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The first prototype - 2006
While the $35 Raspberry Pi has redefined our idea of what a cheap computer is, the path to creating the board certainly wasn’t easy.
This gallery charts the history of the Raspberry Pi, from the very first prototype to the finished board that launched in 2012.
2006 Raspberry Pi prototype
Created by Eben Upton, the first Raspberry Pi prototype was very different to the Pi that would launch in 2012.
The machine may have been rudimentary but had the advantage that it could be manually assembled and soldered.
The downside was that it was rather weedy, even by 2006 standards, roughly as powerful as the BBC Micro that Eben Upton cut his teeth on in the 1980s.
SEE: Inside the Raspberry Pi: The story of the $35 computer that changed the world (cover story PDF) (TechRepublic)
Raspberry Pi Foundation is formed - 2009
Founded in 2009, the Raspberry Pi Foundation is a UK-based charity whose mission is to give people worldwide the knowledge and tools needed to create computer software and hardware.
Seen here are the then trustees for the foundation, pictured at a board meeting in 2012, from left to right, is finance director Martin Cartwright, Professor Alan Mycroft, Pete Lomas, David Braben, Eben Upton, and Jack Lang. Also pictured on the right of the image is Alex Bradbury, then lead Linux developer for the foundation.
2011 Raspberry Pi prototype revealed by BBC
This thumb-drive prototype was the world’s first real glimpse of the Raspberry Pi.
Of course, this was very different to the board that would launch in 2012. While it still encompassed some of the final features, including HDMI and a USB port, the launch machine would offer more features and be significantly larger.
The board’s features and size and mooted price had more in common with the Raspberry Pi Zero, which would launch in November 2015.
The Alpha boards - 2011
The Raspberry Pi started to take shape in 2011, as the foundation moved to using a low-cost, Arm-based system-on-a-chip designed by Broadcom.
The BCM2835 would be used in the launch machine and was important in that it allowed the Raspberry Pi to run full Linux-based operating systems.
These BCM2835-based Alpha boards shared many of the characteristics of the first Raspberry Pi but were also larger and more expensive, with the co-creators spending months whittling down what they described as an “$110 monster” to the affordable machine that launched.
Eben Upton shows off the Alpha
Upton shows off one of the Alpha boards in an early video.
The beta board
Produced in the final days of 2011, the beta boards were the product of months of cost cutting by Upton and Raspberry Pi co-creator Pete Lomas.
Twenty of the boards were built at the Norcott Technologies factory in Cheshire in the run-up to Christmas.
Despite giving Raspberry Pi co-creator Pete Lomas a scare when the first board he tried didn’t work, after applying a simple manual fix the boards worked perfectly, and the boards were pretty much the same computer that would launch in 2012.
The launch board - 2012
The Raspberry Pi 1 Model B went on sale in February 2012, racking up more than 100,000 orders on the first day.
Upton and Lomas managed to pack the $35 with two USB 2.0 ports, 100Mbps Ethernet, HDMI 1.3, 26 GPIO pin header, with a 700MHz single-core processor and VideoCore IV GPU capable of hardware-accelerated 1080p video playback. In keeping with the foundation’s educational mission and commitment to transparency, each board was available with a variety of Linux-based operating systems and a suite of programming tools.
Fresh from China
Fresh from a Chinese production line, these are the first Pi boards, which were delivered to the house of Raspberry Pi Foundation’s Jack Lang.
Initially the Raspberry Pi was manufactured in a Chinese factory, due to supply considerations, as well as excise and manufacturing costs.
The first batch
One of the first Pi boards, which Upton and his colleagues tested inside Lang’s house.
The UK factory - 2012
The Sony factory in South Wales in the UK where the Pi boards have been made since late 2012.
Eben Upton is pictured at the factory soon after it began making the boards.
Six pack of Raspberry Pi
Another shot of the factory in those early days–this time of a six pack of Raspberry Pi boards with all their through-hole components added, about to be wave soldered.
Eben Upton CBE
Eben Upton, pictured after being appointed a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2016, which he said at the time was a tribute to work carried out by the team at the Raspberry Pi Foundation, both in building and supporting the Pi and in developing the foundation’s educational projects.
- Inside the Raspberry Pi: The story of the $35 computer that changed the world (cover story PDF) (TechRepublic)
- Raspberry Pi: Hands-on with Kali, openSUSE, Fedora and Ubuntu MATE Linux (ZDNet)
- New Raspberry Pi-like Odroid-H2 board packs Intel Gemini Lake quad-core CPU (ZDNet)
- Raspberry Pi: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)
- Raspberry Pi alternatives: The most recent boards available to buy (TechRepublic)
- More must-see Raspberry Pi coverage (TechRepublic Flipboard magazine)