back to article Having trouble getting your mitts on that Raspberry Pi? You aren't alone

"It's hand-to-hand combat" was the phrase used by Raspberry Pi supremo Eben Upton when talking to The Register about meeting demand amid the ongoing chip supply challenges faced by the computer industry. Back in May, Upton had told The Reg "We're very good at pipelining" and the company has continued to pump out Pis even as …

  1. Tom 38

    ..assuming new Astro Pis are indeed on the way

    I would have thought it happens multiple times a day?

    1. Falmari Silver badge

      Starry gazey pie

      ..assuming new Astro Pis are indeed on the way

      They are, meet the new Astro Pis

  2. werdsmith Silver badge

    I replaced the fan bolts on the PoE+ with 10mm and a bit of threadlock, and 10mm goes all the way through the nut and protrudes the otherside. Need to get it away from the camera connector so you have at least some chance of being able to use it.

    1. Mike 137 Silver badge



      You might talk to - they may have shorter bolts or alternative fixings

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Option?

        Thanks Mike, modelfixings is definitely going to be useful for me!

        What I was saying is that 10mm allows room for the camera ribbon cable, and also securely holds the nut, so I've fixed the problem here. I don't agree with the 11mm which clears the connector but squeezes the cable into a hard bend.

    2. 080

      it's easy to make bolts shorter, a hacksaw and/or a file, making them longer is a bit more challenging

  3. aldolo

    zero stock is zero from day zero

    every time i check zero avail... it is not avail...

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: zero stock is zero from day zero

      I have a drawer full of them, literally dozens. Everytime I went to Grand Arcade or did an online order I always tagged on an extra Zero and I've been using in DRM hotspots I build for people and just to give away to spread the word.

      I use the Zero in one mobile rover robot, one DRM hotspot and one is on the network so I can compile using its ARM toolchain over SSH.

      1. Eecahmap

        Re: zero stock is zero from day zero

        Did autocorrect get you, or is DRM a new amateur digital mode?

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: zero stock is zero from day zero

          I didn’t even notice that, it was me not paying attention. Thanks.


  4. Dan 55 Silver badge

    The Spectrum Next is also having the same problems

    And it looks like the best solution they've found is to manufacture it in the east where the parts are instead of ordering the parts, waiting for a year for them to arrive, and assembling in the UK.


    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: The Spectrum Next is also having the same problems

      No we need investment in shed based fabs - make your own chips

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: The Spectrum Next is also having the same problems

        If we're talking silicon, this chap is doing so. Potato OTOH, don't most people?

      2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

        Re: The Spectrum Next is also having the same problems

        Just mention the magic words "3D Printing" and "World Beating" to unlock government funds.

        David Cameron can no doubt recommend a bespoke garden shed/man cave supplier, and failing that a bedouin tent supplier

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: The Spectrum Next is also having the same problems

          Is it too late to add Blockchain and NFTs to the proposal?

    2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: The Spectrum Next is also having the same problems

      Not all chips are made in Asia, yet you still can only get them there, because they keep buying up all the stock.

  5. GlenP Silver badge


    I bought the Pi and Pi Zero I need for the current model railway and controller build a few months ago.

    1. NoOnions

      Re: Fortunately...

      Ooh! Any details or information available? This sound like something my Dad would be interested in as he's just getting back into railway modelling after a gap of many years. Thanks!

  6. bombastic bob Silver badge

    3b+ and 4's seem available enough, for now

    If your industrial solution can use either the 3b+ _OR_ the 4, there seem to be enough units available in the short term, or so I've been told by the guy doing the procurement at the moment...

    If it's getting better over time (not worse) this is actually good news.

    [mostly I just need the Pi touch screen, USB 2 ports, ethernet, and wireless, and CPU is fast enough on 3b+, and then you get flexible with the power supply so it can feed either unit and voila!]

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 3b+ and 4's seem available enough, for now

      3b+ is most definitely nowhere to be seen. None at pihut, none at farnell, none at RS.

      As for the 4, I've currently got an order queued with Farnell for some 4s because they were coming back into stock this week - now, after reading this article I realise I'd neglected to notice the year on the "back in stock date". One week I can take, 53 weeks, not so much.

      Irony is I was trying to economise - I have a single task (reading a serial port and broadcasting it as MQTT over ethernet) which I want to power over PoE. So I buy the PoE hat, then realise it doesn't work on the 3 I have here, only the 3+. But the shortages mean I'd have to pay £50 for a 4 with 4GB of RAM to do this! No thanks. Just purchased an external PoE/USB splitter on ebay and I'll put an old 3 back in the loft, and my brand new PoE hat at the back of the drawer.

  7. John Robson Silver badge

    Couple of picos

    arrived here recently... Got a nice little project for them and a bundle of WS2812B rgb leds.

    Haven't tried for a Pi4 yet, can't quite justify what I would do on one...

  8. steelpillow Silver badge

    10 mm, 11 mm, schmm

    Back in the day I recall ordering 10.5 mm bolts made up for an instrumentation product in a standard enclosure. Didn't half cut down the warranty returns. Cost premium was surprisingly little if you found the right specialist manufacturer (ISTR they were in Malvern, UK. Probably gone now). The biggest problem was integrating them into a stock room and assembly line which assumed 1 mm steps in bolt sizes.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Didn't the BBC Micro have supply problems too?

    seems the Pi really is repeating history

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Didn't the BBC Micro have supply problems too?

      But in those days probably because they had 2 blokes in a shed assembling them between tea breaks,

      T'internet says 1.5M BBC micros were made over a decade or so - they are knocking out that many Pis every 2 months !

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Didn't the BBC Micro have supply problems too?

      Y, 6502 after commodore bought out MOS and 8271 (FDC) after intel stopped production

      UK electronics was always reliant upon far east for component production although there was VLSI in Wales for original ARM design and production

  10. karlkarl Silver badge

    One of my main reasons to use a Raspberry Pi is that it is easily sourced. They have done a really fantastic job with this. Other solutions are always so difficult to get hold of and especially things like cool hardware on Kickstarter always suffers from not enough interest for future batches (the original backers already have theirs so don't tend to buy more).

    Actually most of my Raspberry Pis these days I seem to inherit for free one way or another (guys getting bored of them or just a massive surplus from anywhere I do contracting for). They are even easier to get hold of than 2012 Celerons these days.

  11. Boothy

    I love a little Pi[e]

    Not a heavy user, but do like to play now and again.

    My oldest Pi from 2011 seems to have now unfortunately died :-( Powers up, but refuses to read the SD card for some reason.

    My last purchase, just a few weeks ago, the Pi 4s seems to be a little pricy to me, so I just picked up a 3 B+ instead (headerless system, so a 3 was fine for my use case).

    Only running Pi system I have atm is a Pi-hole. Although have been thinking about building a touch screen music box for use in the kitchen.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: I love a little Pi[e]

      That’s a special prototype pi if it’s from 2011.

      To get it to boot up, get one of the older OS images on your SD card.

      1. Anonymous Tribble

        Re: I love a little Pi[e]

        Probably a 2012 Pi. They had "(c)2011" screen printed on the boards.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I love a little Pi[e]

      Full size SD? try clamping it in as SD socket may not be forcing it against electrical contacts any more. SD guides nolonger working as plastic is a bit too soft

      Mine has had sheet of plastic held in place with a hair bungy covering SD slot and a 10p piece on top of SD card to force it down on contacts. Unbelievably this makes original PI work reliably.

  12. elaar

    Pi Zero W

    I can still source Pi Zeros, but the Pi Zero W (wifi) is out of stock everywhere in Europe, unless you want to get scalped £30 for what is essentially a £10 board.

    I ended up going for the Arduino Nano 33 IoT, which is more hassle, has much lower processing power and functionality but much better reliability without the worry of relying long term on an sdcard.

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

      Re: Pi Zero W

      I've got a couple of projects that Pi Zero Ws would be great for, and they're on hold for now. I just hope things sort themselves out soon, or I may go for overkill with a Pi 3 or 4.

      1. Old Used Programmer

        Re: Pi Zero W

        You might consider an A+ (same SoC as a Pi0/Pi0W) or a Pi3A.

        1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

          Re: Pi Zero W

          Thanks for the tip. I haven't been tracking all of RPi's products lately.

          £23.40 and available beats £9.30 and unavailable.

        2. elaar

          Re: Pi Zero W

          Yes, thanks for the tip, unfortunately for my application it's just too big.

          On another note I just checked on farnell for another Pi4 and the lead time is listed as 373 days! It's crazy.

    2. RosslynDad
      Thumb Up

      Re: Pi Zero W

      I had problems finding a Zero W to use as a Pi Hole server. So I decided to try putting it on one I already had that's working as a clock* fully expecting this to bring it to its knees. Nope! Totally happy running both. Just an amazing bit of kit for a tenner. My only grumble was that I needed a reboot which killed my uptime score of 205 days.

      * OK the clock is driving a 60 LED colour display and talks to three web services for local weather, tides, sun/moon times.

      1. Tom 7

        Re: Pi Zero W

        As far as I can tell the Pi Zero is over 3/4 million MIPS so that's the equivalent of two or three pentiums at the end of the last century. Which was enough to run an internet shop with 300 customers a day, serve 350 in house PCs and allow a few of us to do some quite hefty development.

    3. Tom 7

      Re: Pi Zero W

      You having problems with Zero reliability? Mine seem to show uptime of however long ago the last power supply failure was.

      1. elaar

        Re: Pi Zero W

        Not Pi Zero reliability as such, but anything sdcard based in general.

        My central heating system used to run off a raspberry pi 2 many moons ago, but the sdcard corrupted on two seperate occassions after the power went out.

        My alarm system was based on a pi zero that again died when we lost power.

        My home plex server/pi hole reliably runs on pi4 because it boots/runs from a usb SSD and is perfect.

        I've learnt the hard way that for long term reliability you don't rely on sd-cards regardless of the brand.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Pi Zero W

          If you can, switch to proper Pis with ethernet ports and use network booting. Works brilliantly on Pi 3 or later. I've got a little script I can use here to commission a new boot image - I can get a new unit up in minutes.

    4. Down not across

      Re: Pi Zero W

      I've been trying to get hold of a stack of (7 or 8) CM3+ (or just CM3) and no luck. RS/Farnell have some potential future delivery dates but they look like they've been pulled out of a hat.

      1. James Hughes 1

        Re: Pi Zero W

        Nope, none of those available now and not available until q2 2022. Sorry.nThe supply chain really is "on fire"

  13. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    What are people using all these squillions of Pis for? Are they mostly hobbyists or do industrial uses dominate?

    1. karlkarl Silver badge

      About 44% of Pis sold are for industrial uses.

      The original goal of the Pi was to get people interested in coding again. This statement was certainly targeted to the hobby market originally but I find it is relevant for industry too, before the Pi, it was such a faff to prototype new industrial applications and medical devices.

      1. Old Used Programmer

        The *original* goal was to interest kids in computing in order to boost the number and quality of incoming Cambridge students. That expanded to include getting kids generally interested in both programming and physical computing.

        Then the hobbyists realized that a $35 Pi was a suitable replacement for a $90 Beagleboard and the maker/DIYer/hobbyist market for Single Board Computers exploded. Now the RPF/RPTL are the 800-lb gorilla in the SBC market.

        At this point, they're starting to dabble in the MCU market...

      2. werdsmith Silver badge

        Much of their aim is achieved by their foundation work supporting education, so the support they get from volume sales to whoever is buying must be contributing to that same goal. It hasn’t changed.

      3. elaar

        I can see why companies might use a pi to prototype, but surely they wouldn't use them for the end product? It would be far cheaper to churn out a few thousand custom boards based on the chipset without the rest of the fluff.

        1. Ozzard

          Believe me (I'm in that market) it isn't, because you can't get the parts. We're being quoted 1 October for 500 Pi 4B, 2022Q3 for the components for 500 of the custom boards we have for the same application. We're re-tooling from custom to Pi.

        2. doublelayer Silver badge

          It depends what the product is. I've seen a couple display control systems using the Pi as a controller because they need a full stack and reasonable display speed which the Pi's GPU is good at. I've heard that these aren't unique though I wouldn't know. There are several types of products where the Pi's peripherals and power are already sufficient for the task and the manufacturer doesn't need much additional hardware so they don't see the benefit of a custom board.

        3. FatGerman Silver badge

          Depends how many you need. If you're ordering hundreds then custom might work out cheaper if you can find somewhere with capacty to make them, but for small runs of < 100 a Pi is a n easy and cost-effective solution (and easier to sneak an order past the bean counters)

        4. ChrisC Silver badge


          a) on how many units you're planning to build

          b) on how much stuff you'd be removing from whichever version of the RPi you're using


          c) on how confident you are of being able to design your own PCB to host the chipset within the required timescale to launch, and with the minimum of outlay on testing/certification

          The product of a) and b) determines how much you'd be able to save over the lifetime of the product by going full custom, whilst c) determines how much more it'll cost you to do so. Don't underestimate just how high the costs in c) can become, both in terms of the tangible costs (prototyping, testing etc.) and the less obvious ones (lost sales revenue due to being later to market than you could have been etc.)

          In other words, yes, companies are increasingly using RPis (and other similar off the shelf compute modules) in finished products being shipped to customers, where it makes sense to do so.

      4. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        The original goal of the Pi was to get people interested in coding again.

        And people use it once or twice, find out it is much slower than their PC and it lands in the drawer never to be found again.

        Some more ambitious may get a LED diode or something like that, make it blink and then have no idea what else to do with it.

        Very small number may build like something that takes periodical pictures of their chilies or tomatoes (then to find out quality is sh te and getting a proper camera with a programmable shutter) etc.

        1. MJB7

          The original goal of the Pi was to get people interested in coding again.

          Their original business plan called for them to sell a few thousand in total. Even cosmologists usually get embarrassed by answers that are out by four orders of magnitude (currently about 40M sold).

          I think they have been part of a significant uptick in interest in coding. Admittedly that is perhaps from 1 in a 100 to 3 in a hundred - but that's a _big_ change.

        2. doublelayer Silver badge

          "And people use it once or twice, find out it is much slower than their PC and it lands in the drawer never to be found again."

          That's a lot less noticeable now than with previous generations, but I grant the significant speed difference. When the Pi was new and I saw several people setting up labs with Pis as the computers running a full GUI, it didn't make much sense. However, there are lots of useful things to do with these which will eventually come to mind. Running servers of various types on it is, in my experience, a great educational activity. It teaches the child about the command line, databases and webservers, and anything they choose to use those servers for. It's also a use case where the Pi is well-suited (the server stays up where the laptop's server wouldn't, it doesn't use much power or generate background noise, etc.). And once they've mastered that, they will find new ways to make use of the hardware.

          1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

            I still can't see why people can't just spin up a virtual machine for that.

            However... these millions of RPi scattered around, could in future become a base of mesh internet and a way for people to restore privacy.

            The idea of localised social networks running off commodity h/w free from corporate oversight and censorship, may one day become viable.

            1. doublelayer Silver badge

              "I still can't see why people can't just spin up a virtual machine for that."

              A few reasons. First, there's the complexity. For someone who doesn't know much about computing already, getting a VM to work correctly with everything else can be confusing. If you're running a server on a VM, then you need to know where the VM's network connection is and how it's currently connected to the computer's one, then bridge them properly so packets can reach the VM through the computer, then correctly configure both the host's firewall and the VM's. That's confusing for someone unfamiliar with network administration.

              Second, I mentioned the uptime as a benefit of the Pi. If a child has access to a Pi and a laptop, and they have a project which involves having a server, daemon, or anything similar operating at all times, the Pi makes that easy and the laptop does not. Adding a VM to the laptop makes that worse, as now the child has to have a window open and a healthy chunk of memory occupied at all times in addition to preventing the laptop from going into sleep mode.

              Third, the Pi allows for projects which a VM does not. If the child becomes interested in working with hardware, it can be interfaced directly to the Pi. If the child wants to deploy the Pi as networking equipment, whether as an AP, a DNS filter, or a VPN endpoint, they can do that. If they need a second machine capable of acting as a desktop, they can do that. If they want to make it a media center device, they can do that. Its versatility is one of its strongest features, both for students and for those of us who like using it for our own projects.

        3. hammarbtyp

          That's not the point

          And people use it once or twice, find out it is much slower than their PC and it lands in the drawer never to be found again.

          It was never sold as a desktop replacement, although it can be used as such.

          In many ways, its price making it a throwaway object is the point. One of the obstacles in getting people programming is the fear of breaking something. Do I want to directly access my $1000 PC innards in a way that may break it. No. Would I do it on a $10 pi zero, yeah why not.

          Also it allows you to connect software to the outside world which removes the abstraction between computers and everyday life. Can you do that easily on a standard PC? No

          Does everyone become a great programmer after buying a Pi. No. Does it encourage people to try and a % go on into careers in SW. Yes, and that was the entire point

          1. ChrisC Silver badge

            Re: That's not the point

            "Does everyone become a great programmer after buying a Pi. No. Does it encourage people to try and a % go on into careers in SW. Yes, and that was the entire point"

            Exactly, it's like a return to the good old days of home computing, when *everyone* who had a Spectrum, C64, BBC etc. sat on their desk had instantaneous access to a BASIC prompt and could therefore start playing around with simple coding. Even if they never got any further than knocking out the traditional 10 print "Hello" 20 goto 10 type program, it was still infinitely more exposure to coding than the average PC user will ever get these days, and it paved the path for many people to end up making a living out of coding.

            It's absolutely not an exaggeration to say that I owe my entire career as an embedded systems designer to those early days of dabbling in Sinclair BASIC - that sparked an interest in coding which, almost 40 years later, is still strong enough to keep me up at night writing code for fun after having spent all day writing code for fun (but also getting paid for it, which makes it work, even though it doesn't feel like it).

            So if the RPi comes even remotely close to generating the same sparks of interest in as many people now, as the home computer revolution of the early 80's achieved back then, it'll go down in history as one of the great success stories of the software age.

    2. hammarbtyp

      Its the standard technology curve. Early adopters require bespoke hardware to fulfill their needs, but eventually OTS hardware becomes powerful enough to be used at a lower cost. However there tends to be an inertia before this kicks in.

      On top of that there a lot of bepoke jobs that people would like to do but hardware costs are prohibitive. A pi is a good alternative since its cheap and widely supported even if it is only a proof of concept

  14. Annihilator

    Pipelines stall...

    As I said back at the time, great pipelining doesn't solve supply shortages, they just manifest at a later date. If all the oil wells in the world suddenly switched off (and ignoring panic buying etc), it would be weeks before I ran out of fuel in my car.

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