Raspberry Pi £15 Linux Computer

Yes, that headline is correct. One of the original authors of Elite for the BBC Micro, has started a non-profit company with the stated aim of bringing a $20 PC to every kid in the country.

David Braben believes that teaching of ICT is diverting focus away from learning all those real computer skills. Like hacking together your first script or Python program, or making an Arduino open your garage door from a smartphone. He’s right too.

The USB stick Raspberry Pi computer has a HDMI port on one end, so will connect to any recent HD ready TV. The other end attaches to a USB hub, which can have a keyboard, mouse, or USB ethernet port attached. The stick runs an ultra-cheap ARM processor & Ubuntu Linux. When you consider it will drive a 1080P TV at full HD resolution & surf the internet, that’s a pretty exciting proposition. I’d buy one just to play with – I’d donate one too, come to that, if they decide to mirror early attempts at spreading the cheap PCs to less well off countries.

This all makes running Ubuntu from a USB memory stick look pretty lame! Now the whole computer is on the stick.

David Braben thinks we’re about a year away from being able to own one. In the next 12 months prices of Android & Chrome tablets PCs are going to fall significantly, but I still love the idea of the £15 USB stick PC. If it could let you watch BBC iPlayer in HD on your TV, how great would that be!

If you want to read about how David Braben got his start with computers – aged 18 he received a £120 Acorn Atom kit for Christmas, which he soldered together himself (yes, these are the skills that helped him design a £15 USB PC, today) – then read the book ‘Backroom Boys’ by Francis Spufford, ISBN 0-571-21497-5. It’s also full of other great electronic engineering feats. You might have to settle for a used copy. Also contains the stories of the rise of Concorde, Vodafone/Cellnet & Mapping the human genome. Brilliant read.

If you don’t want to wait 12 months, you can start to learn a little Python programming today at KhanAcademy.org
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