Raspberry Pi - a rapturous reception

  • 29 February 2012
  • From the section Technology
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What's not to like about the Raspberry Pi? The bargain basement credit card-sized computer went on sale this morning with a tremendous amount of goodwill behind its mission to give the next generation the computing skills that Britain needs.

In fact, there was so much excitement that the websites of the two companies which will now be making it buckled under the pressure. RS and Premier Farnell went live at 06:00 this morning with the news of their involvement in Raspberry Pi - and by 06:01 there were already reports that their sites were inaccessible.

That reflects the anticipation that has been building for months about a device which seems designed to make men of a certain age who cut their computing teeth as teenagers on a BBC Micro or a ZX Spectrum go all misty-eyed. Some of them turned angry this morning as it became clear that they would not be getting their hands on the Raspberry Pi in a hurry.

But remember, this not-for-profit project has been run so far by just six people on money they rustled up themselves. The transition to a more professional operation, where the manufacturing and management of sales will be carried out by two major electronics suppliers, should eventually pay off - but in the short-term there are bound to be hiccups.

The real task, however, is not about getting the Raspberry Pi out to that impatient crowd of enthusiasts. What matters is the kind of reception the device gets when it arrives in schools.

A few days ago I spent a morning in Chesterton Community College in Cambridge, watching Raspberry Pi's co-founder Eben Upton show off the device to a Year 8 ICT class. Their reactions were all he could have desired. "That's a computer?!" exclaimed one boy on seeing the device, before piling in with his classmates to reprogramme the classic game Snake using the Python language.

But this class in a school where ICT lessons look more creative than in many was perhaps an exception. What we will find out over the next six months is whether there really is a whole new generation eager to look under the bonnet of a computer and get their hands dirty.