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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 hendrikboom on Tuesday March 15 2022, @02:02AM

    by hendrikboom (1125) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday March 15 2022, @02:02AM (#1229213) Homepage Journal

    The original BASIC was designed for interactive educational use on a time-shared computer with many terminals.
    So editing, compiling, and running had to be fast.
    They didn't want the slowdowns that resulted from interpretation.
    So they designed a system where every line could be compiled by itself and they would all work together harmoniously.
    Each line was compiled when it was entered into the program.
    Many of the constraints in the original language were there to permit this line-by-line independence -- the limited number of variables (with one-letter names, if I recall correctly) were stored in statically allocated space.
    They were doing this style of compilation as a research project. To keep things simple enough to accomplish it in reasonable time their main design criterion was that the language should be well behind the current state of the art in language design.
    It compiled.
    It ran fast.
    Success!

    And you see why the language got used for serious work on personal computers only after being reimplemented interpretively with a lot of language improvements.

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