Who would have thought that a tiny, affordable, bare-bones computer could spark the imaginations of so many? Far outshining initial expectations, nearly a million Raspberry Pi computers have been sold in the past year, according to a recent New York Times profile of Raspberry Pi Foundation co-founder and Broadcom engineer Eben Upton.
The Raspberry Pi Foundation, which started selling the $35 device about a year ago, encourages young people to explore computer science and boost teaching basic programming in schools with an affordable, endlessly hackable computer.
The credit card-sized Pi is a sort of tabula rasa for programming — and its possibilities have enraptured hackers, techies, teachers, hobbyists and do-it-yourselfers. Upton’s expectations for sales were modest.
“We honestly were thinking of this as a 1,000- to 5,000-unit opportunity,” he told the Times. “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.”
The Raspberry Pi has since attracted a horde of dedicated enthusiasts who’ve done some really neat things with it. Pi projects range from the practical (such as building a pocket-sized computer) and the whimsical (see the “Pi in the Sky” that reached the upper atmosphere with help from a weather balloon), to the inexplicable (like this machine that, when activated by an email, dispenses a dog treat).
The Raspberry Pi has even brought like-minded tinkerers together for frequent “Raspberry Jams” – local gatherings where developers teach each other new tricks and applications with the device and present their findings.
Upton – an associate technical director in the Mobile and Wireless Group at Broadcom’s Cambridge, U.K. office – lends his passion as well as his technology skills to the foundation.
Despite all the media attention, Upton and his team at the Raspberry Pi Foundation have stayed true to their mission.
He recently teamed up with Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt to donate some 15,000 Pis to U.K. school kids.
Upton and his work on the Raspberry Pi Foundation was recognized last year as one of “35 Innovators Under 35” by MIT’s Technology Review, which seeks young innovators whose “work is likely to be influential for a very long time.”