[Disclaimer: All opinions in this post are mine and mine alone. Although I am a moderator on the http://raspberrypi.org I don't speak for the foundation and any factual errors, upset I may cause or spelling mistakes are completely my responsibility]
I first heard about the Raspberry Pi in May 2011, I actually stumbled across it while looking for more details about another device, a bluetooth keyboard in a ZX Spectrum case which unfortunately doesn't seem to have materialized , and I have been closely following the project since July 2011, when the Raspberry Pi Charitable Foundation created their website and forum. I haven't written about the Raspberry Pi before, apart from a quick scratchbox2 for the Raspberry Pi setup post and a premade Raspberry Pi VM post, so while I am taking a bit of a break from the myriad things that normally distract me I am going to rectify that situation. I also have a bit of an ulterior motive, but more about that later.
The Raspberry Pi as I am sure you all know by now is a small, credit card size, inexpensive, $25/$35, Single Board Computer aimed at schools and school children in the United Kingdom. The brainchild of Cambridge University Graduate, Ph.D & Executive MBA (Not quite sure what an Executive MBA is but i'm sure it's impressive and anything PHB-y about it is cancelled out by the Ph.D ) Eben Upton & several of his friends, colleagues & professors from Cambridge University and surrounding area. The Raspberry Pi is aimed to help solve the terrible state of affairs in the UK in the last ten to fifteen years or so where incoming university freshmen wishing to study Computer Science are completely unprepared for the course of study due to lack of real computer science and programming lessons in the curriculum but instead a catchall subject called ICT, that is effectively an update to the old typing & secretarial skills lessons that were available in the 70s & 80s when I was at school.
Eben's idea was to replicate the heyday of the British, and ok if you insist the world's but as far as I am concerned apart from the Tandy TRS-80 Model3/4 the only computers that count were British (Nascom, ZX80/81/Spectrum, NewBrain, Camputers Lynx, Dragon 32, RM380Z... and ok if you insist the BBC Micro) 8bit home micro boom of the 1980s when anyone with around 150 grand and a dream could become a computer manufacturer, computers were instant on and gave you nothing but a prompt and a flashing cursor when turned on and if you wanted to do anything with them you had to learn at least the basics of programming (pun intended) or in the case of the Jupiter Ace the forths.
Initially the plan was to build a simple microcontroller based computer that booted to a Python interpreter prompt (hence the Pi part of the Raspberry Pi's name. Eben might be a very intelligent guy but his spelling leaves a lot to be desired ) and flashing cursor at a price a kid could afford on their own from their pocket money, paper round or a few weeks of change found under the sofa cushions.
Fastforward a few years, to approx 2010 and several things had happened. A UK registered Charitible Foundation had been formed to promote Eben's & Co's aims, Industry & University luminaries such as David Braben, Jack Lang & Dr. Rob Mullins had come on board and were trustees of the Foundation and Moore's law kicked in to such an extent that the cost of an SoC was now comparable to a microcontroller and a suitable SoC (BCM2835 -- Videocore IV GPU+ARM11 CPU) became available to Eben and his friends via his employers, Broadcom. This meant that rather than using a microcontroller a la the Arduino and booting directly into a Python interpreter they could for their desired set in stone Holy Grail cost to the purchaser of $25 & $35 design and build a device that was capable of running a Linux desktop pretty well combined with great graphics and video playback abilities.
Fastforward another few months or so to may 2011 and after pressganging his wife, award winning writer, food blogger, consumate multitasker, sue perkins/sandi toksvig voice impersonator & all round good egg, Liz Upton as unpaid Website & Forum Administrator, PR flack, Personal Assistant and Cat Herder the first announcement in public about the Raspberry Pi was made, a bare bones website was created and work began on designing the alpha board and fixing the parts and manufacturing costs.
Towards the end of July 2011, approximately July 25th, the http://raspberrypi.org website was fleshed out and forum software was installed and the first chapter of the raspberry pi saga ends.
End of Part One.
[Disclaimer Again: All opinions in this post are mine and mine alone. Although I am a moderator on the http://raspberrypi.org I don't speak for the foundation and any factual errors, upset I may cause or spelling mistakes are completely my responsibility]