RPi General History
This page is intended to show why the Raspberry Pi was created, and why it is what it is, by highlighting relevant events in its history. It is not intended to be a detailed history; that is covered elsewhere.
If you add to this page, please include a link to the original source of each item, so the full story can be read, and only provide a summary here. Avoid adding announcements; wait until that event has happened before reporting it.
If you want to read the full history of the Raspberry Pi, there are several places you can go.
- The Raspberry Pi Foundation website, which includes the news blog archives.
- The Raspberry Pi page on Wikipedia
- The Raspberry Pi community provides contributions, such as simple tutorials and more complex projects, although several of these may not be complete yet.
- For fun, check the history of the BBC Micro Computer, given as part of the inspiration behind the Raspberry Pi
Birth of the idea
The Raspberry Pi Foundation, on the About page of the official website, states why the Raspberry Pi project began. The text is reproduced here, so it can be preserved:
The idea behind a tiny and cheap computer for kids came in 2006, when Eben Upton and his colleagues at the University of Cambridge’s Computer Laboratory, including Rob Mullins, Jack Lang and Alan Mycroft, became concerned about the year-on-year decline in the numbers and skills levels of the A Level students applying to read Computer Science in each academic year. From a situation in the 1990s where most of the kids applying were coming to interview as experienced hobbyist programmers, the landscape in the 2000s was very different; a typical applicant might only have done a little web design.
Something had changed the way kids were interacting with computers. A number of problems were identified: the colonisation of the ICT curriculum with lessons on using Word and Excel, or writing webpages; the end of the dot-com boom; and the rise of the home PC and games console to replace the Amigas, BBC Micros, Spectrum ZX and Commodore 64 machines that people of an earlier generation learned to program on.
There isn’t much any small group of people can do to address problems like an inadequate school curriculum or the end of a financial bubble. But we felt that we could try to do something about the situation where computers had become so expensive and arcane that programming experimentation on them had to be forbidden by parents; and to find a platform that, like those old home computers, could boot into a programming environment. From 2006 to 2008, Eben designed several versions of what has now become the Raspberry Pi; you can see one of the earliest prototypes here.
By 2008, processors designed for mobile devices were becoming more affordable, and powerful enough to provide excellent multimedia, a feature we felt would make the board desirable to kids who wouldn’t initially be interested in a purely programming-oriented device. The project started to look very realisable. Eben (now a chip architect at Broadcom), Rob, Jack and Alan, teamed up with Pete Lomas, MD of hardware design and manufacture company Norcott Technologies, and David Braben, co-author of the seminal BBC Micro game Elite, to form the Raspberry Pi Foundation to make it a reality.
To meet the original requirements, there were several design issues to be resolved. The prime requirement was to keep within the price limit they had set, and to provide a device that would allow its users to experiment with the hardware and software. They expected that some of the omissions would be added by the user community. The limitations this created are revealed in the following interviews:
- A Question and Answer session held with Eben Upton on 14 September, 2011, on the Slashdot website covered some of the design issues.
- An interview with engineer Pete Lomas (Sept 2012) reveals why some of those decisions were taken.
How the Foundation, and the Raspberry Pi, developed
Some of the early experiences are given in a three part blog by Russell Davis (aka forum admin ukscone). Read them individually: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 - on 15 Oct 2015, these are no longer available.
This covers the timeline of key events in the development of the Foundation and the Raspberry Pi:
- 12 Aug, 2011, The first Alpha boards were received, powered up and booted,
- reported on raspberrypi.org, http://www.raspberrypi.org/archives/78
- 28 Nov, 2011, Details of the Model B were revealed in a review of the Raspberry Pi,
- This article reviewed the hardware functions, and covered some of the thoughts of its creators. From The Register, http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/11/28/raspberry_pi/
- 9 Jan, 2012, 10 Beta Model B's were auctioned,
- The Beta Model B's were auctioned to raise money for the Foundation. One was bought and donated anonymously to the Computer Museum at the Centre for Computing History. Reported on raspberrypi.org, http://www.raspberrypi.org/archives/503
- 10 Jan, 2012, Manufacture of the first Model B's starts,
- The Model B is ready for manufacture, and production is underway. Reported on raspberrypi.org, http://www.raspberrypi.org/archives/509
- 17 Feb, 2012, The first root filesystem becomes available for download,
- A disc image that can be downloaded to an SD card, based on Debian Squeeze (Linux), is released. Reported on raspberrypi.org, http://www.raspberrypi.org/archives/645
- 19 Apr, 2012, Shipping begins,
- element 14 received the first boards, and started to ship them to customers. Reported on raspberrypi.org, http://www.raspberrypi.org/archives/1081
- 16 Jul, 2012, Buying restrictions are lifted,
- Initial orders were limited to one per order; this limit was removed allowing people to buy as many as they wanted. Reported on raspberrypi.org, http://www.raspberrypi.org/archives/1588
- 6 Sept, 2012, Manufacturing begins in the UK,
- Production of the boards started at the Sony factory in Pencoed, South Wales. Reported on raspberrypi.org, http://www.raspberrypi.org/archives/1925
- 15 Oct, 2012, Model B now with 512 MB RAM,
- The model B has been upgraded to 512 MB RAM at no extra cost. Reported on raspberrypi.org, http://www.raspberrypi.org/archives/2180
- 30 Nov, 2012, Model A now available,
- The model A has been built in the Sony factory in Pencoed, and deliveries are expected in the New Year. Production was held back due to the demand for the Model B. Reported on raspberrypi.org, http://www.raspberrypi.org/archives/2615
- 17 Jan, 2013, First Model A's auctioned,
- The first model A's have been donated to Charities, and sold at auction raising a total of £3609.15. Reported on raspberrypi.org, http://www.raspberrypi.org/archives/3061
- 4 Feb, 2013, The Model A is on sale,
- A stripped down version of the existing Model B, without Ethernet, only 1 USB socket, this model is only $25 and uses a third of the power. Reported on raspberrypi.org, https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/model-a-now-for-sale-in-europe-buy-one-today/
- 14 May, 2013, The Camera board is now available,
- The camera for the Raspberry Pi is now available. It plugs in to the CSI socket, and needs some additional software; it also needs to be enabled using raspi-config. Reported on raspberrypi.org, https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/camera-board-available-for-sale/
- 3 Jun, 2013, Introducing the New Out Of Box Software (NOOBS),
- A simple operating system loader has been produced that makes it a lot easier to put an Operating System on a SD Card. Instead of the unfamiliar 'flashing' technique that has caused problems for new users, NOOBS is simply copied ('normally') to a blank card and installs the Operating System when booted. Reported on raspberrypi.org, https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/introducing-noobs/
- 28 Oct, 2013, The Pi NoIR infrared camera board is available,
- The Raspberry Pi NoIR camera is now available; those wanting pictures in Infrared can get them. Reported on raspberrypi.org, https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/pi-noir-infrared-camera-now-available/ and https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/whats-that-blue-thing-doing-here/
- 7 Apr, 2014, Announcing the Raspberry Pi Compute Module,
- This is a new product, aimed at business and industrial users, to allow the embedding of the "Raspberry Pi platform" into systems and commercial products. The Compute Module fits into a standard DDR2 SODIMM connector; also available is the Compute Module IO Board to help designers get started. Reported on raspberrypi.org, https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/raspberry-pi-compute-module-new-product/
- 14 Jul, 2014, The Raspberry Pi B+ launched,
- Some improvements have been made to produce the Pi model B+; not a version 2, but more of the final design of the model B. It has more GPIO pins (40), 4 USB ports and uses a MicroSD card. It also has a better physical layout. Reported on raspberrypi.org, https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/introducing-raspberry-pi-model-b-plus/
- 10 Nov, 2014, The Raspberry Pi A+ is on sale,
- The model A Raspberry Pi has been redesigned, with a new board layout, in a similar way to the Raspberry Pi B+. Priced at $20. It has more GPIO pins (40) and uses a MicroSD card. Reported on raspberrypi.org, https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/raspberry-pi-model-a-plus-on-sale/
- 28 Dec, 2014, Changes to the Raspbian Desktop,
- The Raspbian LXDE desktop and menus get an overhaul with a more consistent behaviour. Reported on raspberrypi.org, https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/changes-to-the-raspbian-user-interface/
- 2 Feb, 2015, The Raspberry Pi2 is released,
- An upgraded Raspberry Pi, the Pi2, has been released. It has an ARM Cortex-A7 processor, 1 GB ram and costs the same as the Pi B+ ($35). It needs an ARMv7 kernel, but runs all the existing software and is hardware compatible with existing models. Reported on raspberrypi.org, https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/raspberry-pi-2-on-sale/
- 30 Apr, 2015, Windows 10 (IoT) available for the Pi,
- Microsoft have released Windows 10, IoT version (Internet of Things), for the Raspberry Pi2. Special Apps can be developed on a Windows 10 PC / laptop and deployed to the Pi; it does not run 'normal' programs (e.g. Office). Reported on raspberrypi.org, https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/windows-10-for-iot/
- 14 May, 2015, List prices are cut for Raspberry Pi models,
- With continued high sales of the Raspberry Pi models, the list prices have been cut, with the B+ at $25, the A+ at $20 and the Pi2 remaining at $35. Reported on raspberrypi.org, https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/price-cut-raspberry-pi-model-b-now-only-25/
- 8 Sept, 2015, The official Raspberry Pi Display is launched,
- The official Raspberry Pi Display is launched, having a 7in, 800 x 480 RGB LCD touch screen that uses the DSI connector (not the camera one) on the Pi. It can be used as a second screen. Reported on raspberrypi.org, https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/the-eagerly-awaited-raspberry-pi-display/
- 29 Sept, 2015, Raspbian updated to use Debian Jessie release,
- The official release of the Raspbian operating system available on the Raspberry Pi Foundation's website is now based on the Jessie release of Debian Linux. This includes quite a few changes, and initially there is no supported upgrade from an existing Wheezy release. Reported on raspberrypi.org, https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/raspbian-jessie-is-here/