Almost exactly ten years ago today, thousands of you set your alarms, and woke on leap-day morning to discover that we’d started selling Raspberry Pi computers. By the time our all-volunteer team gathered in the pub that evening for celebratory drinks, our licensees Farnell and RS Components had taken over 100,000 orders (despite struggling to keep their websites online under the load); we had (briefly) out-trended Lady Gaga; and Raspberry Pi was on the road to becoming a little larger than we’d planned.
A group of us had founded the Raspberry Pi Foundation in 2008, aiming to reverse the decline in applications to study Computer Science at Cambridge by providing young people with a fun, robust, low-cost computer with which they could learn to program. In May of 2011, we demoed a prototype to Rory Cellan-Jones at the BBC; the surprise popularity of his ensuing blog post was the shot in the arm we needed to get the project over the finish line.
The nine months between Rory’s blog post and the launch had been a whirlwind of activity: Liz had built us a blog, a forum, and a substantial social media following; Pete had designed (and redesigned) the final product almost from scratch; and I had had to figure out how to actually build it in volume, for our target price, and with very little capital to play with.
The following nine months were dominated by the work needed to get those first orders built and into people’s hands. After some early road bumps, first production units arrived in the UK at the end of March, and volumes continued to ramp through the spring. By the end of October, we’d shipped our launch-day orders; taken Raspberry Pi to Maker Faires in the Bay Area and New York; demoed a working prototype of the first Camera Board; started building Raspberry Pi at the Sony UK Technology Centre in South Wales; doubled the shipping memory capacity of Model B to 512MB; and produced first samples of the cut-down $25 Model A.
In the end, we sold a million units in our first twelve months. And by the end of that time, we had our first office, and our first full-time employees: Liz, Gordon, and James. We’re all still here ten years later.
Many recognisable elements of the wider Raspberry Pi world were already in place too. Mike Thompson and Peter Green started work on Raspbian, the ARMv6 hard-float port of Debian which today underpins Raspberry Pi OS, in March. In May, Liam “Hexxeh” McLoughlin released the first version of rpi_update, and Ash Stone, Jason Davies, and Tim Cox published the first issue of The MagPi. In July, Paul Beech and Jon Williamson launched the Pibow layer case, and James Abela organised the first Cambridge Raspberry Jam; under Mike Horne and Tim Richardson’s stewardship this would later evolve into CamJam, and spawn the enduringly popular PiWars events.
In the ten years since, we’ve built a company, a charitable foundation, and a movement that has begun to change the world.
We’ve launched five more generations of the core Raspberry Pi platform, starting with Model 1B+ in 2014, and culminating with Model 4B in 2019. We’ve built Compute Modules and all-in-one PCs, and produced cameras, displays, cases, cables, and a whole planet of HATs. Our products have flown under weather balloons; travelled to the International Space Station, penguin colonies in Antarctica, the insides of volcanoes, and the bottom of the sea; and been built into supercomputers, cucumber sorters, and hospital ventilators. Tens of thousands of children used them to study at home during the pandemic.
To date, we’ve sold over 45 million Raspberry Pi computers. Our profits have helped to fund the work of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, which has grown over the last ten years to become one of the most important global players in STEM education. The Foundation creates curricula and teacher training programmes that are helping to improve the quality of computing education in tens of thousands of schools; millions of young people are learning how to program through their free online resources, networks of Code Clubs and CoderDojos, and partnerships with youth and community organisations; and their world-class research is helping to advance our understanding of what works, and what doesn’t, in the field.
But our own efforts have been dwarfed by those of our community. We owe a debt of gratitude to the tens of thousands of volunteers, developers, suppliers, resellers, teachers, and parents, who have contributed to our work, and taken Raspberry Pi products, and the Raspberry Pi mission, out into the world. Some of the happiest hours of my life have been spent eating pizza, puffin, or yakitori; drinking soda, beer, or soju; or just hanging out, with Raspberry Pi fans around the world. As the pandemic recedes, we’ll be getting out there again: you’re the reason we do this, and your energy drives us forward.
It’s been a wild ride. So, here’s to ten years of Raspberry Pi, and here’s to what we’ll all do, together, in the next ten.