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Useful and Fun: Be Busy with SBCs

Useful and Fun: Be Busy with SBCs

Nowadays, everyone carries a computer in their pockets. Yes, smartphones are computers, and as technology advances, its computing capabilities are increasing more and more.

August 21st, 2020

Nowadays, everyone carries a computer in their pockets. Yes, smartphones are computers, and as technology advances, its computing capabilities are increasing more and more. Modern smartphones have more computing power than the computers sent used to send men to the moon. Perhaps we don’t just realize it because of how integrated it has become in our daily lives. Its form factor is also different than the traditional box-type computers with multiple replaceable parts. A smartphone is just one board of electronics with little to no interchangeable modules, and yet it’s so powerful it can do just about anything we need it to.

In the last decade, the single-board form factor of smartphones has influenced the rise of a DIY hobby that brings creativity and computer science together. Companies began manufacturing low-powered, single-board computers for multiple applications, and people from all over the globe create interesting projects from these palm-sized technological wonders. Let’s look at the interesting world of single-board computers and find out why people are so crazy for them.

What Are SBCs?

Single-board computers, or SBC, are a piece of electronic board with all the necessary components to make a functional computer. They’re small but of varying sizes, from the size of your thumb to the size of a credit card, and in some cases, the size of a small book. All the parts needed to power a computer is integrated into the board (e.g., RAM, flash memory, CPU), minus a screen and input devices like keyboard and mouse.

These SBCs go from really cheap to relatively expensive, with $5 being the cheapest and $150 being among the most expensive. Because of its price, it’s accessible to a wide variety of people, from teenagers to computer professionals, from hobbyists to obsessive makers of quirky devices.

Why Do You Need a Tiny Computer?

Given that we all carry a tiny computer anyway, what do you need another one for? For many reasons, and some you might not even be aware of. There’s a wealth of things that can be done with these pocket computers. These projects can often vary in difficulty and involvement. Some only require quick software installation, while others might need an inordinate amount of configuring or even handiwork in making a case to house the computer. But what can you do with them?

As Retrogaming Device

If you grew up in the 90s, then you’ve perhaps played those addictive 16-bit games. They’ve added a ton of color to the childhoods of many, and if you’d like to relive your childhood days of playing games, then SBCs are here to help you accomplish that. There are multiple ways to use SBCs as a retro gaming device, from very simple projects like installing the necessary software, hooking up USB video game controllers, and connecting it to a TV to ones that require creative skills and technical know-how like making a portable video game from scratch. This is one of the most popular uses of single-board computers, and it’s only getting more popular.

As an Ad-blocker

We spend most of our time online, and because of this, advertisers have also wisened up to follow us where we spend the most time on. Everyone can let one or two ad fly, but once you get inundated with ads, it gets very annoying. Using an SBC to control your home Wi-Fi can prevent ads from popping up whenever you connect to the internet. Not only does it stop you from receiving ads that can potentially slow down your system, but it also saves on data if you’re on a plan with a data cap.

As a Smart Surveillance System

Entertainment isn’t the sole utility of SBCs. Many use them for purposes that are not immediately thought of when it comes to computers, like a security system. You can attach cameras to these tiny computers and put them in a corner to observe whatever happens there. The data can be streamed either through the internet or a local area network, depending on how you want to set it up. This is particularly useful for relatives that require attention, like ones in need of live-in care services or a baby that needs to be attended to every hour. This will let you keep tabs of how they’re doing, and can even be set up to inform you if there’s any possibility of danger.

As an Entertainment System for Your TV

Being that these things are computers, it means you can use it as a normal one. You can access the internet, watch videos, listen to music- and maybe even play some light games. If you prefer, you can set up one of these single board computers to act as the brains for your non-smart TV, and voila! You immediately have a home theater system! This is great for turning those old widescreen televisions into something more useful and modern. It’s a low-cost alternative to going out and buying an expensive smart TV.

Is the SBC Hobby For You?

As mentioned before, the skill level required in this hobby can vary from very basic to elite-tier advanced. And that’s perfectly fine! If all you need are basic solutions to everyday problems, then SBCs can help you achieve that, and you get to have fun while trying. If you’re up for the challenge of building something by yourself, single-board computers also offer that challenge. It’s a low-cost, low-barrier hobby that will never hurt to try, and you always get something out of it. For tech enthusiasts, these things are heaven-sent, but even non-tech savvy fans can learn a thing or two and get enjoyment out of this little thing. Who knows, you might discover you have a knack for electronics after trying this hobby.

Laura Bartlett

Laura Bartlett

Northern girl Laura is the epitome of a true entrepreneur. Laura’s spirit for adventure and passion for people blaze through House of Coco. She founded House of Coco in 2014 and has grown it in to an internationally recognised brand whilst having a lot of fun along the way. Travel is in her DNA and she is a true visionary and a global citizen.