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    Meet the man behind the Raspberry Pi sensation

    January 18, 2018
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    Meet the man behind the Raspberry Pi sensation

    The co-inventor of the iconic Raspberry Pi, Pete Lomas, gave an inspirational talk to 3M employees when he visited the company’s head office in Bracknell, Berkshire, in January.

    Meet the man behind the Raspberry Pi sensation

    The co-inventor of the iconic Raspberry Pi, Pete Lomas, gave an inspirational talk to 3M employees when he visited the company’s head office in Bracknell, Berkshire, in January.

    Meet the man behind the Raspberry Pi sensation

    The co-inventor of the iconic Raspberry Pi, Pete Lomas, gave an inspirational talk to 3M employees when he visited the company’s head office in Bracknell, Berkshire, in January.

    • Pete Lomas

      As well as talking about the creation of the credit card sized computer that has travelled into space, Pete hosted an open inspiration event where he showcased some of the latest Raspberry Pi applications.

      The Raspberry Pi was created as a low-cost computer to help children learn to code and went on to take the world by storm. The founders expected to sell around 10,000, but when the Raspberry Pi was first launched in 2012, 20,000 were sold in the first few minutes, crashing several websites. By early 2015, sales had topped five million.

      Pete is passionate about inspiring the next generation to study science and engineering. Despite going on to gain an MSc in computer science from Manchester University, he still describes himself as a school drop-out.

      He said: “I hated school as I couldn’t see the point of it and left as soon as I could, aged 16. I wanted to learn about things that interested me, so I enrolled at a technical college in Bolton to study electrical engineering. On my first day, I spotted a DEC PDP-8 mini-computer that was guarded by a lab technician named Graham Beach. He invited me to come back at lunchtime to see how it worked and after writing my first program, I was hooked.”

      Pete went on to study computer science and computer-aided design and then set up his own electronics design and manufacturing company, Norcott Technologies.

      A chance meeting at Imperial College, London, with professor Alan Mycroft from the University of Cambridge’s Computer Laboratory led to the creation of the Raspberry Pi.

      Pete explained: “We identified a need for young people to learn about real computing rather than just relate to electronics as consumers of pre-packaged hardware and software. Not being able to see ‘how it works’ causes children to discard their curiosity, a key component of creativity and innovation.

      Pete and Alan teamed up with Broadcom engineer, Eben Upton, and three other founders and went on to set up the Raspberry Pi Foundation, a charity committed to providing an open computing platform for around $25 a unit for use by individuals and schools in the UK and overseas.

      The initial hardware for the Raspberry Pi was developed by Pete and the computer runs the Python language on top of a customised version of Linux.

      He said: “We had to pare down the original prototype to keep the size and cost down, but users are able to add on functionality, such as HAT and Addon boards and modules, putting the power and variety of digital creativity in their hands.”

      The success of the Raspberry Pi has been phenomenal, with 17 million sold worldwide to date. A percentage of every Rapsberry Pi sold goes to the Foundation to fund outreach work, such as running teaching programmes in primary schools and local coding clubs.

      The Raspberry Pi has even been used in space during Tim Peake’s Principia mission to the International Space Station.

      School pupils were invited to come up with ideas for coding experiments to be carried out with Raspberry Pi in space. Tim Peake conducted the tests, including measuring crop health using near infra-red images, detecting cosmic rays, and modelling the orientation of the space station in Minecraft.

      Back down to earth, Pete spoke about the latest Raspberry Pi activities including CodeClub, CoderDojo, the annual community-led Pi Wars challenge, the creation of local weather stations and an eye tracker used to motorise a wheelchair.

      Said Pete: “This is all part of our mission to inspire the next generation of engineers through digital making.”

      In the open question session that followed, Pete was asked where the name for the computer came from. He quipped that all the leading technology giants are named after fruits and said that raspberry was chosen for its bold colour, combined with Pi as a play on the word Python. He added that he was unsure about the name until he tried it out on his 12-year-old son.

      Pete was also questioned about the next big launch to follow the Raspberry Pi 3. He revealed that the 30 plus-strong team of Raspberry Pi engineers are hard at work on the next exciting developments, but said that he couldn’t give anything more away.

      Pete is pictured, left, with 3M Innovation leader, Ben Watson.



      FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE RASPBERRY PI