4 minute read

and how it made me a (future) CS student

It’s Pi Day. 3/14/22. Today I am not only celebrating the gloriousness of circles, but also pies. No, not the apple pie my local grocery store sells for $3.14, but Raspberry Pi.

When I was a kid in grade school, my dad got me a Raspberry Pi. This was, frankly, a horrible decision on his part, because now instead of reading 2 high-school level books a week, I was now fiddling around with a computer. Well, maybe it wasn’t a horrible decision, because I learned how to code. Now, mind you, it was just Scratch, and I was mostly playing/modifying the games, not making them. But… that’s still programming! It’s just not very advanced. But for a kid my age? I may as well be a genius.

(I’m sure they wish I still read. Haha too bad computer go beep boop)

Eventually, I actually learned to code. I don’t mean I just put some blocks together and made a game. Yes, I did that, but that was only the beginning. I learned about exponents and square roots by playing around with those blocks, well before the curriculum taught me. I learned about what programming really is. I learned to think like a computer: how to solve a problem one tiny instruction at a time.

Later on, this evolved into me trying to learn Python. Emphasis on trying. My dad bought me a book and some components. I made a motion-activated camera with Python, but I didn’t really understand it. And I put it on the back burner. Back to Scratch.

Then the Raspberry Pi 2 comes out. I still wanted to learn Python, and I was now old enough to understand a little more. But again, no clue what was going on, I’d rather make a game where I blow up a cat. Then the Pi 3 came out, and I understood more. I just used the Pi to play retro video games and stream YouTube to the TV (this was before every TV was a smart TV). Deep down I wanted to seriously learn Python, but it seemed like an insurmountable task. How do I know what library to import, what function to call, how do I even format it? What would I even program? A game? Where do I start?

Then the Pi 4 came out.

And it changed everything.

I was old enough and had enough experience to take a serious shot at learning to code. The Pi 4 was considerably faster than its predecessors. And there were more online learning resources than ever. I could install more, do more, try, fail, and try again more. Iteration after iteration, commit after commit, I learned. And I didn’t let up. I began with shell scripts to automate stuff, and moved on to Python for more versatility. I used Docker to host a Minecraft server; I made my Pi a NAS. If I wanted to code on the go, I simply SSH’d into it from my phone.

Eventually, I joined my high school’s robotics club. All that knowledge came in handy. We programmed with blocks, just like Scratch. But it was more complex, and as I made the robot run around, picking up yellow blocks, I realized this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

Without the original Raspberry Pi, the cheap but effective general computer, I would not be where I am today. It sparked something in my heart, a passion for learning to code. I learned to code for fun, and no other reason. Of course, it just so happens that CS majors get paid quite handsomely 😄.

In 2021, I set out to learn Node.js, and I’ve done that. This year, I’m learning Kotlin and Go. When I go to college, I’ll have to learn C++ (not gonna lie, kinda dreading it, Go seems much friendlier) but even if it’s hard I’ll do it.

Without Pi, none of this would have happened. I’d be at a loss for what I actually wanted to do. Sure, I was good at math and science, but is that really what I wanted to do for the rest of my life? No. I wanted to learn computer science. I wanted to program, and I would have never discovered this passion without Pi.

So thank you, Raspberry Pi. For everything. For a cheap and affordable computer that anyone can buy. For a computer that can do anything, and I mean anything. For a computer that was meant to be be toyed with and learned with, and for the endless tutorials that came freely with it.

Thank you.

The Afterword

I read an interview with the Raspberry Pi CEO. He said his goal was to make more people interested in learning computer science. If you’re reading this: you have succeeded. That is mainly what prompted this blog post.

If you’d like to support me, the easiest way is to click that ad below. College is not cheap. (Or just send me money.)