Over the weekend I took home one of the Raspberry Pi prototypes. From the moment I took the first byte of the Pi, memories came flooding back...
So before I talk about how I got on with the Raspberry Pi, I thought i'd reminisce a little..... In 1981 our school got a Sinclair ZX81. I was 9 years old and pretty clueless about technology, but the moment I started playing with it I was fascinated. In particular I remember vividly that rubber keyboard that, if you pressed too hard on a key, got stuck in and caused the characters to whiz along the screen until you could prise it free! By today’s standards, you couldn’t do much with it - a bit of basic programming and a few clunky games - but it kick started the home computing revolution, closely followed by the BBC Micro.
A couple of years later, thanks to movies like Wargames, and a whole lot of whining to my parents, Christmas 1983 finally delivered the first computer of my very own. A Commodore 64, it made my Atari 2600 games console look like an antique piece of furniture.
At our school, if you were not lucky enough to have a BBC Micro, most people fell into either the Commodore or ZX Spectrum camp. Fast-forward 30 years and it's Smart Phones, but this time its Apple, Blackberry or Android. Some things never change...
I had spent the previous year or so cutting my teeth in the world of computers at a friends house messing about with his BBC Micro. However, these were expensive and it wasn't long before other brands were making their way into the market. The beauty of the Commodore 64 was that it was cheaper, allowed you to do some programming, and had far more groovy games. Like other computers of it's time it just plugged into you TV. However, the external tape drive was huge and the power supply was the size of a brick! I spent hours in front of TV playing games and copying computer program code from magazines to run simple programmes.
A few years on I progressed to PC's with dot matrix printers that could wake the dead when trying to print stuff out for school assignments at 2am in the morning. Finally, the iconic scream of the dial-up modem arrived, and changed everything with this new thing called the internet.
What’s sad is that kids of this generation missed out on the early evolution of home computing, just as mine missed out on the race to space. You don't need to enter DOS commands to boot your computer, or "park your hard disk" if you want to move it, which you didn't do too often as they weighed a tonne! What’s great about Raspberry Pi is that it will hopefully help bring back some of that nostalgia, and get kids excited about understanding how technology works, rather than just using it. Luckily for them, they don't have to put up with clunky graphics or wait 10 minutes for a game to load only for it to crash and force you to start again!
So for me, learning about computers started with sitting on the carpet in living room in front of the family TV. Once again, I find myself in the same place with the Raspberry Pi...
I took the Pi to a friends house at the weekend to see how her computer-savvy 9-year-old would get on with it. In short, he loved it!, We even built a case using lego bricks.
In the style of a recipe cook book, lets get started…
The Raspberry Pi comes part-baked. To get it up and running, you need to get a few things together before jumping onto your computer.
Basic Ingredients to add to your PI
Power Supply (I like to use my 5V 700 mA fruit based phone charger with micro USB)
USB Keyboard and Mouse
Ethernet patch cable
SD Card seasoned with a Linux Image (4GB or higher)
Plug in all the cables to the corresponding sockets. For best results, use an HDMI cable to hook up to your TV, but analogue video and audio connections should work too. One thing I have discovered is that some TV’s struggled to display the screen properly, so I found that switching to 4:3 aspect ratio worked for me. Using an HDMI-to-DVI or HDMI-to-VGA converter to your PC monitor also works really well.
Next, a quick trip to the internet to download one of the Linux OS image flavours, I'm using the Debian one. Then you need to put that image onto an SD Card using a tool like Win dd if your a windows user.
Plug the SD card into your Pi. Power up the Pi and switch on your TV, and wait for 30 seconds or so to boot. Login in, run a start up command and wait for the desktop to load.
That’s it, you're in. Now time to start playing!
For it's size, The Raspberry Pi is incredible. It's basically a mini Linux computer without a case, so you can load pictures and video, browse the net, or start writing programmes with languages like Python. It’s relatively easy to get going although it helps if you are a little computer savvy to get it cooking perfectly, but isn't that what the Raspberry Pi is all about? If you’ve never installed an operating system or taken the lid off your PC to poke around, you may find that you will benefit from a little help, but it won’t be long before you know what you’re doing.
All this for £21.60! (not inc VAT and delivery) AMAZING!
Hopefully it won't be too long now before you can get your hands on one. When you do, feel free to tell us about your experiences with it!
Pete (twitter @petenwood)
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