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My Experiences With the Raspberry Pi -- Tracking My Learning -- My Pi Projects

Sunday, February 10, 2013

How I Got Started With The Raspberry Pi

Back in the late 1970’s I introduced my son to microcomputers.  I purchased the Heathkit ET-3400 microprocessor trainer with its hexadecimal keyboard for input; six, 7 segment LED displays for output; and 1K byte of RAM. It was bought as a kit, so half the fun was the assembly.  We programmed in Motorola 6800 machine code.  There was no assembler for this machine.  What fun inserting a line of code. Our most ambitious project was programming the game of Mastermind®.  Next came the Timex Sinclair where each key had four functions.  This Zilog, Z80 based device came loaded with basic, but it was possible to program in assembly language.  That tiny computer eventually became tricked out with a large case containing the PCB, standard keyboard, power supply, expanded memory, and an expansion port that allowed us to plug in breadboarded circuits.  Among the most interesting circuits we built were a speech synthesizer and tone a generator.  Finally, there was the infamous Commodore 64.  The fun here was building and controlling sprites using 6502 assembly language.
Then came the PC!!! About the same time my son went off to college to become a physicist.  For the next 30 years or so, I did not build any computer hardware, and, virtually, did no serious programming. I  did manage to study C and C++ along the way.  In the meantime, my son became a way-over-the-top programmer on the way to his PhD.
Last summer, he brought his Raspberry Pi on a visit.   After showing me what it could do, it just brought back memories of those days when you could actually control a computer.  There is one big difference though: our roles are now reversed – he’s the teacher/expert and I’m the student.  I immediately bought a Pi with enough accessories to make it work. His interest in the Pi has been in home automation.  He has a very interesting blog that you can view here: A Pi In The House. Of particular interest is use of the internet to monitor sensors, and his use of the Pi's watchdog timer to handle electrical service interruptions.
Before the Pi I had a casual knowledge of Unux and had never written a Python program.  So, I'm really starting from scratch.

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