No. 13

Could you build your own computer? You could if you had a Raspberry PI!

Scientist Eben Upton and his colleagues at Cambridge University were concerned that young people no longer had the ‘hobbyist’ experience of building their own computers. Instead they had been learning about how to use word processors and spreadsheets rather than the code that created them. This resulted in a major drop in applicants choosing to study computer sciences and related subjects.

With this in mind, Eben built a very small and affordable computer which could be used to inspire children to get involved with programming from a young age: the Raspberry PI. Support from local business people and a YouTube video which reached 600,000 views led to 100,000 raspberry pi computers being sold on their first day in early 2012. By October 2012, 1million computers had been made and have since been sold in the UK, Europe, Asia and the US.

The raspberry pi computer is a single-board computer (about the size of a credit card) and is essentially as system-on-a-chip with connection ports which allows you to plug in a keyboard, a computer monitor and even a standard mouse. From then the user can use these components to work just like a normal computer. This tiny computer is thought to be named after the programming language Python and was given a fun name to be attractive to young people.

Additionally, to solve the problem Eben originally identified, over 15,000 raspberry pi computers were given to school children last year as part of a deal with Google to engage children with building computers again. The number of raspberry pi computers used in schools continues to grow.

We think this is one innovation worth shouting about –and not just because it has a cool name!