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posted by janrinok on Sunday March 13 2022, @02:14PM   Printer-friendly

10 years of Raspberry Pi: The $25 computer has come a long way:

This little device has revolutionized computing since it came on the scene. We take a look back at its journey.

The UK in the 1980s was ground zero for the microcomputer revolution. Cheap computers based on 8-bit processors flooded the market, teaching a generation to program using built-in BASIC interpreters. Homes had devices like Sinclair's ZX81 and Spectrum, while schools used Acorn's BBC Micro.

These weren't like today's PCs. They were designed and built to be accessible, with IO ports that could be accessed directly from the built-in programming environments. Turn one on, and you were ready to start programming.

But then things changed: 16-bit machines were more expensive, and technical and marketing failures started to remove pioneers from the market. The final nail in the coffin was the IBM PC and its myriad clones, focused on the business market and designed to run, not build, applications.

It became harder to learn computing skills, with home computers slowly replaced by gaming consoles, smartphones and tablets. How could an inquisitive child learn to code or build their own hardware?

The answer first came from the Arduino, a small ARM-based developer board that served as a target for easy-to-learn programming languages. But it wasn't a computer; you couldn't hook it up to a keyboard and screen and use it.

Eben Upton, an engineer at microcontroller chip manufacturer Broadcom, was frustrated with the status quo. Looking at the current generation of ARM-based microcontrollers he realized it was possible to use a low-cost (and relatively low power) chip to build a single-board computer. Using a system-on-a-chip architecture, you could bundle CPU and GPU and memory on a single chip. Using the SOC's general purpose IO ports, you could build it into a device that was easily expandable, booting from a simple SD storage card.

Work on what was to become the Raspberry Pi began in 2006, with a team of volunteers working with simple ARM SOC.

Can anyone remember the first program that they actually wrote (rather than copied from a magazine or downloaded from a friend's cassette tape)? Mine simply moved an asterisk around the screen 'bouncing' off the edges, and was written in Z80 assembly language. That is all I had on my Nascom 1.

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  • (Score: 2) by kazzie on Sunday March 13 2022, @04:48PM (1 child)

    by kazzie (5309) Subscriber Badge on Sunday March 13 2022, @04:48PM (#1228919)

    I saw the tail-end of the BBC Micros as I started school, and used the Acorn Archimedes machines until they were usurped by Windows 95 PCs. No computer at home until 1997.

    While we didn't do any programming in BASIC or similar, we did a lot in procedural thinking plotting vectors with LOGO. The first program I was dead-proud of was when (following writing routines for drawing squares, hexagons, etc) I worked out how to draw a circle, as REPEAT 360 [FD 1, RT 1]. Unfortunately there was a schedule for when everyone got time to try their programs on the class computer, and I'd had my stroke of genius a few days after my slot. I handed my program to a friend to try. It worked, and I got a 'well done' from the teacher, but also a telling off for jumping the queue,

    (I was then set the task of optimising the program, because it ran so slowly. The solution: polygonise it to something like REPEAT 36 [RD 10, RT 10]. It still looked round on a 90's CRT, but it executed much quicker.

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  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by kazzie on Sunday March 13 2022, @04:59PM

    by kazzie (5309) Subscriber Badge on Sunday March 13 2022, @04:59PM (#1228924)

    I'll follow that up with another anecdote, of when I programmed an 80's micro in secondary school c. 2001. My school was celebrating it's 50th anniversary, and holding a special open-evening-style event to celebrate. A teacher from the science department approached me (as the resident computer geek) with the school's very first computer, a Sinclair ZX80. (The only reason it was still there was because it had been owned by the science department - there was not computing department yet - and hidden at the back of a storeroom.)

    We still had some CRT TVs around to link it up to, that wasn't a problem. The 1K of built-in memory was a bit more of a challenge, though. I ended up writing a ballistics program where you input a force and angle for a projectile. The program plotted a blocky track of the projectile's path, then reported the distance covered and maximum altitude. It was written in BASIC, because even though I had a manual, I wasn't in a position to learn Z80 assembler in the week or two I had before the event.

    My abiding memory of the whole experience was how horrid the Sinclair membrane keyboards were. Fine if you'd never used anything better, I suppose, but by then I definitely had.