Interview with Eben Upton

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Being a Raspberry PI lover, one of the most important personalities in Raspberry PI Foundation to know and interview is surely the founder: Mr Eben Upton.

A brief introduction

Even if everyone knows who Eben Upton is, I’ll describe a little history about his experience.

His studies have been historically focused on Computer Science at the University of Cambridge. Here he also get an Executive MBA in 2011, graduating as first in a class of 46 students.

Eben Upton started as a software developer with experience at IBM (1995-1996), Ideaworks3D (he was the founder in 1998 during his third year at Cambridge University) and Podfun (founded in 2004). During 2004-2007, he becomes Director of Studies in Computer Science at St John’s College, Cambridge. In 2006, he also joins Broadcom (one of the larger worldwide industries that designs, develops and supplies a broad range of semiconductors) as SoC Architect.

In 2008 he founds the Raspberry PI Foundation, which every one of us knows today.

The interview

During the last weeks, I was able to reach Mr. Upton by email and asked him to publish a few questions. I have to say that he has been really kind, considering the number of commitments that he has with the Raspberry PI Foundation. The questions and answers are shown below.

Question 1. How was born the idea of Raspberry PI?

Between 2004 and 2007, I was a Director of Studies in Computer Science at St John’s College, Cambridge. It was clear that the number of young people applying to study computer science had declined, and we attributed this to the disappearance of programmable hardware from children’s bedrooms. The Raspberry Pi Foundation was founded to create a piece of hardware that was programmable, affordable, fun and robust, in the hope that this would reboot our talent pipeline.

Question 2. It’s clear that young people have a special place in Raspberry PI activities. What are the most common difficulties that the new, young Raspberry PI users face when they get their first Raspberry PI?

Very early on in the history of Raspberry Pi, we learned that it wasn’t sufficient to simply provide hardware. We also needed to provide collateral: online course material, books, tutorials and example projects. We’ve spent a lot of time over the years on this, and now offer a wide range of material including The MagPi magazine (https://magpi.raspberrypi.com/, also available for free download), The Raspberry Pi Beginner’s Guide (https://magpi.raspberrypi.com/books/beginners-guide-4th-ed, also available for free download), and the Foundation’s vast collection of free online projects (https://projects.raspberrypi.org/en).

Question 3. With Raspberry PI Pico, the Foundation entered the world of microcontrollers. What can we expect as evolution in this new world from Raspberry PI?

Broadly our goal with RP2040 and Raspberry Pi Pico is to bring to the microcontroller space the same mixture of high-quality curated content, and industrial-grade product reliability that characterises the “big” Linux-based Raspberry Pi. One exciting aspect of our move into the microcontroller space is that, because we’re producing our own silicon, we’ve been able to work with a broad range of partners to produce boards that have a high level of compatibility with our software ecosystem, but address different user requirements. Examples include the Arduino Nano RP2040 Connect (https://store.arduino.cc/products/arduino-nano-rp2040-connect) and the Pimoroni Tiny 2040 (https://shop.pimoroni.com/products/tiny-2040?variant=39560012234835).

Question 4. Due to the pandemic, the Raspberry Jams have been suspended. Do you have a forecast for these events to be performed again?

The interesting thing about Raspberry Jams is that they’re community organised, not run by Raspberry Pi. So we have no control over whether or not they run. Talking to a number of Jam organisers I do believe that we’ll see a gradual return to normality over the next year or so, to the point where there are as many (or more) Raspberry Jams taking place as there ever were.

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