Raspberry Pi: Fun with a serious purpose

I had almost forgotten how much fun personal computing could be; and that's the point of this miniature device.
Written by J.A. Watson, Contributor

As I was reconnecting the Raspberry Pi to our TV set yesterday evening (it bounces back and forth between connection on my desk and to the TV), I realised that I haven't had this much plain old fun with computing in a very long time. 

I suppose that I should thank the openELEC developers for not supporting my ridiculously long 63-character WiFi password; if I didn't have to move the Pi back to my desk from time to time in order to connect the wired network, I would probably never get my hands on it.

The fun comes from being able to connect different things to it, try different things on it (both software and hardware), and just generally get my hands dirty with it. 

Looking at the different programming languages and developement environments on it, for example, trying different kinds of USB devices, wireless connections (wi-fi and Bluetooth), and the camera, of course. Next up will be the expansion bus - it's been more than 30 years since I got an Electrical Engineering degree, and I have never really worked in that field, but I'm still fascinated by hardware, and the Pi is a perfect way to be able to investigate, experiement, learn, and just have fun with it.

Of course, I have shown the Raspberry Pi to all sorts of people who have been around to visit. Their reactions have been interesting - those for whom computers are just a "tool" don't show much interest or appreciation, and when they see what the performance is like with Raspbian running, they generally just shrug and walk away, probably wondering what a weird person I am (many probably wonder that anyway.).

Those who have more of a computer/electronic background or interests always react pretty much the same way - "Wow! Way cool!", often before I even boot it up.

But the most interesting and inspiring reactions have come from the kids I have shown it to. Many of them have not only been wowed by it but immediately asked what could be done with it.

The first thing they always want to do is take apart the box, so they can see what's inside, how it connects, what the bits and pieces are. This is the kind of interest, and excitement, which can change some kinds from passive consumers of mind-numbing 'social' media to active participants, explorers and developers.

Of course, another excellent example of this effect is the Raspberry Pi Web Site. If you haven't looked at their home page yet, you really should. 

Heck, I'll go even further than that, I'll say that if you are even mildly interested in this kind of activity, you should be checking back on that page regularly. 

It never ceases to amuse and amaze me with the variety and quality of projects, information, documentation, and just plain fun that they post there. From canine mind reading (No More Woof) to environmentally activated high-resolution advertising boards, with loads of books, tutorials and full-blown classroom examples, this is a web site where the fun - and the education - really never stops.

Ok, enough of the soap-box evangelizing for today.  The bottom line here is, not only do I get great pleasure from my Raspberry Pi, it is going to make Christmas shopping for some of my best friends (and their parents) a lot easier.  Try it.  I'm sure you'll like it.

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