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A closeup of the marvelous mini-computer, that's the size of a USB stick -- and almost as cheap as one.  (Source: p Raspberry Pi Foundation)

With a mouse, keyboard, and monitor/HDMI-compatible TV, a child is set to play on the device.  (Source: p Raspberry Pi Foundation)
Forget OLPC, just give kids one of these things

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project was an ambitious and forward-looking plan.  Unfortunately for all its ambition, it might have been a bit poorly executed.  The initial target cost of $100 ballooned to $188 per laptop.

However, a software great in Britain has devised [video] what could be the salvation of OLPC and similar future programs -- a fully functional computer that's as small as a USB stick and costs only $25 USD (£15) to make.

The tiny computer -- dubbed "Raspberry Pi" -- looks somewhat like a standard USB memory stick, as a USB 2.0 connector juts out of it.  But on the side it packs a SD/MMC/SDIO card reader to provide Flash storage (of course buying said storage might bump the price $10-$20).  And on the side opposite to the USB port an HDMI connector sits, capable of piping out 1080p video to a monitor/TV.

The little board has smartphone-esque hardware, with a 700MHz ARM11 processor and 128 MB of SDRAM packed in.  Specifics on the processor, including the manufacturer were not yet revealed.  The GPU also was not revealed, but it is said to be capable of handling OpenGL ES 2.0 (hence the 1080p output).

Mice/keyboards can be plugged in via the USB slot.  The computer runs a version of popular open-source Linux distribution Ubuntu 9 and comes with a variety of open source software tools (Iceweasel, KOffice, Python).

An expansion port allows for additional hardware models.  For example, a 12 MP camera module was shown off.

A full spec sheet and overview is available here.

The inventor David Braben is the founder of development studio Frontier Developments and co-developer of the game Elite.  His game studio has offered such hot-selling titles as the Rollercoaster Tycoon series, ThrillvilleLost Winds, and most recently Kinectimals.

Lately Mr. Braben has been driven to try to inspire the next generation to success in the field of Information and Communications Technology (ICT).  He is looking to deploy the mini-computer as a device packed with courses for children that teach them about the basics of computer hardware and programming software.

He has launched a UK registered charity dubbed the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

He states that children will be able to "use [the device] as a computer to learn program, to be able to run Twitter, Facebook, whatever.  But also to be able to understand the whole process of programming.  A lot of things have been obfuscated these days in the sense that you can't get at them.  There's so much between you and doing something interesting or creative that it gets in the way.  And hopefully this device will be one of the pieces that helps change that."

The Raspberry Pi foundation plans to distribute the tiny PC to children in the UK, as well as third world children, though no solid release date has been announced yet.

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These initiatives are silly
By tayb on 5/6/2011 10:17:32 AM , Rating: 3
One laptop per child? How about one glass of clean water per child? One meal per day per child? With so many children across the world suffering from a lack of food or clean water the notion that every kid needs or deserves a laptop is absurd. I'm sure there were good intentions behind this kind of junk but if I had to pick a charity to donate all of my money to OLPC and similar groups would be just above "tear up all money and put down disposal."

RE: These initiatives are silly
By Hulk on 5/6/2011 10:26:32 AM , Rating: 5
I think it's great that people have different ideas about how to make the world a better place. I for one am not going to tear him down for following his dream, and a noble dream at that.

RE: These initiatives are silly
By Solandri on 5/7/2011 12:55:44 AM , Rating: 5
The problem with the food, water, and medicine approach to "helping" people in developing nations is that long-term it ends up hurting them. Almost all of the world's population growth is in developing nations. There's something about industrializing and modernizing which makes people want to have fewer kids.

If you give people in developing nations food and clean water without changing anything else, all that'll happen is their population increases even more due to a lowered mortality rate. So all you accomplish is increasing the number of people who need food, water, and medicine here and now. And by increasing their population you've made it that much harder to modernize their country in the future.

What you want to do instead is to start off by helping them modernize their country. This means education and engineering expertise, and economic loans to help them start their own businesses. Once you've done this, they will build their own infrastructure, grow their own food, build their own water purification systems, and construct their own hospitals. Things like OLPC attempt to address the education and engineering expertise part of the problem. They give these people access to educational and reference materials they otherwise wouldn't have (textbooks are bulky and heavy and a pain to ship).

And as for the power to run these things, the OLPC could be powered with a hand crank. The specs on this USB stick PC the guy gave on his site are that it'll draw between 50-700 mW (the high end being a future version with a 3D graphics chipset). That's next to nothing. An average person can generate about 100-200 W on an exercise bike. Hook one up to a generator and battery and pedal for 10 minutes and you have enough power to run one of these for 24-48 hours continuously @ 700 mW. 2-4 weeks @ 50 mW.

RE: These initiatives are silly
By hiscross on 5/8/11, Rating: -1
RE: These initiatives are silly
By invidious on 5/9/2011 12:17:15 PM , Rating: 2
Educating people to make responsible family choices is not the same as population control.

Capitalism is not going to help them when this is a global economy and outside forces come into to exploit them. If it was an isolated society things would work themselves out in the long term. But its not, and if left alone the poverty is more likely to get worse and spread rather than go away.

RE: These initiatives are silly
By mofo3k on 5/6/2011 10:26:53 AM , Rating: 4
It's the old "teach a man to fish..." theory. As their computer literacy increases, so does their marketability to potential employers. If they have jobs, they can afford to feed themselves. Unfortunately the potential jobs will likely be taken from the US or India but that's the "Free Market" for ya.

RE: These initiatives are silly
By FITCamaro on 5/6/2011 11:26:46 AM , Rating: 5
It's the old "a computer doesn't do anything without power, a display, access to data, and input devices" theory.

RE: These initiatives are silly
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 5/6/2011 11:50:49 AM , Rating: 5
* power supply, cables, keyboard, mouse, monitor, memory sold separately.

Lessee, that is gonna be less than... oh, US$500, so there you go, it beat the OLPC cost of US$188 by um... carry the one... wait a minute, what?

RE: These initiatives are silly
By jr9k on 5/6/2011 4:04:21 PM , Rating: 2
yeah, don't forget a couple of monster cables and extended warranty.

RE: These initiatives are silly
By headbox on 5/6/2011 4:14:58 PM , Rating: 2
make sure it has HDMI, or the adapater will cost more too

RE: These initiatives are silly
By cfaalm on 5/12/2011 7:17:24 AM , Rating: 2
What? No Thunderbolt?

RE: These initiatives are silly
By Lerianis on 5/6/11, Rating: -1
RE: These initiatives are silly
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 5/9/2011 7:09:37 AM , Rating: 3
Uh, see the first photo? That piece of circuit board is what costs $25, not all the items pictured in the second photo. Also, read the article.

By Rugglebum666 on 5/13/2011 12:31:52 PM , Rating: 2
Very true.

By icanhascpu on 5/9/2011 10:09:34 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, if youre looking on Newegg for the monitor. /rollseyes.

You look for screen sizes that already have fabs in place to mass-produce screens. You slap a shock-resistant mass produced plastic around that. Tens of dollars for a small cheaply made LCD screen. Keyboard/mouse? Yes, tard, lets buy them a MX518 mouse and wireless keyboard so we can fit with your moronic point. No. This stuff, even on newegg for goodness sake can be had for <15$. If its going directly from fab to system on a mass produced scale those two items would cost a fraction of that. A sub 60-80$ laptop is not difficult to comprehend.

RE: These initiatives are silly
By mindless1 on 5/6/2011 7:33:15 PM , Rating: 2
Think about what will happen. You give these children computer skills so they are employable in other areas of the world so the brightest children leave, instead of staying in the region they were born in to help effect change where it is needed most.

I'm not suggesting they shouldn't leave, only that the effect could be a negative one on such regions' peoples.

It would seem better that they gain skills applicable to the problems in their area, create businesses whose products or services are in need there and let's face it, nobody "really" needs computers unless the society/job demands their use.

By Skywalker123 on 5/9/2011 7:43:59 AM , Rating: 1
"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, Teach a man to steal fish and you feed him for the rest of his life."

RE: These initiatives are silly
By rdhood on 5/6/2011 10:29:10 AM , Rating: 3
I tend to agree. You are going to hook a 1080p output to what?

I've been thinking a lot, and agree with tayb... we ought to be looking at "1 lifetime ceramic water filter per child"

One good ceramic water filter that costs between $50 and $100 will filter enough water to provide clean drinking water for one person for that person's life.

RE: These initiatives are silly
By MrBlastman on 5/6/2011 10:52:58 AM , Rating: 1
You can give them water, but then they still need food. All you're essentially doing is shifting the efforts to keep them on welfare.

Give them a computer though that teaches them how to program and modify hardware--then you've taught them something marketable that will allow them to get a job--and feed them perpetually. The best part is, they get fed without it costing you money for the rest of their life.

I like the idea. Now... if only David would get back to making us another Elite game. We've waited a long time--it's time! (though, I must admit, Evochron is a pretty neat series).

RE: These initiatives are silly
By snakeInTheGrass on 5/6/2011 11:00:48 AM , Rating: 5
Or give them a laptop and they can starve before finding a good IT job. How about give them some engineering books so they can improve their own environments?

By VitalyTheUnknown on 5/6/2011 11:43:25 AM , Rating: 2
"How about give them some engineering books so they can improve their own environments?"

How about give them access to whatever book they want.,9171,1...

RE: These initiatives are silly
By BadAcid on 5/6/2011 11:44:16 AM , Rating: 5
How about sending them condoms and sex ed so they curb the production of new starving children?

RE: These initiatives are silly
By FITCamaro on 5/6/11, Rating: 0
RE: These initiatives are silly
By AssBall on 5/6/2011 3:19:15 PM , Rating: 2
They are breeding faster than aids can kill them.

14 year olds born with aids having babies... woot.

RE: These initiatives are silly
By lagomorpha on 5/6/2011 2:27:12 PM , Rating: 2
For some reason no one wanted to donate to my "one vasectomy per child" initiative.

RE: These initiatives are silly
By Azethoth on 5/6/2011 3:59:20 PM , Rating: 3
I am guessing they did not want to pay for girls getting vasectomies.

By lagomorpha on 5/6/2011 8:30:00 PM , Rating: 4
The boys each get two vasectomies so it only averages out to one per child.

RE: These initiatives are silly
By BZDTemp on 5/6/2011 11:48:19 AM , Rating: 5
How about reading the article!

This little tiny PC is not for developing nations but for kids in our part of the world. The idea is to give a platform to thinker with and their own personal computer (something kids in poor homes are not likely to have).

As for the OLP project the idea is of course to help the kids that are not dying from starvation but those in places that have moved a step or two beyond that. The computer is so they learn to use IT but it's also about cheap access to learning material - those engineering books you talk about are to be on the computers.

RE: These initiatives are silly
By dananski on 5/7/2011 9:28:04 PM , Rating: 2
Quite right. Here in the UK where it was made, there are plenty of disadvantaged children who could benefit from learning programming on it in schools and it won't be long before every home here has a TV with HDMI so they don't need to worry about a monitor to use one at home either. As peripherals become cheaper, spread it out to less economically developed countries.

RE: These initiatives are silly
By Stuka on 5/6/2011 12:45:41 PM , Rating: 2
I could be wrong, but I think you can learn about engineering through a computer, somehow. It's one of those secrets that no one knows about.

RE: These initiatives are silly
By DanNeely on 5/6/2011 11:42:08 AM , Rating: 2
It's not just a question of what you hook it up to. Even if the chip is capable of decoding 1080p video, an ARM11 core isn't fast enough to render modern web pages at an acceptable rate.

RE: These initiatives are silly
By JediJeb on 5/6/2011 6:28:05 PM , Rating: 3
Depends on what you call an acceptable rate. For someone without a PC just about any rate would be acceptable. I just got DSL last year, and before that acceptable for me was a page on DT loading in under a minute to minute and a half.

It is like telling someone who normally has to walk 10 miles through the outback to the nearest grocery store that unless a car offered to them goes 0-60 in 6 seconds it is just unacceptable and they should turn it down.

RE: These initiatives are silly
By Suntan on 5/6/2011 12:31:16 PM , Rating: 3
we ought to be looking at "1 lifetime ceramic water filter per child".

And by "we" he actually meant, "Someone, or maybe some group of people I suppose. But not me personally."


RE: These initiatives are silly
By ekv on 5/6/2011 1:55:19 PM , Rating: 4
If you don't mind too much, a shameless plug ...

RE: These initiatives are silly
By Solandri on 5/7/2011 11:51:08 AM , Rating: 2
And while such efforts are admirable and well-intentioned, they aren't without their downsides too:

RE: These initiatives are silly
By ekv on 5/7/2011 10:01:36 PM , Rating: 1
Hey, thanks. I hadn't seen these. I have two bud's that do this kind of work. One is a geologist that does the actual drilling (and follow up -- some wells silt up, or get contaminated). The other teaches the villagers about hygiene and sanitation (for about a week or two after the well is established).

Drilling the well is the cheap part. The education and so forth is the expensive part. [They aren't as efficient as, say, the Salvation Army (at a mere 10% overhead), but when I harp at 'em they're listening]

I'll pass the links along. I'm pretty sure they aren't irresponsible, but maybe they haven't seen this kind of thing. You never know.

RE: These initiatives are silly
By Calin on 5/9/2011 3:28:29 AM , Rating: 2
Not if the ceramic filter must filter murky water.

By Dr of crap on 5/6/2011 10:30:58 AM , Rating: 1
It's a good idea for the poorer ones in the developed countries to be given this PC, but I agree that feeding the kids a good meal a day and water is a better plan.

Hell, I can see more uses for a PC as cheap as this, than to just keep it geared for kids. Throw a few more dollars at it, beef it up a little, make it under $100, and you'd sell more than you could keep on the shelves!

RE: These initiatives are silly
By priusone on 5/6/2011 10:32:03 AM , Rating: 2
Growing up with absent parents, I relied on pc component hand outs in order to build an 8086. I loved programming, but sadly, something happened to the system and I wasn't able to get it back up and running.

Sure, food and water for everyone would be an awesome goal, but why not tackle a smaller goal of getting cheap computers into the hands of kids who can learn using them?

RE: These initiatives are silly
By Dr of crap on 5/6/2011 10:33:36 AM , Rating: 2
It's a good idea for the poorer ones in the developed countries to be given this PC, but I agree that feeding the kids a good meal a day and water is a better plan.

Hell, I can see more uses for a PC as cheap as this, than to just keep it geared for kids. Throw a few more dollars at it, beef it up a little, make it under $100, and you'd sell more than you could keep on the shelves!

RE: These initiatives are silly
By Flunk on 5/6/2011 11:41:09 AM , Rating: 2
or how about they sell it for $50 as is and use half the fund giving another away.

RE: These initiatives are silly
By aegisofrime on 5/6/2011 10:39:02 AM , Rating: 2
I say both. Give the kids the food and water, but also give them the knowledge to be able to secure these for themselves and others. I personally believe that ignorance is the worst enemy of mankind, let the light of education and knowledge banish ignorance forever.

RE: These initiatives are silly
By mindless1 on 5/6/2011 7:41:13 PM , Rating: 2
That's a lovely sentiment but there isn't enough to go around. Personally I'd rather be ignorant and have enough to eat than be half educated and half starving to death.

However, it isn't necessarily about ignorance. Let's assume most know that having sex without protection of some sort results in pregnancy. They know there isn't enough food or clean water for those present, let alone more children.

By Shadowmaster625 on 5/6/2011 3:11:02 PM , Rating: 2
You cant give anything to children of 3rd world countries. Their parents will just have more children. What they need is jobs. To let them help their own children. Not to mention keep them too busy to have (as many) children.

By FaceMaster on 5/6/2011 4:22:16 PM , Rating: 2
Imagine people coming into your house and taking your computing equipment, because 'there are less fortunate people elsewhere in the world'. Utterly ridiculous logic.

I see no reason for us to have to drag ourselves down all the time. Sure, we can help those less fortunate than ourselves in other countries, but we mustn't neglect our own country. I'm all for this scheme.

RE: These initiatives are silly
By Targon on 5/9/2011 5:58:04 AM , Rating: 2
You clearly are missing a big piece of the puzzle in improving conditions around the world. Yes, having access to clean water and food is critical for survival, but once those things have been taken care of, what then? What about giving children the knowledge and experience they need to actually earn an HONEST living in the real world without resorting to working for scammers and criminals?

This is what things like one laptop per child is all about. In the USA, there are some who do not have their own computer, so learning how to use a computer is more difficult and limited to what a school can offer(which isn't much in some areas).

The idea that those in third world countries never really get out of poverty because most of the effort is on the basics of survival is a part of the problem. If you don't stop at feeding the poor, and instead also look to getting the poor to actually get jobs and be self sufficient, these third world countries might be in better shape.

Basically, what has been lacking is a focus on getting poor AREAS to the point where they will not need help FOREVER. How long has the effort to "feed the starving people of Ethiopia" been going on? Since the 1960s if not earlier, and yet, after all these decades of getting help and feeding the children there, is there any real improvement where the world doesn't have to keep helping the people there feed themselves?

By icanhascpu on 5/9/2011 10:03:23 AM , Rating: 2
Give a child a bottle of water and they drink for a day, teach a child the workings of water filtration, conservation, gathering, efficient water distribution and methods of going about all of the above, and they drink for a lifetime.

What is absurd is you thinking we arnt already trying to give them water and food. What we need to do ontop of that is give them knowledge, and things like the above are attempting to produce low cost hardware that can achieve this. No idea why your comment got a 5 aside from the bleeding hearts that disregard logic and what is actually going on.

"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive

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