Life of (Raspberry) Pi- part 1

Introduction

Anyone with a passing interest in computing can’t help but have noticed the buzz around the Raspberry Pi– the incredibly small form factor computer produced by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. Wait, did I say small form? Thats probably wrong.  Minuscule, titchy, or  microscopic form factor would be a more accurate term as the whole computer (excluding peripherals like a monitor, keyboard and mouse) fits into a 10 cm by 6 cm box. For those whose never seen one, it looks like this:

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[image from www.maximumpc.com]

After a conversation with my Father-in-law about the teaching of IT in schools he kindly brought me one for Christmas. It’s been many years since I tried programming  a computer so I thought I would start this blog as a way of keeping track of my progress and share my experiences along the way. Word of warning – there may be long, very long, delays between each post and its entirely possible the whole idea will quietly slip away. Before I start talking about the Pi itself and my adventures in programming, it might be useful if I just give a little background information about the Pi, and the aims of the Foundation.

About the Raspberry Pi Foundation

The Raspberry Pi Foundation was set up to combat the year on year decline in the number of people choosing to undertake Computer Science at university. The solution, in their opinion, was to get people interesting in programming for fun again. Many of the people working in the computing industry were ‘bedroom coders’ of the 1980’s. They grew up using computers by Acorn, Commodore and many others which I’ve forgotten the name of all which encouraged people to have a go at writing their own computer programs.  In the words of the Foundation itself “From a situation in the 1990’s where most of the kids applying were coming to interview as experienced hobbyist programmers, the landscape in the 2000’s was very different; a typical applicant might only have done a little web design.” [taken from : http://www.raspberrypi.org/about]

The Foundation believed there were a  number of reasons for this. Firstly the way people used computers at home had changed from programmable computers to games consoles and the ‘do everything for you’ pc. Secondly the schools curriculum had changed from knowledge about computer programming and hardware and more towards using word processors, spreadsheets and webdesign.  The change in National Curriculum is a subject which would fill a blog (book) all of its own with tales of political shenanigans, corrupt LEA computing advisor’s and IT teachers skills and knowledge being ignored and/or made irrelevant by the the government of the early to late 1990’s. As my own knowledge of this is very limited I’ll not comment further (a rare thing for someone writing on the internet I know) except to say that I remember non-computing businesses at the time complaining that too many people were leaving school without sufficient skills and knowledge about how to use (in a non programming sense) computers.

My initial thoughts:

Ok firstly I can appreciate what the Raspberry Pi Foundation are trying to do. Computing in schools has/had become too focused on using software packages and not enough looking at the technical hardware/programming side (note the had, the new Primary IT curriculum for example has back on the cards from KS1.)  But is the Pi the answer to the problem? I remain to be convinced. There’s no doubt that the Raspberry Pi is a success. The forums are full of people coming up with interesting and innovative ways of using their new little computer to solve all sorts of problems (some of which might even have needed actually solving!)  However the vast majority of the projects demonstrated, reviewed and being talked about all seem to be the old ‘bedroom coders’ from the 1980’s and 90’s who have now grown up a bit.  Having said that I’m glad I have the little Pi to use and I look forward to re’learning how to programme and start building my own geeky projects soon. Hopefully I’ll even find time to write about them here!

 

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