* Ultra-cheap computer aimed at budding programmers
* Designed by Britain's Raspberry Pi Foundation
* Orders hit hundreds of thousands globally
By Neil Maidment
LONDON, March 12 Electronic parts
suppliers Premier Farnell and Electrocomponents
said huge demand for a British-designed credit card-sized
computer, which aims to make programming easy for children, had
helped them access new customers around the world.
The two rivals, which provide engineers with equipment like
batteries, cables and computer consumables, said interest in the
Raspberry Pi -- a single board computer as powerful as a smart
phone that can be plugged into a TV, keyboard and USB devices --
had reached hundreds of thousands since its Feb. 29 release.
Electrocomponents and Premier Farnell were chosen as sole
distributors of the new product because of their access to
customers in the engineering sector.
The tiny gadget was developed by the UK's Raspberry Pi
Foundation, created by a group of Cambridge University teachers
in 2006. It costs between $25 and $35, can run games and
spreadsheets, and aims to revive flagging next-generation
interest in programming and help raise the profile of computer
science studies in schools.
Budding programmers will be able to write programs for the
computer board, or learn how to do so with tutorials, as well as
run high-definition video content, digital images and connect to
An initial batch of 10,000 were snapped up well inside the
first day, with Premier Farnell's website counting around
500,000 hits every 15 minutes. Both firms said interest, now in
the hundreds of thousands, had remained strong and that while it
was unlikely to be a profit driver for either, it was attracting
"It's been phenomenal. It really opens up the world of
programming to a mass market," Premier Farnell's Chief Financial
Officer Nicholas Cadbury told Reuters.
Glenn Jarrett, head of electronics marketing at
Electrocomponents', said it had never previously experienced
such levels of interest in a product with more than 200,000
registrations across its websites already.
The firm said strong interest in the UK and Europe had now
spread to the United States and Asia where the group will soon
take a Raspberry Pi to a prominent electronics trade fare in
"It has certainly captured some hearts and minds," Jarrett
told Reuters. "It globally engages with the people who are most
interested in technology, and that is absolutely at the heart of
our customer base and the type of customer we want to chase."
Currently sold without casing, its no-frills basic design
won't be worrying fancy tablet producers any time soon, but that
was never the intention behind it, one of its developers told
"It is replacing the Spectrum, the Commodore 64, this class
of machine that used to exist and really doesn't anymore," said
Eben Upton, who was part of the group of Cambridge University
teachers that began developing the idea via the Raspberry Pi
"It comes with the tools you need to start programming, from
very introductory levels up to professional ones," he said.
Upton said the foundation was talking to government about a
mandate to have computer science taught in schools with text
books and tutorials used alongside the Raspberry Pi.
The foundation said it had also received interest from
developing countries looking for cheaper alternatives to
traditional PCs in hospitals, museums and schools.
The first batch of Raspberry Pis, currently being
manufactured in China, are expected to reach customers in two to
three weeks with subsequent orders due to be met in around six
to eight weeks.
Having originally planned to make just 100 computers and
hand them out to prospective Cambridge students, Upton said the
six-strong foundation were "punch-drunk" at the reaction and
would use it to help fund an educational software release later
this year, and promotions at grassroots and government levels.
"Building this computer isn't the end, it was the enabler
that we needed. The real goal is to educate a new generation of
computer programmers," Upton said.