Archive for May, 2013

The age of the disposable computer has arrived

04 May


Is the Raspberry Pi a disposable computer?

Is the Raspberry Pi a disposable computer?

One million and counting. Sales of the Raspberry Pi continue to escalate.  With the availability of the Model A, I for one wouldn’t be at all surprised if the two million mark was hit before the end of this year. This is fantastic news for the Foundation and should ensure that the product remains strong in a market that looks as if it might become increasingly competitive.

What the market has lacked for a long, long time is an inexpensive – cheap – system that is readily accessible and has access to a wide variety of free software.  It would be unfair to bracket the Raspberry Pi as a disposable product but that is almost what it is, and that makes it affordable to everyday people that are intrigued and what to find out more.

Thirty years ago it was the BBC Micro. Although the Beeb wasn’t cheap, it was affordable. And with its user port and other interfaces it was connectable and extendable.  The likes of Amiga’s came and went but they were not designed for their connectivity. The ‘IBM’ and Mac arrived en masse to the market, but ‘office machines’ were not designed to connect-up and so the day of the ad hoc ‘computer hardware tinkerer’ passed, but not because of a lack on interest.

The dominant market now for the Raspberry Pi is interfacing projects.  When my local user group meet, the focus is on hardware projects of all shapes and sizes. There is plenty of expertise on hand and people can achieve some real results in a few hours on any given Sunday.  I have been approached by several publishers to re-invent my 1984 classic (which I am very proud to say is in the Computer Hall of Fame) “Interfacing projects for the BBC Micro” for the Raspberry Pi. A look on Amazon shows many other book projects in print.

A version of the BBC classic may be forthcoming for the Rasperbbry Pi.

A version of the BBC classic may be forthcoming for the Raspberry Pi.

Of the people I know who have Raspberry Pis’, most have three and many have five or six. That puts a slightly different perspective on the distribution of the one million sold. Penetration is perhaps not quite as good as you might think in terms of actual quantity of users. For those who have just the one Raspberry Pi , most intend to get a second or more in the near future.  For the record, I have four.  I use two for programming/interfacing (one running RISC OS the other Raspian) and the other two as media centres.

The Raspberry Pi has become the go-to-board for hardware projects, and I think we will see the Model A sales being snapped up in this sector of the market as an even-lower low-cost controller. Significantly, at the time of writing, demand is continuing to outstrip supplies.

Casual users of the Raspberry Pi  are turning to user groups or Raspberry Jams to get their own interfacing fix.  Recently the Ozberry Pi group in Sydney staged a three-hour meeting that was sponsored by Element 14 where some 40 enthusiasts gathered and worked step-by-step together to attach an LED to their Pis and use a small section of code to flash them on and off.  This simple project wasn’t without issues during the evening and also exposed the attendees to the hard truth that the most simple computer tasks can be very frustrating for even experienced users!

But the smiles on the faces from the attendees who ranged in age from 7 to 70 showed it was worthwhile. The Raspberry Pi is hitting the mark.