Wolfram Computation Meets Knowledge

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

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.


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  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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

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

  5. 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 :-)

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

  7. 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.

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

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

  10. 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

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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 ;)

  14. This is big. :) Thanks!

  15. 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.

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

  17. 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.

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

  19. 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.

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

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

  22. Have you released Mathematica for the Raspberry Pi 2? If/when it is released, could you do a separate blog post here with a video? Thanks.

    The hardware team has announced significant performance improvements on the new hardware. This should be great for Mathematica since the software can use the 4-core processor in the new hardware.

  23. I learned C programming under Xenix over 30 years ago and have been using Mathematica for over 25 years, but I have never owned a Linux PC, largely due to lack of support for certain applications. Today, I found out that Mathematica comes with the Raspberry Pi and I ordered one.

  24. Very simple…. THANK YOU Stephen Wolfram, for everything you have done for mathematics, computation and now embedded computing!

  25. I’d be very interested in integrating the combo of Wolfram language/Raspberry Pi into our curriculum here at Georgia Tech. I’ll keep checking back for updates on your website.

  26. Using mathematica on a Raspberry Pi 3 Modell B being very amazed about the speed that I never expected on this little engine although I handle it from remote through the VNC viewer. Really useful working is absolutely possible, that’s great indeed!

  27. Thanks – it is so important to get analytical and experimental work closer together!

  28. Thanks, Stephen. I building a RPi cluster and run a combo of NOOBS and Kali. I was thrilled to see Wolfram and Mathematica in the menu. I appreciate your generosity towards our blossoming OS and hardware.