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October 8, 2013

Made in Britain: Raspberry Pi hits one million

UK success story in computer manufacturing.

By Ben Sullivan

The Raspberry Pi foundation has announced that a million of the small, cheap computers aimed at transforming computer education have now been manufactured in the UK.

The Pi, a credit card-sized micro-computer, was launched in February last year. The device was originally made in China but a few months later production was brought to a Sony factory in South Wales.

At first, the foundation thought I might not be able to compete with manufacturing prices in China.

However, after reviewing the price of delivery, quality control issues and the overseeing of the manufacturing process, the foundation decided it could work in Britain – with the help of some investment by Sony in the machinery at the factory.

Since the, up to 12,000 units a day have been made, and it looks as if the Pi is set to become the best-selling British computer since the 1980s.

"I remember being told this was an unsaleable product," said Eben Upton, founder of the Pi.

"But we’ve already surpassed the sales of the BBC Micro – my childhood computer. There was a latent need for something like this."

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"It’s been a rollercoaster year."

Surpassing sales records was never the intention of the Pi though. The original mission was to transform the way schoolchildren understand and use computers. With the Pi, you can start from the bottom up with programming in different computer languages and tinker around with hardware projects. The Pi has even been central in the current debate which sees to bring in coding for children from the age of five next September.

On a press release on the Pi website, the Raspberry foundation said:

"We’ve reached a bit a landmark. As you’ll know if you’ve been following us since we started documenting what happens when you decide to make a tiny computer for education back in 2011, the first Raspberry Pis were made in China. Back in September 2012, we started moving manufacture to a plant owned by Sony in South Wales. Gradually, both of our manufacturing partners, RS Components and Premier Farnell, have reshored all the production of Raspberry Pis to that factory, and for the last few months, all the Pis you buy have been made in the UK."

"What’s happened to the millionth British Raspberry Pi, you ask? Sony have made us a gold-plated case to keep it in, and we’ll be displaying it proudly here at Pi Towers."

Earlier this month, Ciseco sent me a Raspberry Pi inventors kit, called a RasWIK. Look out in the near future for a review and some easy electronic hardware projects that can be achieved with the RasWIK.


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