The Raspberry Pi Foundation has opened its first retail store in Cambridge, UK. In addition to offering Apple some local competition in the critical tech-stores-named-after-tasty-fruit market, the store aims to introduce consumers who may not have heard of the RBP to the homebrew capabilities and custom computing options that the diminutive system is capable of.
The store, which you can see above, looks something like an Apple or Microsoft Store crossed with an old-fashioned Radio Shack. It’s easy to forget, given how long it has been, but the early homebrew computing kits and projects were themselves supported by a network of hobbyist retail chains and outlets. The best of these stores were the ones run by employees who actually knew something about the equipment they sold, and who could help you locate whatever hardware gadget or software solution you were looking for. Sometimes, if you got particularly lucky, you’d actually find an employee who knew the right BBS phone numbers for boards with people who had questions on particular topics.
Of course, for every story about the computer or electronics store employee who knew something to save your bacon, there’s probably ten stories about idiots who wouldn’t know a breadboard from a bread box or a serial port from a CD-ROM drive. So it goes. But there’s always been a value to physicality in computing, and to having locations one can visit that showcase both a product and what that product is capable of. That’s particularly true for RBP, where the decentralized nature of the product is part of its appeal, but also leads to a more fragmented space where it’s harder to keep track of all the cool things being done.
According to Gordon Hollingworth, Director of Software Engineering at Raspberry Pi, bringing more people into contact with the RBP ecosystem and showing them what the solution is capable of is the entire point of the new physical store.