The Raspberry Pi is a unique bare-bones computer. It is primarily aimed at educational institutions because of its low cost and wide range of potential uses, but it is these same features that have helped it develop a massive community of Pi enthusiasts; people that have made the tiny motherboard do everything from control robots to assist in 3D printing. While the device was once manufactured in China, to benefit from the low manufacturing costs, it is now very much a British product.
The Sony Pencoed factory in South Wales invested in some new machinery to automate some of the process and the Pi’s founder decided it was economically viable to manufacture the computers in the UK. Since the process was moved here from China, it has now churned out more than 1 million of the devices. As many as 12,000 of the devices are manufactured every day.
More than 1.75m of the devices have been sold around the world, despite founder Eben Upton being told that it was an unsellable device. It is popular in emerging markets because of its affordability while its size means that it is popular with technology and electronics hobbyists as well as computer geeks.
Simon Cox, an engineering professor at the University of Southampton managed to create a supercomputer for less than £2,500 using 64 Rapberry Pi devices and Lego. In the spirit of sharing and education, the blueprints and schematics for what has been called the Iridis-Pi are available online so that anybody can replicate the device built by Cox.
It isn’t just university professors that are using the devices either. John Saunders has created a dog treat dispensing device using his Pi. Saunders simply has to send an email to a specific email account and his Viszla receives an automatically dispensed dog treat. While this is unlikely to hit the mainstream it does have potential uses in automated systems including smart homes. Although, if the email account receives the level of Spam that most email users receive, Mr Saunders’ dog is going to be putting on a lot of weight.
There are many potential applications for the Raspberry Pi and Mr Upton hopes to now encourage children into the world of coding and computer programming using these devices. You can pick up the device for less than £30 online.