Raspberry Pi is the Linux punk ethic

Raspberry Pi is the Linux punk ethic

Summary: Who could have imagined that the Great Linux Breakthrough would not come via the Historical Inevitability of the Desktop Revolution, nor the Ubuntu On An Android but from a Humble Raspberry Pi.


Who could have imagined that the Great Linux Breakthrough would not come via the Historical Inevitability of the Desktop Revolution, nor the Ubuntu On An Android but from a Humble Raspberry Pi.

Raspberry Pi model B
Raspberry Pi model B, © The Raspberry Pi Foundation

This credit card sized computer has caught the imagination of the public, with MacHedz and WinFans both jumping on a rather overcrowded bandwagon that brought two retailer websites crashing to their knees when the launch was announced on Monday 29th February 2012.

Maybe it’s the sight of some raw circuit board that has elicited such frenzy, in the same way that a motorcycle engine is visible and therefore much more accessible so that bike riders know far more about their vehicles than car drivers.

A figure of 50,000 was being bandied about in the days after the launch, though 50,000 what exactly I wasn’t sure and can’t remember: Units ordered, twitter followers, page impressions? Whatever it was, 50,000 is a lot.

Admittedly, this figure is far less than for the iPhone, which is the single most popular computer in the world. The difference is, the Raspberry Pi is destined for the hands of hackers and doers, not just mute consumer users. These Pi People, it is hoped, will be building the future, hence the Raspberry Pi’s hope that it will inspire a whole generation of young creators.

And this is where the punk ethic comes in. Even I am too young to remember the glory punk years, the unfocussed discontent of a generation. It was also the continuation of a long trend of an alternative lifestyle outside of The System, where music was Done It Yourself. Anyone could pick up a guitar and many did. Much of the music might not have been all that. But that wasn’t the point.

Likewise with a hacker culture. Anyone can pick up a Pi (well, once they start shipping). And many will. Much of the code won’t be all that. But that won’t be the point.

Topic: Software Development

Jake Rayson

About Jake Rayson

A web designer since the 20th century, I am a pragmatic advocate of Free Software and I use proprietary software when appropriate. I made the full-time switch to Linux back in 2007, and my desktop tools of choice are Linux Mint, Inkscape, GIMP and Sublime Text.

As a Front End Developer, my core skills are HTML5, CSS3 and jQuery, and my working life reflects my commitment to open standards and accessible websites (ie accessible by everyone, regardless of browser, platform, ability or technology).

For web publishing platforms, I use WordPress for ease of use and Drupal for more complex solutions.

I am also learning about Ruby, Rails, Sinatra and CoffeeScript. I like the minimalist Ruby Way. To this end, my personal portfolio website is built with NestaCMS.

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  • I can remember the punk years... I had a ZX80; an '81; a Spectrum; an Oric Atmos, various Beebs and Commodores, amongst others, but my favourite was my Jupiter Ace - which was great for hacking and ran FORTH!. I've also lost track of the amount of SBC's I've hacked about with over the years, but there's something infinitely satisfying about making several LEDs do the "Knight Rider sweep" :-)
  • I really really don't see how the Pi is anything like the drug ridden 70s era of bad style and even more horrid music. Is it cool? Oh yeah, but is it a revolution? Hardly. It is super inexpensive, and small. This alone makes it a cute commodity at best. You will probably see a lot of small projects revolving around this, but the thing will be like Linux itself, moot and useless. Cute, cool in an uncool way, but utterly useless. It will have a hardcore fanbase and a lot of very loud nerds screaming "viva la revolution!" but it will hardly make any difference. This isn't some pseudo nerd-stock style hippie computer "guitar", it is a tiny, cheap, arm based computer with barely more power than my microwave internal clock. 700MHZ and 256MB ram is hardly anything at all. It might make for cheap servers, or make for a few fad based "do-it-yourself" toys, but hardly a Ducati or Harley, more like a Honda CR60r dirtbike for kids. Will people play with, order lots of, and do some cool stunts? Sure, but will this bring about the days of Linux yore? Not even close. It is a fan-based product, by the fans for the fans. Does this mean it is a failure? No, there are a lot of fan based products out there. I play with RPG Maker, a game creation software that barely makes a passable SNES style game with other fans of the software. Will it ever make it out of a niche crowd? Maybe, will it be a revolution? Hardly. In fact it probably will never even be a blip on Apple or Microsoft's radar.
  • Chris Wortman, the Raspberry Pi is supposed to be a cheap device to inspire people's interest in computers and computing. Something that you'd not be scared to break, but that is still powerful enough do something interesting with. So if you're measuring it solely by whether it appears on either Apple's or Microsoft's radar then you've utterly missed the point.
  • For Chris Wortman:

    You naughty kittens,
    you've soiled your mittens,
    now you shall have no pi.
  • @VayMetro Way-to-GO! I loved it! Take that Chris W!

    I've ordered 2 and I hope one gets here soon. It looks like a whole lotta fun. I've got enough spare kit laying around that I can have my pi and play with it too! There were a lot of very intelligent questions answered and decisions made to make that little jewel. No its not the smallest, or the most iPhone-ish, or able to leap tall buildings even in 2 bounds but it does make major-league programming possible on a Little League budget. I wish we had projects like that here. There is the Maker Faire guys and thats good too but somewhat un-focused.
  • For me, the fun will be fettling with the tin, writing firmware, and installing all manner of OS' onto it. Having grown up building SBCs (ZX80/81/Spectrum/BBC Micro...) with PTH PCBs (yes, remember those), it's the mix of fettling with the hardware (remember the BBC Jim/Fred and Shiela memory-mapped IO ports on the underside) and firmware that has the attraction. With current PCs being almost entirely surface mounted components (don't even think about opening up the Laptop case proper_, you can't fettle with the tin easily, and how many people write firmware any more (last time I did this was real UNIX BSD Device Drivers - far too long ago).
    With a low price tag for a new computer (which is what it is, albeit a not-too powerful one), if it all goes up in smoke, nothing critical will be lost (compared to fettling with your home PC, where if it goes wrong, it'll come back and haunt you for weeks).
    And if it gets the yoof back into hardware, firmware, programming, even better. UK ICT doesn't teach one line of programming. How does that work for the 'information economy' which is our Government claim.
  • I'm from the other side of the Atlantic, so all the BBC & Sinclair systems weren't available. Most of my primary work was done on a S100 Z80 system using an Ithaca Audio CPU board, a 4KB memory board and a bunch of LEDs. Later it had a real video terminal board in it. I made a 64KB RAM board from a kit. Took me 6 weeks to save enough money to buy all the RAM I needed to fill the sockets (8 bits x 4, 16Kb chips) Later systems were CP\M based Xerox 820's (no HDD just 8" SDDS floppies). I also messed with Commodore C64 and the Vic20. Every time I turned on the power to the S100 box, the lights dimmed for a blink. I loved using it in winter in the garage because it kept my feet warm (it was on the floor). The laptop today is only good to warm one hand at a time!

    Don't sell the Raspberry Pi short. It has more computing power than anything mentioned in the above paragraph! It does video graphics totally impossible on those systems as well.