Most Raspberry Pi computers bought by adults, not kids

5 Mar 2013
Raspberry Pi

Founder reveals as few as 30% of Raspberry Pis are in the hands of kids

The Raspberry Pi was designed to inspire children to take-up programming, but the vast majority of the £25 computers have been bought by adults.

That's according to Raspberry Pi founder Eben Upton, who said at most three in ten of the devices were going to children.

"The reason we've sold so many of these is largely is that they've sold to technology capable adults more than they've sold to kids," Upton said. "We think only 10-20%, maybe 30% of the ones we sold have ended up in the hands of kids."

Upton's not disappointed with the figure, as a million of the cheap and cheerful computing boards have sold over the past year, meaning as many as 300,000 are being used by students.

Upton shared the stat at The Economist's Technology Frontiers conference in London, also revealing why he thinks programming should be taught to children.

First, there's the "brutal economic" reason: tech firms are struggling to find people to take programming jobs, and being forced to look overseas.

"We in the UK have an advanced technological civilisation... that runs on engineers, and more than that it runs on people who know how to think like engineers," he said.

He revealed the Raspberry Pi project started after he noticed falling numbers of qualified computing students applying for places at Cambridge University - and that's now extended to tech firms. "Every software and hardware company in the land has a recruitment problem," he added.

It's not only about tech companies, however. "Skills that you learn by thinking like a computer programmer, what we call computational thinking, are useful in almost every other walk of life, other than the purely creative - I'm not going to advocate that learning to programme computers is going to make you a better novelist, but I certainly think it will make you a better doctor, and make you a better lawyer," he added.

"All of our high value jobs in this country are the sort of jobs that that require the sort of thinking that computer programming teaches."

Another reason Upton sees programming as a key subject for children is that the ensuing jobs are fun. "You are effectively being paid money, as a computer programmer or an engineer, to play with toys, to play with Lego, every day of your life," he said. "Who would not want that for their children?"

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