Engineer Eben Upton is a trustee of the Raspberry Pi Foundation. He is also in charge of developing the software and hardware of the Raspberry Pi device.Kaamil Ahmed met with him to discuss one of most exciting startups to date and the future of generation startup.
Old Street. Tech City. Silicon Roundabout. Those are the names associated with the growing community of small tech-based start ups blooming on the edges of the City. The increasing strength of this community has led to it being closely associated with this notion of ‘generation startup’ we’re so fond of discussing here at Teles.co/pe. It’s a more than reasonable link; the web-based apps that are being created are made with minimal resources by people with ideas and not necessarily much else. But just because an area of tech has come to symbolise the ‘generation’ that doesn’t mean that world of technology is heading that way. At least, that’s according to Eben Upton.
Upton engineered the Raspberry Pi, a dead-cheap computer built to teach kids how to programme. Despite some great innovation on show by the people behind those Tech City startups, many are limited by the fact that they don’t have a complete understanding of the hardware, as well as software, that they use. Even for someone coding an app, getting involved in other areas of tech development can often be a fearsome endeavor, which limits their abilities says Upton.
“Is this generation start-up?” he asks back, “In tech, no. It’s easy for me to say because I think of startups that turn basic research into business.”
What Upton is referring to is his desire to see startups that don’t just try and fill a niche but try to completely revolutionise things. The education process, from school up to University, is flawed and that’s where Raspberry Pi comes in.
“Universities are good at giving a theoretical gloss. I think you need both the hacking ability and the formal stuff,” says Upton. “I hope we’ll have people going to Uni and knowing how computers work. You can leave now, not knowing how computers work.”
By gradually rolling out these basic computers to young people, Upton is hoping to break down the barriers that stop people really understanding computers and ultimately limiting their potential. Even for a web developer who has no everyday need to understand all the mechanics of a computer, he says: “If you know you could, nothing is mysterious.”
Raspberry Pi will hopefully be available to most students within a few years and will give them a chance to walk away from the Excel spreadsheets that usually dominate IT lessons and into the world of programming, and for some, unlocking the ability to turn some of their business brain-waves into real products.
Raspberry Pi is a project that excites many computer enthusiasts who had the chance to cultivate programming skills at a young age. Like them, Upton reminisces about the past when he explains what he hopes Raspberry Pi will lead to.
“I had a lot of intimidatingly bright friends. I hope there’ll be a new generation like that.”