By Rebecca Burn-Callander Monday, 30 January 2012

Get ready for a slice of Raspberry Pi

This stripped down computer is a steal at just £22. It's not much to look at - just a credit-card-sized circuit board, really. But it could be the must-have gadget of 2012. Here's why.

It’s a pretty cute name for a widget that looks like it’s fallen out of the back of a TV. But this is the new gadget that pipped to teach kids how to programme again. Despite appearances, the Raspberry Pi is a fully-functional computer, featuring an ARM processor and a GPU that boasts double the performance of the iPhone 4S. It plugs into your TV like the computers of yore (well, the eighties) with USB ports for your mouse and power, a memory card slot and an internet connection.

Why the hype? Well, when it comes to ICT, the kids aren’t alright, believes Eben Upton, the brains behind the venture. ‘Although PC ownership is at an all-time high, at least in middle-class households, we're still a long way from the 1980s where programmable home computers were almost ubiquitous among young people,’ he says. ‘This market has been eaten by games consoles, which provide little or no facility for programming or other creative activity.’

Goodbye Call of Duty, hello programming heaven. With the Raspberry Pi, kids can code their own machines from scratch. And this isn’t some £1,500 Macbook, it’s a small piece of cheap hardware. Parents aren’t going to wail and pull their hair out if their children start playing around with the Pi. And the system runs Linux, so there’s no need to fork out for a proprietary platform either.  

‘We see the Raspberry Pi as offering a platform with pre-installed programming capabilities, which is cheap enough, and hard enough to break, that kids can be cut loose to experiment,’ explains Upton.

Why the zealous need to convince young people to code? Well, there’s a skills deficit in the UK, says Upton: ‘The entire developed world seems to be experiencing trouble attracting sufficient numbers of young people into the hard sciences.’ By getting kids coding at a young age, using fun and sturdy tools, he could be creating the next wave of Zuckerberg aces. And, on the business side, the little gadget is more profitable – in terms of margins – than Dell.

Around 10,000 of these babies will land in the next week. Hell, MT usually rates cake above all things, but we’re chomping at the bit to try a new kind of Pi.

(Hat tip to GamesIndustry.biz for their story on the Pi)

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