Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Raspberry Pi

Having covered so many IT lessons which were simply typing by another name, the Raspberry Pi computer is like a breath of fresh air. Dirt cheap, easily programmable and you can muck about with it to your heart's content.

Here's a demonstration of how to use it as a simple web server. It won't be particularly practical but that's not the point. It enables kids to learn some useful skills and actually do something.

You can even make an Airplay receiver but I can't afford to fight Apple's lawyers so look it up yourself. Hook them up to other high tech stuff that is rapidly becoming cheaper such as miniature video cameras, GPS, 3D printers and motion sensing game controllers- the surface has barely been scratched. Private Schools have spotted the advantages enjoyed by pupils who can actually program and are ordering them at five times the rate of the State Sector.

This really is pioneering stuff and hopefully the next Steve Wozniak is furtively connecting dozens of them together in order to make a supercomputer in the back of a classroom near you.

Oh hang on I forgot- none of this is on the syllabus.


Alistair said...

Glad to hear that you are considering using the Raspberry PI in class. I work as a programmer and got started by coding on the BBC Micro in school many moons ago.
We were getting seriously worried that there wouldn't be another generation that could actually do anything other than stare at cats and post threats to each other on Facebook.
I appreciate that the PI won't solve this problem on its own, but it's a welcome step in the right direction.

Hideki said...

erm, a 6 year old has already made a supercomputer out of 32 PIs (although I strongly suspect there was a bit of parental assistance there)

It is an excellent piece of kit though, a lot of exposed GPIO etc., while it's not a BBC B and has nowhere near the same expansion possibilities, the BBC was £525, in the 1980s, the Pi is £25 now -.o;

I shall be having a go at building a robot of some sort using one in the near future.

Emma said...

The 6 year old was the tester/ Lego expert, apparently :-) http://www.southampton.ac.uk/mediacentre/features/raspberry_pi_supercomputer.shtml

Still good going tho!

Anonymous said...

We were talking about this at work today - not the pi per se, but simple programming in general; and came to the conclusion that it would be A Good Thing if youngsters were taught to program in BASIC, like we were, before the ruling elite realised that the social mobility stimulated by good education was A Bad Thing (for them).

Hideki said...

Ah yes, you're right, my memory playing tricks on me, here's the post I originally saw re the cluster: http://www.raspberrypi.org/archives/1973 - looking at it it is 64 node, I thought it was two of 32 each when first I saw it.

As for teaching BASIC, no. Basic has had its day (and Visual Basic runs like a 3 legged horse)

C might be a little less forgiving at least initially but it teaches good programming habits and is the language most things are written in.

Roger said...

I wish I shared your optimism, I fear the 'budding engineer/programmer' wave passed by about 20 years ago. The beneficiaries of PI more likely to be on the Asian continent (using knock-off PIs).

Here in the UK I expect to see expensively packaged Resource Kits offering highly stereotyped coursework 'experiments' - probably backed by a quango.

Certainly the private sector will offer PI as an after-class diversion but never can it be allowed to divert exam-passing resources from traditional Oxbridge material.

If you want to do programming download any of the useful programming tools free from the WEB. If you want to flash lights and blow whistles get a USB interface board from Ebay - £5 tops.

Hideki said...

My local computer club has just restarted after 15 years with a pi based theme, it's having an effect.

It may not be very powerful, it's much more powerful than the 1K ZX81 I started with as a kid!

There are still plenty of people interested in computers and electronics though, perhaps not as many as there were in the 1980s when I was at school but some, the Pi was never expected to reach everyone, just those with an interest who perhaps don't have a fortune to spend on such things.

It is also capable of running RISC OS 5 which I still maintain is the best educational OS out there (You may remember it from the Acorn Archimedes range of machines), it still has Basic and an ARM assembler built in, not to mention a windowing system and some basic apps in ROM.

I've heard the Archimedes being displaced by PCs was down to Microsoft reps having a meeting at number 10 and soon afterwards the inspectors started objecting to seeing non-PC hardware when on their rounds...

(Also, unlike the Archimedes
machines of old it has package managers and so on to download apps online and unix support libraries so things can be built easily)

Also, Roger, if you think the exposed I/O is only good for flashing LEDs you're /very/ wrong, just have a poke around with google and see what people have done with it so far.

Brant Kennedy said...

I think put the information infront of enough kids and there will be a fair percentage of interest. Good post!