Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What Raspberry Pi May Tell Me

Once upon a time, computers were for programming.  We used them at work to facilitate (usually routine) tasks associated with our jobs.  We used them in research laboratories to broaden the scope of the sorts of tasks they could facilitate.  Then the hobby culture came along;  and kids started using them to build stuff, sometimes more for amusement than for facility.  For the most part the kids did things on a smaller scale, but they could be impressively creative about it.

The Internet changed all that.  We started doing other things with our computers, many of which had to do with communication.  Then the commercial folks got wind of what we were doing and realized that any technology that could change the playing field on which people communicated could also change the rules of the game for advertising.  Now, on the Internet, everybody knows you’re a consumer;  and they are all moving heaven and earth to communicate with you.

Raspberry Pi may be a sign that we can get back to the Garden.  It is cheap ($25);  and it is so bare-bones that only a hobbyist can love it.  Nevertheless, it is a computer, even if you have to provide your own keyboard and monitor.  The point, however, is that it is not a computer for Web surfing or running the latest cool stuff from the App Store.  It is a device that only appeals to those who still believe that programming can be a creative and fun activity.  I almost added “if any of them are left” to that last sentence;  but, according to Vincent Chang’s Crave report for CNET News, demand for Raspberry Pi went through the roof as soon as it was launched yesterday in the United Kingdom.

Will it spark a similar interest in programming if it expands its business to the United States, or will our consciousness industry spare no expense to make sure that its electrons never flow on American soil?

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