Distributors reel from Mad Wednesday rush for $35 Pi

Mar 01, 2012 by Nancy Owano report
Distributors reel from Mad Wednesday rush for $35 Pi

(PhysOrg.com) -- No long lines winding down Madison Avenue; no marching bands in Barcelona; no glossy ads in mainstream magazines. Just news of a product available for pre-order is all it took to trigger a crush of responders and to sell out the long awaited, credit-card sized computer with a $35 pricetag. The Raspberry Pi computer sold out in hours on Wednesday, after sites distributing the product witnessed unprecedented traffic.

According to the Financial Times, one of the two device distributors, Premier Farnell, reported half a million hits in 15 minutes, The other distributor, RS Components, said they had never before witnessed that level of demand for any one product at one go.

What’s the big deal? Those following the rise of the Raspberry Pi say the answer is not only price but principle. Developed by the Raspberry Pi Foundation in the UK, the miniature PC is intended to eventually become an affordable mainstay for schools to use, to expose children and youths to programming and command lines rather than just touchscreens and in-store apps.

Wednesday’s opening offer for pre-orders is actually for a developer release. The Foundation aims to build a community of developers who can write software for the device before they issue the school-targeted product, priced even lower, at $25, which will be available at a later date.

In the UK, the Foundation efforts are widely applauded and not only for aiming to educate youth. Some observers think the mad rush for the devices reflect a backlash trend toward old-school hobbyist programming among those tired of showroom bling.

The Raspberry Pi, based on the ARM chip, does not come with monitor or keyboard; it is a bareboned PC on a naked circuit board with connectors. The Raspberry Pi is designed so that it can plug into a TV and a keyboard. The computer supports Python, a suitable programming language even for novices. The device runs Linux. (Its first proof of concept is based on Debian but a Fedora ARM secondary architecture project has a Fedora Linux distribution for ARM-based devices. The Fedora version is the work of faculty and students at Seneca College, Canada, where they configured and optimized it to work with the Raspberry Pi.)

The chips and connectors allow users to connect cameras and other gadgets via USB, and can deal with high-definition video and sound. More specifically, the device has a 700MHz processor, 256MB of RAM, SD card support, two USB ports, an Ethernet hookup and HDMI and RCA outputs.

“Although we are still waiting for units to arrive from China, you can start buying the Raspberry Pi today,” announced the foundation site.

They entered into licensed manufacture partnerships with the two British companies, Premier Farnell and RS Components, and the two will be manufacturing and distributing the devices on behalf of the foundation. Each Raspberry Pi sold will generate a small profit for the foundation, which it will put back into the charity.

The foundation's web site also sought to explain on Wednesday that both distributor websites were experiencing heavy load and that international customers may find that Raspberry Pi was not yet available in their areas. The foundation asked for patience and to check back.

Explore further: Ineda developing low power companion processors to increase battery life for wearables

More information: www.raspberrypi.org/

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Lurker2358
5 / 5 (3) Mar 01, 2012
Incredible.

Considering price adjustment, it's actually almost exactly on schedule compared to a Pentium 1 computer via Moore's law.

4 times the processor, 8 times the RAM, much better connectivity.

Wow. I can remember using the internet on a Pentium 166 and a 32k dial up modem.

I like the idea of something that focuses on being cheap.

This computer can do a lot of work, better than what I had in school for all your internet and research use, and it's still powerful enough to play very good games on as well.

If it was a windows machine, this would greatly exceed the specs of Starcraft or even Diablo 2.

this would even be great as a cheap game console that also does work. They could make a USB controller for it, buy an existing one, and sell games on SD cards, like Nintendo does.

It should be excellent for teaching tools, since you can get like 15 of these for the same price as a bargain bin PC, and it's more than capable of running classroom type software or even compilers.
roboferret
5 / 5 (3) Mar 01, 2012
Its small size and power consumption is a big part of the appeal for hobbyists, not just the price. It opens up a huge range of robotics projects at a moderate cost. It's cheaper than an Arduino, and blows it away in performance terms. I want one for my robotics project, it's powerful enough to do real-time computer vision processing. At the moment it has a netbook strapped to its head!
ab3a
5 / 5 (4) Mar 01, 2012
@lurker2358: Kids these days... I can remember using teletypes and 110 baud modems to dial in to mainframes with HUNDREDS of KILOBYTES of RAM. And we were state-of-the-art! My father had programs and data in many boxes filled with punched cards. :-)

The Raspberry Pi project has the Arduino project to thank for much of its traction and user base. The Arduino is not in direct competition because it uses a micro-controller with a very simple OS. The Raspberry Pi is the next step up in the evolution of embedded systems.

This will be interesting to watch, and play with...
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Mar 01, 2012
Might give them a go and see how they work as cheap parallel processing units where data sharing isn't much of an issue (though the 256MB ram minus what the OS takes up looks a bit slim for what I have in mind...I was hoping they'd put 1GB on there).

Kids these days... I can remember using teletypes and 110 baud modems to dial in to mainframes with HUNDREDS of KILOBYTES of RAM.

Dito. Internet? What interenet? Direct link or a BBS if you could find one (Wardialing, anyone?).
epsi00
5 / 5 (1) Mar 01, 2012
The perfect gift to your kids under the xmas tree.
Crazy_council
3 / 5 (2) Mar 01, 2012
would be great for putting in a diy drone. Or a DIY Robot. Infact, i bet it would not be two hard to make your own robot vacume with this, This is the top 3 of the first twenty ideas i had.

BTW, "Kids these days... "

started with bbc-b ( junior school ) and got banned from the nimbus network at senior school the second year i was there. and thats before i started training in programming.

Can anyone remeber when basic, pascal and fortran were king, you needed a basic understanding of electronics to wire up a PC card, pfff kids these days, dont know how easy they have it
thermodynamics
5 / 5 (3) Mar 01, 2012
@lurker2358: Kids these days... I can remember using teletypes and 110 baud modems to dial in to mainframes with HUNDREDS of KILOBYTES of RAM. And we were state-of-the-art! My father had programs and data in many boxes filled with punched cards. :-)

The Raspberry Pi project has the Arduino project to thank for much of its traction and user base. The Arduino is not in direct competition because it uses a micro-controller with a very simple OS. The Raspberry Pi is the next step up in the evolution of embedded systems.

This will be interesting to watch, and play with...


I will also be playing with one and I am one of those who had boxes of punch cards for my old FORTRAN decks. That is where the obsolete term "dusty deck code" came from. Our decks of cards from years back. I am excited about this project. It reduces the footprint and the cost to a point where anyone can get one and just play with it. Including developing Nations. Great concept