How did I not know about something this world changing? Raspberry Pi. A computer the size of a credit card. Cost? $25.00. Or $35.00. Take your pick. Either way, for the moment you can only get one. The demand is just too big. Exactly how large that demand is, seems to vary by the second. And from reading the Raspberry Pi Foundation site, it sounds as if they are way too busy to lift up their heads from their work and count the demand.
We’re talking about something that could change the world. Who has time to count?
I did not hear about the $25 dollar computer from a tech journal, a major news outlet, or The Daily Show. I first got the news from my Dad.
My Dad is retired. He sits down the road from Princeton University. And he does what he’s always done, keeps his eye on the world, looking out for what’s important. Looks for what matters. And he does it well.
I am one of those people who have always seen his Dad as a hero. One of the reasons is that he can always spot the important stuff. Like he did with Raspberry Pi.
I told him about “Google Alerts.” So we’ve been following Raspberry Pi now for a week or so.
Trying to figure out why this isn’t bigger news.
One thread of an answer is that there seems to be no marketing or promotional department. Perhaps they don’t need one.
A Raspberry Pi “FAQ” does what “FAQ” attempts almost never do---answers the questions you want to know. “Who, what, why, where and when.” More on the “why” in a moment.
In the daily news on this world-changing computer, there is no absence of “tech talk.” Thrown up like some sort of great stone wall to keep out all those who don’t know the language, I read things like:
The device has a “700 MHZ Broadcomm ARM processor and 256 MB of RAM. Running on 5V power. Two USB connections.”
And despite using a computer every day. Despite having run a national customer service center, I don’t really know what that means.
But there is also “tech talk” for the rest of us. Like for example, “Plug it into a keyboard and a screen and you are good to go.” Just like I’m doing with the Mini Mac that sits on my desk right now.
Plugged in, fired up and ready to change the world, you have a Linux based computing environment. What does that mean? Well, one of the things it means is that no one is paying Apple or Microsoft or HP here.
Could that be one of the reasons that I never heard of this?
The Raspberry Pi is not even close to the silver, wafer thin MAC laptop we invested in so my wife could go back to school. Still: no one is paying Microsoft or Apple here.
But it is perhaps the “why” part of the story that hits home hardest. Why did they invent this thing? What’s the reason Eben Upton, who runs the Foundation responsible for developing the computer and bringing it to the world, had for embarking on this journey?
Ready for this? Upton and his associates from Cambridge University were worried about the loss of programming and computer skills in British children. That is what started all this.
I once worked for a corporation that, after I left, was taken over by a former motel owner. He ended up going to jail. My retirement fund vanished into fairy dust. He had a “mission statement” that said, “Maximize shareholder return on shareholder investment.” In other words, we are here to make money.
That’s not a bad thing. The problem comes when it’s the only thing.
As a management consultant, I help companies and non-profits figure out answers to questions like "Why are we here?" What makes us different? How do we sustain ourselves? What is it about us that grabs the heart and makes a person sing like another new morning is just around the corner?
The Raspberry Pi Foundation needs no help answering questions like these. They are a non-profit. But they have contracted manufacturing and distribution. So a lot of money will be made. That can happen when you change the world.
But they also have a real mission. They are doing something that matters. They are helping kids develop better computer and programming skills. Lots of kids. And that is only the first sign of all the ways this new device can be a world changer.
You look at the picture of the device and you think. No cover. It is open to the world.
Open to the world. Something that takes this story into the realm of poetry. Now I look at those news alerts on this new computer, I see stories about things like Australian high school kids using Raspberry Pi to scan the sky for pictures of meteorites.
I imagine mud huts in distant lands and a child sitting on a dirt floor writing a program that will isolate a cancer gene, I see world-class verse written by a young poet from a tiny village in the most remote part of Finland.
Thinking of what’s to come. I see future historians digging fragments of information out of the world’s databases to give voice to an oral history of a time before there was no Raspberry Pi.
Stories of a time before there was a computer in every single child’s hands. Every single child in the world.
A future child reads of how Steve Jobs led the team that figured out how to put 1,000 songs in someone’s pocket. And then, the future child reads on, Eben Upton led the team that figured out how to put 1,000 songs in everyone’s pocket.
A future child reads about a tiny computer.
That changed the world.