Lesser-spotted Raspberry Pi FINALLY dished up
Cheap-as-chips ARM computer hits doormats
The credit card-sized ARM-powered Raspberry Pi is finally shipping, at £30, allowing thousands of middle-aged dads to achieve their adolescent dreams of computing nirvana.
Shipping was supposed to happen last month, but problems with a couple of components, and getting the CE mark organised, delayed things slightly. The first devices arrived at the distributors at the tail of last week and all pre-ordered boards should be in the hands of customers by 20 April.
These are still Model B, which lists at $35 and features a pair of USB ports along with Ethernet connectivity. The stripped-down Model A has only one USB and no Ethernet, but should sell (wholesale) at $25 a pop.
Those are the prices listed by the UK charity that designed and sourced parts for the board, but over at retailer Premier Farnell we can see the actual price is £29.45 once shipping and VAT are included.
The Raspberry Pi is supposed to interest kids in computing, so lots should be sold into schools (though, weirdly, UK schools will have to pay VAT even if they can reduce the cost of shipping). Premier Farnell's Element 14 bods invited a group of children in Leeds to their office on Friday afternoon to hand out their boards, and the Raspberry Pi Foundation team gave a lesson on how to get started with the kit.
The boffins behind the 'Pi like to compare the product to Acorn's BBC Micro which, back in the 1980s, found its way into millions of middle-class homes* and instructed a generation in just how limited an 8-bit computing environment can be.
Schoolboy error: A Leeds lad holds his
Pi straight from the anti-static bag
Lots of 'Pis will, no doubt, be bought by dads who remember the Beeb, and hope the Linux-based bare circuit board will encourage their own offspring to pick up some light Python, Ruby or even a little C++ for laughs.
Having passed off the expense as educational they'll then get down to building the toys they wanted when they were kids, but weren't possible at the time, all in the interest of inspiring the next generation of course.
Knowing about computers used to be a route to cheap computing, just as knowing about cars used to be route to cheaper driving, but these days the motivation to learn is harder to find. It's far from obvious that dad's half-built-pinball-machine is going to get junior excited about compiling a new Linux kernel, but when the worst-case scenario is homemade pinball then it's probably a risk worth taking. ®
* Your correspondent is just bitter, having done all his early programming on a rubber-keyed Speccy.
I've always wondered at this attitude. Since when did programming GPIO's become a necessity for learning to program?
As to the educational side, let me think... What could be the educational advantages of a Linux PC that runs off an SD card (easily reimaged if broken) and can be programmed in any number of languages, and can be put in a school bag? That costs £30. Including all the software. Tough one.
It's an admirable project to be sure...
But, the thing that concerns me most about it is this;
"their own offspring to pick up some light Python, Ruby or even a little C++ for laughs"
None of those languages are particularly suited to the job of encouraging the young 'uns to tinker. And let's face it, I don't really think the reason kids don't get into programming they way we grey-hairs did is down to the cost of entry. It's more to do with the staggeringly high level of complexity that you have to reach just to get a computer to do anything, and the fact that when you turn them on they don't sit patiently with an empty screen and a friendly flashing cursor inviting your commandments.
While I don't doubt Raspberry Pi will be a success, and it will turn up in some interesting projects, I can't help but doubt that without some sort of concerted effort on the out of the box software, it will just be consigned to be a hobbyists platform.
Sure to cause some flames, I know, but I do really admire the project and it's aims.
Re: It's an admirable project to be sure...
This is exactly why the first batch of boards are aimed at developers so that they can iron out the production issues and get developers to fiddle with them, build software, see what works and what doesn't, basically get them to a large audience. The education versions (which will come in a case and with a manual) are planned for the end of the year IIRC.
Also, as it's a Linux box, you have a massive choice of languages to tinker with, including LOGO and Scratch. Once they get the basics of programming in those languages, they can move to other more complex languages. Experience so far seems to show that kids are indeed interested: http://www.raspberrypi.org/archives/1022
Re: Blah blah blah
Wait, you think that school pupils with internet access (on a site like El Reg that occasionally features NSFW content and practically mandates a hilarious innuendo-laden writing style, at least for headlines) are going to be seeing smut-tastic words like "wank" for the first time in my comment above?
Oh, it is to laugh :D
This is a developer release - NOT the main educational release, which will come later in the year and include a case for this very reason.