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, Thrillville, Lost
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
He has launched a UK registered charity dubbed the Raspberry Pi
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
quote: we ought to be looking at "1 lifetime ceramic water filter per child".