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Raspberry Pi’s Eighth Birthday: 8 Things You Might Not Know

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

One of the world’s most popular and innovative computers officially launched on February 29, 2012. Eight years and 31 million units sold later, the Raspberry Pi remains one of the most important devices, powering a huge community of makers, students and businesses. What started as a small project, meant to increase applications for Cambridge University’s computer science program has become a global movement.

Everyone self-respecting tech geek should own a Raspberry Pi. If you don’t already have one, it might be time to get started. You can use one as a lightweight PC, a retro arcade machine or to power a variety of projects, from robots to fart detectors and weather stations. 

In honor of the Raspberry Pi’s eighth birthday, here are 8 key facts about it:

1.  Raspberry Pi’s Original Target Was Just 1,000 Units

The Raspberry Pi was originally developed to solve a very limited problem: the decreasing number of people applying to study computer science at Cambridge University. The number of applications had dropped from 600 to 250 per year and Eben Upton, who was the director of studies and responsible for admission, became concerned that not enough kids were taking an interest in computers. By providing a low-cost, hackable computer to just a few kids in the UK, Upton intended to get more and better students for his program.

"The stuff we were designing, the business model side, they were all scaled around the idea that if you could get 1,000 units built and into the hands of the right 1,000 kids [you'd solve the problem]," he told us last year.

After interest in the project swelled, Upton and his team decided that they need to make a lot more than 1,000 units. And the target audience expanded from U.K. children to people of all ages in all countries.

2.  There have been at least 18 Different Models of Raspberry Pi

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Since its launch in 2012, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has released 17 additional models, 19 if you count all three RAM capacities of the Raspberry Pi 4 B. The original Raspberry Pi, the Model B had just 256MB of RAM and a single-core, 700 MHz processor. The most current model, the Pi 4 B, has up to 4GB of RAM, a quad-core 1.5-GHz CPU and USB 3.0 ports. 

ModelYear ReleasedCPURAM
Raspberry Pi 1 B2012700 MHz Broadcom BCM2835 (1 core)256MB
Raspberry Pi 1 A2013700 MHz Broadcom BCM2835 (1 core)256MB
Raspberry Pi 1 A+2014700 MHz Broadcom BCM2835 (1 core)512MB
Raspberry Pi 1 B+2014700 MHz Broadcom BCM2835 (1 core)512MB
Compute Module 12014700 MHz Broadcom BCM2835 (1 core)512MB
Raspberry Pi 2 B2015900 MHz Broadcom BCM2836 (4 cores)1GB
Raspberry Pi Zero 1.220151 GHz Broadcom BCM2835 (1 core)512MB
Raspberry Pi 2 B v1.220161 GHz Broadcom BCM2835 (1 core)512MB
Raspberry Pi 3 B20161.2 GHz Broadcom BCM2837 (4 cores)1GB
Raspberry Pi Zero 1.320161 GHz Broadcom BCM2835 (1 core)512MB
Raspberry Pi Zero W20171 GHz Broadcom BCM2835 (1 core)512MB
Compute Module 320171.2-GHz Broadcom BCM2837 (4 cores)1GB
Compute Module 3 Lite20171.2-GHz Broadcom BCM2837 (4 cores)1GB
Raspberry Pi 3 B+20181.2-GHz Broadcom BCM2837 (4 cores)1GB
Compute Module 3+20191.2-GHz Broadcom BCM2837B0 (4 cores)1GB
Compute Module 3+ Lite20191.2-GHz Broadcom BCM2837B0 (4 cores)1GB
Raspberry Pi 4 B20191.5-GHz Broadcom BCM27111 / 2 / 4GB

3.  There are Two Raspberry Pis in Space

The International Space Station is home to two “Astro Pis,” which are specially modified Raspberry Pi B+ models that have been “space hardened” and equipped with the official Raspberry Pi Sense Hat . The European Space agency runs periodic contests where children submit code to be run on the devices. 

4.  The Raspberry Pi Foundation Wants Products to Live Forever

Even though the Raspberry Pi B+, Raspberry Pi 2 and other models are way out of date, the Raspberry Pi Foundation continues to actively manufacture and sell them. The organization hates to End-of-Life (EOL) products, because there are industrial clients who may still need them even if they are really old.

"EOLing product is death. We’ve EOLed [just] five products in our life," Upton told us in 2019. He said that the only five products that Raspberry Pi discontinued include the Pi 1A and Pi 1B, because "the Pi 1A+ and B+ are a better implementation of that world."

Even now that the price of the Raspberry Pi 4 B (2GB) has dropped to $35, the 1GB model will still be available at the same price, because some customers may still want it as a drop-in replacement. 

5.  The price of Raspberry Pi Has Dropped, Relative to Inflation

The original Raspberry Pi cost $35 in 2012 while the Raspberry Pi 4 B (2GB) costs the same price today. However, if you consider inflation, $35 from 2012 is actually equivalent to $39.80 today. For that same price, you get: 

  • A 40x faster processor (700 MHz, single-core vs 1.5-GHz quad core)
  • 8x the RAM (256GB vs 2GB)
  • Wi-Fi vs no-Wifi
  • Dual monitor output vs single HDMI out
  • USB 3.0 ports vs USB 2 only

If $35 still seems like a lot of money, there are cheaper Pi models. The Raspberry Pi Zero goes for just $5 and weighs a mere 9 grams. 

6.  More than 2 Million Raspberry Pi 4 Bs Have Sold 

In 2019, the Pi Foundation sold 2 million Raspberry Pi 4 Bs out of 6.1 million total units. Of those 2 million, two thirds were the 4GB model. Half of all Raspberry Pis go to industrial clients. 

7.  You can Overclock Your Pi 

Raspberry Pi 4B

(Image credit: Future)

All Raspberry Pis are overclockable with overclocking capability built into the Raspberry Pi’s official operating system, Raspbian. Using a simple, $10 fan shim, we were able to overclock the 1.5 GHz Raspberry Pi 4 B all the way up to 2.147 GHz. 

8.  There’s No Power Button

Most computers have some kind of button you can press to turn them on or hold down to turn them off. However, the Raspberry Pi has never come with a power switch or button and it probably never will. Upton said he thinks that if the boards did have built-in on/off switches, most people wouldn’t actually use them. 

Unless you buy a third party switch or install a button of your own by connecting it to the GPIO pins, the way to turn on a Raspberry Pi is just to plug it in via USB Type-C (Raspberry Pi 4 B) or micro USB (every other model). Before you unplug a Raspberry Pi, make sure you’ve properly shut it down in the operating system or you could lose data.

  • bit_user
    A 40x faster processor (700 MHz, single-core vs 1.5-GHz quad core)
    That's surely best-case. I don't believe the cores are really 4.7x faster per clock, for the typical benchmark.

    Also, you forgot to mention gigabit ethernet vs. 100 Mbps.

    You could also mention 32-bit vs. 64-bit cores, with a footnote that Raspbian is still 32-bit.
  • Biffe46
    It's a great cheap option for tinkering and I more or less have used them all over the years. Imo we really need to get a more permanent realiable/fast option over SD cards. either a SATA or M.2 on the next version(costly ofc, so might ruin the idea behind the board). Only hickup that I have, is that USB boot on Pi4 still isn't working. Bought two of these the first week they were released, and honestly I had no idea that it would take a year and still waiting to get usb boot working. I can't figure out why this isn't top prio in 2020 with USB boot.