February 29, 2012
Tiny Raspberry Pi Computer Makes Splash in UK
Just hours after its release, the credit card-sized Raspberry Pi is already on its way towards selling-out, crashing several distributors´ websites along the way as eager consumers scramble to get a copy of the petite computer.
With a price tag of just $35, the impressive little device is a fully-programmable PC that can be plugged into most any television to provide 3D graphics and Blu-Ray video playback.
The Raspberry Pi´s tiny circuit board is jam-packed with two USB ports, an SD-card memory port, an Ethernet connection and a standard USB mobile charger for power. Moreover, the case-free little computer comes equipped with a free, open-source Linux operating system.
Some six years in the making, the computer is the brainchild of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, a British charity organization whose mission statement is to “promote the study of computer science and related topics, especially at school level, and to put the fun back into learning computing.”
Specifically, leaders of the foundation want to get as many devices as possible into as many homes as possible. Eventually, they hope that this will boost the number of competent computer techies in the future by getting kids excited about programming at a young age.
“The primary goal was to build a low cost computer that every child could own, and one where programming was the natural thing to do with it,” said co-founder Robert Mullins.
The idea for the Raspberry Pi project arose when a group of computer programmers at Cambridge University noticed a trend among incoming students. They observed that each year, the quality and number of students applying for computer science classes was steadily declining.
“Each year we had fewer and fewer students applying, and most of them hadn´t really done much more than write a web page,” foundation co-founder Eben Upton told CNN.
In the late 80s and early 90s, when simpler computers like the BBC Micro and Commodore 64 made it possible for hobbyists and young people to easily and inexpensively delve into programming, the number of competent programmers on the market exploded, largely driving the tech boom that would come in the decades that followed.
“So we kind of set out to recreate that feeling of the BBC Micro in the hopes it would spark a new wave of kids knowing how to program,” said Upton.
He hopes that the Raspberry Pi will eventually bring at least 1,000 new computer science engineers to the British job market each year.
“Anyone who expresses a desire to get into designing software should have a platform to do it,” he added.
Asked about the success of the project thus far, Upton told BBC that he was very satisfied how the development of the device as well as the hype surrounding it has evolved.
“It has been six years in the making; the number of things that had to go right for this to happen is enormous. I couldn´t be more pleased.”
While the foundation stated that it had originally hoped to produce the devices in the UK, the costs associated with domestic production turned out to be prohibitive, leading them seek out Chinese manufacturers.
The British distributors Premier Farnell and RS Components have agreed to manage orders for the foundation, an arrangement that will let the foundation to focus on its core competencies and thus allow the project to expand more rapidly.
“We didn´t realize how successful this was going to be,” said a delighted Upton.
“This means we can scale to volume. Now we can concentrate on teaching people to program.”
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