Although promoted as (and without question by many media outlets covering the story) “a computer anyone can make” it is fundamentally a Raspberry Pi starter kit – operating system, keyboard, mouse, hub, cables, etc – everything you need to get started. It’s “fluffy” use of language and description of its product has caused upset in some quarters, not least from Linda Sandvik, one of the co-founders of Code Club:
And she’s right …. in one regard. We could go out and buy a kit-car for example, construct it and happily state that we’ve made our own car – though the components would have come manufactured. The Pi is the same, you need to buy a substantial amount of additional peripherals to begin.
Anyway, we can argue about that until the cows come home (although not paying respect to the Pi as a computer is ill-judged) the point remains that the whole episode is a classic case of what always seems to happen with British innovation. We have the brilliant ideas, we create things that change the world and the future looks rosy … until we fail to package or protect the thing we’ve created and someone else takes advantage, usually the Americans.
The Pi is a brilliant thing, an absolutely brilliant thing that has begun a movement that’s spawned Jams, Code Clubs and a resurgence in hobbyist tinkering whilst ignoring the mainstream market. I’ve said for soooo long that the Pi needed a brand, something that would make it easily accessible and importantly desirable to children in a PlayStation world. Kano (created by an Israeli and a South African) seem to have done just that – a custom keyboard, a cute and potentially powerful custom Operating System aimed at children (not just a re-compiled linux clone) and the start of wonderful looking branded resources. Credit them for giving the mainstream market what it wants.
There’s no doubt the innovation lies with the cheap and small computer at the heart of the project, but the Pi foundation and others have had the chance to do the same for so long – we could have had a LEGO branded Pi, or what about a completely British branded Pi – a Moshi Monsters starter kit? It would absolutely fly from the shelves if it gave kids the ability to create their own Moshi animations, robots, interactive stories and games. Something that maybe even a Tesco or Amazon would stock. A true British success story from start to finish.