It’s difficult, even for a reporter who’s been covering the Raspberry Pi since it launched, to put into words the full impact that the little device has had on the world of hobbyist and educational computing. That rare project that has done precisely what it set out to do, the Pi turns four today, marking the occasion with a brand-new model. (That announcement here.) Here’s a brief look back at the Raspberry Pi project.
In brief, the idea was to create a modern equivalent of the BBC Micro, a flexible microcomputer that first went on sale in 1981. The Micro is credited with inspiring a generation of British kids into careers in computer science, and the Raspberry Pi’s initial Model A and Model B nomenclature reflects the history.
The Raspberry Pi didn’t look much like the BBC Micro when it launched on Feb. 29, 2012, however. In an era where USB keyboards and mice are relatively easy to find and cheap, it probably didn’t need any built-in peripherals, and the initial Model B appeared on the scene as an unenclosed, single-board computer.
As a device with a million potential uses, costing as little as it did, the Raspberry Pi provoked an enthusiastic response from hobbyists, educators and the technology press. Initial demand was, therefore, very high, which led to…
The avidity of the response to the Raspberry Pi surprised even the Foundation, which struggled to cope with supply issues during the first months of the device’s availability. Sales restrictions weren’t lifted until July 2012, and the bulk of production eventually moved to a Sony facility in Pencoed, Wales.
The Model A (an even cheaper variant with slightly less powerful silicon) was released exactly a year after the initial Model B, and the B+ and A+, which trimmed the price still further, came out in July and November, respectively, of 2014.
Raspberry Pi 2 Model B was released a year ago, upgrading the hardware significantly while retaining the initial $35 price point.
Along the way, the Raspberry Pi Foundation has branched out into other form factors, releasing the Compute Module for embedded and industrial use, and the even-tinier Raspberry Pi Zero, which costs just $5.
Today, the Raspberry Pi 3 is on sale, with beefier hardware and capabilities new to the line – it’s the first Pi with a 64-bit processor, and the first to pack onboard wireless networking, even as the price point remains steady at $35.
A dedicated community has sprung up around the Raspberry Pi, offering help, support and inspiration to Pi users working on a wildly diverse array of projects.
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