Helping children all over the world to learn computer programming.By Raspberry Pi Foundation
Will Goldie, a Boy Scout in California, is raising money to equip a computer lab for girls in Afghanistan, the centrepiece of which will be a remarkable credit card sized computer – this promises to become the workhorse of basic computer science courses the world over.
That computer, the Raspberry Pi, is the brainchild of a group of computer scientists at Cambridge University who were alarmed by the decline in the numbers and skills levels of the A Level students applying to read Computer Science. From a situation in the 1990s where most of the kids applying were coming to interview as experienced hobbyist programmers, using basic machines such as the BBC Micro, Spectrum ZX and Commodore 64, the landscape in the 2000s was very different; a typical applicant might only have done a little web design.
As computing had become more ubiquitous, commercialised and consumer friendly, so the opportunity for young people to make their own computer programs had evaporated. The group decided part of the solution might be to create a latter-day version of one of the basic machines they themselves first learned to program on.
They started playing around with cheap processors designed for mobile devices and formed the Raspberry Pi Foundation to make it a reality. After about five years of tinkering, the group came up with a design for a basic, reprogrammable computer costing just £30, which runs on open source software and is made under licence by a range of electronics manufacturers around the world. The Foundation encourages other companies to clone its machine.
Since its launch in 2012, more than 1.2 million Raspberry Pis have been sold to schools and students, but also to hobbyists making robots and parents with disabled children wanting to make their own monitoring devices, as well as museums and hospitals.
Raspberry Pi is many innovations in one. Not only is it opening up basic programming to new generations as well as providing an ultra low cost computer in the developing world, it’s also proof that often the best ideas come from looking backwards, to recuperate ideas that have been discarded.
Image © Raspberry Pi Foundation
Last updated: 09th of May, 2014