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What on Earth is Raspberry Pi?

It might sound like a tasty dessert rather than a piece of tech hardware, but the Raspberry Pi could be one of the most important tech releases in years.

The buzz around the Raspberry Pi has been growing for months, as the release date for this exciting hardware drew closer.

The Pi went on sale in the UK yesterday for the bargain-price of £22. Demand was so high that websites selling the mini-computer crashed up the weight of heavy traffic.

But what is the Raspberry Pi? It is essentially a bare-bones mini-computer that comes without a monitor, mouse or keyboard, and is roughly the size of a credit card.

The computer is uncased and can be plugged into any TV. It also has optional networking, and ports for a mouse, keyboard and other peripherals.

Raspberry Pi for education

So what is the point of a computer that requires you to provide all the extra bits? Well, the main aim of the Pi’s developers is to get children and young people interested in computer programming.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has been developing the bare-bones computer for six years, with the input of volunteers and academics.

“This first launch is aimed at software and hardware enthusiasts, makers, teachers and others who want to build exciting things with the Raspberry Pi before the official educational launch, which will happen later in 2012,” a statement on the Raspberry Pi Foundation website said.

In these days of rapid technological advances, we take things like computers and smartphones for granted – without any knowledge of how they actually work.

The Pi is trying to change all this, and get young people interested in programming. The initiative has been backed by education secretary Michael Gove, so we should be seeing the Pi in schools before the end of the year.

Note: Updated 1 March to correct an incorrect mention of wifi. Thanks to readers for spotting.