liamc
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Re: What the Pi has done for me.

Sat Apr 28, 2012 7:38 am

Hi I"m Liam, I"m 17 and Up until around half a year ago I was not really sure what I wanted to do in my future. I had already started my A-Levels (which is what I am doing at the moment) and still held some doubt about what I was going to do after I had finished.The obvious choice was to goto university, but I didn"t quite know what I wanted to study.

I had two main options,  either study science or continue to study my passion, computers.

At A-level I do both, studying biology, physics, I.T and business. After a few months I was aware of my stronger subjects and what the courses actually entailed. This allowed me to think a lot more about university and other possible options,  it soon becoming clear to myself that I wanted to go onto studying I.T when I left school.

But where does the Raspberry Pi fit into this?

My year 11 I.T teacher made me aware of the Raspberry Pi foundation, explaining that he thought I would appreciate it. He was right, and after looking at the website I was hooked.

I instantly signed up to the mailing list, and then shortly after registered on the forum. I Soon realised I had entered a side of "I.T" I had never really seen before, which was not covered by the current curriculum. There were  words I didn"t even realise existed and technical terms which where like another language to me.

I had to dig deeper, and It made me reflect on the way I was learning at school, and how we were being taught how to use applications as appose to how to make them. Along with this the simplicity of the I.T course was also coming into focus, with whole modules just about sending/receiving emails and how to add contacts to an address book. This wasn"t that enjoyable for me, so I thought I would learn something more appealing.

I looked more into programming, using the tutorials that Liam Fraser had made, helping me to create virtual machines and write simple pieces of code.

My passion for computers had just got bigger, I was finding my self watching more and more tutorials, reading more and more books. I was learning new things, things which I was really enjoying, I was starting to get a better understanding of computers.

Launch Day

After following the foundations developments for several months, launch day was soon upon me. I was up for 6, and after around an hour I managed to place my order.

Whilst waiting to receive my Raspberry Pi, I started preparing for it, buying the necessary SD cards, cables and peripherals whilst using virtual machines to get use to Debian, something else which was very new to me.

Then after a few months of waiting, I received a delivery confirmation email from Farnell, stating my Pi was ready to ship. The following Monday it was here.

I got home from school, quickly opened the box, and plugged the Pi into my T.V. and the Debian login prompt appeared, and it was soon booting. Once in I typed the "startx" command, LXDE was launched and my new interest had just begun.

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scep
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Re: What the Pi has done for me.

Sat Apr 28, 2012 8:06 am

Thanks for posting this Liam - a great story and exactly the sort of thing the Foundation are trying to encourage.

Too late to drop IT and do AS computing next year?

jamesh
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Re: What the Pi has done for me.

Sat Apr 28, 2012 8:07 am

Fantastic post Liam.

You, and people like you, are the reason this project exists. I really hope it helps you with your chosen career path.

And, HAVE FUN!

James
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liamc
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Re: What the Pi has done for me.

Sat Apr 28, 2012 8:09 am

Thanks guys, I really appreciate it.

I know how much work the Raspberry Pi foundation have put in, and thought I would do this as a thank you.

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cheery
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Re: What the Pi has done for me.

Sat Apr 28, 2012 8:34 am

I expected to see something like raspberry borg. But this is okay as well.

Have fun, LiamC.

Andre_P
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Re: What the Pi has done for me.

Sat Apr 28, 2012 8:47 am

Hi Liam,
This is A BRILLIANT post .
You are making the first steps into a new and interesting world.
Along on your journey I would suggest you not only look at the whole software side but also start to get an understanding/appreciation of the hardware that your software is running on.
There are SO many pathways from here, you will continue learning new things.
While I"m on the hardware side I"m still learning new things such as Python because knowing it is useful.
So BRAVO and Good Luck

Best Regards

Andre"

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MadHorseman
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Re: What the Pi has done for me.

Sat Apr 28, 2012 8:48 am

Thanks, LiamC for an uplifting post - well done & keep us posted on progress.

(I remember A-Levels - I still have the papers, but can't understand a word of them...!!)

JonB
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Re: What the Pi has done for me.

Sat Apr 28, 2012 9:21 am

Well done, Liam!

What you've encountered is pretty well the same experience that us old hands had in the '80s with ZX-81s, BBC Micros and Speccys. I was 16 when I got my first computer - a ZX81 kit which I built in about three hours (yes, it worked first time).

I have to say, I do envy you a little. I have many computers of all sorts in my study (or "man cave" as my wife puts it) and several unfinished / unstarted projects. As a family man with a long commute to work and back, I don't have that much time to indulge myself in computing fun. The last time I really got into something was when I built the UK101 clone (see my other post replying to one of your comments), and that got me into trouble because I got sucked into it on a Very Important Day (a family birthday) and I could not put it down. What's more, I burned a hole in my favourite fleece with the soldering iron. Oh dear.

I hope you will be able to keep us posted on your progress. And to those people who doubt the "Pi effect" on students, I would point to your enthusiasm as an example of what the Foundation is really trying to trigger, and hope that other unfortunate and bored out of their minds ICT students will likewise see the light.

Jaseman
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Re: What the Pi has done for me.

Sat Apr 28, 2012 9:29 am

I work in IT, as part of a 3 person support team.  My colleague from our London office made me aware of the Raspberry Pi some time ago, and pointed me at the Foundation website.  I think after about a minute I had already realized - This is BIG!

The more I kept coming to the website to see how things were progressing with the project, the more I got pulled into it, and started conversing with other like-minded people.

When people started to reminisce about the good old days of programming on the old 8-bit computers, I wanted to get back into programming - especially as I could share my experiences with this community.  I also liked the idea of sharing my knowledge with the people that are keen to learn about computers.

Next thing - I was putting together some Python tutorials, and now I'm heavily involved with The MagPi magazine.

Now as I'm reading other people's experiences, I'm thinking about venturing into the hardware side.  I fully intend to connect a robotic arm to a Raspberry Pi.  I wouldn't have dared attempt this before - simply because I knew the likelihood was that I would get stuck and there would be nobody I could ask for help.  I'm pretty confident now though that there are enough skilled people in this community that are willing to give their time to help others along the rocky road to enlightenment!

I think the foundation will achieve more

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Re: What the Pi has done for me.

Sat Apr 28, 2012 9:35 am

more.. than it expected to! (Don't know why I just posted half of my message just then).

It's great what the foundation has already achieved in terms of making the hardware available - But, even greater I think is that it has pulled together a community of people that 'get it'.  I mean, the people that instinctively understand that the Raspberry Pi is significant as a form of empowerment - just as the internet was.

n31l
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Re: What the Pi has done for me.

Sat Apr 28, 2012 9:47 am

Fantastic post Liam, just goes to show how the schools are teaching you to be end users.

I think that laptops are also to blame, I have never bought a PC in my life excluding laptops. I've built them from parts since the days of the 8086 chip. i did skip the 286 for some reason. New users seem to go straight to a laptop for ease of use etc, but they miss out the fun of fault finding and going on the many upgrade paths. The only upgrade path for a laptop is bin it and buy a new one. Great to see you are going to break out and learn how to make it do what only you want it to.

Lots of IT teachers in schools should be placed against a wall and downgraded to unemployed or given a PI and told to go and relearn what they should be teaching.

my old 2d's worth.

Spineh
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Re: What the Pi has done for me.

Sat Apr 28, 2012 10:59 am

Awesome Post, I'm currently in year 11 doing my ICT coursework and the stuff we have to do is just awful. Our teachers aren't techie the slightest and all seem struggle when things even slightly go away from Microsoft office. Computing (around where I live atleast) is just write ups about Micrsoft office, we'll be shown how to create a spreadsheet in 1 lesson and then for the next 3 or so we will just spend writing up everything we had learnt from that 1 lesson.

Although, games like Minecraft are helping kids in our school find more out about computers then just office and games. We did a survey in our school for our BV coursework in which we interviewed kids on how much they knew about computer programming. Most boys knew what java was from Minecraft and I was surprised at how many had at least attempted to make a minecraft mod.

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exartemarte
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Re: What the Pi has done for me.

Sat Apr 28, 2012 11:29 am

Well done, Liam. I'm glad the Pi has helped to awaken your interest, and I wish you well with it.

Your sixth-form experience illustrates a common problem with IT teaching in the UK - the failure to distinguish between using computers, which everyone should learn just like reading, writing and arithmetic, and computer science or technology, which is a different thing entirely and should be available to those with an interest in and the aptitude for it (and which does need properly qualified specialist teachers).

I don't think the Raspberry Pi will change that on its own, but it could be part of the solution.

chickey
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Re: What the Pi has done for me.

Sat Apr 28, 2012 11:31 am

Brilliant to read and even better that you managed to get one of the first devices too !

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clive
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Re: What the Pi has done for me.

Sat Apr 28, 2012 12:21 pm

n31l said:


Lots of IT teachers in schools should be placed against a wall and downgraded to unemployed or given a PI and told to go and relearn what they should be teaching.


Wouldn't it be nice - just for once - to keep a positive thread positive? This is a fantastic post, celebrating one young person's story of what the RasPi is about, and all some people can do is use it as a soap-box for their own ill-informed opinions. Ho hum.

jamesh
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Re: What the Pi has done for me.

Sat Apr 28, 2012 1:57 pm

clive. said:


n31l said:


Lots of IT teachers in schools should be placed against a wall and downgraded to unemployed or given a PI and told to go and relearn what they should be teaching.


Wouldn't it be nice - just for once - to keep a positive thread positive? This is a fantastic post, celebrating one young person's story of what the RasPi is about, and all some people can do is use it as a soap-box for their own ill-informed opinions. Ho hum.


Ditto.
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liz
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Re: What the Pi has done for me.

Sat Apr 28, 2012 2:40 pm

I swelled up with pride when I read this. Thanks so much for posting, Liam. It's really wonderful to read what you've been doing.
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SN
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Re: What the Pi has done for me.

Sat Apr 28, 2012 4:28 pm

Great post Liam.
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liamc
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Re: What the Pi has done for me.

Sat Apr 28, 2012 6:08 pm

Thanks to everyone for the nice comments. I will try and keep you upto date with what happens next.

secretreeve
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Re: What the Pi has done for me.

Sat Apr 28, 2012 7:08 pm

heart warmer of a post is that.

going to be interesting to see what you come up with liam

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morphy_richards
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Re: What the Pi has done for me.

Sat Apr 28, 2012 8:01 pm

Absolutely great post. No pressure or anything. Just do your thing, have fun and find out more

Kernel
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Re: What the Pi has done for me.

Sat Apr 28, 2012 8:40 pm

liz said:


I swelled up with pride when I read this. Thanks so much for posting, Liam. It's really wonderful to read what you've been doing.



It is indeed an excellent post and really nice to hear that this has helped you find a direction in life - and I think your future is looking good



On the topic of A Level IT and modules about sending emails - I did A Level Computing which focuses on programming - does your college offer that? If they don't let you do it this year (I wouldn't expect it as it is quite late in the school year now) you could perhaps do an AS Level in it next year?

liamc
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Re: What the Pi has done for me.

Sat Apr 28, 2012 8:45 pm

@Kernel

This is my exact plan. I want to take a computer science (or equivalent) course as an AS level next year. However I dont think this course was available this year, so I may have to do a lot of pausading.

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Jim Manley
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Re: What the Pi has done for me.

Sat Apr 28, 2012 10:25 pm

This is probably the most inspiring post I've seen yet.  In this case, I don't mind being behind you in line to receive my board, and I hope that any other students who have received a Pi will let us know.  After all, you are the intended customer base for the Pi!

It's way too soon to think about it now, but, I will plant a seed that I'm sure will germinate sooner or later.  When friends and relatives who are parents of kids and grandkids ask me to give some advice on a career in computing, I tell them to pursue the technical courses to whatever level their abilities will allow, and try to push one more level than they think they can achieve.  However, not everyone is able to be the smartest person in the world and, frankly, that achievement can come with its own burdens.  The other goal I advise young people to consider is to learn as much as they can about a subject that they really enjoy, preferably as orthogonal to computing as possible (i.e., with minimal overlap).  The only thing more powerful than someone with a solid computing background is someone with a solid computing background that they can apply to their second area of expertise.

I say this because, when I was a brand-new engineering graduate in the mid 1970s, a professor told me that, within 10 years, there would be two kinds of engineers, those who understood how to apply computing to engineering, and those who were unemployed.  At the time, engineers used paper, pencil, T-squares, compasses, etc., to produce mechanical drawings, schematics, etc., to design nearly everything from automobiles to zeppelins, while large computer systems were far too expensive for most organizations, and microcomputers were far too feeble to get anything useful done.

Sure enough, by the mid 1980s, engineering workstations based on high-end microprocessors and special-purpose integrated circuits were in common use, and it was clear that the trend was toward increasing performance at ever-decreasing cost.  I earned an MS in computer science then because, unlike when I had earned my engineering degree a decade earler, it was then clear that a lot of people would be needed who understood not just computing, but, computing in support of innumerable applications in fields as diverse as agriculture through zoology.  Things continued to progress to today where, if a hiring decision comes down to two otherwise equally-qualified candidates, the one who also has a background in computing will be hired in virtually every case.

Our civilization literally could not exist today without computing, because we could not feed the world's population without the increased efficiency of agriculture through monitoring and analyzing Earth resources.  Energy use has been vastly reduced on a per-capita basis via computing for everything from transportation to heating/cooling, agriculture to manufacturing, water purification to sewage treatment, etc.  We won't have nearly enough people to keep up with the demand for computing development projects in all of these areas, and it will only keep growing into the future as economic resources become even more constrained.

Good luck in whatever you decide to pursue, and we will be looking forward to hearing about what you are able to do with your Pi, as well as your education and career accomplishments in the future. Go get 'em!
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exartemarte
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Re: What the Pi has done for me.

Sat Apr 28, 2012 11:00 pm

Jim Manley said:


At the time, engineers used paper, pencil, T-squares, compasses, etc., to produce mechanical drawings, schematics, etc., to design nearly everything…


and slide rules! I remember, at the EMI establishment where they designed and built military radars, a placard on a lab wall complaining about the lack of "advanced calculators" (those available were far too expensive to be bought by individuals – or even, it seems, international arms manufacturers).

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