LOS ANGELES — Computer science and programming, though absolutely critical skills in today’s world, can seem daunting and frustrating. This is especially true for artists and other creatives, who might find the level of abstraction in code too foreign. And yet with the ubiquity of computing devices in our world, understanding even the basics of software and hardware is a step toward greater agency in how we use technology. And for artists, that means more independence in developing creative and technical projects.
Raspberry Pi, an award-winning open hardware board meant to teach computer science, is one of those educational gateways that could serve as a bridge for learners. The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized computer that plugs into your TV and a keyboard. The little PC which can be used for many of the things, including word pressing and playing high-definition video, its goal is to encourage kids all over the world to learn programming. It’s had mixed reviews, but overall, I’m a fan of any low-cost system that can help people engage more directly with technology.
Which is why I was excited to learn about the new Raspberry Pi Education Manual, put out by Computing at School. Available on a Creative Commons License as a free PDF, the manual walks through the ins and outs of Raspberry Pi. It features a number of illustrations (though I hope a few artists step in to help out!), with sections on software like Python to some of the hardware specifications of the module. Collaboratively built, it offers much more colorful language than most programming manuals. Here’s something from the section on Python:
Wow! You imported “PyGame.” So what is that, and what does it mean? Again, don’t worry about that. You have just told Python that you want to use its game-creation features. “Import” loads extra commands into Python that you can use from now on.
If you use Raspberry Pi, be sure to give the manual a whirl and leave a comment here on what you think. The more accessible we make technology, the more likely we’ll come up with cool applications for it in the future.