Raspberry Pi demand overwhelms website on launch day

Cheap computer just about knocks Apple out of the news

After five years of largely obscure development, the Raspberry Pi Linux computer for schools went on sale this morning, almost immediately overwhelming the project's website as the public tried to buy the first units.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation was forced to replace its usual promotional website with a static page offering details of sales partners and inviting the public to pay attention to its @Raspberry_Pi twitter feed.

"We've temporarily changed to a static site, while we're experiencing a very high level of traffic for the launch of the Raspberry Pi. The full site will return once traffic levels have subsided, hopefully later on today," read the website message..

Customers will be able to buy single units of the $US35 model B version from today, which is still an open circuit board with only HDMI, USB 2.0, SD card, sound, keyboard and Ethernet connectors to boot it into a Linux computer running 512MB RAM. The $25 model A version featuring 256MB RAM (double originally planned) will be offered later on.

The project team hope developers will create their own software to run on the ARM-based device but have included a specially-developed cut-down version of Fedora installed from a 2GB SD card image to get people started.

In the UK, partner sites Premier Farnell and RS Components were offering the first batch of Raspberry Pi boards for £21.60 (plus shipping) on a registration basis. Production will be scaled to meet demand, the Raspberry Pi Foundation promised.

In the relatively quiet world of UK computing development, interest in the Raspberry Pi must count at extraordinary, even pushing news of the Apple iPad 3 launch date down the newslist on the BBC website.

For an older generation of programmers and enthusiasts, the computer has brought back memories of the heyday of British computing during the 1980s.

"I am caught up in the latest craze for the elderly. I am going to become an owner of a Raspberry Pi. I can't wait; kids will gasp at my mastery of the semi-colon shaking their heads as I produce a parabola on the TV screen," said teacher and ZX-81 veteran, John Spencer, in a new blog published on Computerworld UK.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation remains just as idealistic about the Raspberry Pi's prospects to kickstart another generation which some feared might have become consumers rather than producers of technology and software.

"It's just the beginning of the Raspberry Pi story. Now we start developing educational tools and initiatives, at the same time as continuing research and development on Raspberry Pi hardware," read a message on the Raspberry Pi website.