Where's ethernet jack
for hacking-away at network protocols? And some form of easy-to-hack connector (like LPT was)?
If they put an ethernet jack and some easy-to-program port on it, I'm buying 10 for my pet projects!
The Raspberry Pi Foundation may sound like a school for aspiring bakers, but it aims to promote computer science by producing an inexpensive miniature PC called Raspberry Pi. Games developer David Braben, famous for titles such as Elite and Rollercoaster Tycoon, is the project lead. And he wants to bring a £15 USB Flash drive- …
Give me Ethernet rather than a second USB port, you're adding a layer of abstraction that requires *lots* of coding to get around if you use USB ethernet, make it a simple Ethernet chip like the Microchip SPi offering or, better still, use an ARM that has it in silicon.
Oh, and for £15, put me down for half a dozen if they get that Ethernet on there..
In a distant moment of history having resisted the pointlessness of computing I took a course in business management, which was a code word for computing as no one else used such machines. I turned into a DOS addict and learnt to program in pascal, COBOL, SQL and use user unfriendly interfaces such as the vi editor. The lessons learnt allowed me at the time to get some excellent automation from Lotus Symphony, an interim stage for Lotus 123. Even now those lessons are being used to get Excel to make my job easier. I have worked with some extremely clever people who, despite their intellect, created charts in Powerpoint manually while having the data in Excel. With a little work I have been able to show them how to automate the process and get the machine to do the work.
A little of the old fashioned knowledge makes the shiny new toys really become productivity devices. At the same time as computing performance has become orders of magnitude more powerful, the sloppiness of coding has increased as there is no notable detriment. Let's get these little charmers into the hands of kids and exploit their creativity and let them enjoy that primal pleasure in being able to tell a machine to do what you want it to do, not what someone else has conditioned you to ask the machine.
I might get one just to indulge in my masochistic pleasure of debugging code. Got to love new toys!
Raspberry Pi has enough memory to run an embedded Linux, maybe a few tools and maybe a simple gui and one simple app on top. Any more than that and you're going to run out of space. Maybe you could augment with swap but that's through a USB storage device. That's not to say you couldn't cross compile from another device with more memory but if you think you're going to run any full blown Linux app on the actual device - forget it. That said I think it's an incredibly cool concept and it's bound to spawn lots of interesting things like media players, file servers and so on.
For a simple OS with Java on top. It's plenty more powerful than most feature phones.
But really it shouldn't have any more than the bare minimum of an OS and no high level languages. Kids really need to get into the guts of a computer. Far too many young programmers that I've interviewed really have no clue how a computer works.
Sure a simple piece of hardware built around a media SoC can be put together cheaply and sold at cost, but it's as useless as a teaching tool as any closed system unless learning materials and lots of supporting software is bundled with it.
Given the apparent lack of expertise amongst high-school educators, the tutorials and dev tools will need to be particularly comprehensive and well written. Given the target audience, they might not necessarily resemble anything already available under a GNU license either. You might end up needing a Canonical sized enterprise just to provide the necessary support.
"Given the apparent lack of expertise amongst high-school educators, the tutorials and dev tools will need to be particularly comprehensive and well written."
Yes, but this is nothing that Acorn under the auspices of the BBC and the Computer Literacy Project didn't do before.
"Given the target audience, they might not necessarily resemble anything already available under a GNU license either."
Nonsense. If the incentive and - yes, for that extra push - funding is there, the materials will get written. It's a myth that Free Software doesn't have documentation - even though some stuff isn't well documented - and that proprietary software has great documentation. In the latter case, I've encountered really appalling half-arsed documentation for proprietary software over the years.
Furthermore, a fair number of writers, knowing that they'll never make big bucks writing technical books, have gone for writing them and making them available under Free licences with more "agile" publishers and direct distribution. So there's nothing to suggest that any documentation, like the software itself, won't be there in sufficient quantity under a GNU (or other Free Content) licence.
Well, I salute anyone who tries to get kids to see under the hood. There are too many examples of black boxes in a kid's world that they should be educated on. Food doesn't just come out of a packet. Gas doesn't just come out of a pump. And computers don't do things by themselves.
Personally, I'd love to see something like a kit PS3. Let's say, you sell them the bits, no warranty, OtherOS support, at a knockdown price and you have the carrot of being able to play PS3 games at the end of your build. Would make a great Sunday afternoon project for the kids.
I know, never going to happen.
Of course you know why.
a. It comes in bits PC style, e.g. motherboard, CDROM drive, etc, and they won't learn anything worthwhile by putting it together.
b. It comes in bits component style, e.g. surface mount resistors, FPGAs, etc, and the industrial machinery required to properly solder those components (the hundreds of them that are required) only exists in labs and factories where children are pretty much forbidden from visiting on principle. Well, other than the children who actually make the genuine PS3s (probably, not to accuse Sony of using child labour or anything LOL).
And if you were allowed to watch one be assembled you still wouldn't learn anything useful (although I don't doubt that it would be a thoroughly interesting experience).
Nah, a simple computer like this is just what the doctor ordered. Kids who care about the inside of a PS3 can take apart their own. They're not going to understand how it works though. I very much doubt that any single person does.
There is no actual advantage in understanding the underlying mechanics/electronics, in daily life. Yes, it makes you a more rounded person and I'd prefer to work with people with such an attitude to their surroundings, but no actual advantage.
In analogy, you do not learn in driving school how an engine actually works, because there's no advantage. When you break down you break down, and a salvage truck will have to come; there are almost no user-replaceable parts left on modern engines; any amateur will need expensive diagnostic kit (which works in absolutely unknown black-box fashion) to read error codes and tweak injection settings. Yes some knowledge will help you to detect the worst BS told by mechanics, or whether a combination of warning signs are worrying, but that's when things are already going pear-shaped and you anyway need professional intervention.
Especially in this context, the advantage isn't really there. Yes, tens of thousands would benefit from this barebones device, as opposed to the millions who will need office skills for office work. Current high school teaching doesn't let much (or: any?) time for specialist work for the general pupil. Trying to teach such things will only spook the majority and reinforce the blackbox attitude.
"Yes, tens of thousands would benefit from this barebones device, as opposed to the millions who will need office skills for office work. Current high school teaching doesn't let much (or: any?) time for specialist work for the general pupil."
The problem is that office skills aren't education, they're training. And one problem with training over education is that it narrows the mind. If all you give kids about computers is Powerpoint, a lot of them aren't going to grasp the full potential, or be able to adapt to when we drop Powerpoint for something else.
It's like teaching kids French by giving them a phrase book, or giving a ready-filled iPod and calling it a music lesson.
"The problem is that office skills aren't education, they're training. And one problem with training over education is that it narrows the mind. If all you give kids about computers is Powerpoint, a lot of them aren't going to grasp the full potential, or be able to adapt to when we drop Powerpoint for something else.
"It's like teaching kids French by giving them a phrase book, or giving a ready-filled iPod and calling it a music lesson."
Taking this back to cars: I learned basic maintenance and repairs on my car from the beginning (BTW I'm not even 30 yet). I then learned more when I bought a Mini and became friends with a mechanic. Eventually I learned about the theory behind them in my degree course.
When learning to drive, you get taught what you need to pass the test (I have a big problem with this, at least motorcycle lessons are better, with most instructors teaching beyond that). However, understanding what is happening, and why you do this in this situation, is better than learning by rote.
Understanding why you change gear, why you need (in an older car) to release the brakes when the wheels lock, why a hole in the exhaust (or a horribly mismatched "loud" exhaust) hurts performance and economy, and why tyre pressures need to be correct (just as a few examples) has helped me immensely in driving. Understanding the Otto & Deisel cycles and other in-depth topics has not helped as much, but still adds more information with which to make descisions.
Back to computing, if someone learns about "what's under the hood" (in abstaract terms, at least) they are more likely to be better able to opperate the machine. If they just learn how to use MS Office, their skills are non-transferable and they will have a much harder time adapting to other tools they must use later.
If you bothered to learn how the "engine actually works" you would probably become a better driver...
How can you expect write instructions for a machine, the internal workings of which you dont even understand?? same with software - if you dont understand the basics of how your hardware works, you cant possibly write effective code...
Sticking with your car anaology, car engines still function in the same fundamental way as they always have, so even though you might not understand the electronics parts, a mechanic from 50years ago could likely still diagnose a split water hose, slipping belt, failed clutch etc etc...
If they put a paypal link on thier website, i'd pre-order mine right now!
WTF? I did learn how an engine actually works when driving, it gave you an understanding of the noises, why gear changes were important, why oil is important. It also gave you knowledge of when to break the rules (e.g. pulling away in second).
You to not need a PhD in electronics to run a PC, but knowing enough to know that increasing your ram to 32gb with one shitty HDD and a weak controller isn't going to speed things up *IS* important.
And as for cars, it is getting harder but many parts are still user-replaceable. I have often thought that road-side maintenance should be taken into the type approval e.g. "It my be possible to change any bulb on the vehicle within 10 minutes and without requiring tools."
>When you break down you break down, and a salvage truck will have to come;
Possibly, few of us carry toolkits. But that said, a reasonable understanding can help make sure that you don't just keep driving when the temp gauge goes into the red - it isn't that far to work, or that the oil light cam on, but it's ok it comes on 50 miles before you need to put oil in it (both of which I have been personally told)
> there are almost no user-replaceable parts left on modern engines;
> any amateur will need expensive diagnostic kit
Bollocks, although there have been advances the technology of a modern engine is pretty much the same as a 60's 'fix it on sunday' lump, true, the ECU automatically changes some variables but the things that go wrong are usually either 60's tech or the sensors that feed the ECU which are reasonably easy to diagnose if you have some basic understanding of the algorithms.
>to read error codes
a flowchart works just as well
>and tweak injection settings.
OK, you'd need an electronic gadget to do this, but if you need to tweak injection settings then you have done a lot more engine work than just breaking down.
The same mindset is behind "don't touch it, you won't understand it, very complex, give us money" in the IT industry and Automotive, building, plumbing, home electrical.
Hang on! what are those wires going off to the top of the picture. I'm presuming a power supply. Great that its the size of a usb flash drive or the size of a 20p coin, but if the power supply needs a bench top PSU then its not very good is it? Please announce this when its in a little box and has a dead rat attached to it. Better yet, power it off the HDMI port (is that possible??).
PS. Cant wait to buy one!
Sounds like a gret idea, I can only imagine it will have a minority interest amongst today's teens, though, though those who will take it up are likely to be the keenest coders anyway.
I grew up in the 80s with BASIC programming on the BBC and Spectrum, then Turbo Pascal and turbo C, and about 2 weeks of 8086 assembler. Since about 1990 I've done little coding, except the odd AMOS game and, in later days, HTML (if that counts). I really wish I could go back 20 years and pick up where I left off, there was something about writing a program, solving problems, the thrill of something working, that I really miss in today's computers.
This might be great for kids, but what do you guys suggest for lapsed programmers like me to get the bug again?
I also grew up in the 80s, started on the ZX81, then Specturm, then BBC Micro (still got my Master Compact in a drawer and Elite for it), then Turbo Pascal, then AmosPro, then I got distracted by the internet in the mid 90s...
I got back into programming a couple of years ago with the PIC based PICAXE microcontrollers because I also have an electronics passion, they're a cinch to program in BASIC and quite powerful chips for all sorts of projects, cheap and easy to wire up and a lot of fun.
There are a variety of dev boards for pic, depending what your interests are. You could start with:
Also have a look at
Phew, glad to see I'm not the only one who grew up in the 80s spending more and more time messing around with computers.
Started with BBC BASIC first on the BBC, and later the Archimedes. Progressed to BBC BASIC V with inline ARM assembler. Messed around with an Amiga for a bit with AMOS. Got a job at Bullfrog off the back of an AMOS demo, been making games ever since.
If you've got a PC and you don't want to spend any money you could take a look at Microsoft XNA Game Studio (XNA games can be coded with MS express tools which are free too). There are some good tutorials around too about cobbling together 2d and 3d games using this.
Flame icon cause I'm sure I'm about to be (for suggesting an MS freebie)
Get a plug computer, like a Sheeva. configurable to do all sorts of interesting and useful things.
I like the concept of Brabens idea as a parental tool : You want me to buy you your _OWN_ computer? / rubber stamp you going to computer science classes / whatever : alright, I'll do you a deal. take this raspberry and make it do X, Y, Z. If you can show me how you did it, then we've got a deal.
frankly I can only applaud any effort that leads kids away from "did you update your drivers? then no, IDK whats wrong with it, send it back"
Python! It fills the whole left by BBC BASIC when I left RiscOS. It's a great scripting language with bindings for nearly everything, cross platform and really useful to knock quick one offs in. To reignite computers in general, Linux and the command line. Get your computer back!
Seriously though, fifteen quid for a 700MHz Linux box with USB, HDMI, what appears to be a little camera, and OpenGL-ES? I'd buy one just to have something "unusual" to play with...
Programming is a great skill to learn -- especially for dealing with those mindless, repetitive tasks that computers do well. Far too many kids are leaving school knowing how to type a document and put together a quick spreadsheet, but not knowing how the computer can really help them...
I really can't see a downside to this. You go, David!
I would say highly efficient programming is needed now more than ever. Just imagine how fast processors would be if the code written to run on them was as streamlined as a 1K chess program!
However I'm guilty of being an 8-bit child, even wrote a commercial game called Bladedancer for the BBC micro. However the skills learnt back then are not wasted and translate directly to PIC/Atmel programming... hell Ieven refered back to Acorn user yellow pages to create SIN and COS on the little 8bit buggers.
I'm guilty of it myself, cobbling together a mishmash of bash & perl to get a job done rather than writing an efficient C program.
I did enjoy my microcontroller programming course at Uni though, done ALL in assembler. It really taught you how things were structured at an underlying level, and gave me a sense of efficiency in code.
Unfortunately, I kinda missed out on the ZX81/C64 etc. age. My first computer was an Amiga (incidentally, a cousing got me interested in both Maths and Programming on that, writing a BASIC programme which drew spirograph-type pictures), and I played with my fathers x86 AutoCAD station*, but I think that uC course did a lot to help me understand efficient programming.
* Untill I stopped it working and cost him a days work.
...plus just about every product being made today that plugs into a power socket or has batteries has some king of computer in it.
Programming those little bits of kit in you washing machine, fridge, vacuum cleaner, radio, hubs/routers, etc... are all jobs that could be done in the UK, none of those will be done using VMs until you get into the larger boxes (like that bloody expensive and slow BlueRay Player reviewed by the Reg the other day that used Java).
The real problem I see with this device is that there are almost zero people in education who would have a clue where to start with this device.
Most people in education cannot even use word and excel properly (and that include the so called ICT teachers), but then again I have said for years that ICT should be renamed: "Basic Secretarial Studies".
If a school can find someone able to use this kit; putting something like this into secondary education would not only give kids an idea of what is behind the devices they use everyday, but might actually encourage them to do something remotely useful at Uni later on.
The biggest advantage though would be all those kids who can barely read or count, but will have three or four GCSE's in ICT might also learn that they are not going to get jobs in IT.
>> (like that bloody expensive and slow BlueRay Player reviewed by the Reg the
>> other day that used Java)
Java is part of the Bluray standard to run menus and interactive bits. Not a lot the player manufacturers can do other than support it.
Looks good for building distributed control applications like a multi-zone landscape sprinkler or separate thermostats for each room in the house or intelligent antenna-switching devices for HAM radio operators or model railroad track layout controll or..... Doesn't even have to be a distributed system - some applications can be done with one Pi acting as the "mainframe" that runs its own little world.
Set it up so if it detects the keyboard and TV it goes into development/debug mode, otherwise it jumps to the runtime program.
I wonder who will be the first to add a 1 TB disk to the bloody thing and build a DVR?
Sorry to be a negative nelly but we seem to read about this kinda thing all the time and then by the time it's released it will be $100-$200, it will only be available to schools (not private geeks) and wil probably be much weaker.
I want to dream and believe it's possible but I don't think so. I can't see myself ever being able to get one of these for 15 quid. If I could, I would take a couple.
This is great news and does hold alot of promise. Alas the ability to intereact electronicly and add/modify things your looking at kit thats already out there in some ways.
Programming whilst useful and handy to learn how computers work is somewhat lacking today and with the trend towards point/click/drag/drop connector type visual programming, things will only change further.
I liked my old PSION which had OPL, that was fun, so why not something like say a calculator that has some form of basic language built in, that would cover the basics more than say a cheap £15 computer that then needs a HDMI display, hardly thought thru that.
A computer they can build, now that would be educational, even is its at lego level, oh wait they are already thesedays lol.
Either way I fully commend and wish these efforts the best of luck, but a introduction to java for mobile phones may garner more interest from students thesedays, especialy if you show them how to make there own ringtones, sad yeah I know but thats the audience you haev to work with.
Probably not. AFAIR they were not actually implemented in most versions, just rumours to add atmosphere. I'd have to look up if any version actually had them, though.
Those were the days, weren't they? I still find elite, prince of Persia or oxyd (for example) a lot more fascinating than most modern games... And I don't even work in a profession even remotely concerned with computing.
Mine's the starched white one with twelve removable buttons, thank you.
FFS This is incredible .. this has either gone up to £25 or come down in price by a tenner?
Yes a good basic interpreter would be the ideal thing for this .. especially if you had access to the USB port. Make the modern little B'stards learn FORTH. that would really screw their Brains up.
Can't exactly see the educational point of this
If the idea is one computer/kid to learn programming - they are still going to need monitors/storage etc. Not sure this saves much on just using simple old PCs with linux.
If the idea is how do computers work, then something like Arduino/Stamp and reading key presses, making LEDs flash seems better.
If you want kids to learn to program, there's a lot of easier ways to teach it.
This is about teaching kids to have some idea of how a *computer* works: what all the major parts are, how they fit together, in a system small enough to hold in your head at one go, and cheap enough that every kid in a class can mess around with one on a project bench. This is tech's equivalent of the biology class dissecting a frog.
But better than frogs, systems of this kind of power will be in everything by the time these kids are in the workforce, and the payoff will be lots of kids capable of creating inventions on top of them.
heres what i am messing about with http://mbed.org/handbook/mbed-NXP-LPC1768
arm,96 mhz, built in ethernet phy-just add a magjack. this is about £45 at the moment.
£15 for this seems damn cheap for so much extra performance.
play with the mbed though its good fun. if you are looking to create a game, have a look at http://www.arduino.cc/ with the gameduino shield http://excamera.com/sphinx/gameduino/
That looks like a bloody awesome device for the money. As other have said chuck an ethernet port on it, and or a cojuple more usb sockets and you have a base for all sorts of interesting projects. Makes the debian running pogoplug i have seem seriously oversized by comparision.
Don't teach it as primary learning - the majority of plebs will still need those Excel skills - but keep it around the labs, and let people know it's there. The nerdy kids will attend to the rest.
We had Win98 machines at school, and it was still the old BBCs I loved to code on. If this had been sat in the corner of the lab, I'd have certainly had a play.
David Braben wasn't behind Rollercoaster Tycoon - that was Scottish programmer Chris Sawyer, who also wrote the peerless Transport Tycoon. According to Wikipedia, the closest Braben got to Rollercoaster Tycoon was his company writing Rollercoaster Tycoon 3.
Please all join me in a cheesy MIDI chorus of the Transport Tycoon theme music.
basic module assembled from that well known bargain basement store "Radio Spares" (to show my age) for about £20
or you can start by making the PCB: http://arduino.cc/en/Main/ArduinoBoardSerialSingleSided3
or you can redesign the hardware: http://arduino.cc/en/Main/Hardware
there's probably a website where the first line says "take a teaspoonful of sand" :)
For my final year project I developed a mini control system based on a third party 32K memory buffer for an Epson FX- 80: 6502 based, with IEEE-488 interface and 6522 PIA brought out to the PCB mounted 32ish pin plug
They cost about £90 in the day and were about £200 cheaper than a proper job.
...didn't you used to write for acorn user? you should remember that Elite was revolutionary in its say especially the graphics mode switching and getting the tape version to fit in memory.
I agree completely with David in what he says about UK IT education and this is the reason that the best low level coders today that are under 40 are not English..
All those people who say game dev hasn't suffered are forgetting that the game engine is typically coded in assembler rather than a complied language.
So yes, I will be buying one for my kids and they may even get to have a go, "in a bit. Daddy's just needs to check it's set up right"
This looks great for integrating into projects as long as its possible to get some serial or USB output and should be a bit more powerful than the usual diy micro kits, but as a learning device it doesn't seem that great.
Schools and homes are now kitted out with endless PC's and it would be more of an inconvenience to plug it into a TV - especially when an internet browser is so important nowadays when learning to program something.
My advice, add a little cheap touch-screen to it and it becomes a self contained toy to play without the bother of finding a screen.
You don't learn from projects?
Perhaps you mean "Great for projects not *schools*". And in that case I'm inclined to agree. Even for home use, HDMI does seem like a slightly strange choice. It does have the advantage of a small connector, but it seems like something a bit lower on the tech tree might have been more appropriate for the stated goals here, even analog composite video (sometimes called RCA, because of the connector).
Or for very basic text-only display, an interesting option would be connecting it to a computer and having it impersonate a USB keyboard.
I don't really like the idea of a built-in screen, but if they made a little screen as an accessory that would be handy.
@Old Handle: Well, with HDMI you have a digital colour video interface which is well established, can be attached to any DVI monitor or domestic TV. If this is to be used in schools and homes then I think they have the right balance here. It would be nice to see this exploit DirectFB but I don't know if there is realistically RAM for that. Time to leave horrible composite behind, it had its time and should now be quietly forgotten.
I look forward to seeing this, I will probably get one, even if I don't think I have the time to do anything with it. David should be able to get the commodity cost with the basic demand from both enthusiasts and education. The one thing he should note from the "mbed" system, which makes it successful is that it doesn't need any fiddling to get started and the code is simple to upload. Embedded Linux isn't very difficult to use but once you understand what is going on, but you need to overcome the first learning curve.
He made it to Elite. I don't know if he did it twice. I know he was Deadly a few times. He was never a big action guy, but is happy to grind his way through a game. (He also completed Boulderdash. Several times.)
I was a teen with a C64 but didn't have enough patience to make it all the way. I don't know if I even made it to Deadly.
My dad will be 69 this year.
It kind of defeats the purpose to produce a tiny device that needs a tangle of wires emanating to make it do anything.
I hope there is a version of Raspberry Pi, perhaps housed in a little box like an Apple TV which has a network jack or wifi and a couple of USB ports. This could probably get sold for a tenner more and still be an attractive device.
I'm part of a project to design and release a small piece of educational hardware which is just about to go into mass production. I'll be very impressed if the RP can be built and shipped for just £15 unless they can make them in batches of tens of thousands at a time.
If they can, then there is no reason why every kid can't have one for their GCSE project and have ridiculous amounts of fun. Just so long as us grown us are allowed to have them too.
But one thing they must do before going any further is burn Elite into the ROM.
I agree that there is a risk of having too many high level developers and not enough bit shifters.
But how did Mr Braben ever get the idea that computer science students in the UK need better access to affordable computers?
I'd say that there are few groups more likely to already own a decent computer no?
So this problem could be solved just fine with a software solution.
How about a virtual machine that speaks machine code and does groovy retro things, connected to a social networky thing so that kids can incentivise each other through achievements, challenges, contests and what not. The BASIC, Pascal, SmallTalk etc interpreters could be unlockables...
Swap the HDMI out for VGA/Composite and wack a wifi chip + aerial on there and lets send these to Africa, it could be possible to get a mesh network up and running pretty quickly over there with these babies :)
Furthermore, I want one for my boat! 5w/10w is pretty low power consumption and would make a neat little controller for all the systems I plan on adding :)
>How about a virtual machine that speaks machine code and does groovy retro things, connected to a social networky thing so that kids can incentivise each other through achievements, challenges, contests and what not. The BASIC, Pascal, SmallTalk etc interpreters could be unlockables...<
Computers are already out there, but the hardware is hidden behind layers of libraries that makes coding a high level exercise. And this runs *nix which hides the hardware behind layers of libraries and perpetuates the high level paradigm.
What's needed is a virtual hardware with LEDs, keys and buzzers and training for educators to enthusiastically teach it
Oooh, looks like fun... I'll have a couple of those please... Linux it up, USB hub, USB ethernet, plug in an ATmega based JeeNode and instant home management server.
It's about time something came along to replace the hacked NSLU2 for us geeks, most of whom are old enough to remember (and possibly still do) 6502 machine code. Yes I know we're not the target audience, we're the original inspiration, but surely us "oldies" wanting one in a good sign?
Now we've just got to find how to make it appeal to kiddies without it having a sticky finger wiping interface.
I, too, grew up on Spectrum and BBC Micro. The problem was what to do with them. The two hardware purchases that "unlocked" the Beeb for me were firstly a disc drive and secondly a printer, but without that *excellent* manual and the community (magazines) I would have been stuck and, as a previous poster has already pointed out, being able to "keep it all in your head" was phenominally useful.
I've recently come back to coding (of sorts(+)) after a <mumble> year gap and so in some ways I can see the problems of kids just starting out - the ecosystems are so vast and complex now that even just getting started is like dropping a weak swimmer off on Flat Holme and asking him to swim to Minehead. He has the basic moves, but he's not going to get very far without a lot of effort. Why bother? Light a fire on the beach and someone will come to rescue you. Need a simple utility to (oh, I dunno) crop a JPEG? Don't code one yourself, five minutes with a search engine and you'll get one already built and tested.
Something simple like this, or the Lego Mindstorms or that mbed thing or an Arduino or a Stamp is great - so long as the system is as well put-together as my Beeb was, and so long as there is an incentive to learn - i.e. a "killer project" that gets you interested.
So the problems I see with a bit of hardware like this are that
- you have to add hardware to it before you can do anything
- so if you're having problems with the ethernet, it isn't in the manual
- if it's running a Linux then it is not simple enough to keep in your head
- and I'm sorry to all those Linux coders out there, but your documentation *stinks* (*)
What it needs, is to look back to the Beeb, or the Psion series 3 or (better, I reckon) series 5 and work out what those systems did that made them such an easy-in and yet so flexible. Personally my favourite things were:
- the Beeb was almost fully documented and there was one official way to do everything
- there was even a circuit diagram in the back of the manual, right next to the memory map
- BBC BASIC (don't laugh) was way ahead of its time and an excellent launch point
- in fact some of my current coding is being done in BBC BASIC for Windows. Love it!
- the built-in assembler with its exceptionally easy integration into BASIC
- OPL's excellent user guide and documented API
- a small OS that is fully modular
- so that you only load up the functionality you need and so that other developers are forced
to assume nothing. It's more than that (I hate the way *ix scatters config files, for example) but
I can't think of a better way to put it
And on-line manuals are no substitue for the printed thing. If you're developing in one window, where's the convenience in having to have another open for the manual? Even my two-monitor setup is a pain, focus-switching being my particular rant.
Better stop and do some real work.
But at £15, even though I don't have an HDMI-capable telly, I'd buy it.
(+) Anyone else ever used Lingo? Talk about fighting to get it to do the simple things...
(*)Particularly (pet hate) VLC. In-app documentation is abysmal and the online documentation, help pages and community pages are so disorganised it's a wonder anyone not directly involved in developing the software can get anything slighly out-of-the-ordinary done with it.
"- and I'm sorry to all those Linux coders out there, but your documentation *stinks* (*)"
I don't agree. Some Linux-oriented projects have very good documentation, but some do have bad documentation...
"(*)Particularly (pet hate) VLC."
Agreed (although VLC is not specifically a Linux thing). I particularly dislike the lack of any kind of depth in the docs, meaning that when you think that saving a stream directly to disk would be a good idea, and there's even a checkbox which lets you do it, the documentation doesn't say how or whether it's possible to play the damned stream from disk later on. A great way to waste disk space, that is.
> "- and I'm sorry to all those Linux coders out there, but your documentation *stinks* (*)"
> I don't agree. Some Linux-oriented projects have very good documentation, but some do have bad documentation...
Point taken - I think I probably meant FOSS coders, though I am also known to complain about commercial software, particularly that beast of a system Director (hence the Lingo reference). But then I'm using Director under duress, as it were. Anyone got any hints for something that can do similar things, preferably cross-platform, but is "nicer" to work with?
As for apps that are well documented, well the aforementioned BBC BASIC for Windows is pretty good and one of my other main apps - Xara - even comes with a chunky printed manual!
Though the industry may have moved on in the last 25 years, the capabilities of 14-17 year olds hasn't.
Therefore, the same solution - the BBC model B - with its easy hardware, analog inputs, simple BASIC, good manuals, etc.etc. should still be of value.
I know "proper" software engineers spit on BASIC, but I think its direct and accessible, you can write poorly or well, within it, and you kind of need to go through the learning exercise to know what its limitations are and why you need to go to more complex methods to avoid them.
http://www.reghardware.com/Design/graphics/icons/comment/wtf_32.pngRollercoaster Tycoon was written by Chris Sawyer, who it happens also coded the 16bit Elite-Plus for Microprose. He also wrote Transport Tycoon, out of which Roller Coaster Tycoon was developed.
The people here who really want this are already experienced bit-shifters and not used to a teaching environment
The 8bit computers were a futuristic marvel in their time which got kids interested. Now they're museum pieces with no sense of wonder cause they can't watch cats falling over on youtube with them.
8 colours? 16 pixel sprites? Bleeps? This is an iPod world and the kids need something to WOW them.
Put it on tracks with sensors and let them write a maze solver - an educational tool not just a fancy box.
there are going to be SoC devices, ultra low power, running Linux on twin core arms. with mindblowing graphics performance via built in coproc , camera interfaces, USB, SD card, HDMI, etc. All for $10 or so. On a single chip.
All semiconductors manufacturers are building these, for the tablet market.
I want a system like that. (although this one sounds like fun too)
And I think I did make Elite status - I did play it a lot on the BBC B (serial number 3336, still in the loft)!
"teach kids how to use Excel and such, apps the young 'uns will end up using when they leave school"
This was the reason my school stopped using Acorn RISC machines and started using Window shite.
Of course, all those hours spent on Word prove really useful after a couple of years of school, a couple of years of college and three years at Uni. Hadn't changed a bit /sarcasm.
Elite IV will probably arrive when he sells the name so some games publisher with some spare devs to bash out something and cash in on the name recogition. In the meantime Egosoft have a new X game out this year :)
For the record I played Eltie (BBC B - tape version) but never made Eite and can't recall how many "Right on, Commander!"s past deadly I got.
The device looks good, sure most kids are better offf learning excel basics but for those that have the ability and interest coding is a great skill even if they don't end up as professional devs. I did some self-taught 6502 coding back in the mists of time........
I grew up on BBC BASIC (with a sprinkling of SWI to speed things up). In my wilderness years after leaving RiscOS, I had nothing quite like BBC BASIC, just C and C++. Perl seamed almost there, but just didn't feel right. Then I found Python. If you are a lost after the loss of BBC BASIC and never found something to fill that whole, try Python. If you are like me, you will feel like you have found a new home. In fact, Python is better than BBC BASIC ever was. It's also got easy C and C++ APIs to extend it. InkScape replaces !Draw. Gimp is better than !Paint ever was. Guake gives me F12 command line goodness. The only thing I now morn from leaving RiscOS is drag/drop saving (don't point me to Rox). The thing I really don't miss from RiscOS is no package management (and yes, you need it). Still fond of RiscOS, but it wasn't a grown up OS, none of the desktop ones where at the time. For some reason that generation wrote new OSs ignoring decades of OS research, using hardware as an excuse when the hardware was miles better than the old hardware the OS research was done on......
I like the ARM, got a pile of RISC OS computers, am playing with the Neuros OSD (ARM/DSP SoC for recording SD television)... This sounds like a great little thing to get interested in...
HDMI? What the hell am I going to do with that?
Wake me up when there is a VGA option, or maybe even comp-sync. Oh, and come on, Ethernet too!
Oh please. Why don't Mr. Braben just use RISC OS on this tiny computer? It has the most advanced BBC Basic version build in WITH the included BASIC Assembler. So you can gradually convert your procedures (yes, this BBC basic is a structured language indeed) into lightning fast assembly. He's not really smart if he doesn't look at it. I mean come on! Mr. Braben wrote his most interesting gamedemo, Lander, on the Acorn Archimedes (the first ARM based PC with the first versions of RISC OS build in including this BBC Basic). The game itself is better known as Virus on PC and Amiga. But this OS still excist. It's becoming (or is already) open source and being actively ported to other ARM cpu's (and SOC's). There's even a version for the beagle board (an experimental Cortex A8 pc various other ARM-systems). It's only a 6MB big ROM or diskimage which include a full desktop with windows, iconbar (long before anyone else got it), multitasking and even has some usefull programs build in (like a vector drawing program). I just don't get. You brits have the greatest minds in electronics and programming and yet you seem to avoid each other instead of cooperating.
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