Raspberry Pi: Mini Computer Attracts Hoards of Hobbyists

The Raspberry Pi was initially intended to help schoolchildren tinker with an inexpensive computer ($35 for new models and $25 for older versions). Nearly a million units later, the Raspberry Pi has become a huge success with hobbyists who customize their miniature computers. The Pi is only 3 inches by 2 inches and is less than an inch in height, but its inexpensive nature allows hobbyists to tinker with the device.

It all started when Eben Upton and other University of Cambridge faculty noticed incoming classes were not prepared for high tech education. Ironically, technological improvements have hidden much of the inner workings of computers and people do not necessarily have to understand their device to use it effectively. This means many freshman were coming to class without adequate tech knowledge.

“While many students in the previous decade were experienced electronics hobbyists by the time they got to college, these freshmen were little more than skilled Web designers,” explains The New York Times.

The Raspberry Pi allowed the students to tinker with a complex device for a low price. But the appeal soon stretched beyond students, as hobbyists flocked to the device.

“The Raspberry Pi Foundation began selling the computers in February of last year,” notes the article. “They soon could not keep them in stock.”

“We honestly were thinking of this as a 1,000- to 5,000-unit opportunity,” Upton said. “The thing we didn’t anticipate was this whole other market of technically competent adults who wanted to use it. We’re selling to hobbyists.”

Just because the device is simple does not mean it cannot be used for complicated matters. One hobbyists sent his Raspberry Pi to the upper atmosphere and used it to take pictures and videos. “You give people access to this tool and they do great things” said Upton.

“The Raspberry Pi works best with an HDMI-compatible monitor and USB keyboard and mouse. It is powered via a standard USB cable — just like the one that charges your phone — and it includes an audio-out port for connecting a set of speakers, plus an RCA jack if you don’t have a digital TV or monitor available,” explains the article. Raspberry Pi owners are also encouraged to purchase a case for the device, as leaving it exposed could damage the computer.