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I'll start by saying that I'm a software guy, I know literally nothing about electronics.

I recently bought a raspberry pi, and while browsing at my local electronics shop, saw this board for $5.

Perf Board

I realize now that I don't know what I would actually use a board like that for.

I would like to know a few things:

  1. Does a board like that require soldering? Is this at all similar to a "breadboard?"
  2. Is it possible to use a board like that to connect with GPIO ports?
  3. If not, what would someone use a board like this for?
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That is a protoboard/veroboard/perf board/etc.

Does a board like that require soldering? Is this at all similar to a "breadboard?"

Mostly, yes, you would solder it. You could also use wirewrap, but frankly, that kinda defeats the purpose.

It is similar to a breadboard, except that it has a different layout, and is used for (mostly) permanent or final circuits. Breadboards allow you to move things around easily, because they are solder free.

Is it possible to use a board like that to connect with GPIO ports?

Off the bat? Maybe. But with a few caveats. The layout of the one you pictured wouldn't be ideal for a header used on the RPI. You could solder it on directly, but that would make removing it hard, you most likely would need to wire around it, you would have to put it on upside down, etc. You could use a female header to get around some of the issues. Most of the time, people use a cable between the RPI gpio port and a circuit board.

See http://lookmanowire.blogspot.com/2012/07/raspberry-pi-and-xbee.html or http://www.atbrask.dk/?p=27 for examples on a perf board connected directly to a RPI (with a header)

enter image description here

enter image description here

If not, what would someone use a board like this for?

Practically most hobbyist circuits can go on a perf board like that.

And you can google image search "raspberry pi perf board" for even more examples.

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The linked product is a generic pre-etched circuit board. It does require soldering to use, although the pads are connected together by traces as shown by the white areas on the top.

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These boards go by many names: PC board, prototype board, perf board, etc. Essentially they are a simple way for someone to quickly assemble a prototype circuit without waiting for a custom PCB or etching their own.

They come in numerous shapes and sizes with different types of pad connections. The particular one you link to is designed for use with integrated circuit chips and has designated power rails as well. An IC will fit perfectly across the two center rails and has a few connected pads on either side to easily interface with external components. Here is a bigger example:

Perf Board

Typically, one side will be nonconducting - this is where the components typically go. The other side will have copper pads identical to the patterns shown on the top side - this is where you solder components to the board. Jumper wires can be added on either side of the board to connect various things together. Although, there are some which are double sided - that is, they have copper pads for soldering on both sides.

This kind of board is also designed for use with through hole parts, although, you can use a surface mount part if you get creative:

Surface Mount Soldering

There are boards likes this specifically for use with surface mount components: Surface Mount board

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