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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

3. The Gertboard

Then came the Gertboard, an input/output extension device for the RasPi.  The one I got was a complete kit, so I had to get a new soldering iron, with all the accompanying bits and pieces, but I found that putting the thing together was very enjoyable.  I haven’t fully put the Gertboard through all its paces, but I have it continually hooked up to my Pi, and it’s constantly flashing its 12 red LEDs in every imaginable sequence:


video



Of course, I had to make the Gertboard do this flashing of lights, and this involved getting stuck into some code – another enjoyable exercise.  Here’s the Gertboard, which has a footprint about twice the size of the RasPi:

The kit came with a 26-wire ribbon cable which connects the RasPi to the double row of pins at the very bottom of the above image.  You can now buy the Gertboard fully assembled, but I found a great sense of achievement in soldering it all together.

There are a number of test programs available for the Gertboard, which I will eventually get round to running.  I couldn’t run them all just after building, because you need some more components, like DC motors, LEDs, breadboards etc.  A good starting point for the Gertboard is at http://www.raspberrypi.org/archives/411.

Now one attribute the Gertboard has is a micro controller, the long black chip at the bottom left of the image above.  The chip is an ATMega328P, which in itself, is an amazing thing.  Not as smart as the processor on the RasPi, but pretty powerful nevertheless.

On looking into the ATMega328P, also known as the Arduino chip, I found yet another distraction from the Raspberry Pi – programming micro controllers.  Here's a picture of the Arduino chip:

It’s only about an inch and a half long, but it’s amazing.


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