The Raspberry Pi Foundation is considering making a dedicated board for the internet of things according to Eben Upton — a co-founder of the non-profit Raspberry Pi Foundation who spoke Wednesday at GigaOM’s Mobilize conference.
Raspberry Pi, a $25 credit-card-sized microcomputer, was originally created to encourage kids to learn how to program in the United Kingdom, but it accidentally tapped into a huge pool of interest among hackers who wanted to use the low-cost hardware to connect devices together in interesting ways, he said.
Upton said the group’s original plan was to get Raspberry Pi systems into the hands of “maybe a thousand” students with the hope that some would get excited about programming: now, 18 months later, the foundation is closing in on more than two million of the devices, and is actually considering branching out into new form factors to make it easier for the corporate and industrial users who have gotten interested in the platform to make use of it. The new board might strip the inputs from the existing PI and offer a smaller, more modular form factor.
The foundation started as an idea dreamed up by Upton and some friends in the engineering department at the University of Cambridge, after they noticed a distinct lack of qualified applicants for the engineering program. They realized that part of what had created a huge number of knowledgable students among a previous generation was access to early PC platforms like the Commodore 64 and Radio Shack’s Tandy systems, which almost forced young users to become programmers just to get anything out of them.
The rise of better PC hardware was a big boon for users, Upton said, but it meant that an entire generation of kids didn’t spend much time having to hack the systems they used at home, and therefore didn’t learn as much. So Raspberry Pi was developed as a way of encouraging young users to just play around with low-cost hardware and software — and almost accidentally it took off with adults and hackers who were looking for the same things.
Check out the rest of our Mobilize 2013 coverage here, and a video embed of the session follows below: