The Raspberry Pi

The “Raspberry Pi” is a $35 computer that has been developed over the last few years to be sold into education, and the developing world. The Raspberry Pi is by no means a cut down or stripped computing platform. For $35 dollars you are getting quite a robust feature set:

  • SoC: Broadcom BCM2835 (CPU, GPU, DSP, and SDRAM)
  • CPU: 700 MHz ARM1176JZF-S core (ARM11 family)
  • GPU: Broadcom VideoCore IV, OpenGL ES 2.0, 1080p30 h.264/MPEG-4 AVC high-profile decoder
  • Memory (SDRAM): 256 Megabytes (shared with GPU)
  • USB 2.0 ports: 2 (via integrated USB hub)
  • Video outputs: Composite RCA (PAL & NTSC), HDMI (rev 1.3 & 1.4), raw LCD Panels via DSI 14 HDMI resolutions from 640×350 to 1920×1200 plus various PAL and NTSC standards.
  • Audio outputs:3.5 mm jack, HDMI
  • Onboard storage: SD / MMC / SDIO card slot
  • Onboard network: 10/100 Ethernet (RJ45)
  • Operating Systems: Debian GNU/Linux, Fedora, Arch Linux, RISC OS

So why am I excited?

Powerful.

This is a machine that has real power. At 700mhz with a OpenGL compatible GPU, it is more capable then most machines that were sold as desktops a decade ago. I remember paying $350 dollars (The 3DFX Voodoo 3) just for a graphics card that would match with the GPU that is on this. Here it is playing Quake III Arena in full 1080P mode:

 

Cheap.

There have been attempts to make small computers that are cheap, but nothing with this much power. The Arduino is probably the closest comparison, but the most basic version costs $20 more. It runs at 20MHz with 256K of ram. It doesn’t even have ethernet as standard.

Small.

The Raspberry Pi is incredibly small – at just 3.370 × 2.125 inches it is approximately the size of a credit card. Which means it can be put in tiny things. It is low power and solid state, which means it doesn’t need much juice to run (4 AA batteries will do the trick) and it can take a fair amount of abuse.

I can easily see people turning these into:

I can easily see people turning these into:

  • internet radios
  • cheap NAS appliances
  • robots
  • drones
  • video storage/playback devices
  • custom video arcade machines (this is screaming out for a port of MAME)

Combine all of these and you have the potential for this to inspire a whole new generation of hackers. Much the same way our generation was with 8-bit computers – the Commodore 64, Apple II, and the Timex-Sinclair Spectrum.

I have placed three on order. Can’t wait to get them.

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