Raspberry Pi - A playground for children to learn to code

Last week saw two websites crash due the high demand for a slice of Pi.

This is the new credit card sized computer; Raspberry Pi that its creators hope will teach every child to program. 10,000 units sold out almost immediately when they were put on sale last Wednesday. Around 700 per second to be precise! The volume of interest means that lots more units of the single board computer are being made as I type; expected to arrive from Taiwan and China in the next few weeks.

The board has 2 USB ports for a keyboard and a mouse, an Ethernet port to connect to the internet, HDMI port for high definition video on your TV or old PC monitor and a power port which you connect to your mobile phone charger. There’s an SD card memory slot which will run the free operating system Linux, commonly used in smartphones. This means it is slower running than regular PC’s but won’t hinder its main purpose – getting children programming. So how can this small circuit board create such a buzz?

It could be nostalgia which has prompted such popularity. Does anyone remember the BBC Micro from the 80’s? Although, the Raspberry Pi is quite different. Firstly, it’s a tenth of what you would have paid for the BBC Micro back in 1981 and boasts 350 times the processing speed. The price and scale means the Raspberry Pi is easily accessible to children; to inspire a new generation of programmers.

Getting children excited about computer programming is fundamentally important to the UK digital industry. Other countries are far more advanced in terms of creating software. If we look at the gaming industry, the UK is trailing behind countries such as the US and Canada. With the Raspberry Pi being developed right here in the UK, it looks as though we are moving forward and not relying on imports to train our future generations.

The Government is also advocating more education surrounding computer science, so we will hopefully get more home grown talent taking on the rest of the world in this highly lucrative industry. We need to teach children not just how to use the software but how to build it. The plan is to get the computer into schools by September; with one for every child in British education. Hopefully this will encourage more students to choose computer science as a university degree and by the time they get there, have a better understanding of coding and programming.

It really is an exciting time within the IT industry, I’m sure some of the developers here at Web Applications would have loved something like this when they were growing up!  Today, there’s more emphasis on being creative and innovative rather than being just another consumer, so maybe we should all try to be a bit more proactive; with an extra helping of Raspberry Pi!