It is a tiny little computer, about the size of a credit card, that comes with no peripherals (such as keyboard, mouse, cables or monitor). It doesn't even come with a case - it is just the green circuit board with various ports attached. Because it is so small and basic it is very cheap - just £25 - and the idea is that pretty much any family will be able to buy one, and children (and adults, if they wish) can use it to learn how computers, and programming, really work.
|Our raspberry pi - we bought a plastic case to protect ours, but the pi itself is just the green circuit board|
We bought a plastic case to protect our raspberry pi, and have been able to add things like a keyboard, cables and mouse from leftover bits of computer we had lying around at home. For a screen, we use the TV or the Xbox monitor.
|Cam, with the pi plugged into the TV|
You might look at this little green circuit board and think "where on earth would I start?", but that's okay - there is, of course, a wealth of information out there about how to get to know your raspberry pi and what you can do with it. We bought two books to help us out - one a user guide to the pi and one on a simple programming language, Python.
The raspberry pi website has a quick-start guide, and there are a plethora of Twitter accounts and online forums to help you too.
Cam had learnt about the Scratch programming tool at school, and now uses it on the pi at home. It's a fun and quick way to start that doesn't seem to techy for somebody new to programming, but actually requires you to think about things in the minute steps that programming requires.
I love the fact that the pi is all about learning and not about consuming. At thirteen, Cam is already a 'gamer', and would spend his every waking moment on the Xbox if we let him (we don't). But I don't mind his enthusiasm for computer games so much if there is a core of knowledge behind it, and he has an understanding of how games work and an ability to create his own if he wishes.
We all know knowledge is power, and the raspberry pi aims to give the knowledge of how computers really work back to anyone who wants it.