Author and maker Dr. Simon Monk recently published the book Programming the Pico: Learn Coding and Electronics with the Raspberry Pi Pico. Adafruit asked Simon some questions about himself and the book:
Is this your first book?
No, until recently I was a full-time author, writing quite a lot of books about Arduino, Raspberry Pi and the micro:bit. I’ve also contributed Arduino and Raspberry Pi lessons to the Adafruit Learning System.
What do you do, a little about yourself, etc.
I’m still writing a few books, mostly because I like doing it, but these days, most of my time is spent on the business (monkmakes.com) that I started with my wife Linda. We manufacture and wholesale kits and add-ons for Raspberry Pi, micro:bit and general electronics. We have a small-scale pick and place line for manufacturing our own circuit boards and I enjoy learning how to use the machines, as well as my main function which is to design new products.
What inspired you to write a book on the Pico and Python?
I really like the Pico’s bare-bones approach. It’s a great fit for maker projects where as the Arduino Mini or Nanos might once have been the best choice. I also think the inclusion of a buck-boost regulator that allows you to power it from a wide voltage range is a great idea. With so many people learning Python at school or college, when it comes to learning embedded programming it makes sense to start with MicroPython or CircuitPython.
Who is your target audience? Who do you think will benefit most from this?
I think of my reader as a maker, or hobbyist, who does not necessarily know anything about either programming or electronics. I have written similar, very popular, books to this for Arduino and Raspberry Pi, and I have tried to keep the same approach of writing a book that also teaches Python and some electronic basics, without making it too much of a text book.
Why write a book on Python on Pico with other resources available in the community? Why not blog posts or a video series? Or do you plan on doing some videos and more later for the book?
There are a huge number of good resources out there. And, that’s one of the reasons I’m not a full-time writer any more. It has become harder and harder to make a living just writing books. I’d like to think that there is still a place for a well written and structured book that brings together all the knowledge that you need into one place. When I need to learn about something new, I buy a book about it, rather than do a video course. And, as I am fond of saying, buying a paper book is a great way of sequestering some carbon!
Does one need a particular background to follow along? Do you have any recommendations?
No, I’d say the book stands on its own. MonkMakes also makes a kit of parts, which makes it easier to get the bits you need to make the breadboard projects.
What’s your favorite chapter?
Probably the one on Python Lists and Dictionaries. I illustrate this with a Morse code example that I gradually build up into a translator that uses the built-in LED on the Pico, and I just think it came together really well.
You’ve written books with the micro:bit. What do you think are some key differences that readers should keep in mind in deciding to get a micro:bit or a Pico? Likewise, what do you think are some of the commonalities?
Both are great boards. The micro:bit is very much targeted towards the education community, whereas the Pico is much more of a board for Makers. The micro:bit’s most natural programming environment is the Makecode block programming environment, that makes it more accessible and appealing to younger users.
After finishing the book, what is the next step for the reader?
I would like to see my readers gaining the confidence to strike out with some simple projects of their own, perhaps using projects in the book as a starting point.
Are you planning any additional books in the future?
Following the death of my co-author Stan Gibilescu, on Teach Yourself Electricity and Electronics, I have signed with McGraw-Hill to write the next edition of this much loved book of Stan’s.
Thank you Dr. Monk for your responses!
You can see his hardware products via MonkMakes Ltd. at https://monkmakes.com/, and from distributors worldwide.