring boards that I never get to use. So now I'm taking some serious steps: I have vowed to never buy another board until I have used at least two of those I currently own.

Next Steps

I've gradually started working towards this goal, and I’m using this blog post as a way to keep myself accountable. As a starter, I have managed to write and flash firmware to the Raspberry Pi Pico. Of course, as expected, I only got a light emitting diode to blink (with the help of some example code). But, doing this on the Pico is a giant step for me, a step outside of my comfort zone, and an interesting challenge worth taking. For me the Pico is very unusual. It doesn’t necessarily require an OS (although there are a few for it), and you can’t do much with it unless you wire up some custom electronics. This means, to meet my challenge I need to get creative beyond just writing code–I need to physically build stuff.

Honestly, I’m quite excited about this new step, and as hopeful as I may sound in this post, I also somehow feel like failure is imminent. Afterall, it’s typical of me to set lofty goals without considering that real life must also be taken care of. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see how well I do on this challenge.