I finally got around to discovering the Raspberry Pi project - and boy is it a fun one. It's along the same lines as my beloved OLPC project. That is, it's a charity organization that wants to get computers into the hands of kids for educational purposes. (There's also plenty of differences between the projects).
The Raspberry Pi is tiny, about the size of a credit card, and dirty cheap - just $35. Though, it's just the core computer and needs you to provide a keyboard and monitor among other things. It's the ultimate geek project, and I have the urge to buy one Just Because.
Here, see it in action:
Seems to me, that whether they intended it or not, they dodged some of issues that plagued the OLPC project, including:
- Not allowing the marketing to outpace the technology. The technology behind the OLPC was amazing. But, not as amazing as the polished marketing effort made it look. The result: lots of disappointed owners. Selling the Pi as just a raw circuit board is brilliant: it speaks loudly and clearly that this is great technology, but don't expect polish (yet).
- The devices are getting into the right hands. Again, because of the bare bones look, it's tech geeks that are going to be drawn to this thing. And that's a good thing, because at this stage, that's who needs to be playing with it. A general user would just get frustrated.
Two more thoughts:
1. Getting computers into the hands of kids to teach programming is among the most noble causes in the world. But, the reality is, it's us software developers who need to be working on creative solutions to do this. The hardware, while sexy and amazing, is the easy part. Coming up with a software pack and course work, now that's truly tricky territory. The Racket folks have made some excellent progress in this department, it seems.
2. I love the notion of a kid having his own computer, even one he plugs and sets up himself. It takes some of the mystery out of the process, and reminds them that this isn't some magic box. There's also a sort of ownership that goes with it. To that end, you could actually simulate something like the Raspberry Pi by running Linux on a thumb drive. Again, it becomes the child's computer, even if isn't exactly all their hardware.
All in all, a most excellent project. And more importantly, when is it going to boot up into a Scheme machine?