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back to article UK plant bakes its millionth Raspberry Pi

A Sony-owned factory in South Wales has now punched out more than a million Raspberry Pi board computers. This is laudable, but it shouldn’t be taken as a sign that Britain is going to ride to economic recovery on the back of a new generation of young programmers. The Raspberry Pi is a fortysomething’s wet dream of early 1980s …

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Well done

What an unnecessarily bitter, pointless article.

They've done more than you ever will to promote some classroom coding, sunshine.

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Devil

Re: Well done

I blame the Department for Eduction.

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They've done more than you ever will to promote some classroom coding, sunshine

Numbers?

Cos not for nothing, if you *don't* have a spare keyboard, mouse, USB hub, decent power supply and HD capable monitor lying around, the uptake is about the cost of an E Machine and the experience significantly less fulfilling.

And if you have those things at a school already, chances are you have the rest of the kit to go with it. Python will install just as readily on Windows as Linux, a far cheaper and less bothersome thing all round if you already have the windows investment.

And I speak as an early adopter, someone who has been running two Pis (that original one I waited six months to receive and the newer, better model that I got two weeks later) for fun and after six moths buggering about still thinks the GUI is so slow as to be an impediment (especially if you don't put in that powered hub - you'll be plagued by the secret double click insensitivity issue that no-one talks about openly).

I think there are a few kids messing with them, because I've seen them doing so on the web and here in the pages of El Reg. But I don't think those truckloads of Pis are being bought for kids in the main. Nosiree. I think they are being bought by college kids and professors, hobbyists who need a cheap controller and don't want to use Arduino and people who want a cheap set top box.

Because that is what the vast majority of web traffic about Pis is telling me.

There is a great clamour for the Pi here in the USA, where they can at times be hard to find, but they are being sought by old farts like me, not by kids.

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Re: They've done more than you ever will to promote some classroom coding, sunshine

Does that eMachine come with a monitor?

Because that is the big cost. The rest? $30 if you don't already have some bits lying around.

As for the faults you are seeing - upgrade your firmware and/or your power supply. It's not the Pi's fault if you don't feed it enough. GUI, yes a bit slow - should get much better soon with the Wayland support going well.

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Re: They've done more than you ever will to promote some classroom coding, sunshine

Who said you needed a monitor? The Pi outputs it's video via HDMI, the intention is that you can use it with a TV set like the BBC B of old.

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GUI, yes a bit slow

Try using RISC OS

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Unhappy

Re: Well done

Well I don't. As far as I can see the DoE has done its level best to do the exact opposite, as this article on Auntie published today, helpfully lays out.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Well done

What for? wasn't it Gove who said IT should teach development skills instead of using MS Office? he took the advice of Google and others.

He's doing a lot more than Blair and co did, who just asked Microsoft what to do.

http://www.computing.co.uk/ctg/news/2280102/gove-s-new-ict-curriculum-sees-five-year-olds-writing-programs-and-3d-printing-in-schools

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Re: Well done

"wasn't it Gove who said IT should teach development skills instead of using MS Office? he took the advice of Google and others."

I'm not sure that Google boss slating UK's 'computing' in schools when speaking in Scotland a month or so before Gove knee-jerked in embarrassment amounts to Gove "taking advice".

And what credentials, exactly, does Gove have to say anything about IT (did he really drop the 'C'?) anyway?

What credentials to say anything about education, come to that?

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Re: They've done more than you ever will to promote some classroom coding, sunshine

Everyone[1] has an HDMI capable monitor, it is called a television set. The power supply is the same one you use to charge your phone, and everyone[2] has one of those. That just leaves the USB keyboard mouse and hub, which are not expensive.

[1] TV licensing certainly thinks it is everyone, but a lot of people do have one. I use one as a 27" monitor because it was cheaper than the equivalent screen without a tuner.

[2] Not quite everyone. People who have not yet graduated from nursery school to primary school don't generally have them. Some tin foil hatters and other luddite weirdos don't have them.

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Re: Well done

<quote>What an unnecessarily bitter, pointless article.

They've done more than you ever will to promote some classroom coding, sunshine.</quote>

Great comment, I can see why everyone has voted it up

<article>Education Secretary Michael Gove, who appears to have decided it’s more important to teach little'uns how to program than to use the technology they will sit in front of when eventually they enter the workplace.</article>

What a stupid comment. So you're saying you, me, most El Reg readers, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Charles Babbage, Alan Turing all suffered because we weren't taught Word and Excel in school? I think we did ok without it, don't you?

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Re: They've done more than you ever will to promote some classroom coding, sunshine

Have you seen many classrooms with enough HDMI-input TVs lying around for every child in a programming class? 'Cos I haven't.

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Stop

Re: They've done more than you ever will to promote some classroom coding, sunshine

Again with the assumptions that the only way anything can be educational is in a structured classroom environment (if there's one way to take all the fun out of something then that's it). The Pi is the kind of thing that kids can plug into the telly at home and explore. They'll learn a good deal more that way, and the worst damage they can do is to trash the SD card, which can be re-written with a fresh image or replaced for a few pounds.

Oh, and just to add, HDMI to DVI is a simple cable. Old monitors from 10 years ago will work just fine.

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Re: Well done

<article>Education Secretary Michael Gove, who appears to have decided it’s more important to teach little'uns how to program than to use the technology they will sit in front of when eventually they enter the workplace.</article>

"So you're saying you, me, most El Reg readers, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Charles Babbage, Alan Turing all suffered because we weren't taught Word and Excel in school?"

I deliberately chose not to not take "IT" at GCSE level because I know it was actually "office drone 101", so yes, that section is completely off the mark.

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Re: Well done

Author is right about the Pi's biggest fans being forty-somethings. Disagree with the rest of the article though.

Eben Upton ... devised the Pi as a modern take on the low-cost machines on which he says he cut his own coding teeth.

Cheap ? Dragon 32 in 1982 cost £200. That's about £700 today. Ker-ching. Likewise BBC = £400 -> £1200. Even the zx81 (release price £70) works out at £210 in today's money. There was nothing cheap about home computers, except that they were cheaper than minis /mainframes.

But how many have those have gone into schools?

You miss the point. Pi was designed to be cheap enough for individual ownership, not as a school platform. Schools are still in "IT = Excel" mode.

Michael Gove, who appears to have decided it’s more important to teach little'uns how to program than to use the technology they will sit in front of when eventually they enter the workplace.

If Gove has done that, he is to be applauded for reversing the actions of Labour, which killed Computer Studies and replaced it with ICT, ICT being "how to use Excel". Unfortunately in out hi-tech world, "how to use Excel" is hardly a rare or marketable skill, it is a is a basic life skill, like tying your laces.

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Re: They've done more than you ever will to promote some classroom coding, sunshine

"Does that eMachine come with a monitor?"

Yes.

"Because that is the big cost. The rest? $30 if you don't already have some bits lying around."

I *said* all that. Are you including the cost of the case to put the Pi in? And the special cable you'll need to connect the Pi (relatively seamlessly thank Azathoth) to a non HDMI monitor? Or the SD card?

"As for the faults you are seeing - upgrade your firmware and/or your power supply. It's not the Pi's fault if you don't feed it enough. GUI, yes a bit slow - should get much better soon with the Wayland support going well."

Firmware at latest level. "Six months of buggering about" is short hand for technical stuff that includes that.

Power supply rated over and above that required by the Pi as recommended and supplied by Sparkfun - who can be trusted to do a decent job of vetting before vending and won't sell poorly designed cheap power supplies. Also - power supply used for heavier loads as test and came through with flying colours.

The GUI is slow and stutter and completely unfit for purpose. A slow GUI is like a blunt knife - worse than not having one in the first place.

However, the problem I see is with mouse click registration, specifically the double click, and has to do with the pixel spread over which the activity is detected as much as the speed. This verified in tests (included in "buggering about"). The only reliable way to use an icon to open an application or utility on the first try is to right click on it and select from the menu.

Just because you are in love with the idea of what has been attempted with the Pi, don't get over-invested with the thing. It has severe limitations that make it less-than ideal for the avowed job it was intended to do. Personally, I think the "off message" uses people are putting it to are the only thing saving the project. I acquired two of them for a colleague who won't buy stuff on the internet (Unix Admin, Properly Eccentric) and he has no kids. Wanted them for some bitcoin thing he was noodling with. I digress.

Even if every child with access to one at school had their own at home it wouldn't have driven one million units in sales.

In fact, the target use for the Pi for me was that I wanted to use it in a number of prop projects I have on the boil, but the power consumption makes it a non-starter for most of them. I'll probably be using Arduino in those. I'd rather have the British kit, but physics is getting in the way.

That said, the firing-up experience with the Pi was has been better all round on toast than the nightmare of the Beaglebone Black Evaluation of Frustrating Bollocks.

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Re: They've done more than you ever will to promote some classroom coding, sunshine

Because schools have thirty odd TV's in the classroom to hook the Pis up to?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: the nightmare of the Beaglebone Black Evaluation of Frustrating Bollocks.

"the nightmare of the Beaglebone Black Evaluation of Frustrating Bollocks."

Where can I read more?

I have a couple of possible opportunities where a BBB is on paper a better fit than a RasPi, but obviously the RasPi has a much broader "community", and that is itself worth something.

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Re: Well done

Agree totally. This is like someone whining that why should kids be taught art if only a very few are ever going to go to art school.

Sorry to say but The Register seems to have been letting more and more of this type of article in recently.

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Re: the nightmare of the Beaglebone Black Evaluation of Frustrating Bollocks.

I did what all proper Unix admins do and eschewed this "writing down what I did and why" step of the game for fear someone else would be able to do it without learning how the hard way and anyway I had more pressing things to do than documentation.

It amounted to the following:

Initial purpose-bought 32 gig micro SD card turned out to have *too much* memory for the BBB. I had to comb the area for an 8 gig card (becoming hard to find in my neck of the swamp) before the BBB would do more than do a lego brick impression when booted.

Odd as in "hard-to-find and expensive to acquire a cable for" mini HDMI slot parked so close on the board to another component (don't have the board here ATM but I *think* it was the USB port) that precluded using a simple adapter to step it up to the regular easy-to-find and cheap as chips size for fear the mini HDMI port would be torn from the board (it's a tight squeeze even with a purpose bought cable). Why was this port not shimmed to mitigate this obvious problem? None can say.

Then the bloody thing would not play with an old monitor via a HDMI-to-VGA coupler, though the same hook-up gave the Pi no problems at all apart from an initial blank screen when the firmware is polled instead of the startup console blither, and which doesn't happen on subsequent tries unless you plug the Pi into a bona fide HDMI capable monitor.

Oh, and the external USB Hub took a couple of restarts and a couple of different ones before it was recognized though both were named brands of hub.

That about covers the "Console Mode" boot.

Since sourcing that effing HDMI cable took forever I attempted to access it via the USB interface, from which an administrative webby control port and programming API for the main app (whose name I cannot remember). This is the primary way it is thought the device will be spoken to anyway, and the BBB runs a webby app server to facilitate doing so which on paper looks great.

Problem 1 - the initial "is the app working properly" page with embedded tests showed the page was *not* working properly though the programming workbench app was. I was instructed to download and reburn the OS image, at which point the app test page worked but the programming workbench stopped working.

Problem 2. The SSH app that loads in the browser (same as program workbench etc) would not open a session to the console. This was working fine before I reburned the SD card. I finally solved it by connecting using Putty, but I could not tell you why after that the browser-based thing started working. I made zero configuration changes. The workbench started working too after this. Obviously the problem was in the session, but what, why and how it got fixed? Put me down for a "Splunge" on that one.

At which point the cable arrived in theater but by then I'd lost the adapter I needed to daisy chain the other end to a useful connector (couldn't find a cable that would do everything itself) and after buying another for a mere $25 I was able to connect my HDMI monitor and a keyeboard and mouse to it and get it sizzling using the console.

The cost for all this ran to many times the costs incurred in acquiring the Pi and getting that working. The GUI on the BBB is more responsive than that on the Pi but the overall experience was better for me with the Pi.

That said it should be front and center in everyone's mind that the two machines are very different and intended for different markets. The Pi is primarily a programming workbench in intent, with a tiny but adequate amount of memory available. The BBB is a professional prototyping tool with no fixed mission in life with a large amount of memory on board.

Neither is an economic way of putting together a general use desktop machine given the availability of x86 type hardware and the wide variety of mature(ish) Linux variants that will run on 'em, though the BBB has more carpet for you to spread your digital crap over than the Pi does.

Both could be used in small and specialized devices/applications. The easiest ride and widest support would seem to be for the Pi, though the community has dirty laundry it doesn't like to talk about (as you've seen here).

I don't think either is a particularly good platform for teaching newcomers how to program in an age when struggling against the limitations of a machine for their own sake will be seen as a waste of time, but that is my opinion and not some sort of universal truth.

Good luck with whatever your project is.

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Re: the nightmare of the Beaglebone Black Evaluation of Frustrating Bollocks.

Forgot to mention: Extremely early adopter of both Pi and BBB. The Pi just took so long to arrive that two weeks after it was in my sweaty paws the new version with twice the memory was available in the US, so I got one of them too. The BBB I acquired was one of the first batch to roll out of the factory, and there were clear warnings on the thing that it might not be ready for prime time.

Mileages will hopefully vary. I encourage anyone who has had a better experience with the BBB to weigh in with their assurances of an easy time.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: the nightmare of the Beaglebone Black Evaluation of Frustrating Bollocks.

Thank you for the writeup, sorry about the pain.

Maybe I'll go back to tidying the shed for a while, unless a happy BBB user can persuade me otherwhise.

Cold and damp in the shed though.

Are the pubs open yet?

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Stop

Re: They've done more than you ever will to promote some classroom coding, sunshine

I don't have a screen with an HDMI input, I'd really like one but there's no reason to get rid of our perfectly good screens just for a new input. I don't actually know anyone who has a screen with an HDMI input.(really).

However this discussion about HDMI is completely fucking POINTLESS as the pi comes with RCA out which will connect to practically every older style rca/scart connection. You do NOT have to upgrade to an HDMI-capable screen, so even poor people like me can afford one and connect it to our existing screens just like when my dad spent a large portion of his redundancy money back in the 80's to buy me a ZX81 for xmas to hook up to our little black and white portable tv. And I loved it. And I think similarly minded kids will love the pi, especially if their parents can't afford to buy them all shite pads or crapintoshes.

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Re: Well done

"What an unnecessarily bitter, pointless article.

They've done more than you ever will to promote some classroom coding, sunshine."

Who is the bitter one? The Pi is a single-board-computer not the messiah. The Arduino was similar vaunted when it was released. It is still cheaper, and better for some hobbyist projects than the Pi. It didn't change the world either.

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Mushroom

Re: They've done more than you ever will to promote some classroom coding, sunshine

Spot on that man!

Add to that a bunch of unruly 8 year-olds who mostly couldn't give a shit about your command line and you've got a recipe for coding = boring.

Get over it coders, it's a niche market for the few who want it - albeit a much more useful market than Latin is, Gove, you twat.

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Holmes

"it made an entire generation of youngsters want to play Jet Set Willy"

Yes, that's true.

But some of them, like me, learned 6502 Assembly Language after hacking Jet Set Willy (and Chuckie Egg and Monsters and...) for infinite lives.

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Re: "it made an entire generation of youngsters want to play Jet Set Willy"

If Tony Smith really had a ZX81 then he would know that once you had exhausted the joys of the included "1K Games Tape 1", there was little else to do but start reading the BASIC manual and learning how to program the thing.

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Go

Old fart's plaything or educational masterstroke?

In my case an "old fart" undergoing an educational process via the PI

Does age matter? Either way someone's getting an education....

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Electron?

Sadly I've got to disagree with you here, although as a 40 something I do remember those years well.

Yes agreed many couldn't afford a BBC micro back then, but a lot of us ended up with the Electron instead & other than a few features missing it was just as good (although a touch slower).

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Anonymous Coward

I'm still not convinced that the hobbyists community which has grown around the Pi helps with the educational aims of the foundation. Why would kids bother to work out how to make something work, when all the work has already been done by that community. Kids are no more going to piss away hours of their lives doing something that has already been done (and is available for them to use) that any of us are. To me that's the part which existed in the 1980s but which doesn't exist for todays kids, and without that, I'm not sure you can motivate any but the hardcore geeks (of their generation) to be bothered.

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yeah wiring up a redstone trap in minecraft is more rewarding than making some frickin leds flash on and off

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Joke

There is a difference between the two? If they are red LEDs it's the same thing, right?

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Should we stop teaching art then?

I'm no artist. I didn't do well in art lessons. But they taught it anyway because it allowed you to find out if you were any good at it. I think you'll find that applies to any subject, including programming.

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Nostalgic fortysomething

I am a nostalgic fortysomething, with a RaspberryPi ready and waiting to teach my daughter to program when she is old enough :-)

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Pint

Re: Nostalgic fortysomething

"...fortysomethings?"

Damn Noobies.

Signed,

Nostalgic fiftysomething.

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Re: Nostalgic fortysomething

Damn right, did my teething on an AIM65 development system.

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Re: Nostalgic fortysomething

All noobs.

Bought my Beeb at the age of 35.

Now have a project for a Pi, so shall be ordering one soon.

Project? To display the output of my car's diagnostic computer on a small onboard screen, so that I can read all the information the dashboard doesn't give me.

Two geekdoms merged! Result!

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Re: Nostalgic fortysomething

And if you move sharpish when she is really young you might finally be in a position to see the Pi do what it was thought up for, because young children will delight in a thing for its own sake.

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Designed to ruffle feathers

or just a piss poor article, I will go with the latter and agree with Joe K's comments.

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Re: Maybe they should teach maths

700k or so produced in China before production moved back to the UK.

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DJO
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Re: Maybe they should teach maths

And teach reading comprehension too.

"700k or so produced in China before production moved back to the UK."

"A Sony-owned factory in South Wales has now punched out more than a million Raspberry Pi board computers"

However you're probably right and the article is most likely wrong.

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Re: Maybe they should teach maths

? Comprehension is pretty good.

About 700k were made in China before production moved back to the UK where a FURTHER 1M have now been made by Sony.

Total Pi's made, over 1.7M. Not sure of exact figure as there is one now made specifically for the China/Far East market and the figures are not in for that one. It's got a red PCB and it's not CE marked.

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Re: Maybe they should teach maths

How's progress with the proper education version? You know, the one we were told would be out in September. Last year.

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Re: Maybe they should teach maths

In effect, they are all 'educational' versions. The important bit is the accompanying documentation, which is coming on nicely. Check out the Raspi website, a few blog posts back where this was discussed.

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Article of the Straw variety?

There seems to be an either or attitude in the article. But that is not what is needed. Children need to be taught how to use computers - they will ahve to sue them as they get in to the workplace (although, one could argue that by the time they get to school they are better at uses the current devices than the teachers are).

But teaching programming also helps teach logical thinking. And by teaching it you find out who is good at it. Just like any other subject. Those that ARE good at it and enjoy it go on to study it further. Those who are hopeless don't. Just like any other subject. But what these hopeless ones will hopefully have picked up is a basic idea of what is involved and hopefully it will have improved their logical thought processes.

Whether the Raspi is the right tool for the job, well, that remains to be seen, but the Raspi foundation is spending a lot of time and money on educational materials and suchlike, and hopefully that won't be going to waste.

Note: Had a BBC micro, played games, learned assembler. Now volunteer on the side for the Raspi Foundation and have been gainfully employed for most of my working life. Because of that BBC Micro.

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Re: Article of the Straw variety?

Another vote for the Pi is that teaching computer science/programming in schools is a disaster, it has always been a disaster and always will be a disaster.

We (40something 1st gen of BBC in schools/Vic20 at home) didn't learn anything in O level CS, we learnt by playing with the machines. The same will happen with the Pi - there will be an a official curriculum meeting the standards of "keystage Pi, subsection e, attainment level log(2)" with suitable gender neutral and culturally sensitive pictures on the cover - and it will be ignored by anyoen with a real itnerest.

The big win of the Pi, any why it isn't equivalent to just having a VM or online JS environment - is that it allows kids to play with a computer themselves, without being bound to classrooms rules or school access policies.

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Re: Article of the Straw variety?

Yes, arguing about the numbers of Pis used by old farts and that most kids won't be interested in programming is rather missing the point.

A small number will enjoy using Pis in school and will go onto be programmers. It might be small, but it is a lot more than the near zero that schools are currently churning out with their, what amounts to, Microsoft Office indoctrination courses masquerading as "computers".

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