Raspberry Pi Pico

First Impressions

My amazing girlfriend picked up a few Raspberry Pi Pico boards for me yesterday. They’re adorable. I can’t wait to prototype a few projects with them.

I’ve worked with both Arduino and PC-on-a-board Raspberry Pi boards before and had some luck, but the Pico might hit the sweet spot of “accessible enough to prove useful and learnable but not so powerful as to feel overwhelming.” If there’s anything that kills pet projects for someone with ADHD (or whatever specific executive dysfunction I have), it’s too much frustration up front or paralysis of choice. The MicroPython environment available on the Pico may strike the right balance, as it provides a REPL (read/executive/print/loop) already familiar to me instead of an entire operating system. And you can mount it like a memory stick via the Micro USB port and drag-drop your code files onto it, no dedicated IDE required. What’s not to love?

The datasheet for the Pico continues to impress me. I haven’t had much exposure to such documents but this one seems rather accessible. The example setups look so useful, especially the the NeoPixel Ring example (p. 38). I’ve long wanted to use something like that for a Pomodoro timer or walk timer, one with a fixed number of settings and a simple set of controls, all battery powered for portability and reliability. This might yet push me to implement that idea.

What would you do with a Raspberry Pi Pico or other microcontroller? What’s stopping you from doing that now? At only $4 USD, you can skip a latte and start programming hardware today.

(And if you can’t get ahold of a Pico then you can try one of the many other Python-powered boards out there. Or try a Lua-powered board! No C/C++ required.)


  • The datasheet explains how to install Thonny on Linux via apt (for some distributions) but you may want to install it via pip instead. The version installed by Ubuntu 20.04 was too old for my purposes but the pip version was up to date.