It encourages people to be interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. This is a step by step tutorial, I’m challenging someone not to get excited about it, I’m just challenging a child not to be excited about photographing from space.

The enthusiasm comes from Eben Upton. By day, he is the CTO and ASIC Architect for Broadcom. Night and weekend, it’s the driving force behind the Raspberry Pi, that little computer that has revolutionized amateur computing and the future of technology since its launch in 2012.

Tall, casually dressed, and with a slight hint about his commute to work that morning—cycling goggles strapped to his T-shirt—the founder and one of the trustees of the Raspberry Pi Foundation explains to me the history of the amazing three-by-two-inch media center minicomputer. a web server, a retro game center, an educational tool, and even, as we said, a space photography machine.

But Upton is not your average computer designer. He and his team didn’t build the Raspberry Pi to retire. What they planned was something bold, something fantastic.

They realized that with the right hardware, the Raspberry Pi could change the world.

Origin of raspberry pi

Initially, we did not see ourselves as capable of building a general purpose computer.

Designed in 2006 and inspired by the Acorn BBC Micro (a 1980s computer that was built for the BBC Computer literacy project and sold mainly to schools in the United Kingdom), the Raspberry Pi started life as a much larger device whose goals were set when Upton collaborated with teachers, scientists, and enthusiasts to develop a computer that would inspire children.

“Initially, we did not see that we could create a general purpose computer. We haven’t seen how we build a PC. We saw the buildings themselves as a programmable device. We started with microcontrollers, I’m sure you saw them on the big orange board. [как видно на веб-сайте Raspberry Pi, это была платформа на основе микроконтроллеров, которая могла управлять телевизором, подключать его к компоненту.

телевидения и да, это было действительно интересное устройство. Это касалось производительности, я бы сказал, микрокомпьютера 1980-х годов.

«Вы можете сделать это сами, вы можете спаять их вручную».

будущее технологий

Мне сразу вспоминаются макеты 1970-х годов и очень простые компьютеры, сконструированные вручную, о том, как Стив Возняк собирал доски в гараже родителей Стива Джобса в середине 1970-х годов. Конечно, с тех пор вычисления значительно продвинулись, но Эбен ясно, что эта идея компьютера, который можно перенастроить вручную, важна.

«Это был ключ к успеху проекта. Люди хотят чего-то, что они понимают.

«Это был действительно единственный пост-2009, когда мы смогли начать строить что-то по образцу компьютера общего назначения, [когда] the right chip has arrived, and a Broadcom chip with exactly the right feature set for the Raspberry Pi is available.»

Of course, the Raspberry Pi, released in early 2012, does not have removable parts, but it can be reconfigured depending on the specific purpose you have planned for it. This is why the Raspberry Pi comes without a keyboard and mouse. As Eben says, «We had a specific vision that this thing would be useful, and we created it, and it was, and it’s pretty much that simple.»

British computer made in Britain

I don’t mean in a rooted form, but using a chip that was made in Britain, using an IP that was made in Britain…it’s British.

Computer manufacturing in Britain has been virtually non-existent since the late 1980s, with international 16-bit marvels such as the Amiga and Atari ST, PCs, Apple Macs and game consoles replacing successful domestic 8-bit ones. Aside from a number of Acorn computers in the 1990s aimed at educational institutions, they were all based heavily on designs from the US and Japan.

The days of 8-bit classics like the Sinclair Spectrum ZX80 and Amstrad CPC 464 are long gone, but the Raspberry Pi has British computing to be proud of once again.

the future of technology

I spoke to Eben about it.

«I don’t mean a joke, but I’m using a chip that was made in Britain, using an IP that was made in Britain, including apparently ARM [процессоры ARM происходят из Кембриджа]… these are the British. One of the things that changed for us is that we have a global dimension that we probably didn’t see when we thought about the educational app, which was our original thought.»

But what of those greats that were before, Sinclair, Amstrad and Acorn? Can Eben ever match the giants of British 8-bit computing like the idealist Sir Clive Sinclair (designer of the Sinclair ZX80 and ZX Spectrum) or the shrewd businessman Baron Sugar (Amstrad founder in charge of home computers)? processors and IBM-compatible PCs in Europe in the 1980s and 1990s), or even Christopher Curry, founder of Acorn Computers (whose legacy lives on in ARM)?

“You have to remember these guys, they sold millions of computers and they created the revolution, they created the industry, they created my work, they created Acorn that created ARM, they created the Cambridge tech scene that created the core that we use in our chip. This unbroken lineage starts with these guys.

“I think if in 10 years we are transforming the British technical skills pipeline, I think we deserve some credit. Right now, we don’t deserve this.»

You’ll be intrigued to learn how Eben intends to transform tech skills both in the UK and beyond. But first, how exactly is the Raspberry Pi built?

Raspberry Pi building line

To learn more about the Raspberry Pi, including how costs are kept so low, I visited the production line and was shown around by Gareth Jones, Senior New Business Manager at Sony. The history of the factory and the process involved in making the Raspberry Pi is very interesting.

Construction of the Raspberry Pi first began in China back in 2011, but the results were not considered satisfactory. As a result, the Raspberry Pi Foundation moved production to the UK.

A former color TV factory in South Wales (a peninsula in the United Kingdom) has four production lines (soon to be six to meet Raspberry Pi demand) producing 12,000 of these amazing little computers every day. This is one of several collaborative partnerships for Sony, and the final product, a working Raspberry Pi device, is being built here for Premier Farnell under license from the Raspberry Pi Foundation (they are one of two licensed manufacturers, the other being RS Components). Both British companies).

the future of technology

Owned by the Sony Corporation and home to most of the TV camera factory, the factory, which is part of a large office complex, is a hive of purposeful activity.

The process of building a Raspberry Pi is quite remarkable. Using component suppliers throughout Europe and the Far East, the process begins with a stenciled solder paste applied to the board. Much of the production is automated, controlled by cameras and positioning controls to properly align the board and holes to achieve the required 100 micron paste deposit.

After that, components as small as 0.5mm are mounted on the board, loaded into the machine on a reel, and lifted using a robot arm with a vacuum nozzle (a method known as double-sided SMT, in which components are mounted on both sides of the PCB). As you can see in the photo above, this stage of the process is reminiscent of early computer tickertape data — but of course it’s different! Components come from vendors on these spools of tape, each containing 10,000 transistors, diodes, and other discrete components. A system called TIMMS manages the process, monitors the components and acts as a stock controller, alerting operators when a drum of components is low. Again, the camera is used to check the nozzle pieces for orientation, and when they are in place, they are held in place by the solder paste.

Due to the volume of production, around 400,000 components are assembled every day. As the process continues, larger components are added while the cameras check for proper rotation and XY positioning. If there is any problem, the board orientation is adjusted as required.

the future of technology

The secret behind the Raspberry Pi’s success is unknown, but it likely has to do with the main chip and its compact «package on package» layout in which logic and memory chips are stacked — the same approach used in smartphone manufacturing. This starts with the CPU component lifted up and placed on the board, once again held in place by the viscosity of the solder paste. Once installed, the RAM chip is removed, dipped in solder, and placed in the CPU with carefully controlled precision to get the correct depth — too much or too little solder will be disastrous.

The boards are then passed through an oven at 238 degrees Celsius, the temperature at which the solder evaporates. Raspberry Pi boards are almost ready, with the exception of testing, which is carried out in several stages.

First comes the visual inspection, again performed by a camera and a computer. After that, part of the manual insertion process adds Ethernet, an audio jack, and other components that are too big for an automatic line. These components are passed through a flow soldering machine (a fast mass soldering method), then the connections are checked visually. Testing continues at eight test stations, with four people serving two stations each.

Here, the MAC address will be loaded into the Pi and the DC power output, audio and video will be checked, which will take 60-90 seconds. The boards are then placed in ESD bags and prepared for shipping. However, the testing process is not over yet. An independent QA team tests the boards, running them like clients, to test the Raspberry Pi as it will be used in schools or at home. QA defects appear to be rare, with only 115 out of 450,000 produced at this plant (I was told that of that number only 18 were actual, the rest were probably due to bad SD cards).

the future of technology forecasts

Gareth Jones tells me that the Raspberry Pi is being considered as a process control processor, and Sony’s division in San Jose is interested in using the computer for a project they are developing.

However, the most important thing is that the plant visited the school many times. In a world where manufacturing is commonly believed to have been largely outsourced to China, this is vital as it shows children that not only is the popular British home computer being built, but there are jobs in manufacturing, and it’s not about lubricant coating. and dirt.

Raspberry Pi Ethos

We do this not just because we think the Raspberry Pi is great, but because we think there are very few easily fixable things that are broken.

The numbers show that the Raspberry Pi has sold around 1 million units, with orders still pending at the time of writing. The Foundation estimates that 2,300,000 people ended up in the hands of children, far more than the 10,000 devices a year they expected to be sold in schools. “One way or another, it is in the hands of children, whether through parents, in schools, teachers, grandparents or [купленных у самих детей», — говорит Эбен, — особенно с такими вещами, как Minecraft.

«Дело в том, что это действительно важно для детей, вы можете создать программу для строительства дома, а не строить дом по кирпичику. После того, как вы создали программу, которая может построить дом, вы можете построить 2 дома, и такая автоматизация является действительно ценной ».

Но передача этого компьютера в руки детей — это только первый шаг в плане Эбена Аптона по борьбе с нехваткой технических навыков.

будущее технологических прогнозов

«У нас есть страна, где у нас огромное количество людей, которым нужна работа, у нас огромное количество компаний, отчаянно плачущих о людях … даже не докторах математики, просто люди, которые могут программировать. Мы могли бы немного положиться на иммиграцию, это сработало бы. Проблема в том, что превращает страну в паразита на Индию, мы с Америкой высосем Индию из всех лучших программистов. Это ужасная часть поведения.

«Мы не можем продолжать делать это, это краткосрочное решение».

Необычно встретить кого-то, у кого, кажется, есть ответ на такую ​​важную проблему. Эбен продолжает, вооруженные энтузиазмом по поводу того, что он считает простым долгосрочным решением, поскольку я наблюдаю, что это не тот ответ, который мы слышим от правительства.

«Я не знаю почему. Мы все это знаем, и это просто осознание того, что нужно часами читать резюме. Просто найти достаточно людей, чтобы укомплектовать команду инженеров. Мы делаем это не просто потому, что считаем Raspberry Pi великолепной, а потому, что думаем, что очень небольшое количество легко исправимых вещей сломано.

Для борьбы с этими проблемами был создан Фонд Raspberry Pi Foundation, в состав которого входили шесть опекунов (среди них Дэвид Брабен, который известен многим игрокам как соавтор классической космической торговой игры Elite ) для управления организацией. Чтобы помочь опекунам, Эбен и Ко наняли шесть сотрудников. «У нас не было сотрудников на первые 700 000 проданных« Малиновых Пис », поэтому мы действительно укомплектованы шестью сотрудниками. У нас гораздо большее сообщество добровольцев, которые проводят свои вечера и выходные, работая над материалом Raspberry Pi, некоторые в университете, которые проводят свои дни, вечер и выходные, работая над Raspberry Pi ».

«Мы — небольшая группа парней, мы думаем, что можем что-то изменить, и тот факт, что мы думаем, что мы можем что-то изменить, означает, что мы думаем, что проблемы довольно просты. Как и в случае с детьми, если бы мы думали, что заставляем детей учиться программировать, мы никуда не денемся. Я думаю, что мы поняли с Raspberry Pi, что если вы дадите людям инструменты, они это сделают. Нам не нужно продвигать программу, дать им возможность построить дом в Minecraft, дать им возможность заставить кошку бегать по царапинам . Предоставить людям возможность заниматься физическими вычислениями, для меня это стало настоящим сюрпризом ».

Где дальше для Raspberry Pi?

Имея определенную совокупность математических и научных навыков, происходит то, что мы боремся за этот пул людей, которым они, как правило, являются белые мальчики среднего класса, и мы боремся за этот пул, мы, физики, математики и инвестиционные банкиры просто сражаемся за этот пул людей, и это игра с нулевой суммой.

Продана ли Эбен работа, когда было продано 1 миллион единиц и выросла популярность среди любителей, любителей домашнего кинотеатра и его цель стать вдохновляющим детей компьютером? Raspberry Pi сделал то, что намеревался сделать?

«Я думаю, что мы были довольно откровенны, потому что есть много работы программного обеспечения. Сосредоточив внимание на программном обеспечении, а не на прогоне следующего более быстрого процессора — лучшего ценового чипа, который мы могли бы использовать на данный момент, конечно, не было бы в ценовой категории. Преимущество программного обеспечения в том, что вы тратите деньги на программное обеспечение один раз и получаете его обратно на каждое устройство. Это довольно дорого, оптимизировать программное обеспечение для Raspberry Pi, но тогда все выиграют. Все те миллионы людей, которые купили пи в прошлом году, получают выгоду от своего пи, не то чтобы им пришлось покупать еще один. Получение пробега от программного обеспечения, это действительно то, что мы делаем здесь. Я уверен, что когда-нибудь в будущем мы сделаем еще один Pi, я не могу видеть, что мы изменили бы сегодня, но если бы появился лучший чип, мы могли бы рассмотреть это ».

будущее технологических прогнозов

Может ли он рассмотреть большее устройство, установленное на большую плату?

«Я думаю, что размер важен — размер важен для стоимости. Я думаю, что одна из вещей, которая позволяет вам сделать это, чтобы достичь этой цены, — это конфигурация с накоплением памяти [пакет-на-упаковке, описанный выше]. If you want to move away from that, I think a lot more than it is now wouldn’t be great.»

Eben isn’t overly concerned about competition either — at least not current competition.

“There is nothing else in the price category. I think people manage to get devices in the $50 range right now, although those that claim $50 are usually not available, so in practice people who manage to get into the $70 range with things that have comparable performance levels.

“Some of them are based on a lot of Chinese devices, often with very low end Cortex processors and very low media levels. So people manage to get a device with a much larger CPU and a lot less GPUs at this price point. Yes, it’s interesting to watch them appear. I have yet to see the one that especially threatens us.” Will it be a threat at all?

“The problem of threats is interesting, I do not recognize anything threatening, but our goal is to create many small programmable computers. If someone builds a lot of small programmable computers, that’s good.»

Small programmable computers, in the hands of enthusiasts and children. Not an instant solution to the crisis of technology and engineering skills, but a positive step forward.

«Sometimes you hear someone say ‘no shortage of skills, no shortage of engineering skills’ — my ass! The moment I am besieged by qualified job interview candidates we have here in this building, I will trust that there is no shortage of engineering skills.”

But can’t math, science, and technology surpass only the academically gifted?

“There are skills that someone can bring to their computer programming, there are tasks that are basically best done by maths, but I think there is a huge potential skill base of people that if you get them at the right age, and you give them access to the right tools, they will learn to be good programmers. You see, guys who are going for an interview in the gaming industry, in particular, go through an unconventional path. I took a few courses at Cambridge, but I had hacking experience as a child, so I was coding when I was 10 years old.

the future of technology

“I think the potential is limitless. With programming, it’s not about that, it’s about academic. I know a lot of people who are very gifted programmers but don’t have traditional academic abilities. It seems to be completely detached just like a good carpenter.

“I know people who started working at 16 and they are great programmers, so I think the impact can be huge. The risk is that we might target it to the most academically capable kids, people who already have math. Having a certain set of math and science skills, what’s happening is that we’re fighting for this pool of people that they tend to be middle class white boys and we’re fighting for this pool, we physicists, mathematicians and investment bankers are just fighting over it pool of people, and it’s a zero-sum game.»

So what’s the answer? How does Eben propose to deal with this constellation of skills, a self-perpetuating skill crisis that ignores potential?

“What you want to do is give up three things that I said: white, middle class, male. Double your pool, include girls, include ethnic minorities.”

Conclusion

The moment I am besieged by qualified interview candidates for the jobs we have here in this building, I will believe that there is no shortage of engineering skills.

Eben Upton doesn’t seem to be the kind of person whose goal is to build a business out of nothing and retire on his yacht. Rather, he is almost certainly a person who has noticed a real problem and figured out what the solution is. Most people might try to get into politics or activism to change the world — Eben Upton decided to build a computer as a long term solution.

This British computer is a source of pride for those of us who know. We usually view computers as devices free from geographic restrictions and problems. Endless streams of computers, tablets and smartphones built in the Far East fall into our hands every day, their place of birth is clear, but its relevance is ignored. It has become largely unimportant, a fact of life, of globalization.

Does the Raspberry Pi represent a sea change, a move towards computers becoming narrower? I doubt it. Instead, the Pi is a stimulating computer, a powerful and powerful machine capable of truly revolutionizing the teaching and learning of computer science, not only in the UK, but around the world.

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