Here’s a first look at the layout for our interface boards.
We’ve sent off an order for our first couple of boards, and we should be able to test them next week. Everyone warns us that the first cut will need revision, but once we’re happy we’ll get a small batch of alpha boards made and packaged as kits.
We’ll use the alpha boards to check that the kits are easy for people to assemble, and then get a batch of about 100 beta boards made. We expect the boards to arrive in mid-November, and hope to be delivering final production boards in good time for Christmas.
We’ll be offering the beta kits to newsletter subscribers, so if you want early access make sure you have signed up for our free newsletter!
What can you do with the interface kit?
You can use the kit to experiment with connecting the Pi to real-world devices like LEDs and switches, motors and sensors.
You connect the board to the expansion header on your Raspberry Pi using an IDC ribbon cable. We’ll be offering those ready-made along with the kits.
The board will provide some protection for the Pi’s eight GPIO pins. The most common mistake that people make is to connect the GPIO pins on the Pi to 5v inputs. While this may not cause immediate failure, it will shorten the life of your precious Pi, so we’ve added clamping diodes that will help to hold GPIO inputs between 0 and 3.3 volts.
What if you want to connect more things to the Pi than the eight GPIO pins will support? The interface board has connectors which will make it easy for you to link up to our I2C and SPI expansion boards when these are available. We’ve a whole family of these under development; some will give you additional GPIO ports, some will allow you to measure or control analogue voltages, and some will allow you to control servos and motors. We’re also working on an LCD text display and numeric keyboard.
The Pi has a serial console which can also be used to connect programs running on the Pi to other computers. Many people have FTDI cables which can connect to a USB port on a PC , but most of these work at 5 volts, which isn’t supported by the Pi. We’ve added a level shifter to the serial port which you can configure to work with 5v devices. If you want to connect your Pi to an Arduino’s serial port, it’s easy to do that.
Most important of all, we’re developing Python libraries that make it easy to drive all this extra hardware, and we’ll be publishing plenty of examples to help you get started.
Next few weeks will be really exciting. To make sure you get the latest news about the boards, sign up for our newsletter. Just enter your email and click the sign up button at the top of the page. It’s free, and we won’t spam you.