Saturday, March 03, 2012

Raspberry Pi -- RS [Radio Spares . . . ] Components taking expressions of interest and Premier Farnell features the SBC on its Element 14 forum and online store for engineers and enthusiasts

As was blogged yesterday, the Raspberry Pi single board Linux based educational computer -- cf 14. pp. quick guide here -- launched a few days ago (it seems, Feb 29), and the first lot (all Model B, US$ 35, with 256 MB of RAM, two USB ports and a 10/100 Mb/s Ethernet controller -- BTW, comparable to a smart phone or tablet PC) was sold out in one day; actually in minutes.

Of course, this was actually the developer release, of a rather bare bones board. As responders in an Element 14 forum -- more on this below! -- discussion observe:
JB: RasPi's first production release was targetted towards developers -- people who could get all this information from the FAQ (currently suspended), Wiki (, and Forum (currently suspended), and aren't fazed by a bare board with no case, power supply, SD card, cables, or peripherals.  The education release with case and book is slated for later this year.  The hope is that enough developers will get RasPis soon so they can create and/or port software that will be useful for students and newbies.

RW: This is the developer release. There will be pre-programmed SD cards. There will be user guides and text books. There will be user-friendly GUI environments and plug-and-play home cinema experiences. Later. Sometime around September. That will be the Educational release. This is the Developer release; it's for developers, who are now going to generate all that goodness that you want.

CR: It's my guess that a lot of enterprising people will be looking at ways of making this easy, but they need to get their hands on hardware first.

I would not be surprised if by about Christmas there are pre-loaded SD cards available for educational things, games etc. all needing no more knowledge to get started than plugging it in and switching it on.

They will be for sale in the same sort of places that cassettes for the original Spectrum and BBC Micro were on sale in the 80s.

The Pi supply is going from a few dozen in the world now to 10,000 in the next few weeks, then I guess hundreds of thousands in the next few months.  A lot of those will go to enthusiastic developers and all sorts of things will emerge.  But software takes a remarkably long time to develop; it looks almost finished quite quickly but getting it reliable and well documented seems to take for ever.
That helps put all of this in a very realistic context!

It seems that on the first go, the Raspberry Pi Foundation people were only able to get a 10,000 lot targetted at developers. It seems that the Broadcomm ARM architecture chip that is the core of the educational single board computer [SBC] is particularly constraining. 

But the Raspberry Pi folks now announce:
. . . For those of you just joining us, we have entered into licensed manufacture partnerships with two British companies, Premier Farnell and RS Components. They’ll be manufacturing and distributing the devices on our behalf, and handling the distribution of our first batches as they arrive in the country. We continue to make a small profit from each Raspberry Pi sold, which we’ll be putting straight back into the charity.

This arrangement means that we can build volume much faster than would have been possible on our own. We are no longer limited to batches of only 10k Raspberry Pis; the Raspberry Pi will now be built to match demand. Both partners have worldwide distribution networks, so wherever you are in the world, you will be able to buy from a local distributor. This will save you money on shipping, and both partners are taking preorders, or expressions of interest, for the Model B from the start. There has inevitably been some confusion around pricing and parts of the ordering process; within a few days, we hope to have a country-by-country summary of each partner’s policies, showing how the $35 price of a Model B translates into a final cost. In the meantime, feel free to share your experiences either here or in the forum.
RS Components [way back, that meant Radio Spares . . . ], one of the two distributors, has put up a page to take expressions of interest, i.e. effectively to pre-order.

Premier Farnell has taken a very interesting, more community-based approach (as well as also providing space to make expressions of interest). 

They have launched Element 14 as a community and online store -- described by PF as "the first collaborative community and electronics store for design engineers and electronics enthusiasts and a part of global electronics distributor Premier Farnell LON . . . " -- and are featuring the Raspberry Pi.

They have hosted an interview with Robert Mullins (co-founder of Raspberry Pi Foundation) at their YouTube Channel:

Well worth the pause to watch.

And, let's keep an eye on developments, this is plainly a gateway technology for transformational education in Information, Communication and Control Technologies [ICCT] at a "for all" level. Which, we desperately need in the Caribbean. (Cf remarks here on the Royal Society Furber Report on Computing in Education, and here on ICCT in education.)  END