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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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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.

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1...


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.


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