We were talking about [Christopher Barnatt]’s very insightful analysis of what the future holds for the Raspberry Pi single board computers on the Podcast. On the one hand, they’re becoming such competent computers that they are beginning to compete with lightweight desktop machines, instead of just being a hacker curiosity.
On the other hand, especially given the shortage and the increase in price that has come with the Pi’s expanding memory endowments, a lot of people who would “just throw in a Raspberry Pi” are starting to think more carefully about their options. Five years ago, this would have meant looking into what you could whip together on an Arduino-based platform, either on actual Arduino hardware or on an ESP8266 or similar, but that’s a very different beast from a programmer’s perspective. Working with microcontrollers used to be very different from working with even the smallest Linux machines.
These days, there is no shortage of microcontrollers that have enough memory – both flash and RAM – to support a higher-level environment like MicroPython. And if you think about it, MicroPython brings to the microcontrollers a lot of what people were using a Raspberry Pi for in projects anyway: a friendly interactive programming environment that was free of the compile-here, flash-there debug cycle. If you’re happy coding Python on a single-board Linux computer, you’ll be more or less happy coding in MicroPython or Circuit Python on a microcontroller.
And what this leaves us with, as hackers, is a fantastic spectrum of choices. Where before there was a hard edge between programming C on an 8-bit PIC or an AVR and working with something that had a full Linux operating system like a Pi, it’s all blurry now. And as the Pis, the Jetson, and all the other Linux SBCs are blurring the boundary with more traditional computers as they all become more competent and gain more computer-like peripherals. Nowadays your choice is much freer, and the hardware landscape more fluid. You don’t have to let software development concerns drive your hardware choices, and we think that’s a great thing.