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    element14's The Ben Heck Show

    Join the Ben Heck team every week for amazing hacks! Watch them build and mod community-inspired projects using electronics!

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    Winner Announcement

    Congratulations thefalcontype you are the winner of Ben Heck's Portable Raspberry Pi Zero!


    Thank you for everyone who participated and sharing your amazing builds with the rest of the community!
    Winning Entry

    thefalcontype writes:


    As a university student, i was struggling to decide what project I could do for my third year finals and that's when a lecturer told me, "processing is cheap". At first i thought he meant just small simple micro-controllers, however a week later the raspberry pi zero was announced and launched. I was lucky enough to run to town and managed to pick up the magazine which was giving it away for free. I had never owned or used a raspberry pi before then, but after that, i could not stop talking about it. £4 for a full spec PC with easily controllable gpio's. It truly was and still is an amazing bit of hardware. For that reason i felt i needed to build something that could use the amazing power of the tiny pi and push what had been done with not just the raspberry pi, but any small frame computer. That is why i then built a miniature, fully working transformer that could drive around, then transform to walk around as a fully pi-pedal robot. The raspberry pi really inspired me to realize what could be achieved in the modern day and age if you just put the time and effort into it. You don't need a big budget, you just need both the inspiration and then the dedication to follow through with it.


    Video of the raspberry pi zero Transformer:









    In 2006, Eben Upton and colleagues including Rob Mullins, Jack Lang, and Alan Mycroft came up with the idea of using a cheap, tiny computer to help teach kids how to code. They were concerned with the year-on-year declining popularity and skill set of A Level students applying for Computer Science in each academic year throughout the 2000's.  Something was clearly going on, the situation had changed drastically from what was happening in the early 1990s, when most kids who applied came to interviews as experienced hobbyist programmers as opposed to someone who did just a little bit of web design.





    A number of problems for why kids interacted differently with computers were identified: combining ICT curriculum with lessons on using Word and Excel, or writing web pages; the dot-com bust; and the rise of home PC and game consoles to replace the Amigas, BBC Micros, Spectrum ZX and Commodore 64 machines that the previous generation had grown up and learned to program on. While the consolidation of curriculum and the end of the .dom era are issues a small group of people could not address, reinvigorating an interest in programming lost on those growing up with modern computers was something they felt they could help with. Unlike modern computers, which were cost prohibitive and did not lend themselves to programming experimentation, the older computers of the previous generation could be booted into a programming environment.


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    Several iterations of what would later be known as the Raspberry Pi were designed from Eben from 2006 to 2008. The idea gain steam until 2008, when processors used in mobile devices became more affordable and powerful enough to deliver a quality multimedia experience, making the boards attractive for kids not interested in a purely programming-oriented device. Eben Upton, Rob Mullins, Jack Lang, and Alan Mycroft teamed up Pete Lomas and David Braben to form the Raspberry Pi foundation and turn their vision into a reality.


    The foundation also had several challenges including no manufacturing experience, price points with margins under acceptable levels for contract manufacturers, and volumes that were too low.  The original plan for the Raspberry Pi called for building just 1000 units for new undergraduates at Cambridge University. They figured they could operate at an initial loss by kick starting the project themselves and further develop the platform while early adopters helped with debugging, documentation, and education.


    Raspberry Pi Zero Portable Episode

    Instead, they became victims to their own success when just three weeks before launch, initial demand went well beyond 200,000 units.  It would be impossible for them to subsidize production at a level 200 times beyond what they initially expected and they could not fund demand by normal loan methods because they were registered as a UK charity. As as result, they began searching for a partner with the buying power to keep component prices low, the global presence to handle logistics, and the financial muscle to make it all happen immediately.


    According to Pete Lomas: "What we learned is that we had to sell out (a little) to sell (a lot). I'd argue that many makers do this when they want to scale... Holding back schematics altogether troubled us. Not being open would impede people's ability to interface and hack the hardware - defeating the very goals we had set out to accomplish with Raspberry Pi in the first place. Because our remit is education in the broadest sense, we wanted - needed - to provide completely open access to the hardware. And we didn't want to alienate the devoted hacking and open source community that had fueled early interest and would provide much future development. ...But if other manufacturers copied our design, our partners would lose their investment, which was approaching several million dollars. They were spending this time and money optimizing their processes for manufacturing our product, while exploring component alternatives to meet our cost target."


    The final design for the Raspberry Pi included what is perhaps its most important feature for the hacker and open source community, access to the General Purpose Input/Output (GPIO). Pete Lomas continues: "The GPIO was the key to unlocking the hardware so successfully developed in the Arduino ecosystem: The stuff people could add to and embed with the Raspberry Pi. The GPIO also meant features that ended up on the cutting room floor could be added back by our ever-inventive community. ...without all these specs, a hardware community could not grow around the Raspberry Pi."


    The Raspberry Pi was released by Premier Farnell, the company behind element14, in 2012. According to the CEO at the time: "This partnership brings together the world's biggest online design engineer community with one of the most exciting electronic/embedded computing products to be launched for decades. ...Through our element14 community we will encourage everyone from developers, modders, coders and programmers to discuss, share and develop their ideas and fully (utilize) the game-changing potential of the Raspberry Pi computer."


    In the comments below tell us how the Raspberry Pi inspires you!


    Let us know and you could win Ben Heck's Portable Raspberry Pi Zero!


    Feel free to send us pictures or videos of an invention you've made using it, something you did differently with it that no one else has thought of, how you were able to use it to learn something new, an amazing build you've made with it such as a portable device or a retro gaming machine, something useful that is either not affordable or commercially available, a programming language or a skill it helped you master, or anything else related to the Raspberry Pi.


    Step 1:  Log in or register on element14, it's easy and free.

    Step 2: Post in the comments section below and tell us how the Raspberry Pi inspires you. Videos, pictures and text are all welcomed forms of submission.

    Step 3:  Sit back, relax, and enjoy the show!  We will accept entries until 3:00pm CDT August 29th, 2016 and we will announce our winner on YouTube. If you need something to do between now and then make sure to check out what is happening This week on element14 Community, or watch more Ben at


    Bonus points if you also comment and like your favorite Raspberry Pi builds.  Show your enthusiasm by liking or commenting on some or all of his builds: