Ask any British coder of a certain age what it was that got them into the technology business in the first place, and the chances are high that they’ll say it was a childhood encounter with a Sinclair Spectrum, a BBC Micro, or an Acorn computer.
Back in the 1980s, these three UK-designed computers were a massive success story. They were powerful enough to do real computing, and cheap enough to buy for the home. Thousands of kids took their first steps in programming on one of these machines, and ended up doing it for a living.
Now a team of British enthusiasts wants to recreate that golden age of computing and home-grown hacking, with a tiny device called the Raspberry Pi.
It’s about the size of a USB stick. One end has a USB port, the other an HDMI port for plugging in a monitor. Between them is a decent PC with sufficient RAM and processor oomph to run an open source OS like Ubuntu Linux with no problems.
Why make it like this? Because in this form, it costs almost nothing – just $25.
At that price, no-one’s going to care too much about it. Anyone who gets their hands on it will be happy to hack about, installing new software, messing it around, building it into other things, turning it into a robot with sticky tape and a coat hanger.
Which is great! That’s the whole point. Raspberry Pi’s makers want to encourage a new generation of young coders, kids who will play with the Pi and get inspired to learn more about computer science.
Too many of today’s computer science lessons are little more than software tutorials, designed to teach kids how to format spreadsheets and design presentation slides. That’s not computing. Raspberry Pi is an attempt to put some life back into computers for young people. They will be able to hack around with the Pi’s hardware and software in a way that they never could with an expensive laptop or tablet computer.
The project is still in its early stages, and further prototypes need to be built before it’s built. But here’s hoping for success – maybe 20 years from now, the next generation of web whizz-kids will be looking back on the Raspberry Pi with the same nostalgic fondness that today’s hackers have for the Sinclairs of old.
(Via BBC News)