A game designer has created a USB Stick-sized PC to help bring technology to children and third-world countries.
raspberry piBritish game designer David Braben has created a pocket PC called Raspberry Pi for around $25 USD. The device isn't any bigger than the standard USB memory stick, and even sports an HDMI output connector on one end for displaying 1080p content on an HDTV or PC monitor. An actual USB 2.0 connector resides on the other end for connecting a USB hub and ultimately peripherals like a mouse and keyboard.
The design arrived in response to the One Laptop Per Child program and the rising prices of its laptops, initially costing $100 per unit but has since ballooned to $188 per laptop. Braben's design not only allows the child to carry the device in his/her pocket or on a keychain, it will be relatively cheap to purchase given it only cost $25 to manufacture.
The Raspberry Pi consists of a single motherboard with an HDMI port on one end and a USB port on the other. On the side it offers an SD/MMC/SDIO card reader for flash storage, and there's also an expansion port for adding additional hardware like a 12MP camera module. The actual CPU is a 700 MHz ARM11 processor with 128 MB of SDRAM. There's even an unnamed GPU capable of handling OpenGL ES 2.0. Ubuntu is the OS of choice and comes packed with open source software tools like Iceweasel, Koffice and Python.
David Braben is best known for founding game development studio Frontier Developments, the group responsible for the Rollercoaster Tycoon series, Thrillville, Lost Winds and Microsoft's recent Kinect-based hit, Kinectimals. Braben said he created the device to help push the next generation of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) gadgets, and wants to see the mini-computers packed in an educational program that teaches students the basics of hardware and software.
"Children will be able to use [the device] as a computer to learn program, to be able to run Twitter, Facebook, whatever," he said. "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."
Braben has launched a UK-based charity called the Raspberry Pi Foundation for continued support of the device and its goals. The devices are expected the be distributed within the UK and to third-world children. However, no plans for other territories have been announced, nor has he provided a solid release date.