The Raspberry Pi is a single board computer that came out in 2012 and cost $35. The intent was to teach computer science and coding to school age children. The program and the Pi itself is (or was) a raging success. Hobbyists flocked to the low cost board that ran Linux and created myriads of projects that were fun, useful and educational. I’ve been raving on them since 2012.
I’m ready to stop raving.
Why? Because you can’t get them anymore. To exacerbate things even more the CEO of Raspberry Pi (Trading) Ltd. came out on April 4th on their website and said that current production was going to businesses that have their livelihood dependent upon Raspberry Pi.
I’m sure a more reasonable translation is “these are our biggest money producing customers and phooey on the individual consumer”. That is of course my quote.
There is no shortage of single board computers out there and some as reasonably priced. The problem is they don’t have software or community support like the Raspberry Pi.
Remember the goal of Raspberry Pi was to create an affordable computer for children to learn to code on. Do I really need that much of an affordable computer anymore? No. I have a few bucks these days.
I just built a Raspberry Pi Compute Module server for my wood working shop. It’s in a detached shed on my property and I thought having an off site back up would be smart. I DID NOT HAVE TO BUILD IT FROM THE PI. And in fact I have all the parts for a mini-ITX server with several SATA ports. I wouldn’t have had to buy anything. The problem is the shed is rife with flying sawdust and wood chips. I didn’t want to eventually dirty up and burn out a $450 server motherboard and fast DDR4 RAM.
I built my server from a Compute Module 4, a Raspberry Pi IO board and a SATE PCIe board. Oh, and a Compute Module 4 Antenna Kit. Total cost = Just over $100. Burn baby, burn. I don’t care. Also I built it because it was FUN and a challenge to learn the Compute Module 4 ecosystem.
But make no mistake. I DIDN’T NEED THE PI. I could have slapped an 8TB hard drive in an old laptop. I could have slapped an 8TB external hard drive on that laptop. Hell, I have a laptop in that shed anyway for running gcode on my CNC machine.
I could have bought a mini computer with passive cooling that is all sealed up and hooked an external drive to it. I could have done a lot of things. The ONLY reason I built the Pi Server is that I’m a Pi Fan Boy. Make it so I can’t buy a Pi anymore and I’ll stop being a Fan Boy. And I’ll eventually forget that Raspberry Pi’s ever existed.
It’s too darn difficult to buy a Pi right now and Raspberry Pi Ltd. is making sure the big boys get theirs first contrary to their mission statement of providing low cost computers to everyone.
I’m not sure how much longer I can hang on. Besides I could literally sell my Pi’s on eBay for triple what I paid for them. That’s not a bad investment. I’m not sure how many I have around the house here but I’m going to guess maybe 20 or so.
Currently people are creating bots to find and buy existing stocks of Raspberry Pi’s in quantity and then selling them on eBay at 3x’s the market price. The article I linked to earlier says that you should only buy from authorized retailers knowing full well the authorized retailers are not receiving stock in any sufficient quantity. Gee, that’s helpful advice, huh? And they tell you to order one from the retailer and wait. Some sites will put you on an email list to let you know they are in stock but nobody will let you buy one and wait. I know one exception to that. I bought one from SeeedStudio with a “We’ll let you know when it ships email”. That was well over a month ago. Since that time they’ve removed that option best I can tell.
But if you are just a hobbyist who wants to buy a SINGLE Raspberry Pi it is almost impossible to find one unless you dedicate hours on end to following the useful website rpilocater.com It literally took me about 3 weeks to get a Raspberry Pi 4 and a Compute Module 4 and it wasn’t even the Compute Module that I actually wanted.
I am just about ready to ditch this platform for things I can actually buy. Old laptops that will run Linux can do the things I need to do and I can get them almost as cheaply. So can mini computers, but they cost more. Quite a bit more. But the old adage applies. Time is money. If it takes me 3 weeks of monitoring to buy something that isn’t exactly the specs I wanted…….how much more valuable to my quality of life would it be to just buy a mini computer?
Will I soon be singing………Bye, bye, Miss Raspberry Pi………………
Not two hours after I wrote this I found a stock listing on rpilocater.com for a Pi 4, 2GB model. I really want a 4 or 8 GB model but at this point you take what you can get. Almost as quick as they showed up as in stock they sold out. An RSS feed Email I got indicated there were 100 in stock at Adafruit. They were gone in minutes. What is remarkable about that is that Adafruit allows you to purchase 1 unit AND has two factor authentication.
To catch a Pi at a retail outlet you have to be fast AND lucky.
UPDATE NUMBER 2:
Twice now I have seen stock at Digikey. Last night a CM4 with 4GB Ram and 32GB of eMMC showed up on RPILocator. When I went to the page there were 167. I put 2 in my cart and checked out. On my Mac everything pre-fills so it only took a few seconds. The screen indication on my order showed “Immediate Release”. Hurray! I got a CM4………….2 minutes later I got an email showing my status as “Backorder”. That is the 2nd time Digikey has done that to me. Either they have preferred customers or people are using bots to place instant orders. When an order is in your cart in Digikey it isn’t yours UNTIL YOU ACTUALLY PAY FOR IT. It can be snatched out of your cart if you aren’t fast enough. This is what I was told by Digikey personnel on a Live Chat.
I cancelled my Digikey account.