Small Computiong - Part 1


The Raspberry Pi version 4

The term “Small Platform Ham Radio” refers to the use of very small computing devices like the Arduino and Raspberry Pi (the size of a playing card) as a stand alone computer to drive applications like FLDIGI NBEMS. Yes they are available on the Raspberry Pi but not on any Arduino that I am aware of.

I am a big fan of the Raspberry Pi and use a Pi 3B+ gladly for amateur radio. There are several versions of the Raspberry Pi starting way back with the original Pi. The newest is fast enough to fulfill all tasks, and except for the small package, acts like a full size computer. It is a “no brainer” to make the Pi fit for Ham Radio especially in portable digital situations.

The Pi runs the very capable Debian 10 "Buster" operating system affectionately known as Raspian -- the port to the Pi for ARM computing. ARM (previously Advanced RISC Machine) is a family of reduced instruction set computing (RISC) architectures for computer processors, configured for various environments. The Pi is one of those. The CPU and supporting devices are packaged by Broadcom on one very small package used by the Pi - on a printed circuit board the size of a standard playing card.

Your Pi installation will take some time if you are not familiar with the Pi in general. Take it easy and do it step by step. Much information is available on Also call on an Elmer to help if you are unsure of what to do. There are several hams who have and use the Pi on the SATERN International Digital net.

You will be rewarded with a very efficient, stable, high frequency safe computer for amateur radio applications which is also particularly suitable for portable use. Be sure you opt for the metalic case for RF shielding if you need it.

The Raspberry Pi 4 is also very affordable. You can purchase one in a kit with all the accesories from Amazon or your favorite supplier for under $100. There is even a kit with the Pi4b, heatsinks, a case with a cooling fan, and all else needed...if you want all the bells and whistles. Or about $79 stand alone and barebones, if you like to build it yourself (the more painful route).

You will need an external USB keyboard and mouse or a Bluetooth combo (recommended since it only takes up one USB slot). You can supply a monitor HDMI capable or use it headless across your LAN with Remote Desktop Software like TeamViewer or NoMachine. Chrome Remote Desktop is possible but consumes considerable resources.