nowadays - they're so good at getting the latest apps and using social media,
but what's lacking is an actual understanding of how computers really work. The
Raspberry Pi Foundation is looking to change all that with a revolutionary
little computer.Most of
today's devices are tailored for content consumption. Sure, smartphones and
tablets are fine for surfing the Web, playing games, watching videos and
listening to music but their locked-down platforms fall flat when it comes to
actually creating content.
tech-sawy teenager's experience with making something on a computer doesn't
extend far beyond setting up blogs or using a photo editor. Even computer
classes focus more on using Word, Excel and Internet Explorer rather the real
guts of computing.
How young is too young
on social media networks
the case back in 1981. Personal computers were slowly trickling into people's
homes. The British Broadcasting Corporation, the United Kingdom's public TV
broadcaster, wanted a microcomputer to go along with its series on the future
of computing, something that could be offered to schools as well. In Cambridge,
the UK's own Silicon Valley, the graduate students at Acorn Computers knocked a
prototype together just in time, showed it to the BBC and promptly won the
contract. The BBC Micro was born.
kids grew up in the 1980s learning to use affordable computers like the BBC
Micro, Spectrum ZX and Commodore 64. These machines were simple motherboards
hidden inside keyboard cases and hooked up to television sets. The Micro's
8-bit 4MHz processor and 16KB RAM were good enough for simple colour graphics
and a BASIC interpreter gave schoolchildren a head start into programming - and
a helping hand into the new digital economy. The open hardware and software
also meant hackers could tinker and add functionality, creating a whole
industry around third party bits and inspiring an entire generation of tech
In the hands of British
Computers disappeared from the industry soon after as cheap IBM-compatible personal
computers cornered the market, but not before spinning off a bunch of units,
including a very famous ARM Holdings. ARM is the
world's largest designer of mobile processors and licenses its cores and
instruction sets to industry players like Samsung, Apple, NVIDIA, Qualcomm and
Texas Instruments. It's very likely that all your mobile devices and embedded
electronics run ARM processors.
comes back to Cambridge and the Raspberry Pi Foundation. The Foundation's
members wanted to bring back the spirit of the BBC Micro and get kids learning,
programming and tinkering with computers again. The key would be a cheap,
simple computer that would still be powerful enough to meet most of today's
requirements - the Raspberry Pi. Six years in the making, it's a system-on-chip
board the size of a credit card running off micro-USB power. Display output is
through HDMI and composite video, there's a 3.5 mm headphone jack and the Model
B variant has an Ethernet jack too. An extra USB Wi-fi adapter could provide
wireless connectivity. Hook up the Pi to a TV set and a keyboard and you're
good to go.
ARM11 processor sips power while the Broadcom GPU, the same as those in Nokia
Symbian handsets, has enough grunt to do OpenGL 3D and decode 1080p video. Debian
Linux runs off an SD card and an Android port is on the way too. That's packing
a lot of power into a tiny package and the best part is the price - just US$25
for the Model A, USS35 for the Model B.
incredibly low price makes the Pi attractive for anyone interested in the BBC
Micro's original mission. Developing countries could easily outfit classrooms
with computers at a fraction of the cost of existing beige boxes, getting an
entire generation on the Internet and joining the global information economy.
For me, the
Pi is a hacker's dream. Imagine connecting it to a television set, even an old
CRT unit that's gathering dust in the storeroom, to instantly turn it into a
computer or a media streamer. Pair it with a touchscreen and 3G radio and slap
it into a car to make a GPS navigator, media player and Internet terminal. You
could hook it up to an Arduino board, sensors and motors for DIY hacks like
alarm systems, home automation and home 3D printing... there's even talk of
building robots using the Pi as a brain.
Original the Raspberry
The first batch of ten thousand units have completely sold out
although delivery is delayed because a faulty Ethernet jack was used for the
Model B. The Pi's hardware design and most of its software are open source and
the Raspberry Pi Foundation wants others to re-use and improve on it. Open
hardware, software and services - the dream is to make computers available to
everyone, everywhere, a Pi or a few in each home.