Raspberry Pi resurrects UK computer industry with new jobs

Designed in Cambridge, made in Wales

The Raspberry Pi computer is designed in the UK and now it will be made here as well in a deal that will make the tiny board the first all-British personal computer for nearly two decades.

That return is small - just 30 jobs created in Sony's Welsh Pencoed facility - but it's a hugely symbolic moment that resurrects an industry that looked to be long gone.

So great has been the demand for the Raspberry Pi that distributors Element 14 and Premier Farnell have decided that the device should be made in the UK to cope with demand expected to run at 30,000 units per month for the newly-released Rev2 board.

The Pi's Cambridge team had wanted to build the current board in the UK but had to go with Chinese manufacture on order to meet the aggressive $25 (Model A) and $35 (Model B) price points. Sales success has changed those calculations and the project can now guarantee enough demand.

In the early 1980s, the UK founded a sizable cottage industry designing and making computers on the back of the BBC Micro and later the Acorn Archimedes, the latter being made by Norwich Computer Services.

As these proprietary but hugely influential designs and their creators faded, in the 1990s came more standard UK-designed PCs from ICL and Apricot, eventually taken over by Fujitsu and Mitsubishi respectively. One was closed and the other continued as a services part of a Japanese multi-national, its Britishness hollowed out.

Apart from a few niches such as Psion, the native British computer industry was dead and everyone moved on to software. Now, unexpectedly from a small office in Cambridge, the industry is back in a smaller but perhaps eventually equally influential form.

"How do you know if you've got a UK-made board? Easy. Look next to the power jack; you'll see the words 'Made in the UK'. We couldn't be prouder," announced the Pi team on the project website.

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John E Dunn

Computerworld UK

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