In the past I have covered the Raspberry Pi only briefly, so I thought it was about time that I finally wrote a piece on this tiny computer which everyone seems to be buzzing about. For the next few blogs, I shall cover the history of the computer from inception to production and finally, what I make of it. Is it all hype? Or do we really have something that promises to get young brains thinking and finally tinkering?
A Brief History of Pi
The concept for the Raspberry Pi was thought up by Eben Upton back in 2006. As Director of studies in computer science at Cambridge university, Upton noticed a decline in computer science skills while he was lecturing and working in admissions. This begged the question why? Past applicants who had grown up using and programming on computers such as the BBC, Spectrum, Commodore 64’s and Amiga, displayed a much better grasp of computers, than the Windows generation that now succeeded it. This new generation of computer users where not pushed to code like those who had grown up with 8 bit and 16bit computers. Figures showing a marked drop in applicants, backed up his theory that schools where not doing enough the educate pupils in programming. Which caused him to form the “Raspberry Pi Foundation“. As the Foundation’s trustee, Eben Upton enlisted the help of teachers, academics and computer enthusiasts to devise a computer to inspire children.
In August 2006, fifty Alpha boards where produced, larger than the final design to accommodate debug headers. Some of these boards where used for demonstration purposes, showing the Pi abilities to run an LXDE desktop on Debian, Quake 3 at 1080P and playback of high definition MPEG-4 over HDMI.
By 29th February 2012 the first batch of boards went on sale, the two official retail outlets in the UK, Premier Farnell and RS Components where overwhelmed with orders, so much that they caused servers to stall.
Growing up in the 80s I remember taking books from the library with my best friend and spending evenings coding games. We might never have learned exactly what we where doing, but we did learn to recognise an “IF RUN” statement and what would happen if you changed a value in the code that related to health or ammo. In the 80s it wasn’t uncommon to find computer magazines like Zap64 & CRASH encouraging you to modify code within a game to give you extra life or to skip a level. It was all part of the fun, once you started with one game, you’d try messing with another to see if you could alter stats.
By the time the 90s had come around, games written in BASIC where becoming harder to find, tho platforms such as the Amiga, offered Amos and HiBasic as languages you could learn to code your own games. Slowly as the IBM Compatible PC crept in to homes as the new home computer, the time of Public Domain libraries was slowly coming to a close. The Sony Playstation was the sought after console of the mid nineties, along with such platforms as the Nintendo Gameboy which had arrived in 89 and was still going strong. For a younger generation games were now something you played not created. I don’t ever recall seeing software for making games for the PSone yourself, nor for the Gameboy. This trend would carry on through with the Playstation 2, Game Cube and Xbox.