Most of the current generation of computer nerds started out writing small programs in languages like BASIC. If you’re in your 30’s, chances are you started out on a Commodore C64, or one of its competitors, and fiddled around with writing small programs. Since then, computing has changed dramatically. Knowing your way around Microsoft Word makes you a “whiz kid” nowadays, and knowing how to install Windows can get you a job.
The Raspberry Pi Foundation is developing a small, inexpensive computer aimed at bringing back the “hacker spirit” from the old days. Starting at a mere $25, the “Raspberry Pi” is a credit card-sized circuit board with an ARM-based SoC (system on a chip), 128 MB of RAM memory and connectors for a display, keyboard and mouse (USB). It uses an SD card as storage, and can be used with a DVI-capable monitor or a TV (composite video). The $35 “Model B” has double the RAM and a wired network port.
Don’t let the low purchase price fool you though. The video above shows an early prototype running Quake III at Full-DH resolution, and while that is not its intended use, it shows that the hardware is quite capable. The CPU is a single core one, running at a mere 700 MHz, but the graphics unit is quite potent, and with some cleverly chosen (written?) software, it should be usable as a general purpose PC.
(image shows a prototype board)
The Foundation is probably right to expect mostly selling the first 10,000 boards to developers and enthusiasts. Like many (current) geeks. I can see tons of applications for this little board. It uses only around 1 watt of power, so it’s perfect for “always-on” type applications like small (NAS?) servers. Plus it plays video really well, so it could also be used to create a Linux-based media player. The sky is the limit :). Or rather, 10,000 is the limit. This thing has “EPIC WANT” written all over it, so I’d be surprised if that first batch isn’t sold out in the blink of an eye.