No doubt about it, the Raspberry Pi is nothing short of a homebrew phenomenon. Since its release in February 2012, the British micro-mini-computer has enabled legions of amateur inventors to develop projects both weird and wonderful. Here’s a run-down of the most impressive applications, ranging from weather stations to retro arcades to a supercomputer array on a Lego rack. See if any of them inspire you to do the same.
1. Build a Nixie Clock
With their gaudy neon digits and retro styling, a Nixie tube clock would look great in the home or office. Martin Oldfield built a clock that receives Network Time Protocol data from the internet via the Raspberry Pi, and is accurate to 10-thousandths of a second. All you need is a RPi and an SD card, a self-assembly Nixie Clock kit, and a Wi-Fi dongle or ethernet cable. Step-by-step instructions.
2. Build a Weather Station
Interested in meteorology? Use the RPi to build an inexpensive weather station that can process data in situ. The shopping list for this project would be an RPi, a USB Wireless Touch Weather Station from Maplin, and an ethernet cable. Visit Dragontail Mapping for a tutorial.
3. Build a Retro Arcade Cabinet
The MAME emulation software is an important preservation project for vintage gaming software. Over at the Raspberry Pi blog, a chap known only as “Darren J” explains how he installed an RPi running MAME into a replica gaming cabinet, complete with working coin slot. Recreate your misbegotten youth by placing it in a darkened garage; cigarette butts and cans of fizzy pop optional.
4. Build a Better BigTrak
Remember My Big Ideas
5. Build a Supercomputer
Engineers at the University of Southampton built a supercomputer using 64 networked Raspberry Pi computers… nested in a rack of Lego. The goal was to show that a cluster of RPis would make a inexpensive, compact foundation for high-performance computing, and the Lego was an effective way to keep them physically manageable. The University has published a complete guide for anyone can do the same at home, and the investment is as little as £2,000.
6. Build a Brewery
BrewPi is an open source temperature controller for brewing beer or wine, which controls the temperature of the fridge that holds your precious cargo. With a dual setup for both the beer temperature and the fridge temperature, it can hold your beer temperature far more steady than usual thermostat-controlled devices. And if that’s not enough beer-related chicanery, there’s also the RPi-controlled beercan keyboard.
7. Build a KindleBerry Pi
This is something of a horror-show; an Amazon Kindle that’s been hacked to run as a computer terminal for an RPi. Because of the low-refresh rate for the e-ink screen, the device has limited use except for coding, but it remains an ingenious proof of concept for low-powered, compact computing. Full details of the project (and the rationale behind it) can be found on Studio Ponnuki.