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Raspberry Pi Pico is a $4 Arduino alternative

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has so far focused its energy on microcomputers, but it’s now turning its attention to Arduino-style microcontrollers for your homebrew gadgets. The organization has introduced the Raspberry Pi Pico, a $4 board meant to offer a gentle entry point for microcontrollers. Think of it more as a complement to a Pi aimed at tasks like analog input.

It’s built on Raspberry Pi’s own in-house silicon, the RP2040. The dual-core ARM Cortex-M0+ chip, 264KB of RAM and support for 16MB of off-flash memory (2MB is onboard) may not sound like much, but they’re reportedly powerful for the class with strong performance for tasks like machine learning.

The RP2040 package consists of the following:

Dual-core Arm Cortex-M0+ @ 133MHz
264KB of on-chip RAM
Support for up to 16MB of off-chip flash memory via dedicated QSPI bus
DMA controller
Interpolator and integer divider peripherals
30 GPIO pins, 4 of which can be used as analogue inputs
2 × UARTs, 2 × SPI controllers, and 2 × I2C controllers
16 × PWM channels
1 × USB 1.1 controller and PHY, with host and device support
8 × Raspberry Pi Programmable I/O (PIO) state machines
USB mass-storage boot mode with UF2 support, for drag-and-drop programming

The RP2040 is also part of a broader ecosystem. Adafruit, Pimoroni, SparkFun and even the Arduino team have developed boards tailored to more specific needs. One of Pimoroni’s devices may be the most interesting the PicoSystem is a £58.50 (about $80) “handheld game-making experience” that has you programming a console even smaller than the Game Boy Micro.

Raspberry Pi Pico will be available in North America through Newark starting on January 25th. The RP2040 should be “broadly available” to customers sometime in the second quarter of 2021. This won’t necessarily up-end the Arduino market, but it won’t have to — it’s an alternative that could help you finish DIY creations and teach you a thing or two about code and hardware development.

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