There have been whispers about the Raspberry Pi über-mini computer for several months now, but in recent days the project has come out of skunk works and is garnering some press attention. Essentially, the plan is to design and build a credit card-sized, programmable computing device for as little as $25 (around £15). The technology is based around an ARM 11 microprocessor and the GNU/Linux operating system. An SD card provides storage (unsurprisingly at this price there is no hard disc) and a HDMI connection means that a consumer TV can be attached.
The organisation behind it is the Raspberry Pi Foundation, a UK registered charity that wants to put the fun back into studying computing by manufacturing an ultra-low cost computer and distributing it to schools so that they can teach computer programming to children. Genius. In the late 1970s, people like me cut their programming teeth on similar, although much less powerful, single board hobbyist computers such as Nascom and Kim. With the rise of commodity computing, and brands such as Apple, IBM, Dell and Microsoft, these kinds of machines all but disappeared. The Raspberry Pi team are trying to recreate that spirit of adventure, and as one of the developers, Eben Upton, puts it in a YouTube video:
“Young people don’t have a platform they can learn to program on. I’ve been programming since I was ten, most of my friends who are in the industry have been programming since they were ten, [but] there aren’t a lot of ten-year-old computer programmers anymore. This is going to be an enormous problem for our industry.”
The overall aim seems to be to get these devices into schools, particularly in the UK, and there is talk of a scheme that asks every purchaser to donate one to a local school. As the UK’s coalition government continue to scratch their heads over how to get growth going again it could do far worse than look at this scheme to help fire up the imagination of a new generation of coders.