Eben Upton Brings “Pi” to PyCon

Education Raspberry Pi
Eben Upton Brings “Pi” to PyCon

Raspberry Pi’s Eben Upton was in the Bay Area to keynote PyCon 2013 on March 15th in Santa Clara. The Python language was part of the plan for Raspberry Pi from the beginning and Upton joked that he had misspelled “Py” in naming “Raspberry Pi.” Upton’s talk serves as a good overview of Raspberry Pi and its development goals.

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Upton, in his keynote, talks about his original idea for a computer that would encourage kids to learn to hack, one that could boot up into a programming environment and that was “programmable by default.” Raspberry Pi needed to be four things:

  1. Programmable
  2. Able to do things that were interesting (games, video, graphics) to children
  3. Small and robust
  4. Cheap

Upton said he came up with a $25 price for the Raspberry Pi and then had to work really hard to figure out how to build it at that price. “There are 180 components on the Raspberry Pi and only two of them are chips,” he said. Those chips were the only components he considered when he first came up with the $25 price. (It now sells at $35.) Upton is also proud that Raspberry Pi is made in Britain, specifically in a Sony plant in south Wales which is about ten miles from where he grew up.

Upton said that a million Raspberry Pis have been shipped in its first year. Upton told MAKE that his goal this year is to reach two million in sales. In the last three months, North America has become the largest market for Raspberry Pi, and he thinks the growth of this market will help him reach the goal. Upton is also trying to figure out how to distribute Raspberry Pi in developing countries as well. One problem he has in a market such as South America is that tariffs placed on electronics can more than double the price of Raspberry Pi.

Organizers of PyCon distributed Raspberry Pis to each of the 2500 Python developers. “Raspberry Pi is cheap enough that it can be given out as a tchotchke,” said Upton. He told MAKE that Python programmers who have typically worked on Web applications might now consider working in embedded systems as well. In other words, Raspberry Pi is good for more than educational applications and it’s an opportunity for the Python community as well. He sees a commercial ecosystem already growing up around Raspberry Pi.

Upton and his team plan to be at Maker Faire Bay Area this May.

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DALE DOUGHERTY is the leading advocate of the Maker Movement. He founded Make: Magazine 2005, which first used the term “makers” to describe people who enjoyed “hands-on” work and play. He started Maker Faire in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2006, and this event has spread to nearly 200 locations in 40 countries, with over 1.5M attendees annually. He is President of Make:Community, which produces Make: and Maker Faire.

In 2011 Dougherty was honored at the White House as a “Champion of Change” through an initiative that honors Americans who are “doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.” At the 2014 White House Maker Faire he was introduced by President Obama as an American innovator making significant contributions to the fields of education and business. He believes that the Maker Movement has the potential to transform the educational experience of students and introduce them to the practice of innovation through play and tinkering.

Dougherty is the author of “Free to Make: How the Maker Movement Is Changing our Jobs, Schools and Minds” with Adriane Conrad. He is co-author of "Maker City: A Practical Guide for Reinventing American Cities" with Peter Hirshberg and Marcia Kadanoff.

View more articles by Dale Dougherty