raspberry-pi-mini-arm-hobby-computer-25112011

Do you remember the first game you were ever truly, horribly, addicted to? For me it was Football Manager on BBC Micro, the classic sports sim – made by Addictive Games, natch - whose legacy lives on today in Sports Interactive's mega-selling, marriage-wrecking PC and portable series of the same name.

The magic of the original was in its match highlights, where to watch those awkward stick men in action was to experience all the joy, despair, frustration and glory of the real thing – long before today's breed of entitled, thuggish, grasping, player-brats came along to ruin it.

Anyway, I discovered yesterday that Football Manager turned 30 last month, and its creator, Kevin Toms, whose grinning mug and Joy of Sex beard adorned every cassette case, is blogging about how he made it and a new version he's knocking up for iPhone.

The game was written in BASIC, the programming language of BBC Micro, the computer that helped spark a revolution in the teaching of computing in the '80s, producing legendary UK game developers such as Peter Molyneux and David Braben.

By remarkable coincidence, yesterday I also travelled up to Cambridge, birthplace of the Micro, to visit Braben – co-creator of retro classic Elite - and see an amazing project called Raspberry Pi: a $25, credit card-sized PC, as powerful as an Xbox, that streams video in full HD, is fully programmable and rolling off factory lines in Asia as I type. And it might transform computing – and gaming – in the process.

Let me explain. Back in the '80s, thanks to computers like the Beeb, Sinclair's Spectrum and the Commodore 64, programming was relatively easy to do and taught in schools – creating the conditions from which a generation of world-beating game designers emerged.

But in the '90s, as massively more complex and fragile PCs took over in classrooms (and consoles in homes), schools instead started teaching boring, brain-numbing ICT – essentially a time-wasting, idiot's guide in 'How to use Microsoft Office'. As a result, today the UK is producing nowhere near enough students with good enough skills to start making games after they graduate.

Raspberry Pi is part of the answer. Firstly, it really is the size of a credit card, and has graphical capabilities, say its makers, double that of an iPhone 4S. And we know what that's capable of.

All you need to do is plug in a monitor and a keyboard and you're away. The one I saw yesterday was even powered by a standard mobile phone charger.

The dream is to hand it out free to school kids by the thousand. They can be taught the basics in class (the UK Government has at last agreed to ditch ICT for programming from September following a games industry campaign), and play around to their hearts' content, without fear of destroying it like a PC. If you screw up on Raspberry Pi, just hit reset and start again.

If education is the core aim, the possibilities beyond that are bewildering. Don't care for programming? Why not use it as a cheap device to stream video content to your TV? And in the hands of engineers and inventors, who knows what will come.

Expect to see Raspberry Pi used in tablets, robots, TVs, fridges, you name it. And if that has made your inner-geek cry out in tech lust, you'll be able to order the developer version for yourself in the next few weeks from raspberrypi.com, with the consumer version (in a proper case) out later this year.

Gamers should be excited because it democratises the process of development – you can bet on proper commercially-released games made on an R-Pi appearing before long.

And maybe, just maybe, as thousands more begin to dabble in programming, making games and releasing them online for others to download, rate and share, then we might see a new golden age of great British gaming legends spring to life.

One of whom will go on to create someone's first gaming addiction.


Comments

    Add a comment

    * All fields required
    Only 2000 Characters are allowed to enter :
    Type the word on the left, then click "Post Comment":

    Article Details