The annual Humble deal featuring our amazing collection of Arduino and Raspberry Pi ebooks is upon us once again, running from today through Monday, March 4. You can snap up over $300 of Make:’s best wisdom on the subject of microcontrollers for as little as $15. It’s emphatically in your best interest to check it out.
But then what do you do? After all, figuring the different uses for a Raspberry Pi or an Arduino can be a head scratcher. Naturally, you want both — but they do different things. With all of our best books on both subjects available in one cool deal, you’re going to be ready to build a robot, monitor near space, auto-water your plants, help your kid bug her bedroom against her sister, and fairly shout, HELLO WORLD.
This super simple guide will help you get started. And when we say “super simple,” well, we’re making things unnecessarily complex.
What is the difference between the two?
An Arduino is a microcontroller motherboard. A microcontroller is a simple computer that can run one program at a time, over and over again. It is very easy to use.
A Raspberry Pi is a general-purpose computer, usually with a Linux operating system, and the ability to run multiple programs. It is more complicated to use than an Arduino.
What would I use each for?
An Arduino board is best used for simple repetitive tasks: opening and closing a garage door, reading the outside temperature and reporting it to Twitter, driving a simple robot.
Raspberry Pi is best used when you need a full-fledged computer: driving a more complicated robot, performing multiple tasks, doing intense calculations (as for Bitcoin or encryption)
Is there a simple rule of thumb to help me decide?
Yes, there is! Think about what you want your project to do. If you can describe it with less than two ‘and’s, get an Arduino. If you need more than two ‘and’s, get a Raspberry Pi.
“I want to monitor my plants and have them Tweet me when they need water.” That can best be done by an Arduino.
“I want to monitor my plants and have them Tweet me when they need water and check the National Weather Service, and if the forecast is for fair weather, turn on the irrigation system and if the forecast is for rain, do nothing.” That would best be handled by a Raspberry Pi.
Isn’t that rule of thumb oversimplifying what is actually a much more complex issue?
Yes. That’s what a rule of thumb is.
Look, this is confusing! Just tell me which one I should buy!
An Arduino. It’s a system designed for beginners.
A Raspberry Pi. It’s the computer you’ve been wanting.
OK, I’m buying them both. Tell me again how I can learn to use them?
As indelible as the microcontrollers it discusses, this article was originally published by Make: books editor Patrick DiJusto in December 2015.