A better late than never introduction for the RISC OS world to the #RaspberryJam
RISC OS users should by now need no introduction to the Raspberry Pi – but in case there is anyone reading this who has been living as a hermit for the last few years with no access to the internet (or any other news sources) in their cave, it is a very small, incredibly cheap computer based around a Broadcom BCM2835 ‘System on a Chip’ (or SoC). The heart of that SoC is an ARM processor, running at 700Mhz.
The idea behind the computer is to get children programming, to get them interested in computers and understand them – something which had been in an observable decline, with fewer and fewer students with less relevant skills applying to read Computer Science at University of Cambridge’s Computer Laboratory in recent years.
And so, the Raspberry Pi was born. Designed from the outset to be as cheap as possible, the aim is to provide a low-cost platform that kids can program and experiment with at home, without any fear (on the part of their parents’) that their little angels might do something that could turn the family PC into a doorstop. It’s a new platform that can be compared with the home computers of the past – most notably the 1980s, when home computing really took off and inspired a generation of programmers.
For those of us in the RISC OS world, however, there is another point of note about the little computer: Work is currently underway at RISC OS Open Ltd (and through the community of developers contributing to the Shared Source RISC OS administered by the company, and those helping in other ways) to get RISC OS running on the computer.
And its name is another point of note because it’s positively puntastic – and that point brings us neatly to the title of this page: RaspberryJams. A fine example of the puntastic potential presented by the name of the computer, RaspberryJam is a term that has been coined to refer to a rapidly growing – no, spreading – series of meetings that are taking place where people can talk about and demonstrate the projects they are undertaking with the Pi, or what they’re planning to do, and where they can share ideas with other, like-minded people. Much like the user group meetings that sprung up around home computers, and continue today for many platforms, albeit often in diminished form – including our own, beloved RISC OS. One of the key names you will see associated with the events is Alan O’Donohoe, aka teknoteacher on Twitter, and he runs a website dedicated to RaspberryJams, on which you will find much more general information on the subject, including details of upcoming meetings.
As a slight aside, the keen eyed amongst you will notice that the title of this page, and all references to the events where I’ve not shortened it to just ‘Jam’ or described it in another way, lacks a space between the words ‘Raspberry’ and ‘Jam’ – and if you look at the website Alan has set up, you’ll notice it’s called #RaspberryJam, again lacking that space, but including a hash character at the start of the term. This is because #RaspberryJam is the ‘hashtag’ used for the events on Twitter.
Bringing things back to specifics, though, where does RISC OS fit in with RaspberryJams? The answer is that it is a project, just like any other, which can be talked about and demonstrated at these events, either as a developer or as a user. With the Pi being such a cheap device – and such an increasingly popular one – RaspberryJams are an ideal way to make people more aware of the operating system that was originally developed for the ARM processor.
While, as we should all know, RISC OS lacks many facilities and features offered by other operating systems, it does still have lots to offer, and many features that still make it stand out from the crowd – in particular, given the aims behind the Raspberry Pi, the fact that it’s so open, accessible and easy to program. In fact, Keith Dunlop, who has demonstrated RISC OS on the Pi at a couple of events so far, has quoted Eben Upton of the Raspberry Pi Foundation as saying “This is f***ing amazing!” in response to seeing RISC OS running on the little machine.
The next RaspberryJam – and the reason I am writing this (finally – I wanted to write it several weeks ago, but I’ve just been too busy) – will be taking place in Bristol, on Monday, 20th August, 2012, at the Bristol and Bath Science Park. This is my local event, so I will be attending.
I don’t yet have a Pi, mine is on order with an estimated despatch date of “within eleven weeks” of my ordering it (which was mid-July), but I am interested in seeing just how far along the RISC OS port is – Keith Dunlop has kindly offered to come down to the Bristol Jam to demonstrate it. And even though I have one on order, I gather a small number of Raspberry Pis will be on sale at the event, so I will quite probably give in to the urge to buy one there and then, and install RISC OS on it as soon as I can, partly to fulfill that desire to see for myself just how far along that port is, and partly to try out my own software on it. Ideally, I’d like to bring along just a Pi to the 2012 London Show, so the sooner I get one and test the likes of WebChange, the more time I have to deal with any problems (if there are any).
And, of course, I am also interested in seeing what else is being done with the Pi, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, if I will ultimately end up with more than one of them – which will probably be the case anyway, even if I don’t buy one at the event to go along with the one on order – I might very well have one with something other than RISC OS on it. And secondly (and more personally) I have rather a lot of nephews and nieces, covering just about all ages from smelly-nappy-monsters all the way up to late teens and beyond. I might consider the Pi as a possible Christmas present for some of them, but I want to weigh up what’s available and what people are doing with it first, so I can balance that out with my assessment of my nephews and nieces various abilities, etc.
I will follow-up this post as soon as I am able with a write-up of the Bristol event – but, even though they are based around the computer, rather than our operating system, these are events that have a great deal of relevance to the RISC OS world. You might therefore want to keep an eye out and see if there is a RaspberryJam taking place near you. If there is, consider going along to it and talking about (or even demonstrating) RISC OS. If there isn’t, why not think about organising one yourself?