The Power and Versatility Which Comes From Single Board Computers
The advent of the home computer has arguably changed the world than almost any other invention within modern memory. There was a time not that long ago when the power of computing belonged to university mainframes alone. But the home computer changed that in the matter of only a handful of years. This began with rather challenging to use microcomputers, one had to assemble by hand. But over time, they became more and more user-friendly. Today home computers are capable of doing almost anything. Or at least anything aside from being small, portable, and easy to modify.
This is where we see history start to repeat itself. Because the history of computing is essentially repeating itself. Smaller computers appeared in people’s homes when mainframes ruled the world. And now smaller alternatives to the standard computers are showing up in the form of single board computers. When these devices first started to show up, they weren’t very user-friendly. In fact, they were difficult enough to use that the average person wouldn’t get much utility out of them.
Things haven’t moved to the point where one can find them in every pocket. But they are growing in both usability and ubiquity. Single-board computers, or SBC, are common enough that most power users have a good chance of owning one. And this is where we can really see the potential of the devices.
Some people are dismayed at first to see that they tend to have less on board processing power than modern smartphones. But this attitude neglects the sheer energy needed to run mobile operating systems. Mobile operating systems often take more, rather than less, tools on system resources than something meant for the desktop. And in fact, one can actually run some desktop operating systems on mid-tier SBC platforms.
The most popular of these options involve custom versions of Linux, which have had any unneeded bits removed. This gives people a relatively lean desktop system in which they can run on something sized for pockets. But the power of an SBC goes far beyond that. One of the most amazing things about them is the hardware additions.
Desktop computers aren’t very uniform in design. This limits the amount of extra hardware that can be easily used with them. Likewise, a phone isn’t very friendly when it comes to accessories. Even platforms that allow it, like android, are ultimately limited by the number of hardware ports. For example, one often needs to sacrifice the ability to run off a charger when adding hardware to an android device.
On a single board platform, one can usually use something known as a hat. A hat is a secondary board that essentially nests on top of the SBC. This can add a wide range of features. One of the most popular options is a variant of sense boards. These boards can add gyroscopes, temperature sensors, and some limited visual LED system to output data. GPS systems and even necessary cell connections are possible through a hat as well.
All of this means that an SBC is basically a totally open system upon which one can easily add new hardware or software-based functionality. And again, compact size is a top priority for people working on SBC and hats. This means that one can essentially design almost anything involving computer systems by using an SBC. Someone might need to write custom software or put a new hat together. But in general, it’s probable that any need has already been met. This means that it’s just up to one’s imagination to decide how to use the power of an SBC.