Eben’s talk at TEDx Granta

Back in March, Eben gave a talk at TEDx Granta here in Cambridge. (So many of you visited them when we announced the talk on Twitter back in February that their website crashed – this seems to be becoming something of a pattern!) The TEDx guys have insanely high production values, so the video’s only just been released. If you’re interested in the history of the project, the ideas behind our business model and the journey we’ve taken, it’s well worth a watch.


Salamander avatar

Lots of work to Eben, now as a “evangelist”, we could say ;)

Bill C avatar

Great talk Eben. (Alway’s loved a good TED talk)
guys also check out Tim Minshall’s talk from the same TEXxGranta event.


Lennie avatar

What I thought was interresting that his talk is more about passion instead of technical abilities.

DonAlex avatar

Interesting and even more so when I think back to what shaped my perception of engineering very young. I think the thing that occurs to me is that technology pre 1970’s was all very accessible. You could see valves working, hear engines running, actually take apart clocks and watches and record players. It is why I think the Pi is such and important tool for children to be exposed to. The GPIO is the game changer and makes the Pi a massively more functional device than anything kids have every had before.

richard a wenner avatar

What a pleasure – thanks for the link.

Lennie avatar

As someone who is a programmer, everytime I see Eben talk about the reasons to start this project it strikes a chord.

I really hope it works out.

DonAlex avatar

A great talk and of course modestly done but I am very glad as someone who falls into the speccy generation that the emperor’s clothes have been revealed at the state of engineering in this country. What makes me groan in despair is that I thought it was my year that spearheaded the downfall with the move to hyper modularisation and constant evaluation with less and less actual learning that the G.C.S.E’s heralded.

I am a Linux advocate and have been since uni but I am super excited at the idea of a whole new generation who have the freedom to create in a way they have never been able to before.

Hail the rise of the Raspberry Pi, and here’s to a future where we are Raspberry Pi Squared!

MarkEdwards avatar

The pipeline analogy is spot on, not only for computer science but what I see applicable to UK science, engineering, and industry in general.

Eben, given your ability to see beyond the next financial quarter and publicly point out the pitfalls, have you considered starting a political party with a few like minded people and running in the next general election?

liz avatar

*Exercises wifely veto* – OVER MY DEAD BODY!!!

(Seriously – given the disruption that Raspberry Pi has caused in our domestic life already, I can’t think of anything worse!)

MarkEdwards avatar

Things certainly seemed too taken off exponentially. I’m sure that when the dust settles, the excitement dies down a little, the whining stops and more importantly, people remember to stop to say thank you! You will look back and laugh at these fond memories.

That said, people said the same thing to me when my girls (triplets) where 2-ish, there twelve and I still wake up in a cold sweat. :)

Jóan Petur avatar

Eben gives good talks. Somehow he reminds me of Douglas Adams talking about old computers :)

Jesse Sibley avatar

Somebody give that man and OBE!!!!

fulburncams avatar

Great talk, and the points are all well made. The concern I have is that a great deal of software jobs are simply being off-shored to India and other lower cost centres, just as electronic assembly has been offshored to China. So whilst the RasPi will encourage children to learn programming will there be a real need for developers/engineers in five/ten years time ? Anyway congratulations on getting the RasPi into production and good luck with the educational developments. Great achievement !

JamesH avatar

We cannot get good enough software engineers now – it’ll be worse in 5 years.

Carl Gundel avatar

We need a boost in computer literacy or else those in the know will take advantage of those who are not in the know. Raspberry Pi may have a valuable part to play in enhancing computer literacy even if most of the children using them don’t go on to be professional software engineers. I think that someone should also create a Gameboy sized open computer with a thumbboard and a small LCD screen. It should have a really tiny open OS and be hackable. If this is done right it would provide a wonderful pedagogical computing experience.

Also, good software development is hard to do in English by people who are not raised with English as their first language.

Mark avatar

Tons of great software engineers out there, have you tried posting your jobs on the Internet and interviewing people? Big brand name companies (like Google) often receive 1000+ resumes for each software engineering position they hire for, interviewing only a handful. I know my peers in the Computer Science graduating class of 2002 are mostly unemployed, with the unemployment extending across all levels of skill and aptitude.

Edek avatar

Nice video. But I really laughed myself to pieces by turning the audio transcript on:

Well people have been some haunted involvement for six years-Raspberry Pi has been something I have been involved in for 6 years

uh one adults of darkness but it’s mostly done by the time systems are two-uh one of the jobs of the director of studies

uh…liberals are responsible for engineering-uh…and is also responsible for engineering.
I hope they aren’t art liberals ;)

zag avatar

What a brilliant talk. Love the vision.

thecodingdude avatar

Good talk however this is stupid editing. It looks very unprofessional as if it’s been hacked together by some kid (no insults intended). The jumps to different angles could’ve been made smoother as to not appear as if we’re cutting from one thing to another!

JamesH avatar

No insults intended? Why did you actually insult the people who edited it then?

DonAlex avatar

That’s the TED style. Watch a few more talks if you don’t believe it.

CharlieG avatar

Fantastic talk and project. I hope that you will get this information to Sal Khan at the Khan Khan Academy. With his educational abilities and outreach the effect could be dramatic.

While I’m sure it was not your intent you also make a wonderful case for Open Source. Not just because of what it allows us to create today, but the talent we develop for the future.

Robert_M avatar

I’m very appreciative of Eben & the Foundation for taking on this mission. I feel a sense of pride-by-association to know that by buying an R-Pi and by donating to the Foundation I can also play some tiny part.

Back in the 70’s when I was a teenager, I desperately wanted a computer and would have loved the opportunity to learn programming. There were a few occasions when I had short-term access, but it wasn’t really enough. By the time I could, myself, afford one it had passed that “energy barrier” Eben mentions toward closed systems and as a young adult I never crossed that hurdle to dig inside.

Now I’m 50 years old, and this is like having a second chance to exercise that curiosity. The R-Pi screams “tinker with me!” in a way that finished, cased computers never seemed to convey.

Thank you for taking the initiative to pursue this mission and for persevering through everything that’s come up along the way toward making it a reality.

Davri avatar

Here here!

I am 30 – I have always loved computers and gaming. Its very interesting hear Eben talk about the late 80s and how console gaming came into prominence.

When I was 5 (1987) we had a ZX Speccy and one of my favourite games was a simple maths game. I didn’t realise that someone had actually programmed it for me and my sister!

I remember going to a friend’s house and we tried to few lines of Basic and recreated the print 20 goto 10 etc. I loved the idea of creating new games.

Moving to 1989 I received a GameBoy. I was hooked, and never really wanted to move ‘beneath the bonnet’ and find out how things worked.

I absolutely love the idea of being able to tinker with this Pi and can’t wait for the community to come up with ways to run a MEME arcade and have the opportunity to build a cabinet from scratch using the Pi as the backbone…

Thank you RPi and here’s to the future!

Peter Seaman avatar

According to RS:
“Due to the unexpected amount of interest for the Raspberry Pi model B boards we are unable to give customers details of where they are in the queue.”

I find it hard to understand the logic of that answer. Regardless of the amount of interest, If there is a queue each person in it must have a number.

Philip Machanick avatar

If there are 100,000 people in the queue, and keeping track of where someone is in that queue is a relatively short-term concern, is producing a solution that scales up to reporting to 100,000 people a useful investment? I’d like to know where I am in the queue as much as anyone, but let’s be practical.

DeliciousRaspberryCake avatar

I’ve always found the IT industry to be a purple swan which still needs to find its place in this world.

Artists, musicians, natural scientists, translators, etc; these professions all have long-standing traditions and hierarchies which its members understand and follow blindly. These would be stable faculties not influenced by public trends (at least not affecting the interest of becoming those professions), whereas the IT industry is heavily affected by public sales trends.

It’s extremely strange to see the fastest growing and fastest evolving industry (IT) reacting SO slow to a public trend inherent to its success. Eben might as well be the non-monetary business angel that so many companies and future companies have been waiting for.

Simon Walker avatar

What a compelling talk. I’m in my 40’s, and grew up hacking zx81 / bbc micros. I now find myself involved in software development for the first time in my life and really appreciate that informal grounding from messing about as a kid. Languages and development environments have changed, but the way of thinking about a problem and in particular ‘getting around’ any perceived limitations is as valid as ever. This is what R-Pi is all about.

Eben and the team have done a great job getting us the tool – it is now the responsibility of my generation to enthuse kids and get them going.

I could be wrong, but I perceive that many/most comments on this blog are currently from us oldies – I really hope that very soon the comments will be filled with enthusiastic kids doing innovative things. That will be a true measure of success.

Steve Holden avatar

You weren’t becoming less ambitious, you were becoming more focused. That’s a good thing – without focus a small team can easily dissipate their energies on irrelevant goals.

DennisMe avatar

Excellent talk Eben,
Its so simple, its clear to me that a lot of thought has gone into the ideas behind the R-PI foundation.
Boils down to the old: “Give a man a fish… vs. Teach a man to fish…” doesn’t it.
Just the fact that you are in a position to warn the western world about this unforeseen side effect of consumerism may be enough to avoid a tech dependability disaster.
Its analogous to our dependency on oil; will we be dependent on China, India etc for our (technological) future, or will we be able to take the future into our own hands and shape it the way we want it to be?
Is Raspberry Pi poised to become the pivotal instrument to safeguard our tech future? I’m staying tuned to find out!

capt jack harkness avatar

Enjoyed the presentation and passed it on to people who havent heard of it yet.
Needless to say, my engineer friends answered me back and were THRILLED at the initiative. Emails full of exclamation points and colourful swear words. Not about the hardware but about the goals of the project. The motives really struck a chord with them.


Eben mentions having wanted the BBC badge but it couldnt work out..

any more details? Im curious as to the reason why it didnt go through.
trademarks or lack of interest?

Also while not british, I do have a general idea of the importance of the BBC Micro
and was curious as to what would it have given you more?
Name recognition is nice for the british audience but I think the R-Pi has done very well so far across the world with people who dont have the history of the BBC Micro in their childhood.
Would it have had other advatanges in other ways besides visibility?

he always dresses like an engineer, doenst he? ;-)
outsource the merchandising stuff and get the Pi stickers (!), shirts and coffee mugs flowing. most of us can make our own online but im sure many would be happy to pimp the Pi and add some money to the coffers. (dont forget to add the website on the merch)

liz avatar

The BBC’s problem was EU competition law. (It’s the same law that means they can’t have a news app on your iPhone; as a state company, they can’t be seen to compete with private enterprise.) Yes, we think it’s crap too.

Mike Alexander avatar

What an inspiring speech. I remember begging my dad to buy me a ZX Spectrum back in the day (£130 was a lot of money to us in the mid-80s). He could barely afford it, but he was smart enough to recognise the educational potential, and knew that this was the future.

Before the first year of Speccy bashing was out I’d already left BASIC behind and was messing round with things like Forth and assembler (Rodnay Zaks’s “Programming the Z80” was my constant companion).

It would be great if another generation of kids could get as passionate about programming as we were – especially (speaking now as a dad) if we only have to shell out £30 this time around!

James Mitchell avatar

I really liked the TED talk. It totally did not occur to me that what I had as a kid (the BBC Micro and the Commodore 64) is totally absent from today’s home.

I am grateful that I have a technical background to pass onto my kids though.

Just how do you tech programing to a 4 year old (and I am not joking!)?

JamesH avatar

Try Scratch from MIT, that seems like a good starting point.

capt jack harkness avatar

Ive seen Eben demo Scratch in 2 different videos showing off the Pi, one had some little animated cars and you could see the multicoloured lines of it (you can find the video on the blog here under title ‘BBC Look East news piece from yesterday’) and the other video on Youtube http://youtu.be/edUX9ZfTuX0 he talks about it at 2m08s while he loads up the program.

Scratch is exactly the kind of approach that could work.
Getting the foot in the door by any means.

My son was walking behind me as I was listening to Eben talking in that Youtube video and he mentions at around the 1m25s mark about finding the right ‘hooks’ to get them interested JUST AS the demo for Quake III started in the background and he said “Yeah, that’ll work!!”
The timing of those words with the guns blazing in the background killing monsters was simply sublime.
And it proved him right. Imagine being a kid and being able to build or modify your own games. Some kids wont care but some just might.

Mark avatar

“not enough twenty-something-year-olds” can largely be explained by the industry sending most of the entry-level jobs offshore, rather than staffing them domestically in the United States, or even in Europe. I follow Broadcom’s postings on LinkedIn, and rarely do I see entry-level positions (for twenty-something-year-olds) posted for California, but no shortage of positions in India.

Raspberry Pi is a great idea, but when I graduated in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science back in 2002, most of my graduating class was unemployed due to the tech downturn. Very few of us managed to actually get into the industry when there was somewhat of a recovery. Many of my classmates remain unemployed even a decade later, as our resume submissions, to firms like Broadcom, are largely ignored.

liz avatar

That’s a fairly commonly expressed opinion, but it’s not what employers are actually experiencing; part of my job involves talking to industry about what they’re seeing on the ground when recruiting. I’d recommend a read of the Next Gen Report, which was commissioned to deal with what genuinely *is* a problem in industry (I can only speak for the UK here). Part of the issue is that fresh graduates aren’t skilled enough in many areas to take jobs in industry without extra training.

Mark avatar

Yet my resume, which has me as a top quartile Electrical Engineering and Computer Science grad, doesn’t even find a response from firms like the one that Dr. Upton works for. Nevermind an interview or further investigation of my qualifications. My final design thesis project involved building a device very similar to a Raspberry Pi, using a SoC supplied by Hitachi (H8S), and an Ethernet chip — as well as writing a primitive operating system to facilitate communications over TCP/IP (the whole project was part of the control system for a synchrotron). This is entirely irrelevant when my resume sits on a pile with 1000 others, or the jobs simply aren’t being recruited for domestically.

Very frustrating. I don’t know what ‘industry’ is saying specifically, but they really need to start stepping up to the plate so that the talent out there can be appropriately utilized.

liz avatar

Eben, leaning over my shoulder, says that if a CV describing that thesis came across his desk, it’d get you an interview (and he does a *lot* of interviewing).

I quite see that if you’re not being picked up for interview, it must be very frustrating – and I’d love to know *why* you’re not getting interviews. But unfortunate as it is, I don’t think your experience diminishes the fact that we genuinely are seeing a problem with university leavers, which is one of the reasons we started this project.

Philip Machanick avatar


In my experience the problem is before anyone with tech knowledge gets to see the CV. HR people don’t know how to evaluate tech CVs in my experience, unless you are a clear fit to the requirements (you say you worked with a Hitachi part, they’re looking for Broadcom, and don’t know enough to see the SoC design issues are similar). If you can’t get past the keywords they’re looking for you go to the bottom of the pile, because there probably ARE 1000 CVs that really don’t fit. Doesn’t matter if you are exactly what the tech team is looking for if you say it the wrong way — unless the tech team has time to view lots of CVs, they don’t even get to see you.

engerex avatar

Adamın ismi çok sakıncalı.

liz avatar

Google Translate tells me that the above comment means “very dangerous man’s name”. No, I have no idea either.

Philip Machanick avatar


Have you thought of offering your services to test web sites for scalability as an extra way of pulling in funds for the Foundation? :)

Having been a computer science academic in South Africa (back there now) and in Australia, where we had very similar issues with a drop in able undergrads, and number of students wanting to do CS, I wonder to what extent the same issues drive these things worldwide, or whether a trend in one place drives expectations in other countries.

I do know that at University of Queensland, my engineering colleagues found that their expectation that the average engineering undergrad would have had hobbies that included knowing which end of a soldering iron is hot was no longer true, and they had to introduce basic training in hands-on skills. The UK was possibly unique in the high penetration of cheap “toy” computers that invited programming, but I think there are other factors at play (literally) including the rise of web surfing and social networks, that take kids away from constructive play and turn them into consumers. I saw figures somewhere showing that the rise in the UK of web surfing and computer gaming correlated with a general drop in academic scores, so something is very wrong.

Whatever the real issue, RasPi is a great innovation and I will be pursuing ideas like forming computer clubs in low-income communities. It could have the same role as Meccano (but cheaper) in getting kids geared early to thinking about engineering and how stuff works.

Tim Morley avatar

Eben makes several references in the video above (1m01s, 6m22s, 11m11s) to my TEDxGranta talk which I had just finished moments earlier. To help to understand what he’s referring to, why not pop over and watch my talk too?

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