For Today Only, Pi=3

In 1897 the state assembly of the American state of Indiana famously tried and failed to pass a bill which would have had the effect of denying the value of the mathematical constant Pi. It was an attempt to define a method to “square the circle”, or draw a square of the same area as a given circle through a series of compass and straight edge steps. It’s become something of a running joke and internet meme, and of course defining Pi exactly remains as elusive as ever.

Today and today alone though, you can in one sense claim that Pi is 3, because it’s twelve years since the launch of the original Raspberry Pi. The 29th of February 2012 was a leap day, and today being the third leap day since, could be claimed by a date pedant to be the third birthday of the little board from Cambridge. It’s all a bit of fun, but the Pi folks have marked the occasion by featuring an LED birthday cake.

Three leap days ago, your scribe was up at the crack of dawn to be one of the first to snag a board, only to witness the websites of the two distributors at the time, RS and Farnell, immediately go down under the denial of service formed by many thousands of other would-be Pi owners with the same idea. It would be lunchtime before the sites recovered enough to slowly buy a Pi, and it would be May before the computer arrived.

The Pi definitely arrived with a bang, but at tweleve years old is it still smoking? We think so, while it’s normalized the idea of an affordable little board to run Linux to the extent that it’s one of a crowd, the Pi folks have managed to stay relevant and remain the trend setter for their sector rather than Arduino-style becoming an unwilling collective term.

We’ve said this before here at Hackaday, that while the Pi boards are good, it’s not them alone which sets them apart from the clones but their support and software. Perhaps their greatest achievement is that a version of the latest Raspberry Pi OS can still run on that board ordered in February 2012, something unheard of elsewhere in single board computers. If you still have an original Pi don’t forget this, while it’s not the quickest any more there are still plenty of tasks at which they can excel. Meanwhile with their move into branded silicon and their PCIe architecture move we think things are looking exciting, and we look forward to another 12 years and three birthdays for them. Happy 3rd birthday, Raspberry Pi!

47 thoughts on “For Today Only, Pi=3

  1. Maybe someone more versed in maths can explain to me by they had to go to such extremes to propose a bill to deny the value of Pi. Wouldn’t be enough to simply substitute Pi, in any given formula, with the desired value?

    1. 3.14 would have been good enough for most math uses yet now and then someone has the weird idea of making the number easier to remember by using 3 only.

      Example, an item with diameter of 3 inches (radius of 1.5) would be around 9.94 with a few digits of pi. But if one went with common core junk and used 3, then the answer would be 9 inches which is missing nearly one whole inch.

      1. The object in question wasn’t a well but a hemispherical casting with a specified wall thickness. The proportions for it work out to a fairly accurate value if the measurements are its outer diameter but the inner circumference.

        There are a lot of numbers in the Bible that appear to be rounded, estimated, or symbolic, but the Bronze Sea dimensions may not be.

      2. It also said God murdered people he didn’t like for honestly some petty reasons. I find it disturbing when people rely on a compilation of books of unknown authors and unknown purpose. It has many inaccuracies and honestly has horrendous messages. Truly baffling how anyone calls The Old Testament or Koran, Holy Books?!?! The pettiness and just hatred is unjustifiable.

        1. >> The bible contains the most reliable and well-proliferated documents of any ancient texts.

          Um, not really. You see this particular claim quoted a lot, (like in your link) but it’s important to note that the cast bulk of these “early” documents are copies of copies of copies, largely dating from the late 200’s / early 300’s. We know this by the text changes and embellishments that propagate through them as they are duplicated.

          There are _fragments_ of the Gospels going back to about CE 80, which seems to be the first time that people actually wrote anything down. So whatever the real story was, it was first passed down by word of mouth for maybe five decades, then written down in a language that none of the principals spoke by persons unknown, with motives unknown.

          You can argue that this still compares well to the 7 known ‘original-ish’ copies of the Illiad, but that’s, you know, a fable.

          And yes, there are only 10 copies of Caesar’s “Gallic Wars” but there is ample independent evidence of the events depicted from a plethora of other sources.

          And if “Well Proliferated” is the metric, the New Testament fails miserably compared to the spread of the works of Buddha and Mohammad, both of which were literate and had literate followers and widely propagated what is unquestionably their own literature, in their own lifetimes.

          So… True claim. Really misleading given lack of context.

      3. Hey there! Just wanted to chime in on the conversation about the Bible and the Indiana Pi Bill (House Bill No. 246). It looks like there’s a bit of a mix-up happening. The bill proposed a value of pi as 3.2, which is a bit different from the biblical reference you mentioned, where the implied ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter is 3:1. So, these are two separate things.

        The Bible passage often mentioned in this context is more about giving a simple, round number for an architectural feature, not stating a precise mathematical constant. On the other hand, the Indiana Pi Bill was an actual attempt to legislate a specific (and incorrect) value for pi, which is 3.2, not just 3.

        Just a friendly note to clarify that the Bible and the Indiana Pi Bill are talking about different numbers. The bill wasn’t trying to align with the Bible’s round number; it was proposing a new value altogether. Hope this helps clear things up a bit!

      4. 3 inches times Pi equals 9.42477796077, not 9.94. Where did that come from? Also, the bill discusses 3.2, not 3, which would give us 9.6 instead.

        As a side note, using a rope on a cylinder with a 5cm diameter is enough to find 3.14, not 3.2. I wonder how the bill’s author, Edwin J. Goodwin, got it so wrong…

      1. “In further proof of the value of the author’s proposed contribution to education”?!? I felt more like I’d banged my head on something than educated by reading that.

        I’m glad I read where it actually came from, but maths written by a lawyer produces some seriously opaque text.

    2. The US has way too much legislation. Too many laws, nobody could read all our laws in a thousand lifetimes. Ludicrous. Why the heck would you need to write a law determining how to square the circle?

      There should be a policy in place wherein any legislator, when passing a bill or a law, must then be locked in stocks in town square for the next week. If it’s a good one people will respect him, maybe bring him something to eat and drink, but if it’s trivial or bad then rotten tomatoes.

        1. Or every law has term limits. It’s much easier to get people to *not reaffirm* a bad law, than to get the law repealed.
          “Murder still a bad idea? Cool; passed. What about our position on this Net Neutrality bill we passed previously? Hmm…”

    3. The short version is that Pi becoming 3 was just a side effect of what would happen if the bill went through, it was being driven by a crank trying to legislate some other, more obscure mathematical thing related to circles and his broken maths only worked if Pi was exactly 3.

    1. i got one somewhere. in a drawer unfortunately. in fact i have four and only one is used in a project, that rots in a box somewhere. its still the best linux experience i ever had.

  2. I have a 512kb Raspberry Pi-B sitting around, doing nothing. I was trying to find an OS for it, but I seem to remember that there is a bare metal TRS-80 emulator for it. Maybe that will do?

    1. And what about your ZX Spectrum and MSX, how many times did you fire those up, since you bought the Pi400?


      Of all the general computer devices in my house (including a ZX81, a COSMAC ELF, and an Amiga CD-TV), I actually only use about 4 on a daily to weekly basis: my Macbook, my Windows laptop, my Raspberry PI 3 linux machine/file server, and my iPhone.

      But I do think I have two PI 1’s, one PI 2, and three PI 3’s lying around. Maybe more, I can’t remember. ;) One PI 3 is configured as media player, and the other is running retropie.

    1. “113355, put the last 3 digits in the numerator and the first three digits in the denominator.”
      a joke right?
      more easy to remember 3141592 … 7

      or even better remember this:

      I wish I could determine pi
      Eureka, cried the great inventor
      Christmas pudding, Christmas pie
      Is the problem’s very center.

      write down the number of letters of each words… tada

  3. American’s like simplicity. Dealing with those tricky “decimal points” make their brains hurt. We can see American engineering in action by examining the poor state of their infrastructure, such as it is.

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