Let me take you back to a time when Bill Gates couldn't get a date, dialing a phone was more than just an expression, and most of the world still thought an apple was just a fruit. Yes, I am talking about the dawn of the personal computing and mobile tech era, that late 70s and early 80s . In those days hobbyist kits roamed the earth because if you wanted to play with this newfangled “computing”, and did not work for Government or IBM, you had to build your own computer and program it as well. Even after the advent of the Apple 1 and IBM Personal Computer, the price for the technology was out of reach for many so individuals, and particularly young people built their tech form on Sinclars', BBC Micros, Atari's and Commodore 64s. However, as computers became more common and less expensive and operating systems became easier to use, there seemed to be less tinkering and less skill according to Eben Upton and his colleagues at the University of Cambridge’s Computer Laboratory, including Rob Mullins, Jack Lang and Alan Mycroft. According to the Rasberry Pi website;
“(the group) became concerned about the year-on-year decline in the numbers and skills levels of the A Level students applying to read Computer Science in each academic year. From a situation in the 1990s where most of the kids applying were coming to interview as experienced hobbyist programmers, the landscape in the 2000s was very different; a typical applicant might only have done a little web design.
Something had changed the way kids were interacting with computers. A number of problems were identified: the colonisation of the ICT curriculum with lessons on using Word and Excel, or writing webpages; the end of the dot-com boom; and the rise of the home PC and games console to replace the Amigas, BBC Micros, Spectrum ZX and Commodore 64 machines that people of an earlier generation learned to program on.”
What was needed was an inexpensive way for students and anyone else who wanted to learn the basics of programming and how hardware and software worked on a basic level. As a rule, no parent was going to let their child take apart or reprogram the family computer or game console and further, not many youngsters could afford to have a test bed computer lying around. So in 2008, Upton and has colleagues along with with Pete Lomas, MD of hardware design and manufacture company Norcott Technologies, and David Braben, co-author of the seminal BBC Micro game Elite, created the Raspberry PI Foundation to design and manufacture a bare bones computer using inexpensive “good enough” processors and enough graphics and multimedia features to allow for budding programmers to effectively stretch their wings,
It is safe to say the founders were overwhelmed by the interest for the product. Despite a one per person limit and multiple vendors, since the tiny computer went on sale at the end of February 2012, demand for the Raspberry Pi has completely outstripped supply. At this writing, there appears to be approximately a two month wait for the product and according to the foundation's blog post of mid May, over 100,000 orders have been processed. Price has more than a bit to do with it as the Model A is $25.00 USD and the more versatile Model B is only $35.00 USD. The primary difference between the two is that the Model B has built in Ethernet and an additional USB port for a total of two. As the price implies, you get the basics only; the board itself. The operating system boots from an SD card and you will also need to purchase a power supply separately. The case is on you as well, but that lack has let to some innovative case designs, such as a LEGO case.
Since we all know eating an entire pie at one sitting is bad for you look for the next slice of this story to cover the hardware details.