Three Reasons Raspberry Pi Ruled PyCon 2013

Pycon is an annual conference for the users of the Python programming language from around the world to meet and discuss new ideas and how they are using it in their work. The conference was held in sunny Santa Clara, California this year. Here are three reasons the low-cost, single-board computer called the Raspberry Pi ruled the Pycon this year:

1. Eben Upton. The founder of the Raspberry Pi Foundation and key architect of the board was the opening keynote speaker! He shared with us his goals and ambitions in creating an inexpensive programming platform. On your typical 80's computer like the BBC Micro, he told us, you had to actually choose not to program it since it booted in to BASIC. The statement 10 PRINT "HELLO WORLD!" got a generation of programmer started (including me). The game console and the PC have eroded that experience and the pool of programming-savvy students showing up for university classes are diminishing. His goal of something that booted directly into a Python environment has not quite been realized, but by using GNU Linux, they have been able to leverage into a rich programming ecosystem that includes Python. Eben finished up by giving some examples of RPi projects he liked and that he never could of imagined would have happened on his hardware. Music synthesizers, beer brewing, photography, and near-space exploration. "Kids all over the world love to program", he told us. "You just need a hook". Boy, did he ever give us a good hook!

2. Free Pi for everyone! The Python Software Foundation gave every one of the 2,500 participants a free Raspberry Pi. And not just the board. A power supply and an SD card with a Linux image on it. No excuse not to use it now. And if you don't use it, we were told, get it in to the hands of someone who would!

3. The Pi Lab. Just getting a Pi to boot can be a barrier. The PSF also set up a large classroom with about twenty sets of keyboards, mice, monitors, and power. Plug in your Pi and boom! Need some help? Boom. Not sure what to do with it? Lectures, tutorials, breadboards, and components. Boom! They had open signups, and no where did I hear Adafruit's Learning System or the Adafruit WebIDE mentioned, so it was time for me to step up. I did a live demo of the Web IDE debugger and visualizer, the two things I think most useful for beginners when learning Python, and showcased some of my projects to about thirty educators who had been told if they showed up they would get the leftover RPis to use in their classrooms. Hopefully I gave them some good ideas to start with.

As a Maker, I absolutely adore the Raspberry Pi, but I think it is the educators that are going to make the real use of the platform in the long run. And that, I think, is what Eben intended. Thanks to the PSF for supporting it in a big way this year! There have been over a million Pis put in to production, but getting just 2,500 of them put into the hands of Python professionals is absolutely priceless . . .


  1. The conference sounds very cool. I may have to check it out.

  2. Just as an additional plug, is also a resource we built for all this, we hope more people put up projects and tutorials there.