Back in the early days of the personal computer in the 1980s, the first commercial models were a lot more accessible and programmable than today’s machines. And out of this era grew a generation of people who knew how to programme computers.
Flash forward 25 years and the cohort of young people who are able program PCs and understand how they actually work is dwindling as a result of the emergence of games consoles, as well as the less-programmable and more expensive desktop PCs and laptops we are all using these days.
With the supply of young people who understand the inner workings of the computer shrinking rapidly, and the need for such people from technology companies seeking to establish bases in Europe growing, a solution was need. And that is why a group of people from Cambridge University got together to produce the Raspberry Pi.
What is Raspberry Pi?
The Raspberry Pi is a credit card-sized computer that will cost from as little as $25 when it goes on sale at the end of the month. It is a bare-bones PC to which you can connect to a TV, keyboard and mouse, and on which you will be able to surf the web, play Full-HD movies and do almost anything you would want to on a “normal PC”.
Who’s Behind the Raspberry Pi?
Back in 2006, Eben Upton was lecturing in Cambridge University when he spotted the drop off in the skill levels of A-level students applying to the Computer Science course. Compared to the 1990s, when those applying had been hobbyist programmers who honed their skills on the likes of Amigas, BBC Micros, Spectrum ZX and Commodore 64 machines, the current crop of applicants had little or no programming skills.
Along with a number of colleagues, Upton came up with the idea of a cheap computer that could easily be installed in schools and universities across the country, giving students access to a computer on which they could learn how to program.
Over the next three years a wide range of colleagues and friends from within the computer industry came on board to help Upton develop the Raspberry Pi and get it to the point it is at today.
How powerful will the Raspberry Pi be?
The Raspberry Pi is powered by a Broadcom BCM2835 system on a chip (SoC) featuring an ARM1176JZFS CPU running at 700Mhz. The SoC will also support Blu-ray quality playback, using H.264 at 40Mbits/s. In other words, not exactly a powerhouse, but with that video support it can have genuine practical applications for things such as being a multimedia PC to plug into your telly.
The BRCM2835 (right) and its accompanying memory.
The graphical capabilities of the pocket-sized computers will be roughly equivalent to an original Microsoft Xbox levels of performance, which isn’t too bad considering it will only cost you $25.