The Raspberry Pi is a tiny, solid state, and ludicrously cheap hobby ARM based computer designed in the UK (but thanks to insane UK tax laws needs to be built in China). It has a USB port, video, sound, an Ethernet port, 256MB RAM, and can run 3 distinct flavours of Linux.

Ostensibly the device was developed with the aim of getting kids to code, and as someone who grew up with the UK hobby computing scene of the 1980s and cut their programming teeth hacking games together on the ZX Spectrum, this is something I can thoroughly get behind.

The blurb from their website:

The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized computer that plugs into your TV and a keyboard. It’s a capable little PC which can be used for many of the things that your desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word-processing and games. It also plays high-definition video. We want to see it being used by kids all over the world to learn programming.

Coming out of Cambridge and with a decidedly hobbyist feel to it, the Raspberry Pi could almost be the spiritual successor to the humble and much loved Speccy. If it can get more kids coding then that’s all for the good, especially if it gives the UK tech scene a much needed shot in the arm.

This is not the reason why I’m excited.

Small. Capable. CHEAP.

The Raspberry Pi is tiny, which means it can be put in tiny things. It is low power and solid state, which means it doesn’t need much juice to run (4 AA batteries will do the trick) and it can take a fair amount of abuse.

Above all, it is cheap, and this is why I’m really excited. They are certainly something you can afford to buy more of than a traditional computer, even on a modest budget. I’d go further and say that they are so cheap that they can be thought of as practically disposable general computing units… this is game changing.

The reason I am really excited about this is that all these factors combine to make them the perfect choice for the control computer for any number of appliances or devices, and it reduces the barrier to entry for the home hacker to start putting some really cool things together.

I don’t think it will be long before we start seeing countless hobbyist developed bits of hardware; from internet radios, to cheap NAS appliances, right through to remote sensor platforms, robots, drones and maybe even spacecraft. Given the number of bits of Lego sent to the edge of space recently I don’t think this is too far off!

Increasingly you don’t need to wait for a company with a massive fabrication plant to see a market for a product in order to get one, but now micro-manufacturing is something you can do in your own home. I can think of hundreds of gizmos I could spend countless afternoons building with a Raspberry Pi at the centre.

I can’t wait to get my hands on one!

6 thoughts on “I’m excited about the Raspberry Pi (and you should be too)

  1. I couldn’t agree more and in my field, I see the Pi as invaluable tool in home monitoring. In contrast to the past when you needed to use an RTOS on a development board or program directly in C and assembly to make such a home appliance, the ability to use a familiar OS to develop such projects is indeed intriguing.

  2. I would have loved to lay my hands on it too. Even if it did not workout for me – simply to run some flavor of BitTorrent client and voip / Skype monitor 24/7 – it would be great toy to play with for slowing down aging of my grey matter.

    Unfortunately paying for and getting it shipped to India is more than a bit of a hassle.

  3. pmshah – have you not seen the announcement on the Raspberry Pi website blog? RS have worldwide delivery at the same global price (+ local taxes), and Farnell have even calculated the price in local currency: Rupee 2550 inc. delivery but not tax.

  4. This bridges the gap between small embedded processors and big power-hungry PCs. It would be useful as an alternative to tiny 8-bit microcontrollers for some embedded applications, but also as a PC replacement for various always-on server, home automation, and entertainment tasks. I hope it takes off like the Arduino, Beagle Board, and various other cool toys that came before it. With a large hobbyist and open-source community behind it, the possibilities are awesome.

  5. Surely the main reason the Pi is being made in China is that it costs a fraction of the manufacturing cost if it were made in England. The tax laws have no real effect on the price it sells for.

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