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3/19/2013
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Raspberry Pi Production Returns To U.K. From China

Main production of the inexpensive build-it-yourself Raspberry Pi computer has been switched back to the U.K. to meet rising demand.

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The Raspberry Pi, the low-cost, ultra-basic British computer being positioned as an ideal way to interest kids in programming, is about to be made much closer to home.

The Pi's largest distributor, Farnell Element14 , says it has switched all Raspberry Pi production out of two facilities in China, as well as other offshore locations, to Sony's UK Technology Center factory in Pencoed, Wales.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation's other main partner, RS Components, currently also uses China as its manufacturing base, but it's unclear if it also plans to move Pi production back to the U.K..

The change came about because company had faced supply chain issues sparked by rising demand for the devices, ARM-based processors available as either the Model A, $25, or the Model B, $35, the different prices owing to amount of RAM they offer. (Raspberry Pi prices the models in dollars, not pounds.) A spokesperson for the Raspberry Pi Foundation told The Financial Times this week, "We believe that a U.K. creation should be produced in its home country and since partnering with Sony we have been delighted with the product's quality."

[ Why aren't U.K. kids into computers? Read U.K. Students Not Lining Up To Study IT. ]

The same spokesperson said that the foundation had done everything it could to keep the pipeline well stocked. It is believed that since launch a year ago, almost a million Raspberry Pis have been sold worldwide.

The Pi is the brainchild of academics at the University of Cambridge Computer Lab who were dismayed at both the decline in numbers and the skills of students in their undergraduate computer science courses. They decided the gap was most likely due to the lack of cheap home devices that their generation had learned to program on, such as the BBC Micro or ZX Spectrum, so they decided to offer a hobbyist platform the current generation of school kids could use to make systems and write code on. The Raspberry Pi requires purchasers to build a desktop PC around the credit-card sized basic chipset.

"We want to see cheap, accessible, programmable computers everywhere; we actively encourage other companies to clone what we're doing," the Raspberry Pi Foundation, which is a registered charity, states on its website. "We want to break the paradigm where without spending hundreds of pounds on a PC, families can't use the Internet… We want owning a truly personal computer to be normal for children."

The Pi has become an item of interest to the U.K. government, which says it agrees that too much contemporary information technology education in British schools is too passive and doesn't encourage the right basics of computer science.

In January, Google said it would be handing out 15,000 free Raspberry Pi Model B boards to British schoolkids to help develop just such skills.

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