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Braben offers taste of 10 Raspberry Pi computer

Wed 19 Jan 2011 8:02am GMT / 3:02am EST / 12:02am PST
Education

Can the "spiritual successor of BBC Micro" rekindle the spirit of Britsoft?

It will cost between 10-15, it's the width of a 20p coin and its creators hope it can create a new generation of British gaming greats - David Braben has this week revealed fresh details on the ultra-portable computer, designed in Cambridge, that could be the answer to the UK's development woes.

Speaking exclusively to GamesIndustry.biz, Braben, chairman of Frontier Developments, explained that the project announced last week during a talk at the Learning Without Frontiers conference grew out of frustration with the education system.

"The number of applicants for computer science courses at university has fallen precipitously by more than a factor of two," he said. Braben blames this largely on the influence of Information and Communication Technology, or ICT, which "is not teaching computing, it's teaching how to switch a computer on," he added.

"The problem with that is it leaves a sort of hatred, an assumption of boredom in the kids' minds, which was never the case in my day." Braben, who made his name in the '80s as co-creator of Elite, is now seeking to redress this with his latest project.

"A group of us formed a charity here in Cambridge called Raspberry Pi, with a view to creating the spiritual successor of the BBC Micro, to provide a way to motivate people to realise that computer science, maths, STEM subjects actually are not deathly dull because that is the message a lot of kids seem to have picked up," he said.

So what is Raspberry Pi? "We've come up with a design and made early prototypes of a machine which is really, really small and allows people who don't have access to a PC at home - which is true of a lot of kids but do have a TV to have a device where they can browse the web, do email, YouTube, watch video very easily and cheaply," Braben explained.

The device is a self-contained computer which can be plugged into a display via an HDMI output, capable of outputting in 1080p. Each unit, despite its small size, will be encased in material that should effectively make it "indestructible".

It is expected to support numerous programming standards. Braben revealed: "It can have some very simple scripting language programming which might even be something like BASIC - so even though it doesn't satisfy the gamut of all the objective oriented learning and so on, that's very easy to pick up once you've got the general principals of how a computer works, what it does, how it does it".

Based on advanced ARM mobile phone technology and running the Linux operating system, Braben said the hardware a prototype of which is expected to be the size of a USB connector - could cost as little as 10-15 per unit, making it an attractive prospect for the education sector.

Discussions are now underway to find suitable partners to take the project forward, though details are under wraps for now. "We can't talk about anything yet," said Braben. "We're looking at things now; we hope to be able to do a trial sometime soon, but watch this space".

The charity's case is likely to be bolstered by the publication of the Livingstone-Hope Review on February 1st, the highly anticipated report into skills in the games sector commissioned by the Government, with data released in advance ostensibly supporting Braben's fears.

So are we on the verge of a creative renaissance in British games development? "This is started as a charity," said Braben. "I just think it'll be great to have something out there that's open so other people can make them if they want."

He added: "It's really trying to redress the balance a bit so kids coming up now do have at least a chance, and hopefully it'll be someone like me ranting on in 20, 30 years about how that was a great opportunity for them. You never know!"

23 Comments

Ashley Tarver
Indie

41 1 0.0
I'd buy it.

The idea sounds great, the price is so affordable anyone would buy it for their kids even if their kids only had a minor passing thought of becoming a designer/programmer. Can't lose.

Posted:3 years ago

#1
Certainly a great idea for the young uns. Looking forward to see how this rolls out.
Maybe David can be the Jamie Oliver for IT kids . hehe

Posted:3 years ago

#2

Franck Sauer
Creative / Tech Art Director

63 9 0.1
I always though it was incredibly stupid that today's modern computers don't even come with some basic programming language as standard. It used to be a single command to put a pixel onscreen in the 8 bit era. Now try that with your average pc. No wonder students are running away from computer science courses. Hope this pico computer do work. All the best David.

Posted:3 years ago

#3

Saehoon Lee
Lead technical artist

50 3 0.1
good idea!

Posted:3 years ago

#4

Nick Burcombe
CEO & Co Founder

53 16 0.3
Bravo Mr. Braben. Just hope it has the desired effect. UK Dev will suffer very badly if we continue down this line. We'll end up with a nation of school leavers that are all chasing the same mediocre IT jobs just because they can use some of Adobe/Microsoft products.

Wouldn't PS3's "OTHER OS" have a been a good starting point also (besides cost)....and what ever happened to Sony's Net Yaroze ethos?

Posted:3 years ago

#5

Tom Keresztes
Programmer

655 270 0.4
@Nick,

Check out the "PS3 hacked" articles here.

Posted:3 years ago

#6

Fred West

3 0 0.0
Would certainly be interested in this product (who wouldn't if they can produce it at these prices?) however i feel something also needs to be done about our educational establishments. As someone who just passed the first year of a "Games Development" degree course before deciding to bail (I truly feel I could have easily passed the degree, but likely would not have gained the skills to back the piece of paper up) at least half of the modules in the first year were only vaguely relivent to games dev, and the tutors were only interested in using software that wasn't industry standard and no matter how much we pushed them wouldn't budge on this. At least half of the time on this first year seemed to be more focused on getting you to be able to pass the tests/assignments rather than actually understanding the subject.

Posted:3 years ago

#7

Kingman Cheng
Illustrator and Animator

952 180 0.2
Looking forward to seeing this!

Posted:3 years ago

#8

Chris Payne
Associate Lead Programmer

47 147 3.1
Really great idea. I'd buy one. Possibly several, actually :)
I love the idea of sitting with my daughter teaching her how to write her own Breakout clone on our telly.

Posted:3 years ago

#9

Alex Wright-Manning
Talent Acquisition Manager

172 2 0.0
What a brilliant idea, kudos to David and all those involved. Being at the sharp end of this area of the games industry, i.e. talent, I've noticed the major decline in graduates with the sort of skills that are required within the industry. If this goes some small way to getting kids back into programming then perhaps the future for the industry is that little bit brighter.

Posted:3 years ago

#10

Jim Horth
Business Manager

3 0 0.0
Great idea - the BBC micro directly led to me pursuing a career in programming, and I know so many self-taught Britsoft devs who say that access to cheap home computers that exposed you directly to a programming language was what set them off.

Posted:3 years ago

#11

Rupert Young
Managing Director / Commercial Director

4 0 0.0
3 cheers. What a fantastic idea! :)

Posted:3 years ago

#12
Especially as Britain is traditionally a nation of innovators and Inventors, this is a nice way to help develop logic based invention, troubleshooting and creativity in the next gen young uns

Posted:3 years ago

#13

Mark Bridges
Human

16 0 0.0
@Nick

Sony might have forgotten about yaroze, but microsoft have XNA, although the site is now more geared to Windows Phone 7 there are still alot of xbox 360 resources, including starter kits and tutorials. Though personally you do need to know C# first before you can do anything in XNA and there is no tutorial on that on the site. But its a start.

Posted:3 years ago

#14
Good luck, some of our best programmers were self taught on cheap computers. We need more of that!

Posted:3 years ago

#15

Neil Millstone
Director

32 12 0.4
Brilliant idea - I'll surely buy one. There needs to be a hackable computer out there for kids to play with.

Posted:3 years ago

#16

Josef Brett
Animator

296 0 0.0
I'll buy one, especially at that price. Great idea.

Posted:3 years ago

#17

Andrew Wilson
3D Artist

27 1 0.0

Am I the only one who doesn't get how they're gonna cramp all of this stuff into such a small place? Smartphone manufacturers with years of experience struggle to fit all the components in there, so it seems like trying to make something tiny and cheap is asking way too much. Cheap simple things should be chunky, otherwise they end up not being a) cheap or b) tiny.
Love the idea of programming to the masses though :)

Posted:3 years ago

#18

Nick Burcombe
CEO & Co Founder

53 16 0.3
@Mark B - I'm not so clued up on Microsoft's effort sounds as though they are much more proactive. Thanks for the info.

Posted:3 years ago

#19

Peter Bond
Studying Art & Design

66 18 0.3
interesting...

Posted:3 years ago

#20

Lee Hansiel Lim
Game Developer - Unity3D

25 2 0.1
@Andrew

You're not alone. I've been thinking if I simply misunderstood a word or phrase in that statement. Anyhoo, looking forward to the release of this device.

Posted:3 years ago

#21

Tom Keresztes
Programmer

655 270 0.4

Posted:3 years ago

#22

Tom Keresztes
Programmer

655 270 0.4

Posted:3 years ago

#23

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