Why Raspberry Pi is going to be huge

18Nov11

If you don’t already know what Raspberry Pi is then take a look at the Wikipedia entry and their web site.

Their mission to recreate the experiences of 8 bit computing that shaped the lives and careers of my generation is laudable, and I’m sure they will achieve great success.

That’s just the start though. Raspberry Pi based boards are going to be everywhere, and that’s going to change the world as we know it.

One of my favourite SF books of all time is Vernor Vinge’sA Deepness in the Sky‘ – whenever I see snow now there’s a little bit of me thinking ‘the sun went out, and the atmosphere has frozen’. The protagonist of the story, Pham Nuwen, makes use of ‘localisers’ – a sort of smart dust to get up to various sorts of hackery that lets him win the day. The Raspberry Pi may be credit card sized rather than dust sized, but it takes us a step closer to that science fiction becoming a reality.

Prediction 1 - one of the first things to be disrupted will be the hardware thin client business. I expect that within a day of release (maybe even before mainstream release) somebody will put together a package that turns a Raspberry Pi into a client for screen remoting protocols like RDP, ICA, VNC etc. For way too long the hardware thin clients have been too big and too near to the cost of a real PC. $25 and the size of a credit card changes that game. It will then be a matter of months before some enterprising monitor maker decides to build Raspberry Pi into the box – the ecosystem will be irresistible to them.

Prediction 2 - lots of things that have dedicated microcontrollers in them now will start to have a Raspberry Pi instead. I liked the idea of ‘Arduino inside’ that I read about in this story of a guy who hacked his dishwasher. The microcontroller on the Arduino is pretty ancient though. Yes, there are plenty of cheap dedicated microcontrollers out there that are more powerful (I’ve done some tinkering myself with the TI MSP-430), but in the end the flexibility of software normally trumps an efficiency of hardware. At first it will be the hackers and makers putting their Raspberry Pis into ordinary kit, but then manufacturers will catch on that the community will be able to add value to products after they’re launched – making them more desirable.

Of course the original aim of Raspberry Pi – getting kids interested in computers again – will spur many other waves of creation and innovation. I can’t wait to see what happens.



7 Responses to “Why Raspberry Pi is going to be huge”

  1. Just as long as we don’t accidentally implode civilisation by enabling ubiquitous law enforcement (almost typed engorgement there – the mind boggles).

  2. 2 Hugh

    It needs a standard model with some sort of wireless networking. I suppose it’s only a matter of time (and depends on the commercial success of the first two boards).

    Thanks for the pointer, though…. I will have to rethink my evil plans for arduino projects. Agreed 100% that a Linux OS with generic CPU is a better bet in the longer run that the arduino approach. Specialised just had it’s lunch eaten by generalised h/w. It was ever thus….

  3. 3 Matthew Steele
    • 10,000 isn’t going to be anywhere near enough – probably two orders of magnitude off the mark.

      Shameful to see how perverse incentives are keeping manufacturing out of the UK.

  4. There’s now a video up on the official blog showing Citrix running.


  1. 1 Hacking Raspberry Pi | shreyasnaik.com
  2. 2 Someday, Everyone Will Program | Ashutosh Nilkanth's Blog

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