Friday, October 5, 2012
Can Raspberry Pi Save Civilization?
I'm a big spender. I know.
The computer is a little bit cheaper than the first one I bought in 1980 that ran CP/M and booted from floppy disks. It's called the Raspberry Pi and I laid less than $40 for it. I paid half that for the book.
Reading the foreword of the book made me worried. The author described the state of the kids he's seeing entering college nowadays and how they differ from the kids entering college a decade or two ago. He lamented the fact that kids nowadays don't know much about programming.
I'm not being a cranky old man when I sympathize with him, because I learned to use a slide rule and the micro-computer revolution happened after I'd safely graduated from college. But get off my lawn anyway.
These things are locked down and you don't have the desire to open the hood and fiddle with the stuff inside. And big corporations spend money and hire lawyers to discourage you from doing that, too.
The Raspberry Pi guys decided to change that and have brought out a cheap, open computer running free, open source software. There's nothing in the hardware or the software that someone can't get at and start messing with. Instead of coming in an enclosure with tamper-resistant screws and a warranty that's void if you open it up, the Raspberry Pi has no enclosure. It is just a circuit board you plug things into.
When I got out of college a kid's parents could spend a lot more money for a computer that would play Pong. This Raspberry Pi has all the multimedia functions you'd find in an Arcade video game, and it'll stream HD movies or music from the Internet to your TV. And all the software that makes it work comes with source code. That means kids can learn to change it to do what THEY want it to.
Most won't, but a few will. And those few will have a head start on becoming the next generation of technologists. I hope they will be enough.