Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Bristol's First Raspberry Jam

Before someone comments that this post isn't retro, please read on. It 'is' retro related.

I've been a Raspberry Pi owner for a couple of months now. I bought my unit with the intention of teaching myself some basic Python, as it looked to be a powerful but fairly simple programming language.

Due to one thing or another I've so far managed to find little time to get stuck in, but am hoping that when the winter months roll round and I'm stuck indoors, this will change.

Anyway, I digress. Since getting my Pi up and running I've been keen to see what others are doing with their systems, and last night, at the first Bristol Raspberry Jam, I finally had that opportunity.

Hosted by Broadcom, and held at the wonderful Bristol and Bath Science Park, the event saw over 100 Pi and prospective Pi owners get together for two hours of talks, demonstrations, and generally be inspired to get stuck in and have a go.

I was amazed at the range of people at the event. Sure, there were the geeks, but there were also students, university lecturers, teachers, people from local businesses, and even a decent number of children, all keen to learn more about this amazing device.

With the surroundings of the stunning Bristol and Bath Science Park, the event looked more like something out of Silicon Valley than the South West of England. In fact, it made me think that this probably wasn't far off the atmosphere found at the computer meetings back in the early to mid Eighties, or at the now legendary Homebrew Computer Club, where such luminaries as Apple founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak attended.

Retro-heads like myself were well catered for at the event. One speaker demonstrated a new version of BASIC he'd ported over to the Pi (and was running a version of Pong), and another gave a brief walkthrough of the much-loved RISC OS, which had been converted to run on the system, and was going like the clappers.

If even that was too modern for you then perhaps the setup by members of the Bristol Hackspace would have been more up your street. Here, a BBC Micro and a Pi were linked, enabling the BBC to send and receive tweets via Twitter.

Unfortunately, with the hardware of the BBC being somewhat older than those in the Pi, the Beeb had decided to blow the capacitors in the PSU, meaning an actual demonstration was off the cards. That didn't stop a good number of people crowding around the machine to see how the hardware went together, though.

Still, there's always next time. As the event was so popular it looks like a second Bristol Jam will be taking place in the not too distant future. Watch this space.

And with that I'm off to fire up the Spectrum emulator on my Pi and see if I can finally get past The Abandoned Warehouse on Matthew Smith's classic platformer, Manic Miner.

Wish me luck!


  1. Robert, thank you for sharing your thoughts. Just one detail - the event was hosted by BBSP, it was largely organised by Trevor Johnson and Heber staff. Heber and Broadcom jointly sponsored costs for the evening.

  2. I might add that Kate Bray and Nigel Brown of Heber actually did the bulk of the organising, both in advance (including finding the venue) and on the night. Richard Pitkin and Julie Marvin of BBSP were immensely helpful throughout. I did a bit of running around trying to get the message out to kids and schools, and drafted the press release.