Yesterday, Donald Clark (who describes himself as a man with enough time) gave the Raspberry Pi a bit of a kicking behind the bike sheds. He detailed 7 reasons why it won’t work.
His main question, though not bolded was: How do you actually learn with this thing?
That’s the first problem. The Pi isn’t a learning device. It’s a cheap introduction to computers. I believe the purpose of the device is to see whether the spark that turned a generation of young geeks into modern day programmers could be replicated with a device in 2012 that was a fifth of the price of the ancestors from the early 80s.
His main beefs and my point of view.
It’s not for everyone. I wonder if it is even for me. My interest in the Pi is in a score of cheap devices in tiny custom cases that can provide little services around the house. An AirPlay device for all of the TVs in the house? Sure. But having to fight with Linux? *sigh*
The device is definitely aimed at 40 year old men who remember the Spectrum, the Commodore and the BBC from their youth. They’re buying them for their kids. I know a couple of dads with no programming knowledge who think the Pi is a cheap computer for kids. It’s obviously not that.
3. Lack of realism.
I don’t think the goals are unrealistic. I think that others have greater expectations than the developers might have given themselves. The thing is: when you’re shooting for the stars and you hit the moon, you have to still congratulate yourself. Just ask Elon Musk.
4. Hardware fixation.
I’m most encouraged that it’s a low power ARM design that will do stuff. You do have to wonder why Arduino wasn’t good enough. And we’re seeing a raft of Android circuit board clones appearing. The hardware is important but, as Donald days, it’s not as important as the software.
5. Learning ignored.
I know of two projects which are dedicated to building software stacks for the Pi for schools. There will be more. Others have already ported Scratch to the Pi. That’s a great start. Learning happens. The problem is there is little support for Teaching.
6. Wrong target audience.
I’m interested in what could be done to make this appeal to 11 year olds. Release the code to some basic games? Make sure there’s a GameMaker software stack available? The thing that is missing here is the raft of support materials we had in the 80s; the magazines.
7. Not cool.
It’s differently cool. It’s not “Not cool”, it’s just different.
So, will it fail?
I agree with Donald that “it’s the software, stupid” and giving people Python as a development environment is not the same as the plethora of magazines such as Crash, C&VG, Your Spectrum, Your Sinclair, Sinclair User, Sinclair Programs, ZX Computing, MicroHobby and more.
I’m not interested in sitting back and waiting for it fail. I’m keen on doing something to help.