What is a Raspberry PICO?

Raspberry Pi Pico is a tiny, fast, and versatile board built using RP2040, a brand new microcontroller chip designed by Raspberry Pi in the UK. But, how is a Pico different from a plain old Raspberry? In very few words, NO operating system. We’re all used to playing with a Raspberry. Burn LINUX to an SD card, boot the Raspberry into the OS from the SD card and then ssh in or log in to the on-screen GUI with a computer keyboard and mouse. You know the drill. The PICO is different. The PICO is a microcontroller which puts it in the camp of being more like an Arduino than a Raspberry.

SO, operating the PICO is a little different. Yes, you can still write Python (Micropython) and C (C and C++ SDK) programs for it, but you load them a little differently. Instead of relying on the OS to communicate with the device, you copy your program onto the onboard 2MB flash chip, reboot, and then let the microcontroller do its thing with your code. Being less like a computer gives the advantage of being much smaller, cheaper, and low-powered!

Raspberry Pi Pico key features

  • RP2040 microcontroller with 2MByte Flash
  • Micro-USB B port for power and data (and for reprogramming the Flash)
  • 40 pin 21×51 ‘DIP’ style 1mm thick PCB with 0.1″ through-hole pins also with edge castellations

Here’s a PDF of the pinouts of the PICO, suitable for printing and framing, or as least keeping handy on your desk.

What else is on the PICO?

  • 2MB flash (Winbond W25Q16JV)
  • timing crystal
  • power sensing and decoupling
  • USB connector

How to Run a Raspberry PICO

Raspberry Pi has put out this PICO Getting Started Guide to get you started! But if you’d rather play along here, I’ll explain everything. I just got mine from Amazon so we can do this together! This item doesn’t come with a USB cable or soldered headers. If you’re not comfortable soldering, I would recommend this PICO–it has pre-soldered headers AND a USB cable. At the very least, make sure you have a Mini USB A-Male to Mini-B Cord. Another great resource to download for FREE is “Get Started with MicroPython on Raspberry Pi Pico“. This is a great book to learn how to use the beginner-friendly language MicroPython

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