Raspberry Pi Launch – A PC For The Price Of A Pair Of Jeans

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£22 or less can buy a Linux-based computer to teach the principles of computing to a new generation of programmers

This morning saw the worldwide launch of Raspberry Pi – a credit-card sized, single-board computer, developed by the charity organisation Raspberry Pi Foundation.

Even though today’s sales were limited to one unit per customer, the 10,000 computers sold out in just a few hours. Pre-orders for the next batch have been opened.

Since then, Raspberry Pi has become a trending topic worldwide, gaining more attention in the media than Apple’s iPad 3 launch event announcement or Justin Bieber’s Birthday.

Not enough raspberries

Six years after the project’s inception, Raspberry Pi Foundation has finally launched the computer that it hopes will inspire a new generation of programmers. It believes in the need for more developers to understand what truly goes on “under the hood” of a computing device. The UK-based charity is devoted to promoting the study of computer science in schools, and the low-cost device is part of this strategy.

Raspberry Pi is a basic computer that can be connected to a TV or monitor, and a keyboard and mouse. It can be used for many of the things that your desktop PC does, including office work, Internet browsing and high-definition video playback. Last year, Raspberry Pi was even shown to be running the Quake III videogame.

The device is manufactured in China, and distributed under licence by two major British electronic component companies: Premier Farnell and RS Components.

The launch was met with overwhelming demand. So much so, the developers had to change to a static version of the site to prevent it crashing, and both distributor sites experienced something akin to a DDoS (Distributed Denial-of-Service) attack.

Raspberry Pi contains a 700MHz  ARM11 processor, VideoCore IV graphics processing unit (GPU), and 256MB of RAM. There is no hard disk on board; the computer uses an SD card instead, and has USB connectivity which can be used to provide a storage port. The available connections include an HDMA port, RCA video port, and a 3.5 mm audio jack. Raspberry Pi can work with any of the Linux operating systems, such as Debian, GNU/Linux, Ubuntu or Fedora.

There will be two models of the device available: the basic Model A costs £15.70. Model B costs slightly more, £21.60, but includes an Ethernet port, and a second USB port. Though the Model A does not have an Ethernet port, it can still connect to a network by using its USB port for an Ethernet or Wi-Fi adapter.

Teach the kids

This first launch is aimed at software and hardware enthusiasts, makers, teachers and others who want to build exciting things with the Raspberry Pi before the official educational launch, which will happen later in 2012.

“The decline in core computing skills is something we really want to address with Raspberry Pi. Overcoming the students’ fear of programming for the first time is a critical step in unlocking the full potential of the smartest people in any industry,” commented Eben Upton, co-founder of the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

Element14 – a collaborative community and electronics store for engineers and electronics enthusiasts has a global distribution deal with the Raspberry Pi Foundation. Harriet Green, CEO of Premier Farnell, the company behind element14, said: “This partnership brings together the world’s biggest online design engineer community with one of the most exciting electronic/embedded computing products to be launched for decades.  We believe it will provide the catalyst for a programming revolution.”

“We will encourage everyone from developers, modders, coders and programmers to discuss, share and develop their ideas and fully utilise the game-changing potential of the Raspberry Pi computer,” she added.

As part of the money-raising effort, Raspberry Pi Foundation was auctioning off several Beta boards on eBay in January. Some of them sold for as much as £2100.

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