The story of Raspberry Pi – and a masterclass with Eben

The Centre for Computing History, with help from the Heritage Lottery fund, conducted a video interview about the story of Raspberry Pi with our very own Eben Upton (founder, Raspberry Pi Trading CEO, fond of Jaffa Cakes) a few months ago. It’s just been made live – if you want to dive deep into the story of Raspberry Pi, this one’s for you.

Eben’s giving a sort of history/computing lesson at the Centre for Computing History here in Cambridge on July 2: he’ll be teaching people how to code on a BBC Micro (the same machine he taught himself to program on back in the 1980s). This promises to be good; I’ve caught him writing snippets of game in BBC BASIC in the evenings after work for the event. People of any age over 11 are invited to sign up: get your booking in fast, because this one’s likely to sell out quickly!


Shadowbyte avatar

Request: Could an freely obtainable “audio only” version of this be posted for those who want to listen to this on the go? The typical workarounds for Youtube are not working these days.

Shadowbyte avatar

The lack of comment to this request initially aggravated me a little, then it got me thinking: This problem is solved using the Raspberry PI itself.

sudo apt-get install youtube-dl
youtube-dl -x –audio-format mp3

AndrewS avatar

Great video – well done Eben & Jason.

Niall Saunders avatar

What an excellent video interview. Yes, much of what was discussed had been recounted elsewhere, but this was entertaining enough to hold my attention throughout.
And, it was just sheer pleasure to see all those BBC Micros and CUB Monitors dotted around the lab in the background – I hadn’t seen so many since I purchased 14 from Nazeer Jessa of Watford Electronics back in 1988 (to help transmit data across a land-based radio-navigation system that put the North Sea ‘where’ it is today, pre-dating the advent of GPS by a decade).


AndrewS avatar

Sounds like you should definitely take a visit to the museum at some point – it’s a fascinating place.

Liz Upton avatar

I’ll second that – it’s absolutely brilliant.

Niall Saunders avatar

One day . . . if Jonathan ever manages to buy himself
a sofa, I’ll take an adventure trip down from Aberdeen!
Mine’s tea, milk, no sugar :)

davef21370 avatar

Just been over to the site and found the Atari 800, first computer I had and what I learned to program on. RAM packs like bricks, wish I still had one to show my son what 16K took up compared to 16 Gig in his phone. Almost brought a tear to my eye :)

Mac avatar

Great vid. Very inspiring.

Alan Mc (Irish Framboise) avatar

Great stuff. Will have to take a good look at the full video {first 10 mins is fun already…}

I am delighted to say I got to visit the brilliant Centre for Computing History when I was over in the UK for the 4th Pi Birthday Party […no I wasn’t *just* trying to skive off the party set-up on the Friday afternoon – sorry Mike & Tim].

It was one of the many highlights of my “Pigrimage to Cambridge” to get to the museum : goosebumps from seeing all those “old-friend” machines and having so many flashbacks to yesteryear! And a whole room of BBC Micros…[1984 School report : “Alan shows a keen interest in computer work…”]

I remember talking to someone who mentioned they were doing video interviews of various important figures… and apparently Eben too… ;oP

homer Hazel avatar

It was an excellent and informative and entertaining talk by Eben. I knew some of the history of the Raspberry Pi from listening to previous Eben talks, but this was more inclusive.

Steve Foster avatar

Very engaging and intriguing video. Thank you very much for highlighting this on the blog Liz. I visited the museum last week, to recce the site for a school visit. Staff were incredibly helpful and the exhibits were well presented. I got a little bit sentimental on Twitter about seeing machines from my childhood too :-) So good that Eben and other notable figures have been able to take part in this project and record their stories ‘for posterity.’ Thank you.

Martin Hooper avatar

I visited the museum when I last went to my parents house…

I waxed nostalgic too at the computers I used in my childhood as well such as the Sepectrum, Amstrad PCW’s which I used at work…

Went with my nephew and my brother and it was just history to my nephew as he isn’t old enough to have used unlike us…

+1 for a visit recommendation!

Shannon avatar

Excellent video. Awkward freeze frame. Why does it always end up like that? YouTube needs an algorithm to fix that.

Peter Ryan avatar

Maybe there _is_ algorithm and that’s why is always ends up like that! :D

Elfen avatar

Great interview. Just hate it that in some spots the audio is loud and other times it is soft. Though some of this is because of his tone on the subject, other times it is because of the editing.

elz avatar

dynamic range compression?.. FTW!

Chris Evans avatar

I thought he said the first prototype board by Broadcom was called SexCam2! Then I decided may be he said XCam2 but googleing doesn’t seem to find it (Marmitek make something of the same name but it doesn’t use the same SOC as a Pi)
Eben also refers to it as the microDP which presumable stands for micro development platform but searching for ‘microdp pi’. I’m a bit surprised that for something so historic it’s not out there. It does give me a warm feeling to have been part of the Pi community since the launch:-)

Lee Wilkin avatar

Thanks for posting this informative and entertaining video (with its nostalgic BBC-Micro-Computer-Science-room background) on the blog Liz – it’s a geeky-treat! :-)

Eben provides great insight into the genesis of the Raspberry Pi Project (with its attendant organisational development).

The technical ingenuity, brilliance, genius and sheer luck – this is something that’s worth celebrating – and it takes someone who has a holistic perspective of the technology (and its many tentacles of business operation) to tell it.

I’d already seen Eben’s Atmel ATmega644 prototype computer on the internet; but it was nice to get a “higher resolution” shot of the initial project drive, technical components, challenges and anecdotes from the man himself.

There’s fascinating insights into the pricing challenges and production problems during those early days – so inspiring to hear about the risks that key individuals took on behalf of the Raspberry Pi project. I think that if you have faith in your baby some of it will rub off on the individuals that you deal with (to realise your project goals).

It’s easy to forget the human dimension in the genesis of a stellar product like Raspberry Pi – enormous co-operative effort is needed to physically create and deliver Pi into the sweaty hands of its adoring fans.

It would be cool if those Raspberry Pi elves could be acknowledged in a future product … how about making an Easter-egg acknowledgment (webpage?) with names, small photos and bios of key people (and places) who made the project happen … maybe burned into a ROM (a modern equivalent of the operating system ROM locations 0xFC00-0xFDFF on my beloved Acorn Electron). You could encrypt and compress the info with a secret message for a member of the public who discovers it first (maybe reward them with a cool prize) – wouldn’t that be a wonderfully geeky way to promote a new product?

Re: “Hacking could be a generational thing” – people have hacked various types of technology since fire was discovered – it’s hardwired into our DNA. There will always be some form of hacking going on…. :-)

(Finally, the David Braben “SexCam2” reference and VHS-style add-on at the end made me laugh! :-D )

ColinD avatar

“An Amigary amount of memory” – lovely expression. I do so miss my A1200 :)

AndrewS avatar

…and it’s 14MHz CPU (which I upgraded to a whopping 50MHz 68030).

I never cease to be amazed at how fast things progress in the tech world.

John avatar

I’m curious…what is the computer in the background printing out on screen?

Chris Evans avatar

“I’m curious…what is the computer in the background printing out on screen?”
If it is in true BBC tradition it will be “Chris is brilliant. Chris is brilliant. Chris is brilliant. Chris is brilliant….. “

Ken MacIver avatar

New Entry for the OED
CBE:- a computing TLA (see TLA)
Translates as Computing Boffin Extraordinare.

Congratulations to the whole team and welcome home Tim P..

Lee Wilkin avatar

Cor Blimey Eben! congratulations to you (and the whole team) for the Birthday Honours – well deserved recognition by Her Majesty for your stunning Raspberry achievements! :-)

Jim Manley avatar

This is the most amazing, incredible, outstanding, excellent, exciting, entertaining, and even informative spiel Eben has given on the subject of Pi history to date! It was especially nice to hear what the roles of the Cast of Characters involved were, instead of the usual laundry list of just names. The inability to get the Original Flavo(u)r Model B manufactured in the UK was one thing, but the tale of how the DRAM price nearly wrecked the whole plan is so typical of the kinds of manufacturability issues that crop up in the way of many products. That aspect is unknown to the tech-only types who blather on about “Why can’t you just [fill-in-the-blank]?” An entire book could be written about this entire adventure that highlights the trials and tribulations experienced in a lifetime … that occurred over a period of about 16 months, from kick-in-the-arse-we’ve-gotta-do-it to volume production sufficient for any-quantity individual orders.

My ears fell off when I thought I heard “SexCam”, too! I’ve seen the photo of the Atmel prototboard from 2006 on the site, but it would be a hoot-and-a-half to get the BOM and higher-res photos (so the printing on the ICs can be read) of both the top and the underside. If the schematics and code listings can be resurrected (I assume they’re somewhere in an attic above the Kitchen From Hell :) that would be of enormous interest to those of us at the Computer History Museum (the one down the street from the Googleplex in Mountain View, SillyCon Valley, California, USA) who run the Raspberry Jams there. I think we could fund our Jams in perpetuity from sales of reproductions of that puppy, complete with blue jumper wires!

I’m not complaining in the least since it’s great to have them done at all, but a common issue with these interviews is that Jason’s … I mean Eben’s … sonorous, resonant baritone demands an equalizer be applied to the audio to bring up the high end and push down the low end. Compression of the amplitude wouldn’t hurt either, as previously noted by another poster. Why is it that video production people are apparently all genetically deaf? :) Here’s how you monitor your production – don’t edit it on a 48-track console with JBL studio-quality monitor speakers – have it routed through the cheapest cell (not smart) phone, tablet, or netbook you can find, and make it sound good on _that_! The most popular music is mixed listening through an AM radio while sitting in a cheap car in noisy traffic, which would be a good place to be doing that for these videos using the phone/tablet/netbook, BTW. Oh, and please, please, please mike the interviewer(s) and all participants off-camera and/or put in subtitles if they’re inaudible and it can’t be fixed in post-production (assuming there _is_ any post-production ;) Thanks!!!

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