mannerisms

Ruminations on the electronics industry from David Manners, Senior Components Editor on Electronics Weekly.

Hurrah For Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi could turn out to be more than just a way of teaching people to programme.

It could be a way of getting people to think about PCs in a totally different way.

 

Raspberry Pi gives you all the functions most people want from a PC – fancy graphics excepted.

 

Once upon a time there was bio-diversity in the computer industry: Osborne, Sinclair, Dragon, Acorn, Oric, MITS and Apple and many more – of which only Apple survived the bulldozer of the IBM PC architecture and the subsequent 30 year domination of the industry by x86 processors and Windows.

 

Raspberry Pi may persuade a new generation that x86 and Windows aren’t inevitable, that computers don’t have to be black boxes over which users have no fundamental control, and that mammoth American companies don’t have a God-given right to control the PC industry in perpetuity.

 

And there’s another thing. 30 years ago chip industry magnates were fond of comparing the chip industry to the car industry.

 

If, argued the chip industry magnates, the car industry had delivered the same cost reduction and performance enhancements as the IC industry, then a Rolls Royce would now cost $10 and run for 100,000 miles on a gallon of petrol with a top speed of 500mph.

 

Ironically, the one product which did not follow the IC industry’s learning curve was the PC. And that was because the price was kept high by the monopolies of the mammoth American companies.

 

Now the Raspberry Pi has brought personal computers down to the price point they should be on if prices hadn’t been kept artificially high by the said mammoth American companies.

 

And that’s a very good thing indeed.

Tags: bulldozer, chip industry, magnates, Oric, pc architecture

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22 Comments

  1. John Ballance
    March 13, 2012 20:03

    A port of RISCOS is on its way….

  2. Mike Bryant
    March 13, 2012 19:59

    Great idea Mark – a Sinclair Spectrum with great graphics and Linux. Just been through my collection of keyboards to see which one will accept it best when I get my hands on one.

  3. David Manners
    March 13, 2012 12:48

    You lucky devil, Mark, don’t know how you got your hands on that – but keep us posted with progress.

  4. David Manners
    March 13, 2012 12:47

    Ha ha Brian L, very good

  5. Mark Riley
    March 13, 2012 11:49

    I’m putting my Raspberry Pi into a USB keyboard alongside a USB hub. An extension cable from the Ethernet port and one from the HDMI socket to the back of the keyboard should sort out the “box” issue. A little artistry with a “Dremel”* and all should be fine.
    *Other hardware mangling tools are available…

  6. colin dore
    March 13, 2012 11:27

    I’m all for the Pi, the whole idea is to get this generation of kids having the same ZX81 style experience. Hopefully it will encourage them to play, design, program, innovate, add-on etc..
    The idea of no case is, i think, intentional – its is not meant to be a black box…

  7. Brian L
    March 13, 2012 11:25

    Interestingly it seems that from little Acorn ‘s Raspberry’s grow.

  8. David Manners
    March 07, 2012 12:38

    Nice, Scunnerous, but I see Cotton Candy costs $199 and Always Innovating’s HDMI dongle appears not to be available to the public but is being offered for licensing. But they’re great ideas, I grant you.

  9. Scunnerous
    March 07, 2012 12:29

    Looks like an interesting educational device at an interesting price but as far as packaging, future computing and the consumer market it’s already been eclipsed by FXI’s Cotton Candy and Always Innovating’s HDMI dongle. Yes, we are seeing a new way of looking at personal computing though.

  10. a_mul
    March 06, 2012 13:01

    An amazing bit of kit. and it does have good graphics, it might show people what a small chip can do,
    Once upon a time, some one asked what would happen to windows speed if Microsoft had a team of developers working on converting to ASM and speeding up key parts of windows.
    PC’s have kept up with the curve, but they are held back by the software being so inefficient to write, so they have to grow in size. this might show what a small block can do.
    if it encourages people to write code, and make good code, then that is great.
    Expansion is what I think they have missed out on. Putting the thing in a box is going to be a real pain, with connectors on all sides.
    if there had been an expansion option, then it could have been made available to 1001 small companies that want a capable arm processor in their project. but that was not a goal they set themselves, probably for licencing reasons with marvel, so we can’t criticise, but be thankful for what we have.

  11. John Thompson
    March 06, 2012 12:09

    You’re right, Google is a tiddler – revenues only $37 billion. However, Apple is bigger than Intel – $108 billion!
    (according to Wikipedia)
    I’m all for the Rasbery Pi though. Let’s hope it inspires a new generation of software engineers.

  12. David Manners
    March 06, 2012 11:48

    That’s interesting Sceppers, it would only take a modicum of trimming to fit and, as you say, 20 quids’ worth of hardware backed by a $40 billion revenue US mammoth could be an attractive combination. The Raspberry Pi Foundation says: “If someone can port a version of Android to work with 256Mbyte of RAM then it’lll run on the Raspberry Pi.”

  13. Alan M
    March 06, 2012 11:42

    Does anyone have the stamina to port RISCOS across.
    It is after all an ARM based OS with a good back catalogue of software.
    My faithful old Archemedes still runs an AMR3 with 4Mb.
    RISCOS an ARM11 with 256Mb should be lighting fast!

  14. Sceptic
    March 06, 2012 11:38

    I heard talk (possibly of the loose kind) at Embedded World that some folk will try and port Android to it ! So maybe just maybe cheap hardware with ‘Mammoth American computer company’ back-up..
    Sceppers.

  15. David Manners
    March 06, 2012 11:36

    No need to be sorry, John debate is what makes the world go round. People don’t always like what’s good for them. Something which takes a bit of effort and discipline may be disagreeable but does people good. A zombified populace is not a very worthy aspiration for evolution. As to mammoths – if revenues of $70 billion (MS) and $50 billion (Intel) don’t constitute ‘mammoth’ corporations then you’re operating on a different scale of values to me.

  16. John
    March 06, 2012 11:27

    Sorry, I have to disagree with another of your statements: Most people actually like black boxes over which users have no fundamental control (Ipad for example).
    Us geeks are in the minority!
    The mammoth American computer companies are no longer Intel and Microsoft but Apple and Google.

  17. David Manners
    March 05, 2012 20:44

    Interesting Mike, thanks

  18. Mike Bryant
    March 05, 2012 19:05

    You can get Linux, a browser and OpenOffice to run in 256M. It will take some tweaking to fit but that’s the whole point of the project – to make people THINK about the computer and not expect Microsoft to do it all for you.

  19. RobertI
    March 05, 2012 14:37

    You might be able to run things like Firefox and OpenOffice, with a 32GB SD card to boot the OS from, and a hard drive attached via USB.
    FAQ at:
    http://www.raspberrypi.org/faqs

  20. David Manners
    March 05, 2012 13:43

    I’m amazed that Linux and Open Office can take up so much space, chm, I can’t quite grasp why that should be so. Raspberry Pi’s Webmaster, referring to her daughter’s use of the device says: “She can do almost anything with it; it’s broadly equivalent to a Pentium II PC. It runs Linux, not Windows, and all the software is free (open source). She can learn to write games (and play them) or other software, she can use it to surf the web, she can do word processing, spreadsheetery etc. using Open Office, she can use it to watch high-def video, she can use it to power robotics – in short, she’ll have a PC in her pocket.”

  21. chm
    March 05, 2012 12:38

    David, you write “Raspberry Pi gives you all the functions most people want from a PC – fancy graphics excepted.” but I’m afraid it’s the other way round. It has a very powerful GPU, but only 256MB RAM.
    I’m with the tinkering crowd, so I have no problem with that. I have known about this project a while before it went Internet-viral.
    But I’m wondering how many users will be disappointed when they notice they cannot run a full desktop with the latest version of Firefox and Open Office (or whatever it’s called these days).

  22. Terry
    March 05, 2012 11:26

    Much to celebrate here, it’s a piece of new fresh thinking and it’s come from Great Britain. For the first time in a long while a technology product has created a huge splash because of interest in the technology itself rather than the apps or styling. And we’ll all be waiting expectantly to see what they come out with next, just like the days of Sinclair.

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