I can remember that era, when there was a buzz around the
Spectrum, BBC Micro and C64. You were faced with nothing more than a command prompt
and off you went. That was then, this is now. What strikes me about the Raspberry
Pi initiative is the fact that it is a very British idea - good name but a bit
rubbish. It seems to be premised on the idea of the nostalgic amateur tinkering
about in his shed with an invention that serves no real purpose. Whenever you
ask hard questions of the projects things get vague. Why do you actually need a
new piece of hardware when we’ve all got computers? Why hardware and not
software? How do you actually learn with this thing?
To my mind there’s lots of reasons why the Raspberry Pi
looks worthy but is wrong-headed, and is likely to fail in its goal of
reinvigorating interest in coding.
It became apparent in the launch that this was more Sinclair C5 than Sinclair Spectrum.
The website crashed, the hardware faulty and orders delayed. The deliberate
anti-design ethos is carried to ridiculous extremes, as it looks like something
ripped out of the back of an old telly.
clear that this is an attempt to resurrect the idea of amateur coders, a golden
age of back-bedroom self-starters. Sorry, those days are gone. The last thing
we need is a thinly disguised BBC Micro.
3. Lack of realism.
Software and hardware is much more diverse
and the competition is fierce. Coding can, and is, bought down a line, in
countries where labour is much cheaper. We need a structured approach to the serious acquisition of relevant skills, not tinkering.
4. Hardware fixation.
The world is full of cheap, fast, powerful and portable hardware. It’s the ‘software’
stupid. What’s needed is software not more hardware. In fact, there’s some
brilliant games’ tools and app creation tools out there. Get kids to use the
tools not buy an empty toolbox. It’s like teaching maths with just a calculator.
5. Learning ignored.
It’s clear that the team don’t understand the learning process. How do you get
started with this thing? It’s also a mistake to start with the heavyweight
challenge of low-level coding. No real thought has gone into how coding will be
taught using the device as there’s no quality learning materials and teachers
are ill-equipped to handle the device in schools.
6. Wrong target
Interest has largely been from ageing men who love to tinker. That’s
because the unplanned marketing echoed around this world and never really got
out to the intended audience - youngsters.
7. Not cool.
succeed with this young audience you have to create a sense of urgency by being
cool. You’re up against Apple and Mobile manufacturers. Ian Livingstone’s description
of the device as the BBC Nano is laughable. Sorry, but it looks crap not cool.
If only those pesky kids would do what our generation did
back in the day and get down and dirty with the hardware, we’ll be the leading
software development country, again. Wrong. We got so bogged down with the BBC
Micro and BBC Basic that the world raced by us in the fast lane with proper
hardware and software. The primary problem is the lack of entrepreneurial
spirit and business skills, not coding skills. That, in many ways, is
exemplified by the project itself. It’s a geekfest.