Raspberry Pi came into existence due to dropping costs of components and a growing appetite for something to be done
The idea behind a tiny and cheap computer for kids came in 2006, when Eben Upton and his colleagues at the University of Cambridge’s Computer Laboratory became concerned about the year-on-year decline in the numbers and skills levels of the A Level students applying to read Computer Science in each academic year.
Something had changed the way kids were interacting with computers. A number of problems were identified: current ICT curriculum based 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 and a manufactures heavy reliance on the design of easy to use computing that was in effect dumbing down the next generation of computer orientated minds.
Just a little over 5 years since inception the Raspberry Pi came into existence due to dropping costs of components and a growing appetite for something to be done.
In reality, the Raspberry Pi is small but bulky at the same time. It seems all the space is taken up by archaic looking interfaces and reminds me how clunky wired interfaces are in general. If we compare it’s thickness to a mobile/cell phone your left feeling like you’re looking at some 1980′s tech. Of the 2 versions, Mobel B is the most popular. Both versions share the same ARM 700MHz processor, 256MB RAM and Broadcom Open GL graphics chip capable of producing 1080p HD. Though the Model A doesn't have an RJ45 Ethernet port, it can connect to a network by using a user-supplied USB Ethernet or Wi-Fi adapter slotted into one of the 2 on board USB ports. As is typical of modern computers, generic USB keyboards and mice are compatible with the Raspberry Pi. Power can be supplied via a micro USB cable, though one is not supplied, the same as any modern Android or Windows phone uses. There is no on board hard disk and you typically install the OS of choice, currently Linux (Debian, Arch Linux, or QT), on an SD Card which fits into a slot on the device. Any extra storage above the minimum required 4GB SD, can be accessed via the network or USB attached Disk.
So what can you use it for? Well that’s the point, you are given all the basic tools of a pretty powerful, pretty cheap computer to do anything you can think of. Already just 6 months old and there are several projects running including; remote camera monitoring, retro arcade machine, robots and turning your Pi into a fully-fledged Media Centre PC.
To test the Raspberry Pi, we actually built a media center PC. It took less than 4 hours, using just a HDMI cable, an ethernet cable and a wireless keyboard/mouse combo, we mounted it behind a TV. All access to content was via the network using a ported version of XMBC media center. We were stunned by what we had achieved with such a small device and budget. If we had any concerns, such as 2 USB ports are just not enough and the exposed circuitry screams fragile, they can be overcome by home DIY solutions.
We don’t think that the Raspberry Pi is a fix to all of the world’s computing issues but we do believe that it can be a catalyst. Cheap, accessible, programmable computers everywhere will actively break the paradigm where without spending hundreds of pounds on a PC, families can’t use the internet. If you want to own a truly personal computer and build something with it, then the Raspberry Pi is worth every penny.