Raspberry Pi - a rapturous reception


Dr Eben Upton of the Raspberry Pi Foundation shows Rory Cellan-Jones how the computer works

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.

Rory Cellan-Jones Article written by Rory Cellan-Jones Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    Don't get me wrong - I'm not a Linux geek or "fanboy", I just employ Linux developers and SysAdmins. I personally don't use Linux myself on ANY desktop or mobile computing device. I have an iPad2, a Blackberry phone, and Macs around the home and in my main and home office. But, even then, I have just counted 15 embedded Linux devices in our home nontheless: ADSL modems, wifi Access Points, TVs etc

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    People still don't get this product

    Milliions of products use embedded Linux , this is the future not windows

    This device has loads of applications on a common platform , teachers will be able to tap into a vast library of projects in the near future

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    @231 springheeledjaks
    Apple's osx and iOS are based on freeBSD, not on the original BSD Unix. Namely freeBSD 3 and later, which use large chunks of the Linux 2.x kernels and are built to so linux-compatible that most Linux software runs natively on freeBSD, while Unix soft uses the compatibility layer. Epoch used the openVMS architecture, which is, indeed, a Unix derivate - as is Linux.

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    @234 "What can a Pi do that a PC can't?"

    swap OS in under a second (unplug and replug the SD card with another pre-prepared one)?
    Native GPIO lines?
    1080p+A/V builtin?
    Cost £22 inc all software
    Fit in pocket?
    Run from a few hundred mA / AA cells?
    Have passive cooling whilst doing all of the above.
    Stimulate interest?
    Annoy the Microsoft salesmen? :)

    I could go on, but it hurts, it really does.

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    Don't worry, I'm sure some Microsoft genius can get MS Windows to run on it soon, then big spenders will be happy :)
    My neighbour's 8 year-old has amazed his parents - he ordered one himself, he borrowed Dad's iPad whilst waiting on the school run. He then got his classmates to register as well so he can "remote into mummy's PC" secretly, from his bedroom as well as the kitchen. 8 ! Irony Pi(e)

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.

    #238,239, couldn't agree more. Saldy a big chunk of the population are not interested unless there is a short term profit, and an equally big chunk won't want one unless they think the Beckhams have got one.

    Right about media playback as well - I plan to get one to play video from my home network to the TV.

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    @143: " if it only had a wireless NIC!!!!!!!!!!! "

    you only have to plug it into the usb port via a £5 USB hub and:

    modprobe -insert-name-of-USB-wireless-chipset-here-

    I doubt half the naysayers posting here could cope with doing THAT though! Their comments seem to be a sobering product of the last 15-20 years of IT teaching and culture in UK education, most UK businesses and the UK Govt,.

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    @136 Raid? for playing music and vids? What sort of OS overheads do YOU have? We've been using 1200MHz single-cores for our vid machines for the last 5 years! We also have current ads out for 6 Linux Sysadmins and (ironically, perhaps) a Python expert.

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    #232, you can do anything with a PC that you can do with a PI, apart from using it for robotics projects. Nobody is forcing schools to buy them
    The aim wa a PC on a circuit board for $25, it has already generated a huge amount of interest. Nobody can predict how widely this will be used, but I fail to see how it can be a bad thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    Aidy, why do you have an obsession with Linux. If you would prefer another OS, can you suggest one that is available free, and can run from a memory card on a low power device. Don't see Apple handing out free copies of iOS any time soon.
    I would guess the main reason for running LInux is simply that it is free, the fact that it is flexible, and heavily used in industry is just a bonus.

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    Well, within a few hours last night I had a vm running a cross-compilation environment, and qemu running the actual release of debian that was released for the pi. My inner geek has been awoken. Emulation is dog slow though!

    Some people seem to have lost their imagination along the way. This really isn't aimed at them. Instead of kicking over everyone else's sandcastles why not just stay away?

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    227.Eponymous Cowherd
    "Suggest you stop feeding the trolls"

    I haven't been rude to anyone, unlike you. The fact that you post insults here then disappear when asked a question relevant to the article, then come back complaining of "trolls" tells me a lot about you as a person.

    Will you now answer my original question to you? What can a Pi do that a PC can't?

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    OutForLunch: Whenever my limited funds are subsidizing your business training needs, it is not a stupid argument. I long ago got tired of betting on business being good.

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    228. rak136
    "Does your company use a computer to filter out resumes that do not have a specific language in them?"

    A bit of a stupid argument, this one. We only take people on with the appropriate skills. I look at all CV's myself actually.

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    @65 Mark
    Actually your "ignorance is showing."

    Apple's OSX and iOS are built around BSD Unix, not on Linux (BSD is an open source Unix but it is not Linux.)

    Symbian is a derivative of the OS British company Psion wrote for their Series 5 organizer. It is not based on a Linux kernel either.

    You are right about Android being based on Linux. 1 out of 4 isn't bad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    As RPi ALREADY stated, there will be a housing available.
    Storage? well... guess what - it runs off an SD card which is commonly called storage and, guess what? You can create a /home partition for NVS. Guess what - kb+mouse=£10-£15 and it connects to a TV. Duh!
    I have a self-built FULLY fucntioning distro on a 2GB SD card. Guess what? It could be used to learn any comp-lang.
    Me? Ignorant?

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    226 OutForLunch

    Yes, they could. Do you know why they don't? No? Me neither. -)

    Look, the Pi is just one attempt to get youngsters interested in computer science. It's not the only solution and it might easily turn out to be a damp squib, but fair play to them for rolling up their sleeves and giving it a go.

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    OutForLunch: Does your company use a computer to filter out resumes that do not have a specific language in them? If they do, did you happen to allow the resumes of all the languages in the same family as that particular language? No one goes to train for a particular job when they are educating just as Aidy said, but companies expect them to.

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    @225. Miss Ingoff

    Suggest you stop feeding the trolls. They only come back for more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    225.Miss Ingoff
    "My point was, get hold of one, see what support materials are available, see what other people are doing with it, see how the pupils react"

    I see where you're coming from but for NO cost all pupils could have a go at Blackberry or Android development.

    Seeing as the Blackberry is popular amongst teens, I'm sure they'd be excited, and all the required software is free.


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