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Stephen Wolfram

Putting the Wolfram Language (and Mathematica) on Every Raspberry Pi

November 21, 2013 — Stephen Wolfram

Last week I wrote about our large-scale plan to use new technology we’re building to inject sophisticated computation and knowledge into everything. Today I’m pleased to announce a step in that direction: working with the Raspberry Pi Foundation, effective immediately there’s a pilot release of the Wolfram Language—as well as Mathematica—that will soon be bundled as part of the standard system software for every Raspberry Pi computer.

Wolfram Language and Mathematica now free on every Raspberry Pi
In effect, this is a technology preview: it’s an early, unfinished, glimpse of the Wolfram Language. Quite soon the Wolfram Language is going to start showing up in lots of places, notably on the web and in the cloud. But I’m excited that the timing has worked out so that we’re able to give the Raspberry Pi community—with its emphasis on education and invention—the very first chance to put the Wolfram Language into action.

I’m a great believer in the importance of programming as a central component of education. And I’m excited that with the Wolfram Language I think we finally have a powerful programming language worthy of the next generation. We’ve got a language that’s not mostly concerned with the details of computers, but is instead about being able to understand and create things on the basis of huge amounts of built-in computational ability and knowledge.

It’s tremendously satisfying—and educational. Writing a tiny program, perhaps not even a line long, and already having something really interesting happen. And then being able to scale up larger and larger. Making use of all the powerful programming paradigms that are built into the Wolfram Language.

And with Raspberry Pi there’s something else too: immediately being able to interact with the outside world. Being able to take pure code, and connect it to sensors and devices that do things.

I think it’s pretty amazing that we’re now at the point where all the knowledge and computation in the Wolfram Language can run in a $25 computer. And I think that it’s the beginning of something very important. Because it means that going forward it’s going to be technically possible to embed the Wolfram Language in pretty much any new machine or system. In effect immediately injecting high-level intelligence and capabilities.

I’ve waited a long time for this. Back in 1988 when Mathematica was first released, it could only just fit in a high-end Mac of the time, but not yet a PC. A decade later—even though it had grown a lot—it could run well on pretty much any newly sold personal computer. But embedded computers were a different story—where one expected that only specially compiled simple code could run.

But I knew that one day what would become the Wolfram Language would be able to run in its complete form on an embedded computer. And now it’s clear that finally that day has come: with the Raspberry Pi, we’ve passed the threshold for being able to run the Wolfram Language on an embedded computer anywhere.

To be clear, the Raspberry Pi is perhaps 10 to 20 times slower at running the Wolfram Language than a typical current-model laptop (and sometimes even slower when it’s lacking architecture-specific internal libraries). But for many things, the speed of the Raspberry Pi is just fine. And for example, my old test of computing 1989^1989 that used to take many seconds on the computers that existed when Mathematica was young now runs in an immeasurably short time on the Raspberry Pi.

From a software engineering point of view, what’s being bundled with the Raspberry Pi is a pilot version of our new Wolfram Engine. Then there are two applications on the Pi powered by this engine. The first is a command-line version of the Wolfram Language. And the second is Mathematica with its notebook user interface, providing in effect a rich document-based way of interacting with the Wolfram Language.

Wolfram Language and Mathematica icons
The command-line Wolfram Language is quite zippy on the Raspberry Pi. The full notebook interface to Mathematica—requiring as it does the whole X Window stack—can be a trifle sluggish by modern standards (and we had to switch a few things off by default, like our new Predictive Interface, because they just slowed things down too much). But it’s still spectacular: the first time Mathematica has been able to run at all on anything like a $25 computer.

And it’s the whole system. Nothing is left out. All 5000+ Wolfram Language functions. All capabilities of Mathematica and its notebook interface.

For me, one of the most striking things about having all this on the Raspberry Pi is how it encourages me to try a new style of real-world-connected computing. For a start, it’s easy to connect devices to a Pi. And a Pi is small and cheap enough that I can put it almost anywhere. And if I start a Wolfram Language program on it, it’s reliable enough that I can expect it to pretty much go on running forever—analyzing and uploading sensor data, controlling an autonomous system, analyzing and routing traffic, or whatever.

Building in as much automation as possible has been a longstanding principle of mine for the Wolfram Language. And when it comes to external devices, this means consistently curating properties of devices, and then setting up general symbolic functions for interacting with them.

Here’s how one would take this whole technology stack and use it to switch on LEDs by setting voltages on GPIO pins:

GPIO with Wolfram Language

And here’s some image analysis on a selfie taken by a RaspiCam:

RaspiCam self-portrait image analysis with Wolfram Language

Something we’re releasing alongside the Raspberry Pi bundle is a Remote Development Kit, that allows one to develop code and maintain a notebook interface on a standard laptop or other computer, while seamlessly executing code on a networked remote Raspberry Pi. The current RDK connects to a copy of Mathematica (such as Mathematica Student Edition) running on any Mac, PC or Linux machine; soon there will be other options, for example on the web.

Within the Wolfram Language there’s actually a whole emerging structure for symbolically representing remote running language instances—and for collecting results, dispatching commands, doing computations in parallel, and so on. We’re also going to have WolframLink (derived from the MathLink protocol that we’ve used for nearly 25 years), that’ll let one exchange code, data or anything else in a very flexible way.

I’m very excited to see what kinds of things people invent with the Wolfram Language on the Raspberry Pi—and I look forward to reading about some of them in the Wolfram+Raspberry Pi section on Wolfram Community, as well as on the Raspberry Pi Foundation website.

Raspberry Pi post on Wolfram Community
In the next few months, it’s all going to get more and more interesting. What we’re releasing today on the Raspberry Pi is just the first pilot for the Wolfram Language. There’ll be many updates, particularly as we approach the first production release of the language.

As with Wolfram|Alpha on the web, the Wolfram Language (and Mathematica) on the Raspberry Pi are going to be free for anyone to use for personal purposes. (There’s also going to be a licensing mechanism for commercial uses, other Linux ARM systems, and so on.)

As a footnote to history, I might mention that the Raspberry Pi is only the second computer ever on which Mathematica has been bundled for free use. (Not counting, of course, all the computers at universities with site licenses, etc.) The first was Steve Jobs’s NeXT computer in 1988.

I still regularly run into people today who tell me how important Mathematica on the NeXT was for them. Not to mention the gaggle of NeXT computers that were bought by CERN for physicists to run Mathematica—but ended up being diverted to invent the web.

What will be done with the millions of instances of the Wolfram Language that are bundled on Raspberry Pi computers around the world? Maybe some amazing and incredibly important invention will be made with them. Maybe some kid somewhere will be inspired, and will go on to change the world.

But one thing is clear: with the Wolfram Language on Raspberry Pi we’ve got a new path for learning programming—and connecting it to the real world—that a great many people are going to be able to benefit from. And I am very pleased to have been able to do my part to make this happen.

Posted in: Raspberry Pi
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34 Comments


Brechmann

So a nice idea! That’s one of the many reasons why i love Mathematica and the company behind it. You push the limit for education and innovation. Keep the great work!

Posted by Brechmann    November 21, 2013 at 12:39 pm
Antonio Marquez-Raygoza

This is like, *totally awesome*. It’s exactly the kind of thing that would have made me run around in circles happily as a little kid. And it provides an efficient way to encourage my younger siblings and hypothetical future children to learn some programming.

The hardware aspect is definitely the wild card. I’ve had a variety of hardware ideas ( that I couldn’t do for one reason or another. This brings down not only the hardware costs because of the Pi, but also the time costs because of WL/Mathematica.

I mean, imagine what *MacGyver* could do with this.

Posted by Antonio Marquez-Raygoza    November 21, 2013 at 1:18 pm
Andrew

Thank you, this is absolutely fantastic. I have used Mathematica for years, and the Raspberry Pi for some small hardware projects, so I am really excited to start playing with this new combination, and you can be sure I know what to get a presents this year! Thanks again

Posted by Andrew    November 21, 2013 at 1:24 pm
Jeet Samarth Raut

This is amazing.

Posted by Jeet Samarth Raut    November 21, 2013 at 2:58 pm
Héctor Naves Sordo

This is absolutely amazing… Thanks much!

Posted by Héctor Naves Sordo    November 21, 2013 at 4:25 pm
Lawrence Teo

This is going to be revolutionary. Another breakthrough in Mathematica technology.

Posted by Lawrence Teo    November 21, 2013 at 8:33 pm
FredInIT

Stephen,

You rock!

Posted by FredInIT    November 21, 2013 at 9:04 pm
Christian Wolf

Respect, this is a truly game-changing step! Bringing Mathematica, the best – for sure the most well designed and implemented piece of software ever written on this planet – development system anyone could wish to have on any platform let alone an embedded one – and for free – will finally open the eyes of all those who never made it from conventional languages and platforms to true productivity. Monetary aspects have always been a bad guide when it comes to choosing the right platform for a task or project. As with Linux, this bold initial step will have a much larger impact than many of us will see right now – i am absolutely sure this thing will soon become as important as maybe the web itself – and it will happen in a similar short timeframe. To start with i’ll order 3, two for my sons and one for me :-)

Posted by Christian Wolf    November 21, 2013 at 9:04 pm
Syd Geraghty

Brilliant decision Dr. Wolfram. How soon till iOS and Android are added?

I ordered the first of 4 complete Raspberry Pi Kits within an hour or receiving the news. The first goes to grandson #1, the next 3 to gs #2, granddaughters #1 & #2. Thanks to all the Wolfram Research staff!

Posted by Syd Geraghty    November 21, 2013 at 9:48 pm
Oliver Unter Ecker

This is very generous, and I can only see it do tremendous good. Many thousands of people will get access to an extremely powerful tool, which may have all kinds of multiplicative effects.
I’d agree this is something that can change the world. Thank you, Mr. Wolfram, for “doing your part to make this happen”!

Posted by Oliver Unter Ecker    November 22, 2013 at 2:55 am
Michele Filannino

Good news! :)

Posted by Michele Filannino    November 22, 2013 at 3:31 am
Augusto

This is awesome!

Posted by Augusto    November 22, 2013 at 4:25 am
David Hewitt

Good work folks, very generous indeed. Given the Pi’s intended educational applications, this is an excellent development.

Posted by David Hewitt    November 22, 2013 at 4:49 am
Phil Earnhardt

This announcement knocked my socks off. I recall MIT-MC, the multimillion-dollar DEC PDP-10 that ran Macsyma in the late 1970s. It was a scarce resource; labs from all over the world would pay tens of thousands of dollars per year to access the symbolic computation engine. Today, a far more-capable engine is available on a $50 computer. This is a line in the sand of massive computational resources for anyone interested in developing their mathematical knowledge.

Will students be able to distribute CDF files they author on the Pi? If so, please announce when those demonstrations start showing up on your CDF repository.

Posted by Phil Earnhardt    November 22, 2013 at 10:55 am
Octavio

Thank you very much Dr.
Just bought my Pi a couple of minutes ago.
cheers

Posted by Octavio    November 22, 2013 at 1:52 pm
Rizwan Ahmad

Something Amazing will sure to come out. I will be following it.

Posted by Rizwan Ahmad    November 22, 2013 at 2:26 pm
Ralph Wallace

Well, I have been for years been a casual CAD user, but a Raspberry Pi is so cheap that I will buy one and learn Mathematica for casual use. I previously used, 1993?, a Dos version, then Version 4,, but remember nothing. A nice step forward.
Ralph Wallace, PE

Posted by Ralph Wallace    November 22, 2013 at 11:20 pm
Jeff W.

Wow! This blows me away. Never imagined I would be seeing Mathematica running on a $35 computer. For free.

Every school kid in the US should be given one of these. Think of the vistas that would open up for them.

We live in an amazing time. Well done Wolfram.

Posted by Jeff W.    November 23, 2013 at 8:14 am
Adam Rachlin

The combination of Mathematica and the Raspberry Pi is a gigantic leap forward in the educational realm. I’m a user of the Raspberry Pi for engineering applications and am also a part time math and physics tutor. The Raspberry Pi is a quantum leap in terms of brining a real computing platform to the educational community in poor and developing countries/communities, and now adding the power of Mathematic as an additional learning tool is amazing. I’m really excited about this and wish to extend my thanks and appreciation to Dr. Wolfram and the rest of his company for pushing the boundaries of educational opportunities for all.

Posted by Adam Rachlin    December 3, 2013 at 12:34 pm
Patrick Mallory

Dr Wolfram – this is a TRUELY amazing contribution!
All – better get your Raspberry Pi orders in (for yourself and your friends and family) before Christmas as they are going quick ;)

Posted by Patrick Mallory    December 3, 2013 at 6:54 pm
Matthias Hansal

This is big. :) Thanks!

Posted by Matthias Hansal    December 13, 2013 at 11:41 pm
SamW

Dr Wolfram,
This is terrific. And in time.
I first bought a student version of Mathematica back in 1998 +/-. The lease ran out before I ever ‘got it.’ After that it always seemed too pricey for the mathematically challenged but curious.
With iPython and Sage and Julia … on and on, this seems a timely thing to do. And I understand that you now have offered a home user version for a realistic price. Kudos! I may read your tome which has been staring at me for a year or so.
Hopefully RaspberryPi and Mathematica will be a combination that fits some young mind somewhere like a glove, a glove and mind from somewhere unexpected.
Thank you for your brains and your generosity.

Posted by SamW    December 16, 2013 at 12:53 am
Rich Clemens

Thanks! This is a fantastic way to advance mathematics to all

Posted by Rich Clemens    December 24, 2013 at 11:48 am
Debesh Choudhury

That is great. Mathematica can run on a Raspberry Pi. The younger students will be introduced to the beauty of mathematical computing through the Mathematica + Rasberry Pi way. It is a brave step by Wolfram.Com. Brillaint.

Posted by Debesh Choudhury    January 7, 2014 at 1:18 pm
David Ayers

Will there be a similar package for installation on beaglebone black?

Posted by David Ayers    March 1, 2014 at 10:52 am
    Wolfram Blog

    Dear Mr. Ayers,

    Though we don’t have any official updates, we are open to all opportunities. And the BeagleBone Black is among the many boards on which we would like to have Wolfram Language and Mathematica.

    The Wolfram Blog Team

    Posted by Wolfram Blog    March 4, 2014 at 9:53 am
Garrett Hall

I just now found out about the Mathematica being free on the Pi! Thank you thank you thank you!!! I just got a new hobby playing with Mathematica! Thanks again.

Posted by Garrett Hall    April 9, 2014 at 8:29 pm
Vishwanath

Awesome ! Thank you for complete Mathematica on Rasp free for education ! Marks the Beginning for an era !

Posted by Vishwanath    May 2, 2014 at 11:47 pm
CH

Alway wanted to learn Mathematica, but have no access to it. Today I booted up my Pi and finally start to using it. Thanks.

Posted by CH    May 21, 2014 at 9:16 am
Newton

Thank you——Stephen

Posted by Newton    June 27, 2014 at 8:52 am


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