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Non-profit to release $25 PC

Posted: 04 Jan 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:computer programming? PCB? personal computer?

Raspberry Pi, a U.K.-based non-profit organization, is rolling out a $25 credit card sized PC. The device is currently in the final beta testing phase.

The ultra-low-cost computer, which recently won an award at the ARM TechCon, was conceptualized for use in teaching computer programming, as well as for greater educational use in the developing world.

The small PCB can connect up to a TV or screen via USB 2.0 or HDMI and sports a 700MHz ARM11 processor from Broadcom with 128MB of RAM, a SD/MMC/SDIO memory card slot and OpenGL ES 2.0. It runs a Linux-based operating system, and videos demos have shown the diminutive computer able to run compute intensive video games like Quake, as well as 1080p HD video. The device also comes with the option of an additional USB hub and 10/100 Ethernet controller.

$25 PC

Raspberry Pi: We want to see cheap, accessible, programmable computers everywhere.

Eben Upton, the foundation's executive director, who also works as a SoC architect at Broadcom, said in a recent interview with Business Insider that the aim was to build a computer so cheap, it could be handed out to children like textbooks.

"Children are enormously illiterate now, but what they know how to do is use computers. They see them as bits as functional magic and have no idea how they work. That's fine for Facebook and browsing, but if you want a career out of this stuff or create something that's high value, you have to understand how the thing works," he said.

Upton called the initiative "almost nationalist", saying the idea had sprung out of concern over Cambridge University's problem of getting enough qualified students and Britain's difficulties in being able to produce enough engineering graduates. Lately, however, the foundation has also been seeing interest from people in developing countries like Brazil and Russia, as well as from adult hobbyists looking to build home-made robots and media centers.

"It won't set the world on fire with its desktop performance, but it has a lot of multimedia performance," said Upton, explaining how the plug and play computer could turn any TV into a workable productivity computer.

As a registered as a not-for-profit, Upton said any money generated from the sale of its Raspberry Pi boards would get funneled back into the business, with hopes that copycat companies would spring up and start developing their own brand of cheap chips.

"We can't make any money out of this, we have no incentive to keep the design of the device secret," he said adding that he sincerely hoped third parties would be able to manufacture clones.

"We would like nothing more than some company in China to make a million of these. It would be perfect, we would achieve our goal, which is ubiquitous presence of cheap computers," he explained.

Meanwhile, Raspberry Pi has enough parts for about 10,000 devices, with Upton saying the foundation was in the process of committing a manufacturing run for that number. Once the devices are ready for sale, Upton said they would be offered on a web store.

"I suspect it's going take an hour to sell through it at that point," he said, noting that he would hold a few hundred in reserve for developers to whom the company had already committed priority devices.

The firm plans on putting out a fresh batch of Pi "slightly more than once a month," though Upton said it would require some careful planning based on capital requirements.

If the foundation manages to keep its budget balanced, it could well mean a slice of affordable computing pie for many who would otherwise not be able to afford a full priced system.

- Sylvie Barak
??EE Times

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