The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized computer that plugs into your TV and a keyboard. It’s a capable little PC which can be used for many of the things your desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word-processing and games. It also plays high-definition video. We want to see it being used by kids all over the world to learn programming.
They are hoping to have the Raspberry Pi available to order by the end of 2011 and still expect to be auctioning some of the first batch of beta boards before the end of the year (keep an eye on their site after Christmas); they will be moving to main production in January.
[Note]If you want to find out what the Raspberry Pi is, head to their FAQ page. [/Note]
The idea behind a tiny and cheap computer for kids came in 2006, when Eben Upton was lecturing and working in admissions at Cambridge University. Eben had noticed a distinct drop in the skills levels of the A Level students applying to read Computer Science in each academic year when he came to interview them. From a situation in the 1990s where most of the kids applying were coming to interview as hobbyist programmers, the landscape in the 2000s was very different; a typical applicant now had experience only with web design, and sometimes not even with that. Fewer people were applying to the course every year. Something had changed the way kids were interacting with computers.
Eben and colleagues from the university like Rob Mullins and Alan Mycroft (both now trustees of the Raspberry Pi Foundation) batted around ideas about what had happened in schools to cause this change. A number of problems were identified: the colonisation of the ICT curriculum with lessons on using Word and Excel, or writing webpages; the end of the dot-com boom; and the rise of the home PC and games console to replace the Amigas, BBC Micros, Spectrum ZX and Commodore 64 machines that people of an earlier generation learned to program on.
[Info]Raspberry Pi – Quake 3 demo: [/Info]
There isn’t much any small group of people can do to address problems like an inadequate school curriculum or the end of a financial bubble. But we felt that we could try to do something about the situation where computers had become so expensive and arcane that programming experimentation on them had to be forbidden by parents; and to find a platform that, like those old home computers, could boot into a programming environment.
Over the next few years, Eben, having left the university for industry, worked on building prototypes of what has now become the Raspberry Pi in his spare time (you can see a very early version here).