THREE YEARS AGO, on a once-every-four-years 29 February, the Raspberry Pi computer was released for sale. Now three years later, the £26 machine has sold five million units.
The Raspberry Pi Foundation celebrated its third birthday in a blog post by Liz Upton, head of communications, who summed up just how far the project and the hardware has come in the short space of time.
"Three years ago we made 2,000 little computers, and I remember looking at the pallet and thinking: 'Cripes. Can't believe we've made so many computers. That's amazing,'" she wrote.
"We've sold half a million of the things just this month. Thanks to everyone who's joined us on this extraordinarily weird journey. You're all brilliant."
The Foundation celebrated with a party this weekend attended by some 1,300 passionate Pi users. There was a lot to celebrate and the party filled the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory and got through over 100 pizzas.
The Raspberry Pi 2 launched last month, and the Foundation told The INQUIRER that the new model represented 500,000 of the five million total.
Those 500,000 sales in under a month show just how much growth the Pi has seen. The team was once amazed to see 2,000 machines, now that number looks like a trifle.
The original Raspberry Pi was launched in February 2012, and we got our hands on it shortly after.
Foundation lead Eben Upton told us last month that the five-million mark came much sooner than expected.
"We probably thought we were on track to reach this point in five years, not three," he said, adding that the journey has not always been smooth.
"It took us four years from founding the Foundation to shipping product. There were times in that window where I was completely discouraged and distracted and nothing got done for months on end," he said.
"That's not to say that it hasn't looked very smooth indeed to outsiders. The Pi was an immediate smash at launch and orders and re-stock information was the news of the day.
"Since then we have covered a show-and-tell with Her Majesty the Queen, and got sartorial advice from the Duke of Edinburgh."
Upton, to whom the Duke said: "Your company is doing well? So you can afford to buy a bloody tie then," is something of a wunderkind, and has been awarded medals for having an impact on the industry at such a young age.
He was awarded a Royal Society of Engineering Silver Medal, which is given out to people who have been in industry for under 22 years in 2013, and a medal from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2012 awarded to those under 35.
"Eben Upton thought a new generation of youngsters might never develop valuable hardware and software hacking skills unless they had access to cheap, hobbyist-friendly computers. So he set out to build one himself. The resulting tiny box, which sells for just $25, has been a big hit," said MIT as it doffed its cap to Upton.
"Almost the instant the Raspberry Pi went on sale, orders crashed the websites of its two vendors, RS Components and Premier Farnell. The companies reported that they were taking in orders fast enough to tear through the entire initial stock of 10,000 computers in minutes."
There were some initial delays including a brief wait for safety approval, but since those first few weeks the passage of the Pi has been smooth. It took just under a year to sell the first million Pi units and the firm was amazed when it hit those numbers.
"Since the Raspberry Pi was launched globally in February 2012 it has been a tremendous success story. The younger generation has demonstrated significant intrigue in learning how to build and program their own computer," said Upton at the time.
"And what has been great to see is the enormous growth in the hobbyist market. I have seen projects from Twittering chickens to home beer brewing kits being created using the Raspberry Pi and its accessories."
A lot has happened since then, including the movement of manufacturing to the UK, and we are sure that there is much more to come. µ
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