Students in the UK Get the First Batch of Raspberry Pi Computers
April 16, 2012

Students in the UK Get the First Batch of Raspberry Pi Computers

Enid Burns for

With the first shipment of Raspberry Pi computers, a new wave of computer programming may just be born. A group of schoolchildren in Leeds, U.K. will be the first to get a batch of the tiny computers, followed by fulfillment of the first orders by April 20.

Raspberry Pi is a programmable PC built on a motherboard the size of a credit card. It's built on the ARM GNU, Linux open source operating system and has a price tag of between $25 (for model A) and $35 (model B). With a TV and keyboard, aspiring programmers can use the machine as a PC to create word-processing documents, spreadsheets and games, but they can also program the computer to play high-definition video and perform other functions.

The creators of the Raspberry Pi project, graduates of the University of Cambridge's Computer Laboratory, wanted to address the growing problem of a shrinking pool of computer programmers. The group attributes the availability of computers, consoles and software for the downfall of creativity. "The colonization of the ICT curriculum with lessons on using Word and Excel, or writing web pages; the end of the dot-com boom; and the rise of the home PC and games consoles to replace Amigas, BBC Micros, Spectrum ZX and Commodore 64 machines that people of an earlier generation learned to program on," explains the "About us" page on the Raspberry Pi website.

By shipping first to students, a few days ahead of the company's first orders, Raspberry Pi demonstrates its commitment to inspire and provide tools for a new crop of computer programmers. The event, where project coordinator Eben Upton presented a batch of the first Raspberry Pi computers to schoolchildren was held on Friday at the Leeds office of Pi distributor Premier Farnell, according to BBC News.

Two models are available. Model A has 256Mb RAM (upgraded from an original specification of 128Mb of RAM) and one USB port. There is no Ethernet connection. Model B has 256Mb RAM, two USB ports and an Ethernet port. The system on chip (SoC) is a Broadcom BCM2835, which contains an ARM1176JZFS, with floating point. The system runs at 700 Mhz with a Videocore 4 GPU. The GPU is capable of Blu-ray quality video playback and uses H.264 at 40MBits/s. It is capable of rendering and playing fast 3D graphics due to its OpenGL ES2.0 and OpenVG libraries.

To keep costs down, Raspberry Pi developers nixed a few options. A real-time clock (RTC) is unavailable. "Adding an RTC is surprisingly expensive, once you've factored in batteries, area and componentry and you would have pushed us above our target price," the developers explain in an FAQ. Another item on the customer want list that went unfulfilled is a self-assembly kit. The kit would be too expensive to provide, the non-profit explains. Availability of a self-assembly kit might also put a cap on creativity. Developers and programmers might rely on the pre-packaged kit and not turn to the drafting table, or Raspberry Pi computer, to create a solution.

When pre-orders for the Raspberry Pi computers opened in February the response was overwhelming. Orders approached selling out of original expectations. It was reported that distributor websites experienced outages from the traffic.