Raspberry Pi was created to solve talent crisis at Cambridge: Eben Upton [Interview]

Raspberry Pi needs no introduction. It is one of the most popular credit card sized single board computers which has become a revolution in its own right. The $25 (and $35 for B model) hardware is being used in so many fields that it’s hard to keep a tab on it.

The popularity of the device owes a lot to community relationships that the foundation has created and maintained with the larger open source community.

We met Eben Upton, the founder of the Raspberry Pi foundation who also works with Broadcom as Technical Director and ASIC architect, at LinuxCon 2013 at New Orleans and discussed quite a bit around Raspberry Pi.

I am amongst those don’t know what was the driver behind Raspberry Pi and I was surprised with what Upton told me (if you have read the about page of the Raspberry Pi site, you would know this).

Raspberry Pi was created to a solve talent crisis at Cambridge

“Raspberry Pi was an attempt by us at the University of Cambridge to solve a recruitment crisis that we were having in the middle part of the last decade. We had too few people applying to study computer science and we found that the range of skills that people had when they came in, and these were incredibly bright young people, was nothing like what people had in the mid 1990s,” said Upton.

University of Cambridge, UK
University of Cambridge, UK

The reason, at least one of the reasons, of this decline was that computer had become so expensive that it became hard for parents to help their children in experimenting with them. It was hard to find hardware which kids can use for experiments.

The team was looking for a low-cost solution which was capable enough of doing so many different things that it remains a viable experimenting platform.

It was not easy to get such hardware. Silicon was going to be the heart of it and they had to keep the costs low. That’s where close ties that Upton had with Broadcom helped him in getting access to the right silicon that he needed for the job.