The Raspberry Pi and decline in Computer Science applicants
The Raspberry Pi looks like a fun device: compact, cheap, and quite capable. I’m on the waitlist for the next round of shipments and look forward to receiving a board in the future.
Meanwhile I found the motivation behind the project on the About page to be interesting:
The idea behind a tiny and cheap computer for kids came in 2006, when Eben Upton and his colleagues at the University of Cambridge’s Computer Laboratory, including Rob Mullins, Jack Lang and Alan Mycroft, became concerned about the year-on-year decline in the numbers and skills levels of the A Level students applying to read Computer Science in each academic year. From a situation in the 1990s where most of the kids applying were coming to interview as experienced hobbyist programmers, the landscape in the 2000s was very different; a typical applicant might only have done a little web design.
Something had changed the way kids were interacting with computers. A number of problems were identified: the colonisation of the ICT curriculum with lessons on using Word and Excel, or writing webpages; the end of the dot-com boom; and the rise of the home PC and games console to replace the Amigas, BBC Micros, Spectrum ZX and Commodore 64 machines that people of an earlier generation learned to program on.
As one of those “kids applying as experienced hobbyist programmers”, I had largely assumed that CS candidates coming up behind me would have been more versed in more technology having had earlier access to more powerful machines and richer tools and technologies. Sadly not.
I have no doubt there is real value (and fun!) in getting early exposure ‘down to the metal’; I certainly learned a huge amount from the hours spent on these projects. I applaud the Raspberry Pi team for a creative approach to this problem.
Memories: Typing in BASIC games line by line on the ZX Spectrum and saving them to audio cassette. Connecting electronics directly to a BBC Micro and adding a ZIF socket for easy access.