Eben Upton, one of the inventors of the Raspberry Pi, told me in an interview that the Pi was “designed to solve a little problem at Cambridge University, they were trying to convince more students to read [study] computer science, and to get their skills up before they got to the school. And that means maybe a thousand computers.”

It didn’t quite work out that way; they have sold 4.5 million of them. People are doing amazing things with them, and the most popular post on sister site TreeHugger, month after month, is 20 awesome projects for Raspberry Pi microcomputers.

And now it's even more awesome. The company just introduced the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B. When you're comparing it to your modern desktop or notebook, a quad core 900 MZ processor and a gig of SDRAM doesn’t sound like much, but in fact it's about six times as fast as the original Pi. So fast, in fact, that it will run the new Windows 10. And it is still just $35. 

Lady Ada at Adafruit claims that “this pocket computer has moved from being a 'toy computer' to a real desktop PC:”

The big upgrade is a move from the BCM2835 (single core ARMv6) to BCM2836 (quad core ARMv7). The upgrade in processor types means you will see ~2x performance increase just on processor-upgrade only. For software that can take advantage of multiple-core processors, you can expect 4x performance on average and for really multi-thread-friendly code, up to 7.5x increase in speed!
The wonderful thing about the Pi is that it was designed as a teaching tool, totally open and accessible. So it's a great way to learn how computers work, a great tool for learning how to code, and you can have a lot of fun under the hood. 

The original Pi and even the model B that I have couldn't really do the work of a full computer. (I tried.) I suspect the new Pi will be different, and that we'll be seeing a deluge of clever new uses, maybe even on your desk.

Here's that interview with Upton:

Video from Lloyd Alter on Vimeo

Related on MNN and TreeHugger:

Lloyd Alter ( @lloydalter ) writes about smart (and dumb) tech with a side of design and a dash of boomer angst.