Sunday, April 22, 2012

Eben Upton Raspberry Pi Interview

If you only do yourself one favor this week, listen to Leila Johnston and Roo Reynolds interviewing Eben Upton about the Raspberry Pi computer.

The Raspberry Pi is a credit card-sized PC running Linux. It costs 25 USD for the basic model and 35 USD for the model with networking.

Eben Upton is co-founder of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, as well as Technical Director at Broadcom, the company that makes most of the chips in the Raspberry Pi computer.

This is one of the best interviews I've heard recently, due to the questions as much as the answers. Upton begins by discussing the current backlog of orders and the process of getting CE and FCC certification. These certifications require that the Raspberry Pi does not radiate too much RF and also that it is not unduly affected by RF radiation from other devices. He then goes on to talk about the charitable aims of the Raspberry Pi Foundation and how the foundation is set up, including the safeguards that are in place to prevent the trustees profiting from Raspberry Pi.

Upton talks about his experiences at the Cambridge University Computer Lab during a time when the number and quality of applicants was rapidly declining. Upton believes that the reason for this decline is that young people had less access to programmable hardware than he and his generation had. Upton recounts learning to program and hack his first computer, a BBC Micro Model A. Having to write his own mouse driver at the age of 12 exposed him to assembly language and low-level hardware issues.

Next Upton describes the pipeline of programmers that 8bit computers created and he goes on to explain how the arrival of 16bit games consoles such as the Sega Megadrive and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System cut off the pipeline because they had such a competitive advantage over 16bit general-purpose computers like the Commodore Amiga and the Atari ST.

Upton goes on to talk about the Raspberry Pi's relationship with gaming, and mentions some technical issues such as the video capabilities and the lack of VGA support

Upton then explains Broadcom's relationship with the Raspberry Pi and the key issues of balancing openness, price and performance.

The interview ends with Eben Upton expressing his hope that the Raspberry Pi will have a transformative effect on industry in the UK.