Google to hand out free computers in the UK

Google has stumped up 15,000 Raspberry Pi computers to be distributed to UK schools to foster the next generation of computer programmers and hardware designers. The tiny Linux computers will be distributed through a range of partners to children deemed likely to benefit from owning one and the announcement was made in the presence of Google's Eric Schmidt - good publicity for Google (currently getting it in the neck all across Europe because of its tax affairs) and the Raspberry Pi Foundation itself.

According to Raspberry Pi Foundation's Eben Upton (Interviewed last week by TelecomTV for the M2M Channel here) the product was developed "in the hope that we could encourage more children to want to programme."

But while the $35 computers may have been designed for education, they've also been seized on by M2M enthusiasts who see a major role for programmable, low-cost, low-power sensing devices out in the field.

Of course there's a circle being closed here. Way back in 1981 the BBC sponsored an official 'BBC Micro' to go with a Computer Literacy Project it was formulating at the time. It contracted one of the burgeoning Cambridge UK home computer developers, Acorn Computer, to build the thing and the rest as they say is... not so much history as alive and kicking today.

The BBC Micro and Acorn went from strength to strength and played a large part in fostering, not just Cambridge chip designer ARM, but a whole generation of UK tech entrepreneurs, including of course Eben Upton (he told me he was around 3 at launch and was exposed to it later).

There have been 1 million $35 Raspberry Pi sales over the past year. Back in the day, if memory serves me, the BBC Micros were priced somewhere between £200 and £350 (well over £1000 in today's money).

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