Pi Day, Raspberry Pi and Command Line

Published Mar 15, 2016Last updated Apr 12, 2017
Pi Day, Raspberry Pi and Command Line

Everyone knows (or should know) what the Pi number is. Basically, its value is defined by the division of a circle circumference to its diameter. That's the Pi number! The nice thing about it is its irrational nature. That means it has a lot an infinity of decimals.

Usually, Pi is approximated as 3.14. And today is 14th of March! So, happy Pi day! 😃

I have a Raspberry Pi computer around, and I was thinking to use two of my libraries to create something nice: displaying the Raspberry Pi's logo and the Pi number in the command line: it's funny how it basically stands for Raspberry Pi (the raspberry image and the pi number). I wanted one more thing: using the pi number decimals in the output characters. Here's the result (see below how I did it):

How I did it

To display the images in the terminal, I used image-to-ascii. To pass different image urls, I decided to use command line arguments.

To get the first n decimals of the pi number, I used another module I created this time last year: pi. This module returns a good approximation of pi:

const pi = require("pi");

// => '3.141592653'

So, I created a file named index.js and I wrote the following stuff in it (follow the inline comments):

// Require the needed dependencies
// `pi` will be used to return the first `n` decimals of pi
const pi = require("pi")

      // image-to-ascii for displaying the images in the terminal
    , img = require("image-to-ascii")

      // We use this module to stringify the pixel matrix after
      // modifying the internal data (basically, the characters)
    , stringify = require("asciify-pixel-matrix")

// Take the image url/path from the command line arguments
img(process.argv[2], {
    // We turn off the stringifying, since we really want to do
    // some changes before displaying the images
    stringify: false
  , concat: false
}, (err, converted) => {
    // Handle the errors
    if (err) { return console.error(err); }

    // `converted` is an array of arrays (in fact, a matrix of pixels)
    // We use the `converted` matrix to know how many decimals we
    // need: width x height
    // `piNumber` will be a string in this format: "3.14...." (with a
    // lot of decimals)
    var piNumber = pi(converted.length * converted[0].length);

    // We will use this `i` variable to get the current index
    var i = -1;

    // For each row in the matrix
    converted.forEach(cRow => {
        // ...and for each pixel in the row
        cRow.forEach(px => {
            // ...update the character using a pi decimal, in order
            px.char = piNumber[i = ++i % piNumber.length];

    // Finally, stringify everything and display the result! Yay!

The requirements to run this script are:

  • Node.js (I installed it on my Raspberry Pi using nvm)
  • graphicsmagick: sudo apt-get install graphicsmagick (this is optional, kind of: if it's not available image-to-ascii will compile some C/C++ stuff, but it will probably take a long time)
  • ...and of course the npm dependencies: npm i image-to-ascii pi asciify-pixel-matrix

Happy Pi Day!

PS: I posted this article using my Raspberry Pi, connected to the Internet and using a 7" display. Just perfect. 😃

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