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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: Specs!?
By drycrust3 on 5/6/2011 3:13:09 PM , Rating: 2
This thing has worse specs than your average Android phone.

Ah ha! You've made the first BIG mistake of technology: You thought about this in terms of EXISTING technology. The Golden Rule of technology is that the biggest value to you of that new technology is something you haven't thought of. This could be the biggest thing in computing since the invention of the CPU.
Look at what this does offer: computing power at low cost that with low weight and occupies a small space.
For example, instead of just having one CPU and one GPU in a computer, you might buy a computer with 5 of them, but with the capability to add lots more. Find your computer struggles a bit when photoshopping a picture or playing the latest video game? A trip to your local computing store, buy some more computing power, plug them in, problem solved.
Or say you attach a GPS unit and a cellphone. Now you have a device that you can program up for things like couriering valuables so if your package is tampered with, treated roughly, or if it remains stationary for more than an hour it will tell you. Or say you have livestock like sheep that get attacked or rustled from time to time? Put some of these on the stock so if they all move more than a predetermined amount in a short space of time or outside the paddock they are in you are alerted.

RE: Specs!?
By Azethoth on 5/6/2011 3:57:29 PM , Rating: 2
No, you are missing his point. Smartphones will be the defacto computing platform for the unwashed masses as soon as costs drop low enough.

You can run a phone off a hand-crank or solar array.

You can not run thingy + tv + whatever with the same ease. Right now in Africa cell phones are already how people do banking and all kinds of things.

Also, sheep do not need cell phones with gps. They are exceedingly stupid animals fit only for delicious bbq and making wool.

RE: Specs!?
By JediJeb on 5/6/2011 6:35:46 PM , Rating: 2
No, you are missing his point. Smartphones will be the defacto computing platform for the unwashed masses as soon as costs drop low enough.

Sorry not for me. I want as big of a monitor I can if I am going to be doing work on a computer. Squinting at a tiny smartphone screen and having to type with one finger is not my idea of using a computer.

RE: Specs!?
By OneArmedScissorB on 5/6/2011 6:53:44 PM , Rating: 2
Phone > video output > TV

Phone > dock > keyboard/screen/battery

Phone > wifi > anything

RE: Specs!?
By mindless1 on 5/6/2011 7:51:16 PM , Rating: 2
Uhh, no, no they won't. A phone plan is not something these people would be able to afford, it would make no sense to put capabilities into the computing device which raise cost but are never used.

Where are they going to get these hand cranks and solar arrays if they are too poor to have even the more basic things a modern society does? $100 is $100 more than most of the "unwashed masses" has. Impoverished people DO NOT NEED CELLPHONES. That someone in Africa has one is not relevant, if they can afford a cell phone plan and service is available, nobody is stopping them from buying themselves cell phones. This project on the other hand, addresses people who need something low cost above phone functionality.

"Can anyone tell me what MobileMe is supposed to do?... So why the f*** doesn't it do that?" -- Steve Jobs

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