May 06, 2011

USB Flash Drive-Sized PC for $25?

With the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, it’s certainly true that computing devices are getting smaller and smaller. But what if a PC could be the size of your regular USB flash drive and come at a price of a mere $25? Would you believe it worked?

British game developer David Braben believes it true and thus created a super low cost PC that is, in fact, the size of a USB flash drive, and all because he wants students to pursue careers in computer programming. Yes, he’s doing it for the kids.

Named Raspberry Pi, the wee device uses a 700MHz ARM11 processor coupled with 128MB of RAM (News - Alert) and runs OpenGL ES 2.0 allowing for decent graphics performance with 1080p output confirmed. Storage is catered for by an SD card slot. It also looks as though modules can be attached such as the 12MP camera.

It has an HDMI port to connect a monitor to and a USB port to connect a keyboard and mouse to. It runs on the Linux Ubunto.

Braben is a well-known video game developer who runs the UK studio Frontier, a company known for games such as the Rollercoaster Tycoon series, Thrillville, Lost Winds, and most recently Kinectimals.

Braben has been trying to solve the problem on how to get young students excited about computers and more specifically, computer sciences like programming and hardware repair. Braben reasons that computer learning has devolved into learning “useful skills such as writing documents in a word processor, how to create presentations, and basic computer use skills.”

Braben feels that the way schools teach children about computers leaves them uninspired, that too much gets in the way of their enthusiasm; today’s computer classes only prepare kids to navigate office jobs. Braben believes these low cost PC will allow children to do typical things such as go on Facebook (News - Alert) or tweet, but it will also give them the freedom to become creators of products they typically consume.

Raspberry Pi is a non-profit venture, whose founders are mostly part of Cambridge's thriving technology sector. Their hope is that teachers, developers and the government will come together to get the device into the hands of children who may not have access to a computer at home or would not be allowed by parents to "muck about with it".

Raspberry Pi will be distributed to students for free with the idea that courses on software programming and computer hardware architecture will develop around them.

Michelle Amodio is a TMCnet contributor. She has helped promote companies and groups in all industries, from technology to banking to professional roller derby. She holds a bachelor's degree in Writing from Endicott College and currently works in marketing, journalism, and public relations as a freelancer.

Edited by Jennifer Russell