Gertboard! And how to tell how much RAM your Pi has without turning it on

Twitter has been going mad this morning with people announcing the arrival of the Gertboard on their doormats. Gertboard, for those who are new here, is an expansion board for your Raspberry Pi, designed by one of the Raspberry Pi’s hardware team. It will allow you to use your Raspberry Pi with real-world devices: you can switch lights on and off, run rather beefy motors at different speeds and in different directions, sense light and heat and a whole heap of other things besides. You can read more about Gertboard here.

I had asked Gert to do us a spot of video for the occasion, but he told me Eben had instructed him to spend the weekend working on the camera board addon (Eben denies all knowledge of this), so you’re stuck with me talking about it and some pictures. After some delays caused by some hard-to-get-hold-of parts, Gertboards are now being shipped. You can order your own over at Farnell – they seem to be out of stock again right now, but Gert and the guys at Farnell don’t anticipate any more delays in procuring parts, so any order should be fulfilled reasonably fast now.

These high-resolution pictures of Gertboard (click through for the full experience) are from Raspberry Pi IV Beginners, whose YouTube tutorials are really worth your time. You can see more on his Flickr page. Many thanks also to Stuart Green, the photographer.

Gertboard, assembled, front view. Click to enlarge.

Gertboard, assembled, back view. Click to enlarge.

I’ve had mail about teaching methods from a teacher this morning, mentioning in passing that one of the class activities he’s running at the moment is the soldering of a Gertboard. If you are intimidated by the need to brush down your soldering iron, have a look at Soldering is Easy, a comic by our friend Andie Nordgren, which should help you get into the swing of things in minutes.

On another matter entirely, we’ve had some people ask how they can tell whether they’re holding a 256MB RAM Raspberry Pi, or its big brother, the 512MB RAM version. Easy enough once you’ve turned it on, but you don’t even have to do that: you can just decipher some of the manufacturing code on the top of the SOC. These pictures are from  imgur, and I am deeply ashamed because I have lost the link which I used to find them, so I’m not sure who’s responsible for them. Thank you SaltSpork! If it’s you, please let me know so I can fix the credits.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

See the long strings of letters and numbers underneath the word “Samsung” on the RAM chip in the middle? That’s the top part of the PoP, or Package on Package assembly which stacks the processor (the Broadcom 2835, hidden under the memory) beneath the RAM.

What you’re looking for are the letters “2G” or “4G” somewhere in that string. The top picture has “4G” written on it: that means 4Gbits, which equals 512MB. “2G”, which you’ll see in the bottom picture, means 2Gbits, or 256MB. Easy as Pi, when you know how.