A group of Cambridge entrepreneurs and academics are getting ready to launch a $25 computer named ‘Raspberry Pi’ that they hope will boost children’s interest in computer programming. The unit is basically an open circuit board, about the size of the palm of your hand that is a fully operational computer. Since it uses a 700 MHz ARM chip similar to the CPU you would find in a smart phone it uses very little power, in fact it is powered by 4 AA batteries. The graphics card although not powerful enough to play high end games does have the capability to play HD videos. In terms of connectivity, it has a HDMI port and a couple of USB ports so that you connect it to a monitor and add a mouse, keyboard or an external storage drive.
Seneca College in Toronto is developing some software for the device which will include a custom version of the Linux Fedora OS and other applications such as a web browser and a word processor. Since Linux is open source software it is easily programmable and there are many other applications that have been developed by users throughout the world. Even though it is less powerful that modern computers it is infinitely flexible and its applications are limited only by your imagination. There are already many uses being discussed in forums at the Raspberry Pi web site, including: a device to capture video from a weather balloon, a brain for a robot or a GPS unit. The makers hope that the cheap price will encourage users to experiment with the device without worrying about “bricking” it. The micro PC is expected to be available within the next several weeks.