(The first part of a mini-series about the Raspberry Pi Zero).
We all loved the original Raspberry Pi premise; a small and modest yet very affordable and versatile single-board hobby computer that brought computing projects into homes and classrooms alike. They were not the first or the only one on that market, but they hit a sweet spot in terms of value for money and community building that resulted in an unprecedented buzz.
The year 2015 was very exciting for RPi enthusiasts, since it brought us two quite different new concepts. Early in the year we saw the Pi 2, that blew us away because of its double memory and brand new quadruple processor that enabled all kinds of new performance-hungry projects. But that same year in November, we were hit with the Pi Zero; the lean mean mini Pi. The Zero used the now-familiar first generation processor, but it was on a much smaller circuit board, and was stripped from almost all peripherals to save cost, physical presence and power consumption. This unit had mobile/embedded written all over it.
Because of my bias towards mobile/embedded projects (governed by much different constraints than raw performance), I was thrilled by the theoretical possibilities after the announcement of the Pi Zero. There was only one slight problem: unless you were one of the lucky sods who managed to pick up a copy of MagPi magazine #40 that included the new gadget as a free throw, it was impossible to obtain. The initial stock of 20,000 sold out within hours, and the little follow-ups they produced never reached the general public. In the weeks that followed, my initial enthusiasm turned sour. Theoretical computers don’t work very well in practice, and I stopped dreaming about what projects I would make with this little board.
In retrospect, the lack of production of Zeroes could easily be explained by all the work that must have gone into preparing the launch of the even beefier Pi 3 that was announced on the Foundation’s 4th birthday*. At least this one was available immediately and sufficiently, so I got one of those to complement my B+ that was now semi-permanently embedded in a certain DIY robot project.
And then a few weeks ago, out of nowhere, when I had nearly completely banished the Pi Zero from my mind, a little news line caught my eye: “Zero grows a camera connector”. And there it was, the Pi Zero 1.3, with newly added CSI port that allowed hooking up the Pi Cam, including a nice feature about a high-altitude ballooning project. But the best part was, the end of the article provides links to two stores that are actually selling the device in the EU!
For my first shopping attempt I was so busy drooling over it and browsing the optional accessories that the remaining stock was actually sold out by the time I was ready to close the deal. I sighed, entered my email to be notified about new stock, and waited impatiently for next week’s supplies. Even though the item is currently limited to 1 per customer, I cleverly circumvented this by ordering one from each store. They could actually land in the mail any day now! When Mythos turns into reality!!
*The real reasons for the delay in production of the Zero might actually be different, as it is apparently produced differently than the “regular” RPi’s… there is some talk about it from Mr. Raspberry himself in this article that I completely missed at the time.