The Raspberry Pi is already the fastest selling British personal computer, and has also shipped the second largest number of units behind the Amstrad PCW (remember those?) which sold eight million.
Raspberry Pi was developed by Eben Upton, Rob Mullins, Jack Lang and Alan Mycroft, based at the University of Cambridge’s Computer Laboratory. They were (rightly) worried that not enough children were learning how to code, nor embracing computing, and so decided to tackle the problem.
Mass Production By 2008, processors designed for mobile devices were becoming more affordable and powerful enough to provide multimedia, a feature that the team felt would make the board desirable to kids who wouldn’t initially be interested in a purely programming‑oriented device. Eben (a chip architect at Broadcom), Mullins, Lang and Mycroft teamed up with Pete Lomas, managing director of hardware design and manufacture company Norcott Technologies, and David Braben, co-author of the seminal BBC Micro game ‘Elite’, to form the Raspberry Pi Foundation. Three years later, the Raspberry Pi Model B entered mass production through licensed manufacture deals with element 14/Premier Farnell and RS Electronics, and within two years it had sold over two million units.
The computer was inspired by Acorn’s BBC Micro of 1981. Model A, Model B and Model B+ are references to the original models of the British educational BBC Micro computer, developed by Acorn Computers.
Punching above its weight During the first week of 2012, the first 10 Raspberry Pi boards were put up for auction on eBay. One was bought anonymously and donated to the museum at The Centre for Computing History in Suffolk, England. The ten boards (with a total retail price of £220) together raised over £16,000, with the last to be auctioned, serial number No. 01, raising £3,500. In advance of the anticipated launch at the end of February that year, the Foundation’s servers struggled to cope with the load placed by watchers repeatedly refreshing their browsers.
Genuinely taken aback that demand for the Raspberry Pi proved to be orders of magnitude larger than a small pool of aspiring UK computer engineers. “We honestly did think we would sell about 1,000, maybe 10,000 in our wildest dreams. We thought we would make a small number and give them out to people who might want to come and read computer science at Cambridge,” Eben Upton told ZDNet in 2013.
In June 2014, Eben Upton was invited to Buckingham Palace for a reception hosting stars of the UK tech industry. Of particular interest to the Palace, and Prince Andrew, was the Raspberry Pi Education Fund – a worldwide fund that seeks to foster and support projects that help advance the education and understanding of computing of children aged between 5 and 18 years of age. Over the last two years, the Fund has been involved in dozens of projects around the world that increase participating in computing and target excellence.
Fresh Pi on offer A new budget-priced Raspberry Pi has recently been released which offers a faster processor and more memory. The Raspberry Pi 2 Model B is approximately six times more powerful for most applications than the previous version.
Updates include a 900MHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A7 CPU. The quad-core CPU now means that the Raspberry Pi can be programmed to use more of its cores to offer extra computing power or use fewer to help save power consumption. In addition, the Cortex A7 processor now runs at 900MHz rather than 700MHz, speeding things up considerably for the user. The ARMv7 processor can also run the full range of ARM GNU/Linux distributions, including Snappy Ubuntu Core, as well as Microsoft Windows 10 (Microsoft announced in February this year that it will offer a free version of the to-be-released Windows 10 running natively on the Raspberry Pi).
Learners also have the added flexibility of one gigabyte of RAM memory the amount that was previously offered with the previous model.
Alongside the new updates, the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B still includes four USB ports, 40 GPIO pins, a full HDMI port, an ethernet port, a combined 3.5mm audio jack and composite video, a camera interface (CSI), a display interface (DSI), a Micro SD card slot and a VideoCore IV 3D graphics core. The latest version also has an identical form factor to the previous (Pi 1) Model B+ and complete compatibility with Raspberry Pi 1.
Raspberry Pi on the weather Oracle and Raspberry Pi Foundation are collaborating on a project aimed at training children how to code and learn about their world at the same time.
The Oracle Academy Raspberry Pi Weather Station initiative for Schools encourages schools to teach programming skills by inviting them to apply for a weather station hardware kit for children to build and develop.
Students can choose how to build their application using SQL elements developed in collaboration with Oracle and data will be hosted on the company’s cloud.
Oracle Giving, the firm’s philanthropic arm, has funded the first 1,000 kits, meaning schools can get their hands on the kits for free while stock last. In addition to the crafting skills the schoolchildren will need to build the weather station, it will also teach them how to write code to track wind speed, direction, temperature, pressure, and humidity.
The scheme, which is targeted at children aged between 11 and 16, will also encourage students to build a website to display local weather conditions. Kids can connect with other children participating in the scheme via a specially built website that will also provide technical support.
Jane Richardson, director of Oracle Academy EMEA, said: “From application programming to database management, computer science skills can lead to rewarding and fulfilling careers.
“Our goal with the Oracle Raspberry Pi Weather Station project is not only to show students how computer science can help them measure, interrogate and understand the world better, but also to give them hands-on opportunities to develop these skills. We believe this is one of the best ways to inspire the next generation to take up the computer science roles that economies around the world need filled.”