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updated 12:15 AM GMT, Oct 31, 2014
Technology and life sciences news from the Cambridge cluster

"Set your alarms!" - Raspberry Pi looks ready for early Wednesday launch

Raspberry Pi logoRaspberry Pi, the organisation seeking to revolutionise computing through the release of $25 and $35 computers has promised to announce something "big" on Wednesday morning, 6am Cambridge time, and it could well be the first public sales of its eagerly awaited highly affordable computer.

The anticipation building around the device is so great its servers buckled yesterday as watchers repeatedly refreshed the organisation's web site on the back of rumours that the first open sale of the devices was imminent, forcing the foundation to plead: "Guys - can you please stop hitting F5 on our website quite so often? You're bringing the server to its knees."

This eventually led to the rather grand sounding announcement on the Raspberry Pi web site, which began: "Ladies and gentlemen, set your alarms!" followed further down the page with: "The Raspberry Pi Foundation will be making a big (and very positive) announcement that just might interest you at 0600h GMT on Wednesday 29 February 2012. Come to www.raspberrypi.org to find out what's going on."

It seems this has taken some of the pressure off the site, which is back up, but the buzz is growing louder, further intensified by the knowledge that 10,000 devices will soon be up for sale – with around 100,000 people on the mailing list alone, the Raspberry Pi computer could sell out in hours.

Of course the announcement could be something unrelated to the sale of the devices, but this seems unlikely. Raspberry Pi has not issued any kind of denial in response to the flood of tweets speculating that it's about to go on sale.

While it hasn't confirmed any of the speculation either, it appears that is for legal reasons. One tweeter asked if they had to make themselves available on their only day off to order it, to which Raspberry Pi replied: "I'm not allowed to say (arcane contractual stuff) - but I *can* say that you'll be furious w yourself if you miss it."

This was then followed by a retweet reacting to the wave of enthusiasm that's building pre-release, itself an inherent acknowledgement of the release: "Amazed (and excited) at the excitement as @Raspberry_Pi gets ready for release. It's like an Apple launch except with Raspberries."

So, it looks like it's all but released for sale, what next? Raspberry Pi has designed two devices, one at $25, the other at $35, the difference being an Ethernet connection, and extra USB port and larger RAM in the latter device. It is the $35 computer that will go on sale first.

The aim of the device was to inspire a new generation of programmers, young people whose senses have so far been dulled by a lack of computer science in schools and the impenetrability of modern computing devices. At the moment though it's the programmers who are fizzing with excitement.

The low price point of the devices makes them essentially disposable – as long as more than 10,000 are produced – and countless ideas are being sounded such as using them as emulators to run old computer games, putting them at the centre of home video systems, or using them to help with your home-brew (here's a very useful list).

While computing has changed immeasurably since the days of Acorn and Sinclair in the 1980s, the thrill of discovery and eventual sense of achievement felt from building a program or device – no matter how simple – is still the same and it's that spin-tingling sensation that Raspberry Pi hopes will usher in this new generation.