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Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Apples Are Not the Only Fruit

In an earlier post, the cheap and cheerful Sinclair Spectrum was mentioned as one of the  triggers for the rapid growth in popularity for home computing in the late 70's and early 80's; at least in the UK. A simple box with a built in keyboard, it came without a monitor and had to be plugged into a TV.  With only a few commercial programs about, most programs had to be written by users.

The lead that Britain had in home computing was quickly lost, as companies like Apple led the way in making easy to use, powerful, but expensive computers.  Putting companies like Sinclair and Apricot - another fruit - out of business.

Now though, those sunny upland days may be here again with the new Raspberry Pi  computer which costs only a measley £15 to £25!  Yes folks! You’ve read correctly: they really are that cheap.  Admittedly a screen and a keyboard is needed, but everyone has a TV and keyboards can be had for under £.5.  Compared to hundreds of pounds needed for smart phones, tablets and laptops, they’re cheap as chips. And Raspberry Pi’s only weigh 1.5oz (42.5 in new fangled grams ) so they’re light on your pocket in every sense of the word. See here for more specs http://gdgt.com/raspberry-pi/a/specs/

Linux provides the operating system which makes the Raspberry Pi work.  Some see this as a disadvantage, but I prefer to see it as an opportunity. Linux is, in my humble opinion, the best operating system around and free too.  But it does mean that  many programs and apps  have to be created by users.  An excellent way of mastering programming skills and as the country is short of programmers, becoming one, represents one the of best ways of guaranteeing a job as you can possibly get.

It strikes me then, that we have travelled a full circle. Moving from the Sinclair Spectrum through expensive bigger boxes running overpriced programs created by multinational corporations, back to cheap, small but still powerful computers - they work at around  the same speed as an IPAD - which have to be programmed by their owners.  So the future is Raspberry flavoured and the question is: If you were to invent a computer, what fruit would you name it after?

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