It's a computer, but there's no monitor. Or fan, or keyboard, or even a case, for that matter. But the credit-card sized Rasperry Pi is still getting snapped up by consumers: less than two years after the first Pis shipped, over two million have been sold.
Raspberry Pi falls into a category of computing device known as a miniboard, where the bare components of a computer—processor, video interface, USB ports and memory are lashed together on what amounts to a circuit board.
But from such a simple device, many things can be created. By plugging in external storage, a monitor, and a keyboard, users can have a Linux computer running in minutes. Or build sophisticated electronic devices like a media stramer or an Internet radio.
The flexibility of Raspberry Pi is certainly an attractive feature. So, too, is the price. The two models of the Raspberry Pi cost $25 for the Model A and $35 for the Model B. Both models feature a 700-MHz ARM processor on a Broadcom system-on-a-chip board, with 256 MB of RAM and an SD/MMC/SDIO card slot for onboard storage. The big difference between the two models is that the extra $10 will get you a 10/100 Ethernet port and a second USB port in the Model B.
Bringing Code To The Masses
Two million devices sold is quite an achievement for a project that has its roots in trying to decrease computer illiteracy.
In 2006, team members in the University of Cambridge's Computer Laboratory in the United Kingdom noticed a sharp decline in computer skills in A Level students accepted into their program. Worse, it was a trend they could see being repeated in other nations besides the UK.
Despite the proliferation of personal computers, or perhaps because of it, kids were no longer playing around or experimenting with PCs. Instead, they were using apps as they were presented, or just buying and downloading new ones to do what they wanted. Hacking and coding, it seemed, was going out of style.
The Cambridge team, lead by designer Eben Upton, began to put together a small, portable, and very inexpensive device that would boot right into a programming environment. From there, a student of any age could start coding to their heart's content.
By 2008, the device now known as the Raspberry Pi had completed the design phase and was ready for production. The Raspberry Pi Foundation was founded that year, and after three years of fundraising and production, the Pi devices were rolling off of the assembly line in February 2012.
The team is stunned by the project's success, even as they work on improvments to the popular miniboard device.
We never thought we’d be where we are today when we started this journey: it’s down to you, our amazing community, and we’re very, very lucky to have you. Thanks!
Image courtesy of Wikimedia.