Status on SBCs

I just gave a Raspberry Pi 4 a spin. I was somewhat opposed to try another one, due to me being a “microcontroller-guy” first and foremost. However, I also want to be a little bit in on the action regarding SBCs (single board computers) and that is why I tried again. Earlier I had a Raspberry Pi 3, which many stated would be usable for normal PC-use. I have no idea which PC’s people are using, but the RPi3 was 100 % unacceptable for any kind of daily use. The same goes for the much more powerful ASUS Tinker Board (left SBC in picture). The RPi3 ended up in a C64-case, with an image that boots into a full Commodore 64 within seconds. The ASUS Tinker Board ended up in my box of microcontrollers, frowned upon by the likes of Arduino 2560’s and the like.
I understand that people – other than the ones stating the usage of a RPi3 for daily use – will suggest using the SBCs as project-boards, much like any microcontroller. But to me, this doesn’t make sense. Programming an SBC like the RPi3 or other, will have you doing that on the unit itself; working in a sluggish system. Apart from that, you will still have a full-fledged OS with thousands of files and programs, which a real microcontroller does not have. It just have the code – which you either compiled and uploaded from your main PC (Arduino etc.), or coded directly on the microcontroller (MMBasic/Maximite and MicroPython)

The Raspberry Pi 4 was a lot better. Even though it is slower than the ASUS Tinker Board, I had an OK experience running Raspberry Pi OS on it. You still have to wait for browsers to open and such, but overall it is a pleasent experience working on it. Video playback is pretty good too. I recommend the unit.

So, where is all this going? Microcontrollers are getting faster and faster (CMM2 is 480 MHz) with multi-core CPU’s, SBCs are also getting stronger and stronger, need lots of amps, needs cooling, the RPi4 has 4 cores and what not. It could appear that the main objective of having something simple might be left behind. I loved the idea of the single CPU on an Arduino. You have the setup and the loop and nothing else. 16 MHz or sometimes only 8 MHz. I hope this will not go away.

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