back to article Raspberry Pi, meet face: You're probably NOT Blighty's biggest PC maker!

The Raspberry Pi Foundation today announced it has sold its five-millionth machine, and said that in so doing it could claim the crown as the UK's best-selling computer ever. That the Pi guys have done well is not in dispute, but the Reg archives cast doubt on the claim it's now the best-selling Brit computer ever. As we …

  1. hplasm

    Pfft! Looks can be deceptive...

    Amstrad != PC


    Lord Sugar != Sid James

    1. Ole Juul

      Re: Pfft! Looks can be deceptive...

      Well, anything that can run two 360 floppies is still useful in my eyes. In fact I've got an Amstrad 1512 here. Actually I've got a Sinclair and an rPi as well. I must admit that although a two-floppy system is not bad, for some reason the rPi does get more use these days.

    2. madhatt3r

      Re: Pfft! Looks can be deceptive...

      "biggest selling UK computer manufacturer" != "biggest selling UK PC manufacturer"

      btw, CPCs (and other 8-bit gems) can still be put to good use...

      1. Malcolm 1

        Re: Pfft! Looks can be deceptive...

        Wow - that's an amazing achievement. I remember some attempt at a multi-tasking environment on the CPC in the mid 90s but I can't remember what it was called - it didn't look anywhere near as advanced as that though.

    3. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Lord Sugar != Sid James

      Mwah ha ha ha ha ha.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lord Sugar != Sid James

        That was a bad impression

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Lord Sugar != Sid James

          Blimey! Not 'arf.

        2. VinceH

          Re: Lord Sugar != Sid James

          I thought it sounded just like him.

  2. eJ2095


    Wonder who buys all this amstrad gear...

    1. MrXavia

      Re: Amstrad

      I once brought an Amstrad PC in the early 90's.. I returned it as not fit for purpose a few days later and brought an Amiga

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        Re: Amstrad

        We bought an Amstrad PCW-16 circa 2002.

        It was complete garbage and was thrown out.

        1. Gerard Krupa

          Re: Amstrad

          The Amstrad PCW range was pretty good in its day - a Z80-based machine designed for home office use. Unfortunately its day had passed by the time the 16 was released since PCs were doing the job more effectively.

          1. Sykobee

            Re: Amstrad

            Indeed the PCW range on its own was supposed to have sold around 7 million devices or so, and that would have been mainly between 1985 and 1990. I'm ignoring the weird PCW10 and PCW16 devices in the 90s, but I doubt that they sold a lot anyway.

            And at least the PCW came with a keyboard, case and monitor. Admittedly the 4MHz Z80 was a little underpowered for most use cases, but it was a lot cheaper than a PC for a long time.

        2. David Given

          Re: Amstrad


          Or rather, yeeeess, the PCW-16 *was* complete garbage, but that was because of the crappy software. Underneath it was a 16MHz Z80 with 1MB RAM and 1MB flash (in 1995!) and it would have run CP/M and Locoscript beautifully.

          It seems that Alan Cox has just aquired one, so we may get a Fuzix port at some point...

    2. Shady

      Re: Amstrad

      Why do you think IDS's Universal Credits system was a £700m write-off?

  3. Fenton


    So the Archimedes is finally a success ;0)

    1. Jess

      Re: Archimedes

      RISC OS on the Pi works rather well.

      1. VinceH

        Re: Archimedes

        "RISC OS on the Pi works rather very well."

        FTFY, Jess!

        1. David Given

          Re: Archimedes

          I spent a while trawling through the RISC OS kernel, and:

          (a) the GUI, user facing front end, CLI, module system, etc --- sheer brilliance; consistent, orthogonal, working.

          (b) the underlying OS framework and kernel: KILL IT WITH FIRE.

          As an OS it's awful. All the problems of a microkernel OS *plus* all the problems of a monolithic OS *plus* all the problems of a protected memory OS *plus* all the problems of an unprotected OS, etc. The system APIs have grown organically and are weird and inconsistent and full of duplicate, but slightly different, functionality. The bottom page of each process is writeable solely to allow one or two system flags at hard coded addresses (although this may have been fixed after I complained). The main system memory allocator, of which there are several, has a huge amount of code whose purpose is to grope up the stack to find out whether the allocation routine is being called reentrantly, and if so, it follows a different code path. The purpose of this? To allow memory allocation from interrupt routines!


          OTOH this huge pile of hacks (with no threading or preemptive multitasking, mind) does actually run really well on the Pi, and I deeply admire the people who've made it done so. I would encourage you to think carefully if you ever find yourself wanting to use it for anything, though.

          1. VinceH

            Re: Archimedes

            You appear to be confusing what I/Jess said ("it works [very/rather] well") with something we didn't say ("It's wonderful, and perfect, and completely safe and secure")

            There are some people who somehow seem to believe the latter, but most sensible people using RISC OS knowing full well that it's full of flaws, far from perfect and lacks any real security. We use it because of the point that it works very well, and has a reasonably consistent and neat user interface (though there are areas in which it could be improved).

  4. 45RPM Silver badge

    I had an Amstrad PC1512 too and it was far and away the worst computer that I have ever owned. So bad that I replaced it with an ostensibly slower 4.77MHz Compaq Deskpro. The Compaq was well built (unlike the Amstrad) and didn't get in my way (unlike the Amstrad) which meant I could work a good deal faster on it. So yes, I'd agree that the Pi is the best selling British PC if only because the Amstrad doesn't deserve the title - I wouldn't even use an Amstrad as a doorstop. Also, I thought Amstrads were of far eastern manufacture.

    I think Alan agrees too. I seem to remember that he had a Ratner moment in 1987 or thereabouts when challenged over the continuing availability of the PC1512 despite the fact that the rather-better-but-still-a-toy PC1640 had been launched for only a couple of hundred quid more. If I remember correctly he said something like 'the 1512 will continue to be popular because, for the sort of idiots who buy Amstrad, 200 quid is a week in Majorca'. I may have that wrong - but if anyone has any late 80s PCW magazines kicking around, they can verify this by grepping through Guy Kewneys news section.

  5. sugerbear

    Caveat your news release with

    A. the word "Probably".

    B. Biggest selling 32bit computer

    C. Biggest selling credit card sized card, HDMI supporting... and so on

  6. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

    British manufacturer, or British-manufactured?

    Raspberry Pi is a British company, whose computers are made in Wales, a country that is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

    Amstrad is a British company, whose computers were manufactured in Taiwan, a country that is pa— um, actually, let it just suffice for me to say, "is not in the UK", rather than get into that particular minefield.

    1. Anonymous Bullard

      Re: British manufacturer, or British-manufactured?

      The first RPis where made in China.

      1. James Hughes 1

        Re: British manufacturer, or British-manufactured?

        In fact, some of the new Pi2's are made in China - but those are destined for the Far East plus Americas, not Europe.

        They will continue to be made there whilst demand outstrips supply. Sony are making 20k a day In Wales, and it's not enough.

    2. James Hughes 1

      Re: British manufacturer, or British-manufactured?

      Also worth noting that the ARM cores on the SoC are UK designed, as is the Videocore4 GPU. Made in the Far East, but so are most chips nowadays.

      So all round a very British effort.

    3. Sykobee

      Re: British manufacturer, or British-manufactured?

      I believe the 8-bit Amstrads were assembled in Scotland, at least initially.

      Of course all the components within it were designed in the USA - Z80, 6845, etc.

      So the Raspberry Pi is more British overall. And cheaper.

  7. theOtherJT Silver badge

    Regardless of if they're actually the biggest selling of all time, 5 million units for what so many dismissed as a niche hobbyist product in 3 years is an astounding achievement.

    I think we'll be finding pi's in unexpected places for decades to come - there's 4 here silently acting as serial -> network bridges for the machines that spit out the access cards for the car park!

    1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

      There were many who correctly predicted a $35 computer would be far more successful than the Foundation expected it to be. Most of the first year supply problems were because the Foundation had failed to recognise that huge demand and had carried out no real market research.

      It would be interesting to know how many of the five million sold are being used for education and how many are used otherwise, serving hobbyists or working as media players, but I guess that is hard to tell.

      1. Salts

        Not Really Relevant

        @Jason B

        It really does not matter if 99% are being used as media players, the license fee the RPi foundation receives from every sale allows them to focus on their original goal, which is education and in particular CS.

        1. James Hughes 1

          Re: Not Really Relevant @Jason B

          You could indeed argue that not enough market research was done, or that the initial batch wasn't large enough.

          But you could also argue that a few people running a charity simply don't have the time or funds to run market research, or indeed, have a big enough house to remortgage to pay for the initial 10k batch....

          Whilst hindsight is 50:50, you also have to take in to account constraints encountered at the time.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Most of the first year supply problems were because the Foundation had failed to recognise that huge demand and had carried out no real market research."

        On the other hand the RP Foundation actually got something to market that has been a success, whereas most of the gobshytes who "correctly predicted" its success actually brought diddly squat to market themselves.

        Now, if any of those armchair generals wish to develop, manufacture, launch and distribute a low cost, low margin product with an ill defined use and target market, and to splash big money on market research, they should feel free, but that's not generally how most good things get done. Good things get done because somebody thinks they know better than the expensive received wisdom of market research.

        Market research is generally for not-very-clever junior suits to prove the brilliance of average ideas to senior not-very-clever suits, and you're welcome to it.

      3. YetAnotherLocksmith Silver badge

        I can tell you that there are 5 sitting in a box in the new Make:Bromyard Makerspace. Teasing out whether they are educational purchases or simply donations from people who couldn't be bothered after they bought it, I'll let you divine.

        I suspect there are many in boxes sitting as yet unopened.

    2. Preston Munchensonton

      Given the advent of OpenELEC 5.0, I'd say there's a very substantial niche for the RPI2 as a home media wunderkind. Truly an amazing little piece of kit!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If they get windows working on it as planned, then it won't be long before they reach 10 million. Whatever you think of it, it will undoubtedly bring the Pi to a much wider user base.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: windows

      It's not even the sort of Windows as Surface RT did have or a Phone with Win10 will have. It's IOT Windows. Totally pointless.

      It will not run any x86-64 desktop applications. It will not even have the phone GUI, though will have some sort of video support.

      QNX makes more sense. Linux is far better supported.

      Even Risc-OS makes more sense on Pi than IOT Windows.

    2. phil dude
      IT Angle

      Re: windows



    3. david 63

      Re: windows

      I think putting windows on it kinda misses the point.

      The pi is their to encourage geekiness not swell the number of people who can use a WIMP to launch applications.

      Which does lead me to wonder how many of the 5m are sitting on shelf somewhere because it's too much effort to make it 'do something'

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Such a cool bit of kit

    I have made it do video motion capture & voice recognition with a ps3 camera, added a Web server... loads of great stuff to play with. The NOOBS installer makes getting a working Linux platform trivial. Hook up to a wifi dongle and plug into a hdmi TV or monitor with speakers and get stuck in. Lots of great kits with everything you need for around £35.

    Maybe time to look at some hardware bolt ons. Suggestions...

  10. x 7

    I think you'll find Time Computers shifted more boxes than either Amstrad or Raspberry have (so far)

    At the height of production the assembly plant at Simonstone was claimed to be capable of 5 million PCs per year, though actual production was short of that. However if you average a million a year over ten years, then thats a fair sized total number. With 7 production lines working 7 day weeks thats only 391 machines / line / day - easily doable with the facilities on site

    Of course none of it was UK sourced - it was all imported, unlike either Amstrad or R Pi. It was just simple screwdriver assembly work

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