We have a special blog today from one of our own design engineers, Simon Martin. He’s the designer of Raspberry Pi 400 and our High Quality Camera and spends his free time tinkering with electronic music.
Simon has wanted to make his own electronic musical instrument with Raspberry Pi for some time. He designed a circuit board for the project a year ago, but it lay around in a drawer in his desk while he finished Raspberry Pi 400. Finally, the winter months gave him the incentive to get it working.
Simon’s electronic musical journey
Simon: The Synth6581 device doesn’t look much like an electronic musical instrument, but just like circuit boards stacked on top of a Raspberry Pi 4. You have to plug a musical keyboard into a USB port and a pair of speakers into the audio jack on the bottom board to make it work.
The code is written almost entirely in Python, with a little bit of C to speed up the communications to the chips. I designed and laid out the circuit boards, which were ordered online. The first six boards cost only £20, but the components were another £100. I spent more than a day soldering the components on the boards by hand. It took much more time to check every chip and connection worked, a common problem with hand-soldering new boards.
Synth6581 — no ordinary sounding instrument
And Synth6581 is no ordinary sounding musical instrument. It’s based on the music chip inside a vintage computer: the Commodore 64. The microchips are almost forty years old and they have a quirky sound that kids in the 1980s loved and parents hated. By the way, did you know that the Commodore 64 was the inspiration for Raspberry Pi 400?
The SID chip sound
I was one of many hobby programmers in the 1980s that used to attempt to program Commodore 64s. Much like people today dabble with programming on Raspberry Pi 400s, kids and adults were dabbling with the BASIC programming language on their Commodore 64s back then. Nowadays, Raspberry Pis have video, graphics, and audio readily available, but back in the 1980s, the hardware registers had to be ‘poked’ one by one into the console window. You had to get quite technical just to get the computer to make a musical sound. Those sounds came from the MOS6581 or ‘SID’ chip. It had such a famous sound character that it formed the basis of the chiptune music genre, and people are still writing music on Commodore 64s today.
Poking SID chips
By borrowing a few chips from broken Commodore 64s, including one or two lying around Raspberry Pi Towers, I made those 1980s ping noises into a polyphonic synthesiser controlled in Python on Raspberry Pi. The registers in the SID chips are simply being ‘poked’ by Raspberry Pi instead of Commodore 64. I also reverse-engineered the music from old games and made the sound effects and instruments work across the keyboard.
One of a kind electronic musical device
This device is unique: only one of these will ever be built, so please don’t wait for a launch date. There were over 10 million chips manufactured for Commodore 64, but production of the chips ended nearly 30 years ago. The Commodore 64s and spare parts for them are still in high demand, which is pushing up second hand prices. Nonetheless, the code and schematics are available online on GitHub, and I invite other Raspberry Pi users to use them to make musical instruments out of other games consoles. I reckon Sega Megadrive has a lot of potential for a Raspberry Pi port…
It’s been a journey, but it’s finally here, and I can talk about the secret Raspberry Pi 400 project! I’ll also try to cover some of the questions you asked following Eben’s announcement of Raspberry Pi 400 yesterday.
Four years in the making
It’s been over four years since the original idea of a Raspberry Pi inside a keyboard was discussed, before I even started working at Raspberry Pi Towers. Initially, the plan was for a kit with all the parts needed for people simply to open the box and get started by connecting the accessories to a “classic” credit-card sized Raspberry Pi. The challenge was that we needed a mouse and a keyboard: if we could manufacture a mouse and a keyboard, we could make a complete kit. How hard could it be? Then, within a day of our announcing our new keyboard and mouse, we saw a blog from someone who had milled out the keyboard and integrated a Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+ into it.
Our jaws dropped – we were impressed but we couldn’t say a word. Then others did the same with a Raspberry Pi Zero, and by that point we kind of expected that. We knew it was a good idea.
The keyboard and mouse were the big things we needed to sort out: once the quality control and supply chain were in place for those, we could move to fitting keyboard matrices to Raspberry Pi 400s, and achieve final assembly in Sony’s manufacturing facility in Wales. We had first planned to make a Raspberry Pi 3-based version, but it was clear that getting such a complex item into product wouldn’t happen until after we’d launched Raspberry Pi 4, and this would make the new product seem like a runner-up. So, instead, we started work on the Raspberry Pi 4-based version as soon as the design for that was finalised.
A fresh, new Raspberry Pi 4
The board inside the housing is essentially a Raspberry Pi 4 unit, but with a fresh PCB design. It has the same USB and Ethernet system as the Raspberry Pi 4, but one of the USB2.0 ports is dedicated to the keyboard.
We have already seen a few comments about the USB ports being on the left side of the unit, and the fact that this makes the mouse cable cross over for most right-handed users. The PCB shape had to be defined early on so that the industrial designers could get on with the housing design, and I then stared endlessly at the PCB layout, trying to get one of the USB ports to route to the right side without wrecking the signal integrity of the memory or the HDMI; I could not find a way to do this. Left-handed folks and Bluetooth mouse-owners will be happy at least!
Raspberry Pi 400 has dual-band 802.11b/g/n/ac wireless LAN and Bluetooth 5.0. Like Raspberry Pi 4, it has dual micro HDMI output which achieves up to 4K video. It would have been be lovely to have had full-size HDMI connectors, but in order to achieve this we would have to remove other functions, or make a bulkier unit. However, the kit does come with a micro HDMI-to-HDMI cable to cheer you all up.
We kept the GPIO connector since it is loved so much by beginners and experts alike, and this is after all a Raspberry Pi – we want people to be able to use it for tinkering and prototyping. The HAT functionality works better with an extender cable, which you can buy from numerous websites.
Raspberry Pi 400 has the same circuit layout of the power management, processor, and memory as Raspberry Pi 4, but with one major difference: we’ve adjusted the operating point to 1.8GHz! And did I mention cooling? We’ve solved the cooling challenge so users don’t have to give this any thought. Raspberry Pi 400 contains a heat spreader that dissipates the heat across the whole unit, front and back, so that no part of it will feel too hot to touch. In fact, there is enough thermal margin to overclock it, if you’re so inclined.
Why not the Compute Module?
Some folks have asked us why we did not fit the Raspberry Pi Compute Module inside. The reason is that above a certain scale, it generally makes more sense to go with a custom PCB rather than a module with a carrier board. With hundreds of thousands of Raspberry Pi 400 units in the first instance, we are above that scale.
Turn it off and on again
We also have a feature that is completely new to Raspberry Pi products: an on/off button! Power off is achieved by pressing Fn+F10. This is a soft control that negotiates with Linux to shut down, so you don’t corrupt your memory card or your USB drive. Power can be restored by holding down F10 (or Fn+F10) for two seconds.
A lot of love went into making this the best possible product we can manufacture, and it has been through extensive alpha testing and compliance testing. I thought I would show you the insides of a very early prototype. There are already some teardown videos online if you want to see how Raspberry Pi 400 is put together; it has not changed much from this:
Raspberry Pi 400 kit
The official Raspberry Pi mouse has been a lovely product to have available where Raspberry Pi 400 is concerned, because now we can provide a complete kit of official matching Raspberry Pi parts that looks fantastic on your desk. The kit comes with the SD card already programmed and inserted, so on Christmas day, you just need to plug it into the family TV and start coding. No frantic searches for somewhere that sells memory cards!
The kit includes:
Raspberry Pi 400 computer with choice of six keyboard countries (more to follow)
Official Raspberry Pi mouse
Raspberry Pi USB-C DC power source, with adaptors for each country
SD card ready-fitted in the unit with the latest software release installed
micro HDMI to HDMI cable
Jewel box to store the SD card
Fourth-edition Raspberry Pi Beginner’s Guide book with instructions for getting started with Raspberry Pi 400, as well as loads of things you can do with it
Ode to Commodore
Finally, a bit of fun to finish with. On Christmas morning 1985, I opened the polystyrene box of a Commodore 64 computer and the world switched on for me. It had the best games and the best sound, and it was easy to program. We think the combination of gaming and programming still works today, but we’ve come a long way since 1985. Here’s a chart to show how a Commodore 64 and a Raspberry Pi 400 compare.
I particularly like the benchmark increase for less than half the power. This makes Raspberry Pi 4 almost a million times more efficient at processing data.
We do hope this bring smiles to the faces of those fortunate enough to get one by Christmas. The factory has been running flat-out for the last two months building up stock – order yours soon though, since they’ll sell quickly!
Special thanks to…
Alwyn Roberts, Andy Liu, Anthony Morton, Antti Silventoinen, Austin Su, Ben Stephens, Brendan Moran, Craig Wightman, Daniel Thompsett, David Christie, David John, David Lenton, Dominic Plunkett, Eddie Thorn, Gordon Hollingworth, Helen Marie, Jack Willis, James Adams, Jeremy Wang, Joe Whaley, Keiran Abraham, Keri Norris, Kuanhsi Ho, Laurent Le Mentec, Mandy Oliver, Mark Evans, Michael Howells, Mike Buffham, Mike Unwin, Peter Challis, Phil Elwell, Rhys Polley, Richard Jones, Rob Matthews, Roger Thornton, Sherman Liu, Simon Lewis, Simon Oliver, Tim Gover, Tony Jones, Viktor Lundström, Wu Hairong, and all the alpha testers and resellers who made Raspberry Pi 400 possible.
When we announced new keyboards for Portugal and the Nordic countries last month, we promised that you wouldn’t have to wait much longer for a variant for Japan, and now it’s here!
Japanese Raspberry Pi keyboard
The Japan variant of the Raspberry Pi keyboard required a whole new moulding set to cover the 83-key arrangement of the keys. It’s quite a complex keyboard, with three different character sets to deal with. Figuring out how the USB keyboard controller maps to all the special keys on a Japanese keyboard was particularly challenging, with most web searches leading to non-English websites. Since I don’t read Japanese, it all became rather bewildering.
We ended up reverse-engineering generic Japanese keyboards to see how they work, and mapping the keycodes to key matrix locations. We are fortunate that we have a very patient keyboard IC vendor, called Holtek, which produces the custom firmware for the controller.
We then had to get these prototypes to our contacts in Japan, who told us which keys worked and which just produced a strange squiggle that they didn’t understand either. The “Yen” key was particularly difficult because many non-Japanese computers read it as a “/” character, no matter what we tried to make it work.
Special thanks are due to Kuan-Hsi Ho of Holtek, to Satoka Fujita for helping me test the prototypes, and to Matsumoto Seiya for also testing units and checking the translation of the packaging.
Get yours today
You can get the new Japanese keyboard variant in red/white from our Approved Reseller, SwitchScience, based in Japan.
If you’d rather your keyboard in black/grey, you can purchase it from Pimoroni and The Pi Hut in the UK, who both offer international shipping.
It feels like just yesterday that we released the Raspberry Pi keyboard and hub to the world. Well, it turns out it’s been more than a year, and time really has flown for the next stage of this project, which brings four new language/country options: Portugal, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. They’re available to buy now from Raspberry Pi Approved Resellers.
Raspberry Pi keyboards
The keyboard and hub has been a great success, with many users adopting our Raspberry Pi red and white colour scheme for their setup. As well as this satisfying uptake of the keyboard on its own, we’ve also sold tens of thousands of Raspberry Pi Desktop Kits which include a keyboard, alongside the official mouse, Beginners Guide and, of course, a Raspberry Pi.
We made the black and grey set up for users who own a black and grey Raspberry Pi case, but, with four out of five people choosing the red and white variant, it just goes to show what a bit of company branding can do for business!
We’ve found that the US keyboard is the most popular model, with over half our users choosing that option. As a Brit, I prefer the chunkier Enter key of the UK keyboard.
There is always a demand to support more users with keyboards to match their country and language so, as a second phase, we are announcing keyboards for the following countries:
These new keyboards are available now in red and white, with black and grey options coming soon. They are just print changes from previously released variants, but the devil proved to be in the detail.
For example, we hoped early on that the Portuguese keyboard would suit users in Brazil too, but we learned that Brazilian and European Portuguese keyboard layouts are quite different. Given the differences between UK and US keyboard layouts, this really shouldn’t have surprised us!
There is a very subtle difference between the Norway and Denmark keyboards. I wonder if anyone can spot it?
We also discovered that a Finnish keyboard layout exists, but I couldn’t identify any differences between it and the Sweden keyboard. While I don’t speak Finnish, I do speak Swedish – an awesome language that everyone should learn – so I came to these investigations with a bit of relevant knowledge. I found that there are very small changes between different manufacturers, but no consistent differences between Finnish and Swedish keyboards, and ultimately I was guided by what Raspberry Pi OS expects as the correct function for these keyboards. I do hope I am right about these two keyboards being the same… I expect I’ll soon find out in the comments!
We know that many users are waiting for a Japan keyboard variant. We hardly ever talk about new products before they are released, but we’re breaking our rule, in this case, to let you know that we hope to have some news about this very soon – so watch this space!
I’d like to give special thanks to Sherman Liu of Gembird for the new key matrix design, and Craig Wightman of Kinneir Dufort for his patience in designing all the key print revisions.
We’re pleased to announce a new member of the Raspberry Pi camera family: the 12.3-megapixel High Quality Camera, available today for just $50, alongside a range of interchangeable lenses starting at $25.
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It’s really rather good, as you can see from this shot of Cambridge’s finest bit of perpendicular architecture.
At 69 years, King’s College Chapel took only slightly longer to finish than the High Quality Camera.
And this similarly pleasing bit of chip architecture.
Ready for your closeup.
Raspberry Pi and the camera community
There has always been a big overlap between Raspberry Pi hackers and camera hackers. Even back in 2012, people (okay, substantially Dave Hunt) were findinginterestingways to squeeze more functionality out of DSLR cameras using their Raspberry Pi computers.
Dave’s water droplet photography. Still, beautiful.
The OG Raspberry Pi camera module
In 2013, we launched our first camera board, built around the OmniVision OV5647 5‑megapixel sensor, followed rapidly by the original Pi NoIR board, with infrared sensitivity and a little magic square of blue plastic. Before long, people were attaching them to telescopes and using them to monitor plant health from drones (using the aforementioned little square of plastic).
We like the Moon.
Sadly, OV5647 went end-of-life in 2015, and the 5-megapixel camera has the distinction of being one of only three products (along with the original Raspberry Pi 1 and the official WiFi dongle) that we’ve ever discontinued. Its replacement, built around the 8-megapixel Sony IMX219 sensor, launched in April 2016; it has found a home in all sorts of cool projects, from line-followers to cucumber sorters, ever since. Going through our sales figures while writing this post, we were amazed to discover we’ve sold over 1.7 million of these to date.
The limitations of fixed-focus
Versatile though they are, there are limitations to mobile phone-type fixed-focus modules. The sensors themselves are relatively small, which translates into a lower signal-to-noise ratio and poorer low-light performance; and of course there is no option to replace the lens assembly with a more expensive one, or one with different optical properties. These are the shortcomings that the High Quality Camera is designed to address.
Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera
Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera, without a lens attached
12.3 megapixel Sony IMX477 sensor
1.55μm × 1.55μm pixel size – double the pixel area of IMX219
Back-illuminated sensor architecture for improved sensitivity
Support for off-the-shelf C- and CS-mount lenses
Integrated back-focus adjustment ring and tripod mount
We expect that over time people will use quite a wide variety of lenses, but for starters our Approved Resellers will be offering a couple of options: a 6 mm CS‑mount lens at $25, and a very shiny 16 mm C-mount lens priced at $50.
Our launch-day lens selection.
Read all about it
Also out today is our new Official Raspberry Pi Camera Guide, covering both the familiar Raspberry Pi Camera Module and the new Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera.
We’ll never not be in love with Jack’s amazing design work.
Our new guide, published by Raspberry Pi Press, walks you through setting up and using your camera with your Raspberry Pi computer. You’ll also learn how to use filters and effects to enhance your photos and videos, and how to set up creative projects such as stop-motion animation stations, wildlife cameras, smart doorbells, and much more.
As with every product we build, the High Quality Camera has taught us interesting new things, in this case about producing precision-machined aluminium components at scale (and to think we thought injection moulding was hard!). Getting this right has been something of a labour of love for me over the past three years, designing the hardware and getting it to production. Naush Patuck tuned the VideoCore IV ISP for this sensor; David Plowman helped with lens evaluation; Phil King produced the book; Austin Su provided manufacturing support.
We’d like to acknowledge Phil Holden at Sony in San Jose, the manufacturing team at Sony UK Tec in Pencoed for their camera test and assembly expertise, and Shenzhen O-HN Optoelectronic for solving our precision engineering challenges.
Which Raspberry Pi models support the High Quality Camera?
The High Quality Camera is compatible with almost all Raspberry Pi models, from the original Raspberry Pi 1 Model B onward. Some very early Raspberry Pi Zero boards from the start of 2016 lack a camera connector, and other Zero users will need the same adapter FPC that is used with Camera Module v2.
What about Camera Module v2?
The regular and infrared versions of Camera Module v2 will still be available. The High Quality Camera does not supersede it. Instead, it provides a different tradeoff between price, performance, and size.
What lenses can I use with the High Quality Camera?
You can use C- and CS-mount lenses out of the box (C-mount lenses use the included C-CS adapter). Third-party adapters are available from a wide variety of lens standards to CS-mount, so it is possible to connect any lens that meets the back‑focus requirements.
We’re looking forward to seeing the oldest and/or weirdest lenses anyone can get working, but here’s one for starters, courtesy of Fiacre.
Liz interjects with a TL;DR: you can buy our official (and very lovely) keyboard and mouse from today from all good Raspberry Pi retailers. We’re very proud of them. Get ’em while they’re hot!
Alex interjects with her own TL;DR: the keyboard is currently available in six layouts – English (UK), English (US), Spanish, French, German, and Italian – and we plan on producing more soon. Also, this video…what is…why is my left hand so weird at typing?!
It does what keyboards and mice do. Well, no, not what MICE do, but you get it.
Over to Simon for more on the development.
Magical mystery tour
When I joined Raspberry Pi, there was a feeling that we should be making our own keyboards and mice, which could be sold separately or put into kits. My first assignment was the task of making this a reality.
It was clear early on that the only way we could compete on plastic housings and keyboard matrix assemblies was to get these manufactured and tested in China – we’d love to have done the job in the UK, but we just couldn’t get the logistics to work. So for the past few months, I have been disappearing off on mysterious trips to Shenzhen in China. The reason for these trips was a secret to my friends and family, and the only stories I could tell were of the exotic food I ate. It’s a great relief to finally be able to talk about what I’ve been up to!
I’m delighted to announce the official Raspberry Pi keyboard with integrated USB Hub, and the official Raspberry Pi mouse.
Raspberry Pi official mouse
The mouse is a three-button, scroll-wheel optical device with Raspberry Pi logos on the base and cable, coloured to match the Pi case. We opted for high-quality Omron switches to give the click the best quality feel, and we adjusted the weight of it to give it the best response to movement. I think you’ll like it.
Raspberry Pi official keyboard
The keyboard is a 78-key matrix, like those more commonly found in laptop computers. This is the same compact style used in previous Pi kits, just an awful lot nicer. We went through many prototype revisions to get the feel of the keys right, reduce the light leaks from the Caps Lock and Num Lock LEDs (who would have thought that red LEDs are transparent to red plastics?) and the surprisingly difficult task of getting the colours consistent.
The PCB for the keyboard and hub was designed by Raspberry Pi, so we control the quality of components and assembly.
We fitted the best USB hub IC we could find, and we worked with Holtek on custom firmware for the key matrix management. The outcome of this is the ability for the Pi to auto-detect what country the keyboard is configured for. We plan to provide a range of country-specific keyboards: we’re launching today with the UK, US, Germany, France, Italy, Spain – and there will be many more to follow.
And even if I say so myself, it’s really nice to have the matching kit of keyboard, mouse and Raspberry Pi case on your desk. Happy coding!
Buy yours today
The Raspberry Pi official keyboard and mouse are both available from our Approved Resellers. You can find your nearest Approved Reseller by selecting your country in the drop-down menu on our products pages.
The official keyboard, in the English (UK) layout, and the mouse are also available at the Raspberry Pi shop in Cambridge, UK, and can be purchased individually or as part of our new Raspberry Pi Starter Kit, exclusive to our shop (for now!)
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