The Raspberry Pi represents one of the world’s most seminal computer designs of the digital age, while its popularity has endured even as technological advancement has continued to accelerate.
Its first iteration launched in 2012, and by 2017, a staggering 12.5 million units had been sold across the globe. In simple terms, this made the Raspberry Pi the third best-selling general-purpose computer in the world, while the brand has since evolved to sell more than 19 million units.
In this post, we’ll look back at the history of the Raspberry Pi, while asking why this device remains one of the cheapest computers on the market.
Then and Now – The History of the Raspberry Pi
The roots of the Raspberry Pi can be traced back to 2009 when a small team at the University of Cambridge’s Computer Laboratory realized that there was a declining interest in computer science.
They decided that the solution to this quandary lay with creating a more accessible and low-cost type of computer, and one that could be introduced into households across the UK.
By 2012, the Raspberry Pi (1 Model B) was launched onto the market, with this device using a Broadcom BCM2835 SoC and a 700 MHz ARM1176JZF-S processor. Complete with VideoCore IV graphics and 512 megabytes, the unit was cheap to produce and eventually went on sale for just £35 (we’ll have a little more on this later).
The device quickly gained popularity amongst hobbyists and PC enthusiasts, while it also became increasingly popular amongst children who showcased an interest in computers in the subsequent years.
The most recent generation to be released by the Raspberry Pi 3 (RPi3), which had evolved to use a 64-bit compatible SoC and considerably increased processing power.
This was upgraded further to the B+ model in March 2018, with a view to increasing ethernet speed capacity up to 300 Mbit/s and introducing 802.11ac dual-band 2.⅘ GHz wireless capabilities.
How has the Raspberry Pi Remained so Cheap?
What’s striking about the latest generation of Raspberry Pi computers (including the B+ model) is that the cost is still fixed at around £35, meaning that the device continues to sell primarily as a low-cost (but capable) PC replacement.
But how is this possible? In simple terms, the Raspberry Pi is categorized as a single-board computer, while most of the device’s core components (including RAM, GPU, and its peripheral controllers) are combined into a single system on an SoC.
This automatically makes the components cheaper per unit, while the process of mass production allows for bulk buying and drives down costs even further, which is why the device is so affordable.
While the Raspberry Pi devices have continued to evolve over time, none of the units utilize high-performance or state-of-the-art components.
So, although they still combine to create desirable and multi-functional devices that appeal particularly to hobbyists, developers don’t need to invest in expansive or costly specifications to achieve this aim.
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