Raspberry Pi computers are a go-to solution for home theaters, NAS devices and other personal projects. But the latest products and partnerships from the Raspberry Pi Foundation have left do-it-yourselfers scratching their heads. Why would the Pi Foundation release a pre-assembled computer kit or partner with Microsoft to bring new software to Raspbian OS? The answer is simple: Raspberry Pi is here to help kids and adults learn about computers. It̵
Raspberry Pi is primarily an educational tool
Essentially, the Raspberry Pi is an educational resource manufactured by the Raspberry Pi Foundation – a charity. It is the spiritual successor to devices such as the BBC Micro, which allowed public school teachers to introduce students to computers and programming at a time when very few families had a home computer.
Computers are much more common now than they were in the 1980s, but modern devices, operating systems, and software offer little scope for tinkering with computer hardware or learning about computers and programming. Today’s laptops, desktops, tablets and phones are rarely user serviceable, with GUI-driven operating systems and closed-source software from the company. It doesn’t help that schools are on a tight budget, so cracking open, customizing, and potentially breaking expensive desktop computers is a big no-no.
But the Raspberry Pi is different. It is small, inexpensive and has common components such as USB and Ethernet. It runs on Linux and comes with the Pi Foundation’s Raspbian OS, which comes pre-loaded with coding tools and requires the use of the terminal for some basic functionality. Most importantly, the Raspberry Pi has a set of GPIO (general purpose input / output) pins, making practical coding projects with LEDs, cameras, robots and other accessories intuitive, practical and exciting for kids.
Schools can buy Raspberry Pis for computer science courses or after-school programs, but the Raspberry Pi Foundation makes it a point to donate Pi computers and learning resources to schools for free. After all, that’s the mission of the Raspberry Pi Foundation. But Pi computers aren’t just a learning tool in school, kids and adults also participate in community-led Raspberry Jam events to share computer knowledge and showcase cool projects. Like the popular Kano and Piper computer kits, Raspberry Pis also offers home learning opportunities (with a little help from an adult).
Hobbyists help fund the Pi Foundation
Some recent efforts by the Raspberry Pi Foundation, such as the pre-assembled Pi 400 computer and a collaboration to bring Microsoft Visual Studio Code to Raspbian, have led some enthusiasts to wonder where the charity’s priorities lie. The Pi 400 computer is not attractive to popular home theater or robotics projects, and while Visual Studio Code is both intuitive and open-source, Pi enthusiasts worry that the big bad Microsoft corporation Pi users updating their software , will follow’.
That’s due to the fact that after a recent repo addition, the
sudo apt update command automatically pings developers, including Microsoft, to ask for the latest software packages that companies could theoretically use for targeted advertising. But those fears are unfounded, the only thing checked is to look for updates to current packages, such as Visual Code. “Checking for updates” is not the same as advertising.
When Pi enthusiasts complain about these efforts, they miss the plot. Above all, the Raspberry Pi is a tool that makes computing and programming more accessible to everyone. Sometimes that means making decisions that empower or attract young people, not adult hobbyists.
Of course, enthusiasts are essential to the goals of the Pi Foundation. Sales of the Raspberry Pi are driving the charity’s educational efforts, and people who post their Pi projects on YouTube or Instructables are inspiring young people to learn about computers outside and in the classroom.
It’s not unreasonable for hobbyists to ask for new features or products, but it’s also important to recognize that Pi Foundation is an education-focused charity. Something that might seem like a misstep to a Pi aficionado can change a child’s life for the better, and requiring the Pi Foundation to move in one direction only goes against its mission of making computing accessible to everyone.
The Future of Pi: An Affordable Computer for Everyone
Remote learning and telecommuting are more important now than ever, but there is an astonishing lack of inexpensive computers on the market. Finding a reliable Windows computer for less than $ 300 is next to impossible, and even the humble Chromebook costs at least $ 100.
Since its inception, the Raspberry Pi has been a very simple device, perfect for educational exercises and small projects, but not that useful for web browsing and other common, hands-on uses. In a pinch, the Raspberry Pi could replace a laptop or desktop computer, but you’d have a hard time calling it a reliable desktop replacement.
But that has changed in recent years. Chromium became the default Raspbian web browser in 2016, fixing web compatibility issues plaguing the old Epiphany browser. Released in 2019, the Raspberry Pi 4 was (arguably) the first Pi computer to offer a reliable browsing experience, and the Pi Foundation explicitly advertised it as a 4K-ready, desktop-compatible computer.
The recent Pi 400 computer goes one step further. Like Atari or Commodore computers of the 1980s, the Raspberry Pi 400 is a full computer system tucked into a keyboard. It comes pre-assembled and Raspbain comes pre-installed, so you can just plug it into a TV or monitor and surf the web. In a way, the Pi 400 is the Pi Foundation’s first truly accessible computer, being incredibly cost effective ($ 100 for the bundle or $ 70 if you don’t need the cables), easy to set up, and powerful enough for browsing. the Web. , streaming, rudimentary photo editing and other everyday tasks.
Since the goal of the Pi Foundation is to educate people about computers and programming, it only makes sense to make the Pi as accessible and usable as possible. The Raspberry Pi could become a true all-purpose computer in the near future, with a price tag below $ 100 that will appeal to everyone, not just hobbyists and teachers.