The size of Pi

Posted by Graham Hall on

Carrying on from the intro post about the Pi, I suspect there might be a few more questions and maybe a few raised eyebrows? The Pi is a very different looking computer, compared to that big box you used to sit under the office desk (or on top of the desk that took up so much space)!


The key difference is size and power. Is a Pi capable of doing what lots of people want? Well to be honest, these days for lots of tasks I would think yes. Though if you are an accountant doing a heap of spreadsheets or a data scientist crunching lots of numbers then umm no (definitely not). I know it sounds confusing but stick with me and we will get through this together. 

One reason it is so small is the “Hard Disk” is no longer a big piece of spinning metal inside the computer. A Pi uses a Micro SD card for it's file storage, like your camera takes. In the photo below you will see the old style Hard Disk/Drive on the left, a laptop hard drive in the middle and the Micro SD card at the right. Not so large anymore!

hard drive compared to SD card size


Now this can be used for both the Operating System, applications and storage. A quick refresher -  the Operating System is what makes the computer able to connect to a network, let keyboards and mice work and gives you a graphical desktop to start with (rather than a flashing cursor and a black screen waiting for a command). A Raspberry Pi uses the Operating system aptly named Raspberry Pi OS. If you have used an Apple computer, they use MacOS (or Mac Operating System). For lots of other computers, they use Microsoft Windows products (Windows 10 etc). 
So the Operating system is what makes the computer ready for you to add on the software (applications) you want, to make it useful for you. The best bit of a Raspberry Pi OS is, it is free to use and no one will be asking for money to upgrade to the latest version. 

You may also need a place to store your files. The SD card is good for this if you do not have lots of files. However if you did want lots of storage for your files, lets say to store the “every photo I have ever taken” style memory, then do not panic. You can easily add an additional external USB Hard Drive as these are cheaper to purchase and keep the small Micro SD card for your operating system and applications software.

I will finish it there for today, but will have another post a bit later as we look at some of other functions or projects you can do with a Pi. 


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