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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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Must... suppress... nerdy... urges
By deathwombat on 5/6/2011 4:28:39 PM , Rating: 1
I don't know why, but I feel an overwhelming urge to get one of these things and fill up an SD card with DOS games and a copy of DOSBox. Yes, I could do that with any USB stick, but there's something cool about the idea of the thumb drive actually being a computer (minus the screen and keyboard). $25 retro gaming computer in my pocket FTW!




By MindParadox on 5/6/2011 6:41:52 PM , Rating: 2
oh god im totally with you on that :)
of course, for me, id also add an atari 2600 emulator, as well as a sega genesis emulator :)


RE: Must... suppress... nerdy... urges
By mindless1 on 5/6/2011 7:57:35 PM , Rating: 2
because it has an x86 processor to run them, right?


RE: Must... suppress... nerdy... urges
By deathwombat on 5/6/2011 9:13:00 PM , Rating: 2
Who needs an x86 processor? DOSBox has been ported to a lot of different platforms. There's even a Java port called jDosbox. It can even be embedded in a webpage as an applet so that you can play DOS games in your browser (http://www.classicdosgames.com/online.html). I don't know if there's an ARM port of DOSBox, but if there's a Java Virtual Machine for ARM, you can play DOS games on this thing.


RE: Must... suppress... nerdy... urges
By mindless1 on 5/9/2011 1:55:08 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
I don't know if there's an ARM port of DOSBox, but if there's a Java Virtual Machine


Exactly. Unknown /uncertainty. If everything aligns towards making it happen it can - which is the same we could say about anything in the world which doesn't happen.

Also, the overhead of ports/Java could be too much for the processor, gaming tends to need realtime overhead, no processor spikes at 100% to stay fluid.


By deathwombat on 5/9/2011 11:23:11 AM , Rating: 2
First of all, it turns out that there is Java for ARM, so jDosbox will definitely work. And yes, there is overhead in emulation, but I'd like to think that a 700 MHz ARM processor can emulate a 386 DX 33.

The latest version of jDosbox only emulates DOSBox's "normal" core, which performs like a 486 DX/DX2 on my PC, but the "dynamic" core is coming along rapidly and performance is anywhere from 25 to 300% better under this core. I have no doubt that this processor can handle DOS games.


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