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Raspberry Pi Announces  “Pico” Microcontroller with Custom Chip, Collaborations with Arduino, Adafruit, and Others

Raspberry Pi is synonymous with low-cost computing through their credit-card-sized boards, which have sold millions of units since launching in 2012. Over that time there have been size and shape modifications, with the A, B, Zero, and compute modules (as well as the brand new “400” keyboard-embedded device), and their capabilities have increased with more powerful processors. But two things have been relatively constant: the price (around $25–$35 for their A and B-based models) and the functionality (Linux-based computing).

Both of those blow up today with the announcement of the Raspberry Pi Pico, their first microcontroller. It’s a diminutive board with some attractive features. Among them, the price, which is just $4, and the microcontroller chip, which, like another fruit-monikered computer company has recently done, is custom-designed silicon.

Here are the specs:

  • RP2040 microcontroller chip designed by Raspberry Pi in the United Kingdom
  • Dual-core Arm Cortex M0+ processor, flexible clock running up to 133 MHz
  • 264KB of SRAM, and 2MB of on-board Flash memory
  • Castellated module allows soldering direct to carrier boards
  • USB 1.1 with device and host support
  • Low-power sleep and dormant modes
  • Drag-and-drop programming using mass storage over USB
  • 26 × multi-function GPIO pins
  • 2 × SPI, 2 × I2C, 2 × UART, 3 × 12-bit ADC, 16 × controllable PWM channels
  • Accurate clock and timer on-chip
  • Temperature sensor
  • Accelerated floating-point libraries on-chip
  • 8 × Programmable I/O (PIO) state machines for custom peripheral support

The board is designed to run C/C++ and MicroPython. It doesn’t have Wi-Fi (more on that in a moment). And those PIOs give an interesting flexibility to the device.

While the board pushes into the territory of traditional dev board makers like Arduino, Adafruit, and Sparkfun, these companies today also announced their adoption of the RP2040 chip, to be used in their own microcontrollers. Arduino, for instance, is putting it into a Nano-sized board called the Arduino Nano RP2040 Connect, which promises wireless capabilities as well as Arduino IDE compatibility.

Adafruit has announced the ItsyBitsy RP2040 and Feather RP2040 additions to their lineups, which includes USB-C. We imagine they will support CircuitPython.

Sparkfun is launching three new boards with the RP2040 chip: The SparkFun Pro Micro, The SparkFun MicroMod, and The SparkFun Thing Plus

https://twitter.com/sparkfun/status/1352151449778708482

And the fine folks at Pimoroni have built a ton of expansion boards for the Pico, as well as their own tiny microcontroller.

Just a few:

https://twitter.com/pimoroni/status/1352176049275154433

 

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Senior Editor for Make: I get ridiculously excited seeing people make things. I just want to revel in the creativity of the masses! My favorite thing in the world is sharing the hard work of a maker.

I'd always love to hear about what you're making, so send me an email any time at caleb@make.co

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Mike Senese is the Executive Editor of Make: magazine. He is also a TV host, starring in various engineering and science shows for Discovery Channel, including Punkin Chunkin, How Stuff Works, and Catch It Keep It.

An avid maker, Mike spends his spare time tinkering with electronics, doing amateur woodworking, and attempting to cook the perfect pizza.

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