The Raspberry Pi Foundation, the charity behind the £20 Raspberry Pi computer, hopes to give everyone its mini PC this Christmas – from budding child programmers to mature enthusiasts.
“Christmas last year was great – they make a great Christmas gift as a high-end stocking filler,” CEO of the foundation Eben Upton told PCR.
“We sold a lot to grandmothers – we found that they buy educational tools quite often. But there’s also a sense that it won’t just be brought as an educational tool – it will also get brought as a toy for adults. It’s a great geek gift."
“Hopefully this Christmas is as good – and any money that we make we can obviously put back into the charity.”
The Pi is a credit-card sized computer that includes USB and HDMI ports and runs on a custom Linux-based operating system that includes the programming software Scratch.
The computer was developed as an attempt to allow children to learn to program on a budget, and Upton added that he hoped to make the device less daunting to novice programmers, including children.
“This Christmas we’ve spent time grinding off the performance issues. Compared to last year, you’d hardly recognise it as the same piece of hardware,” he explained.
“We’re [also] making it easier to get involved for people who are just getting started using Pi – particularly children – who don’t have access to someone who has programming experience, in order to broaden the appeal of the device and eliminate those learning curves.”
Upton expressed optimism about the growth of the DIY tech market, and said that competition wasn’t a concern.
“The more people come and do stuff in this space, the bigger the market gets,” he said.
“[But] it’s going to be a while before people start fighting over this market, because the market is growing so rapidly and everyone bringing something to the market is bringing something new.”
The foundation plans to make an even bigger push into the education sector, including working with the Government as it prepares a more tech-heavy curriculum that includes programming alongside emerging technology such as 3D printing.
“We’ve got a big program going on to produce education teaching material, and that’s a big part of making the device easier to get to grips with,” Upton commented.
“We’re also trying to educate the Government about the importance of the maker scene for adults and the economic activity that’s coming out of the scene in the UK now."
“My favourite is always the high altitude ballooning,” Upton continued, on the many uses of the Pi he had seen.
“People put the Pi onto weather balloons, send them 40km up and take pictures. Back in August we dropped a teddy bear, beating [record-breaking Red Bull Stratos jumper] Felix Baumgartner’s jump by 30 metres."
“Those activities can be really inspiring. The balloon is a great example because it was done by adults, but then we see High School kids doing it. We originally saw the Pi as a platform to teach kids about computing, but those kinds of engagement speak to an aspect of the mission that we had really not considered before.”