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I was making some routine checks just now and realized this:

Raspberry Pi OS (previously called Raspbian)

Source: Raspberry Pi OS

I found no mention of this in their blog, nor on the Wikipedia page. Why change such a good name as "Raspbian" into the cumbersome and problematic "Raspberry Pi OS"? Now I have to rename a bunch of established code and stuff...

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    Their monitors kept getting moist when saying the old name! – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Aug 4 at 18:17
  • I get why one might say the new name is "cumbersome" compared to the original, but I'd be interested to know what is meant by "problematic"? – Michael MacAskill Aug 5 at 3:27
  • A nice thing about it is it can be intuitively abbreviated RpiOS, which I encourage everyone to do ;) – goldilocks Aug 6 at 15:47
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First some background:

The original Pi fell uncomfortably between two stools hardware wise. A debian "armel" userland (with a Pi specific kernel) could run on the Pi but was far from taking advantage of it. Debian "armhf" wouldn't run because it's minimum CPU requirements were too high. To get around this Mike and I formed the Raspbian project and set about re-building all of Debian and I have been maintaining Raspbian since.

While we did produce one or two complete OS images in the early days, the Raspbian project has mostly focused on maintaining a repository of Packages and left the building of OS images up to other people. Some time later the Raspberry Pi foundation started building their own Raspbian images.

Over the years the delta between plain Raspbian and the Raspberry Pi foundation Raspbian images has grown as Raspberry Pi have developed their own desktop environment and have backported a substantial number of graphics related packages in support of their migration from their Pi-specific graphics stack to a Mesa based graphics stack. I have not been particularly happy with the lack of distinction between plain Raspbian and the Raspberry Pi foundation Raspbian images but I also didn't feel like pressing the issue too hard.


Separately the Pi lineup has been evolving. The original Pi was using ARMv6 CPU, the Pi 2 was using ARMv7. It could run a Debian "armhf" userland and after a while Debian also added support for the Pi 2 in their kernel, though being an "upstream" kernel some things that are supported in the downstream raspberry pi kernels are not supported. The Pi 3 added 64-bit cores, which (after a bit of kernel development) meant Debian "arm64" could now run on the Pi. Then the Pi 4 came along offering up to 4GB of RAM.

Through most of this the Raspberry Pi foundation decided to stick with a single OS image based on Raspbian as their official main OS. They decided that the benefits from multiple OS images did not justify the extra work.


So that brings us forward to April 2020. The 8GB Pi 4 was in alpha testing and Raspberry Pi decided it was finally time to start producing a 64-bit OS image. I got an e-mail from Eben asking my opinion on naming. I expressed that I would not be happy about the name Raspbian being used for an image that did not actually use anything from the Raspbian project. The name Debian wasn't exactly great either because Debian were building their own images for the Pi.

So Raspberry Pi decided to use the term "Raspberry Pi OS" for all their OS images (32-bit for Pi, 64-bit for Pi and 32-bit for PC) based on Debian or Raspbian.

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    What I love in SE sites (as well as in Hacker News) is that you sometimes stumble upon sentences such as "...Mike and I formed the Raspbian project...". (and of course - thanks a lot for your work!) – WoJ Aug 3 at 16:09
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    @WoJ Moreover, it's even better when it's a username you recognise from a .sig on Slashdot 'back in the day' ! – bertieb Aug 4 at 0:25
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It was changed to make it easier for users to know it’s the recommended OS for the Raspberry Pi:

Both our 32-bit and 64-bit operating system images have a new name: Raspberry Pi OS. As our community grows, we want to make sure it’s as easy as possible for new users to find our recommended operating system for Raspberry Pi. We think the new name will help more people feel confident in using our computers and our software.

This explains the choice of name, but doesn’t give the full background story behind the change — see plugwash’s answer for that, straight from the source (plugwash is one of Raspbian’s founders).

Further comments there give a little more context, from Simon Long:

It’s just a new name to bring the 32 and 64 bit products under one umbrella. The 32-bit version of Raspberry Pi OS is what was known as Raspbian – the upgrade is just the same as before, apt update / apt full-upgrade. More details in tomorrow’s blog post.

and Eben Upton:

Yes – it’s just an overdue naming change to discriminate between Raspbian (the independent open source project) and the 32-bit images that Raspberry Pi builds on top of it.

The blog post mentioned in Simon’s comment doesn’t explain the change any further, it describes the new features.

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    I love the current top answer, but can't help but feel yours is the actual answer for both questions implied ("why has it been renamed?" and "why Raspberry Pi OS?"). – Ramon Melo Aug 4 at 16:49
  • @Ramon Ie., there could be more than one reason. Presumably they had some meeting about it and perhaps it was mentioned that original Raspbian crew had said when asked they prefer it not be used for the 64-bit version, and then someone at the table who kind of always wanted to change -- blah blah what's in a name anyway -- then they agree to make an official announcement which requires someone write it up, later different people are asked publicly about it etc. I don't think you'll find the One True Reason beyond what's already here and perhaps is a combination of reasons. – goldilocks Aug 6 at 14:36
  • @goldilocks I absolutely agree, but I find what's explained here sufficient to convince me this change wasn't "cumbersome and problematic". Let's just hope it's sufficient to convince the OP, as well. – Ramon Melo Aug 6 at 14:53
  • I think the OP meant it was it is cumbersome and problematic for her because she has to relabel code/projects intended for use in Raspbian. If you don't appreciate the name change, personal opinion wise, and it adds a bit to your burden, then you would think it a bit cumbersome (also, opinion wise. the name "Raspberry Pi OS" just looks cumbersome). I don't appreciate the change and it does add to my burden a bit because I have to refer to the OS with new users on a daily basis. That said, I'm not all mad or anything. It is their gig, they should call it whatever they want. – goldilocks Aug 6 at 15:02
  • ...I think my most serious observation would be that it is a totally dunderheaded name internet search wise, but I presume they considered that and thought the aesthetics make up for it >_> – goldilocks Aug 6 at 15:03

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