The Raspberry Pi is one funky piece of kit, launched earlier this year by Eben Upton and his team at the RaspberryPi Foundation, it is essentially a “mini PC” as powerful as a lot of hardware today. Runs on Linux and operates like any other home PC. The Raspberry Pi aims to help teach young people programming with a decline since the 80’s in learning to code. The Raspberry Pi has been picked up by all sorts of people including Adults, and has been used as a multi-media device too! There is a lot of potential with it, already people have been making their own custom cases (even out of lego) before the official case. (It is one funky little dude of a thing). Read on to find out more about the PC that you can get for only $25. (It is created in the UK by the way).
Oliver: Please could you give me a little background on yourself, what were you doing before developing the Raspberry Pi?
Eben: Let’s see. I spent a lot of the last fifteen years at the University of Cambridge, first as an undergraduate, and then doing a PhD and an exec MBA. While I was doing the PhD, I taught a lot of undergraduates, and became worried about the decline in their level of knowledge at entry. For the past six years I’ve been working at Broadcom designing chips,
one of which is used in Raspberry Pi. So Raspberry Pi is a coming together of these two strands of my life.
Oliver: When you say “kids”, what age is Raspberry Pi for? What type of people have you seen using it so far?
Eben: Kids for me means ages 6 and up. Most current users have been adults with existing computer experience, but we expect this to change going forward.
Oliver: How can our members use the Raspberry Pi to learn programming? We understand the original idea was to provide students with a simple environment to learn programming. But is Python really that simple for anyone other than a few boffins in the class?
Eben: I think there will always be a level of effort involved in learning to program, but the same is true of all subjects. Python is about as simple as you can get while still remaining a “real” programming language.
Oliver: How essential do you think it is for young people to learn programming > skills in today’s world? How can it benefit them, if they do or don’t take a career in programming?
Eben: A couple of comments here. Programming is a useful skill regardless of what career you choose later in life; it teaches a way of thinking which can be applied to pretty much any job which requires problemsolving. Programming itself is a fantastic career, and interestingly I don’t believe there’s much correlation between programming ability and
general academic aptitude, so it offers kids who might end up doing fairly menial jobs a route into a high-paid profession.
Oliver: For those that don’t know, essentially I can use the Raspberry Pi as an > alternative to a standard home PC, and hook it up to a monitor for the purpose programming, not for playing high end games is this correct?
Eben: Yes, however we’ve tested the Raspberry Pi out with Quake 3 and seen people using it as a multi-media device as-well, it works just like any other PC, has a web-browser etc…
Oliver: The price of the Raspberry Pi is extremely competitive and very tempting, is it going to change with new additions to the product, for example the new standard case etc..?
Eben: No – the intention is to hold the price constant for the foreseeable future.
Oliver: Is the Raspberry Pi really powerful enough to compete with top end hardware? Can I learn how to make mobile apps with it, for example?
Eben: On the multimedia side at least, Raspberry Pi is as powerful as pretty much anything out there. For developing mobile apps though, I’d suggest a smartphone might be more appropriate.
Haha, yes ofcourse
Oliver: I noticed that you have a large community following for Rasberry Pi so far, how have the community helped shaped the product since launch?
Eben: We’re dependent on our community to support newcomers to the platform,and to do a lot of the software engineering required to add new
features and toughen it up ready for the educational release. A great example of this is Raspbian (www.raspbian.org), an OS distribution optimized for Raspberry Pi which was developed without the foundation’s involvement.
Oliver: What has the response been like since launch? Has it confirmed your previous projections? Do you see more and more young people using Rasberry Pi to learn programming and engineering?
Eben: The response has been overwhelming. We’re already seeing some young people using Raspberry Pi to learn to program, and are running a competition for school children over the summer with $4000 of prize money.
Oliver: Our role is to help 13-24 age group become more enterprising. We plan to generate income for ourselves and our members and plough the money back in to the organisation to improve our content and promotions. So, how can our members make money by getting involved in the Raspberry Pi? Any ideas? Our members would be interested in this.
Eben: A few ways. Obviously you can enter the competition I mentioned above (and there will be many more of these over the next year). You can
sell cases or accessories for the Pi. Finally, we’re hoping at some point to offer “App Store-like” functionality to allow people to make money from selling software they write.
Oliver: Can we see the Rasberry Pi coming to major retailers soon? What are the plans, obviously you are looking to schools, where do you see the Raspberry Pi in 5 years time?
Eben: Raspberry Pi will remain an online-only product for the foreseeable future due to margin considerations. We hope that in 5 years time Raspberry Pi or something like it will be being used extensively in schools to give everyone access to the opportunity to program that I had as a child.
Oliver: How can we at YWB help with promoting Raspberry Pi to students?
Eben: Getting the word out that the device exists, and that we’re alreadyoffering decent-sized prizes to young people who do interesting stuff with it is enough.
Oliver: How can schools where we live benefit from giving their students a Raspberry Pi?
Eben: Schools that want to teach computer science will find the Raspberry Pi
to be a powerful and very cost effective platform for this purpose.
Oliver: How do you plan to grab students attention away from their mobiles/iphones/games to try the Raspberry Pi?
I think the prizes may help here.
Oliver: We have our own ideas for the Raspberry Pi. How can we get involved in designing our own Raspberry Pi product? Like the Magic Wand invention on your website?
Eben: Anyone is free to design accessories for the Raspberry Pi. It’s an open platform in that respect. When we see something we really like (like the wand) we do our best to promote it on the website.
Oliver: What should I do if I wanted to get started with a Raspberry Pi? could I > start from knowing absolutely nothing?
Eben: I think so. I’d suggest the best thing to do would be to go on the forums and start asking (intelligent) questions. People are very welcoming.
Oliver: Can the Raspberry Pi help people who are already programming?
Eben: Yes – it’s a very cheap way to get your hands on an embedded Linux device.
Oliver: Thanks so much Eben!! I love the device, good luck with it.
Executive Director, Raspberry Pi Foundation
Go find out more and get your own Raspberry Pi for only $25, do leave your comments below!: http://www.raspberrypi.org.