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Raspberry Pi mini computer sells out after taking 700 orders per second

Last week the Raspberry Pi Foundation launched an ultra-cheap Linux-based computer — the Raspberry Pi — aimed primarily at schools around the world looking for cost effective ways to bring computer programming into the classroom.

When it went on sale on Wednesday via the websites of its two distributors — Premier Farnell and RS Components — the level of demand took everyone by surprise.

In fact, soon after going live with the mini computer, both websites crashed. According to a Guardian report this week, both distributors were taking a staggering 700 orders a second. No wonder they went down.

Thankfully the sites managed to get back online and within hours had sold the initial production run of about 10,000 units. It’s a fabulous start for the non-profit organization, which is mostly made up of volunteers from academia and the UK tech industry.

“It’s interesting to look at why there’s so much excitement around Raspberry Pi,” Harriet Green, chief executive of Premier Farnell told the Guardian. “I think that a lot of teachers, parents and children are worrying that they’re becoming just consumers – taking something out of a box and plugging it in. There’s a lot of points of concern about children being just consumers rather than creators and innovators.”

Raspberry Pi is available in two versions, Model A for $25, and Model B for $35. Both incorporate a 700MHz ARM11 processor and 256MB of RAM, while Model B also comes with an Ethernet port and two USB ports. To operate Raspberry Pi users will need to hook it up to a monitor, Bluetooth keyboard and mouse.

Premier Farnell’s chief executive also said that they had received inquiries from a government in the Middle East regarding a potentially huge order. The country, which wasn’t named by Green, has plans of giving the credit card-sized computer to every schoolgirl in an effort to get them interested in programming, thereby improving their job prospects.

Green added that interest had been maintained in the six-year Raspberry Pi project mainly thanks to social media and online communities. She cited Element 14 as an example, a community that has been busy writing programs for Raspberry Pi. Element 14’s Ben Heck described the new computer as “powerful, low cost and perfect for educators, hobbyists and those interested in designing and advancing applications and educational resources.”

The Raspberry Pi website states that the initial launch is directed at software and hardware enthusiasts, as well as teachers, with an interest in developing the Raspberry Pi further before its official educational launch later this year.