The Raspberry Pi!

I'm very excited about the Raspberry Pi. It was released in 2012 and was inspired by the famous BBC micro that many schools and children of the '80s used (although I had a Dragon 32 before begging my father to get the Beeb a few years later!).

Using computers such as my Dragon and BBC-B meant typing in commands using the BBC Basic programing langage - it would be many years before the Graphical User Interface (GUI) of Apple and Windows arrived - and as a result we all had to learn simple coding. This was usually done by laboriously copying line after line from a magazine in order to play a game. We soon learned that missing just one character would prevent it working and we became very good at checking for errors, either that or we'd throw the magazine across the room and watch Grange Hill instead!

The BBC-B Micro computer


As a result of this, lots of people went on to work in IT as coders and helped to create the hugely succesful industry that we have today. However, as computers have become ever easier to use, fewer people are learning to code, because they don't need to, and this has become a worry.

To counter this, coding is now part of the curriculum in primary schools and we have lots of websites with information for teachers on how to teach coding. These can of course all be done on our normal computers, latops, tablets etc. but what is exciting about the Raspberry Pi I think, is that it's such a simple and small machine. You see the lines of code appear when you start it up and it doesn't even have a case, it's just the bare circuit board, and that's interesting and exciting.

I spoke with a governor of a school recently who felt that buying Raspberry Pi's for the pupils was unnecessary as thay could learn to code using their laptops and that if they wanted to see a printed circuit board, they could remove the back of a computer and show them one. But for me this goes against the whole point of it - you can hold it in your hands and you can attach all sorts of sensors to it; you can design and build your own case for it and being so small allows it to be placed in areas that you couldn't do with other computers, such as above a door for an automated "Welcome home!" message.

Raspberry Pi Rover

At around £20 it can become the brain of an "Internet of Things" device and perform a single task; it can powered by batteries and from there it can become the brain of a robot or car or digital camera etc. as well.

There are already thousands of websites devoted to the Raspberry Pi with loads of ideas for every level of skill and I can't encourage you enough to go out and get one.

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