Pi for Everyone – a great learning tool!

There have been many references to a new computer on the market that costs less than £30 – the <a href="There have been many references to a new computer on the market that costs less than £30 – the Raspberry Pi (http://www.raspberrypi.org/faqs ).
A sub £30 computer sounds exciting enough until you realise that it still needs a TV, power supply, keyboard and mouse connected and isn’t going to run Microsoft Office any time soon.
To understand why it’s such a big deal and who it’s going to help so greatly we will take a trip back to my misspent youth. I was one of a select few who would spend a lot of time waiting, somewhat impatiently, to use the schools “student” computer whilst the other kids were busy playing football and top trumps. On it I learnt to program in BASIC (Beginners – All purpose -Symbolic –Instruction- Code) and some machine code(binary processor code) mostly by trial and error .
Machine code is a series of direct instructions to the processor at the heart of the computer and is so unfriendly that one slip causes the machine to go into a monumental sulk that only pulling the power plug would stop. I would have to retype my work, but that was the end of the calamity. The nature of the beast meant that a simple reset would put everything back as it was, no damage done.
When I went home the family “Sinclair Spectrum” offered the same care free experimentation. (http://www.worldofspectrum.org/)
Fast forward several decades to today. Today’s laptops have many systems, cost hundreds of pounds and take hours to restore back to working order if Windows is corrupted. My daughter doesn’t even have administrative access to my computer, to ward against that possibility. Writing machine code (or indeed any low level code) now is a dicey business and is best approached with tuition, experience and hopefully some time on a suitable emulator before you dare approach something as complex as a laptop(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X86_assembly_language ).

As for entering short pieces on code on the family laptop in the same way as I used to with our family Spectrum , well it isn’t going to end well. The experimenter is more likely to be grounded than to get a grounding in programming.

This is where the Raspberry Pi comes into its own. Much like the machines I grew up with it is:

    • Easy to reload should the software be corrupted,
    • Built for experimentation around a single processor,
    • Cheap enough not to worry about.

This unit will give this generation the chance to really play with a computer and understand how it works at a base level without the worry that they might break it. In short it’s a great way to give people a chance to experience the thrill of programming at all levels without the cost and complexity of today’s devices. – Pure Genius!

Register for a Pi here Raspberry Pi.


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