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Cheaper versions are on the way
February 29, 2012 4:40 AM   Subscribe

Raspberry Pi the £22 ($35) computer was launched today and sold out immediately. It is intended to encourage children to develop a better understanding of computers and get involved in programming. The design is based on a Broadcom BCM2835 SoC with no keyboard or other frills; it's meant to run Linux.
posted by Segundus (128 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sold out? Oh dammit.

Ah well, I have other huge projects going at the moment. I'll just wait for the second version, not to mention all the tutorials on how to get XBMC running correctly.
posted by DU at 4:45 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's fun to think that the demand caused an organic DDoS attack of sorts.
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:45 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


For those who had awoken especially early but found the websites at RS and Farnell had crashed, the experience was frustrating: "This is what it feels like to be a middle-aged woman who wants Take That tickets," quipped Matthew Green on Twitter pondering the crashed site.

Just a little bit of subtle sexism there, eh?

Also, I want one of these.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 4:45 AM on February 29, 2012


♫ Raspberri Pi
The kind u find
in a second hand store ♫
posted by iviken at 4:49 AM on February 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Raspberry Pi have licensed out manufacturing, so lots and lots will be arriving soon. At that point I will buy one - the 3d chip in it is really surprisingly nice so I can do a lot of linux gaming stuff on the same machine that runs as a low energy 24/7 server.
posted by jaduncan at 4:52 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


DAMMIT. I knew I forgot about something.r
posted by azarbayejani at 5:01 AM on February 29, 2012


I remembered. I was trying to get through from the moment of the announcement until about 2:45am my time (EST). I actually managed to get the Model B in my cart (took more than an hour) but was unable to shop for filler to make Farnell's minimum order.
posted by Songdog at 5:08 AM on February 29, 2012


Well, I suppose there's time to think about what I'm going to do with the thing before I compulsively buy it. And time to finish off a couple of my Arduino projects too.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 5:09 AM on February 29, 2012


"intended to encourage children to develop a better understanding of computers and get involved in programming"

Ever since I finagled my boyfriend at the time do all my programming assignments for me in college I've been feeling a bit guilty. This sounds about my speed, WANT.
posted by like_neon at 5:11 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's an awesome project, and given my aversion to hardware, probably better for me for silly little projects than Arduino. I'd loved to be able to box one of these up with some custom software to make weird xmas presents.
posted by zoo at 5:12 AM on February 29, 2012


Well, I suppose there's time to think about what I'm going to do with the thing before I compulsively buy it.

I'm planning to build a full on MAME unit inside a joystick, with a USB port on the outside for another joystick for multiplayer (although if it's possible space wise bluetooth would be nice with a battery in the other joystick. HDMI has a 5v line, so I'm also hoping to make it just one cable to the TV.
posted by jaduncan at 5:17 AM on February 29, 2012 [11 favorites]


Godamnit, it's not only coding that needs bracket highlighting...
posted by jaduncan at 5:18 AM on February 29, 2012


intended to encourage children to develop a better understanding of computers and get involved in programming

I've been following this project and I think it's great. But are there any actual learn-to-program tools for the Raspberry Pi yet? Something as simple as BASIC on the Apple II?
posted by PlusDistance at 5:18 AM on February 29, 2012


This is interesting. Apparently Rasberry Pi told the distributors it was going to be huge, but no-one believed them.

I'm guessing anybody selling a piece of new kit via a third party is going to tell them it'll be the next big thing. I can imagine the buyers at Farnell thinking sarcastically, "Yeah - of course we're going to need to beef up our website for your super product. Like we haven't heard that a million times before.".
posted by zoo at 5:21 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, and android-x86 would be a nice fit for this. Stuff like the browser is a lot more memory optimised then the linux equivalents, and you get access to a whole lot of low memory apps designed to run on similar hardware.
posted by jaduncan at 5:22 AM on February 29, 2012


I'm planning to build a full on MAME unit inside a joystick

Outstanding idea.
posted by ShutterBun at 5:22 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm still disappointed that they decided their price point was more important than paying their workers non-awful wages. Oh well, they'll get rich on it, and isn't that what really matters?
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:25 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Uh, gaming may not be too great on that. The video chip is very good, but the CPU is about equivalent to a Pentium II, at 300 Mhz. You can obviously do a lot with a processor that fast, but it's also ARM architecture, meaning it's not going to be running old Windows or DOS games easily or well.... emulation will, likely, be very slow indeed.

Strategy games, where you have access to the source code, will probably work. Battle for Wesnoth, the roguelikes (aka Nethack, Dungeon Crawl, Moria), and relatively simple 2D games like Subspace should all be okay. But I think 3D games that look even kinda modern-ish will probably want more CPU power than that little thing can put out.

I mean, fer chrissake, it's running on like 3.5 watts of power, so comparing it with multi-hundred-watt desktops is ridiculous. With that video hardware, it'd kick the shit out of a Pentium II, gaming-wise, and doing that in 3.5 watts is just spectacularly awesome. But that's a long, long time ago, in gaming terms, and almost all of the existing great games from that time in x86 development only run on, well, x86.

I definitely want one, and will buy as soon as I can, but I'm not expecting it to be a gaming machine. It might make a pretty slick little media center, and an extra computer that's that fast and that cheap could always come in handy. Take a $35, credit-card sized device, add SD an card and a little power, and voila, instant Linux server. It's sort of the techie equivalent of a crowbar in the toolbox.
posted by Malor at 5:28 AM on February 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Glad I'm not the only one who immediately thought "fuck, I can finally make a MAME player that doesn't suck." Gyruss won't play itself, dammit. Well, it will, but it won't get through the solar system twice. :P And the Midway iOS app is such a fucking disappointment.

My stepson is learning to code right now. They're teaching him C++. WHAT THE HELL PEOPLE. And apparently OpenGL? OH COME ON. Teach them something useful they can use in a browser sandbox like Javascript. I have no idea what is going on in that school but he has no grasp of elegance. Code is an art form! Okay I guess I'm a bit ranty.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:30 AM on February 29, 2012


Uh, gaming may not be too great on that. The video chip is very good, but the CPU is about equivalent to a Pentium II, at 300 Mhz.

Oh man, this brings back memories of loading an NES emulator on the PC in Latin class back in high school. Hours of awesome. That thing couldn't have been any faster.
posted by odinsdream at 5:31 AM on February 29, 2012


/s/SD an/an SD/
posted by Malor at 5:32 AM on February 29, 2012


From the Wikipedia page:

The design is based around a Broadcom BCM2835 SoC, which includes an ARM1176JZF-S 700 MHz processor, VideoCore IV GPU, and 256 Megabytes of RAM. The design does not include a built-in hard disk or solid-state drive, instead relying on an SD card for booting and long-term storage.

For comparison, the Nintendo DS contains two ARM processors running at 33 and 67 MHz, and has a scant 4 MB of RAM. The 3DS has two 266 MHz ARM processors and 64 MB of RAM.

This board is intended to run Linux kernel based operating systems. It supports the Python programming language, BBC BASIC, C and Perl.

Oh wow. Although I'm intrigued by BBC BASIC. Is this the same language used in those old BBC computers? Has it been upgraded for the times?
posted by JHarris at 5:32 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm still disappointed that they decided their price point was more important than paying their workers non-awful wages. Oh well, they'll get rich on it, and isn't that what really matters?

First, it's a charitable foundation, which means that they can't make huge personal profits off it. Secondly, the price point is intended to make it easy to purchase in bulk by schools, not to sell zillions of them to hobbyists (although yes, they'll do that too). Thirdly, they have stated before (can't link to it while their site is temporarily static for the launch) that working conditions are important to them, and they've personally been to the factories in question to ensure that it's not a hideous sweatshop. The workers' wages won't be in line with what they could earn if they'd made it in the UK, but then nowhere in China is going to manage that.

From all that I've read about this, it really is a qualitatively different project to almost anything else in the tech industry - the negativity is understandable given the industry in general, but I think (and hope) that it's not justified in this case.
posted by ZsigE at 5:33 AM on February 29, 2012 [8 favorites]


Honestly, this is one case where should have run the project on Kickstarter, which takes care of the ordering and doesn't mean you have to estimate the demand.
posted by smackfu at 5:34 AM on February 29, 2012


Kickstarter requires a US bank account. Sigh.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:35 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


What is it with fruit and computers? Apple and Orange, Blackberries and Rasperries - !

Way back when we invented the future we imagined supercomputer overlords called GOLEM or HAL9000 or SKYNET - we didn't expect to be enslaved by a robomaster called "triple-berry swirl".

My point here is that technogeddon needs a scary name - it doesn't need a sweet delicious taste packed full of fucking vitamin C.

Surely I am not the only one who sees this.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 5:38 AM on February 29, 2012 [30 favorites]


The video chip is very good, but the CPU is about equivalent to a Pentium II, at 300 Mhz. You can obviously do a lot with a processor that fast, but it's also ARM architecture, meaning it's not going to be running old Windows or DOS games easily or well.... emulation will, likely, be very slow indeed.

Mobile and embedded systems have radically different assumptions from desktop systems which enables them to do lots more with less hardware. Remember, they got full speed NES emulators running on DS homebrew. This could surprisingly nice for emulation, and it's only a matter of time before someone makes a homebrew tablet out of these things. That looks tons more fun to play with than iOS or Android.

I have this whimsical fantasy that someone will take this and make a commercial tablet out of it without any silly app restrictions. Dare to dream, right?
posted by JHarris at 5:39 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


@Pope Guilty: Are you referring to them manufacturing the RPis in China, or did something else happen recently?
posted by GenericUser at 5:46 AM on February 29, 2012


@PlusDistance

>I've been following this project and I think it's great. But are there any actual >
> learn-to- program tools for the Raspberry Pi yet? Something as simple as
> BASIC on the Apple II?

Well, to an extent you'll never get that simple anymore, but at the same time things can be a lot simpler than hacking C++.


KidsRuby has announced support for it, for example, and Ruby is about as simple (syntactically) as it gets these days.

It runs Quake III, by the way, so can handle quite demanding applications if compiled for ARM.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 5:49 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


You're probably looking for the Plasma tablet. A bit more powerful, 512MB memory, €200, out in May although the first shipment is already sold out. I'm hoping that this Raspberry Pi-style licenced manufacturing for open hardware becomes a Thing, because it would be a very positive model.
posted by jaduncan at 5:50 AM on February 29, 2012


Regarding BBC BASIC, it's mentioned in this interview with David Braben (author of 'Elite', progenitor of the Pi).

I hope so - BBC and later Archimedes BASICs were blindingly fast - you could write stuff in those that was faster than MC on the C64.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 5:51 AM on February 29, 2012


I'm kinda surprised they didn't wait for pi day to release it.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 5:54 AM on February 29, 2012


I'm not sure how well MAME will run on ARM. It looks like it's hard to port/compile, and it's pretty slow. I know that MAME uses specialized engines from other projects to emulate the various CPUs it handles, and I suspect those engines will be tightly married to x86, perhaps even hand-written assembly. It'll probably have to fall back to standard C to run on ARM, and that would be much, much slower.

The MP3 encoder, LAME, does that -- it has super-hyper-specialized assembly that uses SSE2 to do MP3 compression at fairly insane speeds. (roughly 25x real time, per core, on modern machines.) But when compiling it for a Mac, or in 64-bit mode, it's like a tenth that fast, because it falls back to standard C on everything but 32-bit Windows and Linux. Well, I should amend that a bit: it DID this as of a couple years ago. I don't know that it still does.

LAME on the RPi, in other words, is likely to be very slow. It'll be standard C, on a slowish processor. Until someone does an optimized core, the RPi may not even be able to encode MP3 in realtime. And MAME is quite likely to have the exact same issue, so don't get your hopes up too high, too quickly.

This is one of the first ARM devices where programmers are given easy and complete access to the hardware... all the ARM phones typically don't allow programmers anywhere near the actual physical instruction set, and even if people jailbreak the devices, it's hard to share code and get it on people's phones. So there's not a lot of energy going into that kind of optimization. The RPi could change that, but it's not going to be overnight. I suspect people will be interested in RPi MAME, but actually getting the work done to make it run fast could take months, possibly more than a year.
posted by Malor at 5:54 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I apparently have ordered one after trying since 6am.

I've got a confirmation email and everything. I wonder how long it will take before it turns up.

Incidentally, one of the guys behind it was the co-maker of Elite
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 5:55 AM on February 29, 2012


I'm thinking it'd make a useful serial controller for arduino projects that need more horsepower or memory (IE say you want to log something, but don't have an SD card shield, which I think is more than $25, btw) but not a full on computer.
posted by mccarty.tim at 5:58 AM on February 29, 2012


And here's the video of it playingQuake 3 at 1920x1080 with 4x FSAA at 20-30fps, as GallonOfAllan pointed out.
posted by Freon at 6:01 AM on February 29, 2012


JHarris: Remember, they got full speed NES emulators running on DS homebrew.

Sure, but that's emulating the 6502, which is really easy and fast. Emulating x86 is really painful and nasty, because the instructions are all different sizes, and have a zillion different modes. It takes a long, long time, relatively speaking, for a program to understand just exactly what a given x86 instruction does, and then it has to actually DO it.

The technique that DOSBox uses to get around this is JIT compilation, but I haven't heard of any JIT engines that start with x86 and target ARM. Offhand, the only JIT engine I can think of for ARM is Android's Dalvik environment. Apple doesn't do JIT at all; they do native compilation with Objective-C.

This sort of thing can be written, but it could take quite awhile, and there's no guarantee it would ever be very fast. Even with an ideal JIT engine, you'd be hard-pressed to emulate much more than a 16Mhz PC on the RPi. Remember, it takes a Core 2 at 2.6Ghz to do a 100Mhz-ish emulation in DOSBox, and the RPi is a HELL of a lot slower than a C2.
posted by Malor at 6:03 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, the C64 *did* run at only 1 MHz, and even then slowed a bit to let the VIC-II chip video access system memory periodically. That's why the computer ran a bit faster when the screen was blanked. It wasn't hard to outrun a C64 even at the time.

I know that MAME uses specialized engines from other projects to emulate the various CPUs it handles, and I suspect those engines will be tightly married to x86, perhaps even hand-written assembly.

Hmm... ARM is really coming up as a processor now, I wouldn't doubt if people started writing custom assembly MAME engines for it, as it's the undisputed king of the mobile space. ARM is supposed to be easier to write machine code for than x86, in any case. It's actually been around for a long while, it long predates mobile phones. In point of fact and maybe slightly ironically, its origins are in the British Acorn microcomputer line.

There are sources that claim that its architecture was intended to be similar to the 6502 line, but I don't know how seriously to take that.
posted by JHarris at 6:05 AM on February 29, 2012


Granted, I know you could just use a faster microcontroller for my idea and cut out the Raspberry Pi, but this is easier for people who aren't used to coding microcontrollers outside of the Arduino environment. Plus, you can use languages like Python that would never run on the arduino.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:06 AM on February 29, 2012


I'm not sure how well MAME will run on ARM. It looks like it's hard to port/compile, and it's pretty slow. I know that MAME uses specialized engines from other projects to emulate the various CPUs it handles, and I suspect those engines will be tightly married to x86, perhaps even hand-written assembly. It'll probably have to fall back to standard C to run on ARM, and that would be much, much slower.

It's in the Debian armel repository, and has been ported to ARM outside of Debian for the Pandora and MAEMO for, well, everything MAEMO runs on. Lots of the code was improved for that, so I'll suck it and see. I'm also wondering about overclocking if required. But much of the required work has been done.
posted by jaduncan at 6:07 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pope Guilty: "I'm still disappointed that they decided their price point was more important than paying their workers non-awful wages."

There was a blog post about this that seems to have disappeared since the launch (I think it's load-related), but I was able to find this quote:
… Simply put, if we build the Raspberry Pi in Britain, we have to pay a lot more tax. If a British company imports components, it has to pay tax on those (and most components are not made in the UK). If, however, a completed device is made abroad and imported into the UK – with all of those components soldered onto it – it does not attract any import duty at all. This means that it’s really, really tax inefficient for an electronics company to do its manufacturing in Britain, and it’s one of the reasons that so much of our manufacturing goes overseas. Right now, the way things stand means that a company doing its manufacturing abroad, depriving the UK economy, gets a tax break. It’s an absolutely mad way for the Inland Revenue to be running things, and it’s an issue we’ve taken up with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
IIRC, they also had the problem that none of the local manufacturers they spoke to were able to provide anywhere near the volume they wanted in this timescale.
posted by vanar sena at 6:08 AM on February 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Quick MAME update from freenode MAME people: pretty much all x86 stuff already stripped out, should be good to go. MAME4All has even more ARM patches in, but R-Pi should be able to do 80's stuff at the least and someone's already had SNES stuff running so the real word performance is there on the HW side.
posted by jaduncan at 6:19 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Still, it would be nice for a non-profit organization to "lead the charge", so to speak, by doing things by the book, thus exposing the flaws in the system and inviting those who will wish to see the program succeed to take the appropriate steps to fix it.

Granted, I think Britain would probably prefer to be raising future programmers as opposed to future electronics manufacturing laborers, but high consumer demand seems like a great way to put pressure on the powers that be to change what is being described as a "mad way" of doing things.
posted by ShutterBun at 6:20 AM on February 29, 2012


JHarris: I wouldn't doubt if people started writing custom assembly MAME engines for it, as it's the undisputed king of the mobile space.

That seems likely. Eventually, MAME will probably run really well on the Raspberry Pi. But I doubt it'll do it now, and perhaps not for quite awhile. The really high-end arcade games, with the hard drives and such, may never work well, but I bet all the original classics will end up awesome.

DOSBox, I suspect, will never run well at all on this hardware. x86 code will always suck on the RPi. Even with careful optimization for the instruction set, it'll probably take one of the A15-level ARM chips (much bigger, hotter, and more expensive) to run the old DOS games well.

Raspberry Pi 2 or 3? Sure, absolutely, that could happen. But I doubt they'll ever get much past 10Mhz-ish x86 on the RPi 1. That's good enough for some games, but you're not going to be running Magic Carpet or Wing Commander.
posted by Malor at 6:21 AM on February 29, 2012


Not being able to run Wing Commander will take me *right* back.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 6:24 AM on February 29, 2012 [9 favorites]


jaduncan: woohoo, that's good news. Sounds like they're further along than I'd realized. It definitely should have the oomph to run all the older classics.... I'd expect at least the stuff up through, say, Tapper and APB to work well by the time they're done.
posted by Malor at 6:26 AM on February 29, 2012


That seems likely. Eventually, MAME will probably run really well on the Raspberry Pi. But I doubt it'll do it now, and perhaps not for quite awhile. The really high-end arcade games, with the hard drives and such, may never work well, but I bet all the original classics will end up awesome.

Oh yeah, I feel you may have misunderstood the level I'm aiming at. I will be happy enough if I can top out at reliable SF2, put it that way. SF2 in a joystick that I can take to someone's house then play Gauntlet and other old coinop stuff. I'm not intending to go like mid-90s PC, it's joystick only control anyhow. But I'm feeling confident about getting that level of performance now.
posted by jaduncan at 6:27 AM on February 29, 2012


My point here is that technogeddon needs a scary name - it doesn't need a sweet delicious taste packed full of fucking vitamin C.

At least if it was packed full of Java we would have time to get away!
posted by srboisvert at 6:29 AM on February 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


So, how many of these are actually being purchased by or for children?

I continue to wonder about these projects when older, more powerful computers that usually have full operating systems and sometimes other software are sitting unused in the basements of most people - or they are being recycled with questionable environmental and labor practices.

What is the allure of setting up a nonprofit that labors for six years to produce a product like this instead of setting up a nonprofit to gather and redistribute existing computers? Is it for the stated goal of getting kids into computers, or is it more an enthusiasts' project to make a tiny, cheap computer for fiddling about on the workbench? From all the talk on the Blue, it sure sounds like a bunch of adults are going to buy these to make MAME machines.
posted by Muddler at 6:31 AM on February 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


If this only had a SATA port, it'd be ideal for mini-servers; you could buy a decent-sized notebook hard drive or SSD and Bob's your uncle. However, all it has is a SD card port (which is limited to about 32Gb, IIRC) and a few USB ports. One can duct tape it to a USB hard drive, but that's an extra layer of indirection and flakiness; I'm not sure if I'd want my server running off a USB hard drive.

Let's hope someone builds an enhanced version with better storage interfaces.
posted by acb at 6:32 AM on February 29, 2012


Hoping to get one of the later models myself...something like this would be great for a carputer project.
posted by samsara at 6:33 AM on February 29, 2012


jaduncan: Yeah, I bet you could put Street Fighter 2 in a joystick with the RPi, at least after they do some more optimization work.

Just shooting from the hip, I think the line might be somewhere around the NeoGeo games... IIRC, the CPU demand for those games is very high, and I don't think an ARM7 chip is gonna cut the mustard there. But Gauntlet 1 and 2, Street Fighter 2, that game where you played movie monsters eating cities.... I bet those would all work.
posted by Malor at 6:34 AM on February 29, 2012


For a more game-centric platform, there's the XGameStation.
posted by hellojed at 6:36 AM on February 29, 2012


I am now certain by the time I can order one, there will be an auto launching SD card MAME image on torrent. Excited!
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:38 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the CPS1 games -- basically everything Capcom did between '88 and '95 -- run at almost full speed on a 486/66 with 16 mb of RAM. Meanwhile, NeoGeo can run at full speed on a P2/300Mhz with 64 mb RAM. I'm not sure how that translates to ARM, but the bar definitely isn't set at anything resembling a modern computer.

(Also that game is Rampage.)
posted by griphus at 6:38 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


They are selling to the government for the education stage, not geeks. It's just that as these are seeded a rock-solid Debian platform should be built up by the time these go out for mass state level sales.

Context: It's not very coincidental the Model B sounds just like the 80s BBC Model B that people learned basic on and that the UK govt just announced that they wish to introduce programming as a part of ICT qualifications:

"The Pi launches at a propitious time for Britain's budding computer scientists. Last month, Education Secretary Michael Gove announced he was tearing up the current ICT curriculum, which he described as "demotivating and dull".

He will be replacing it with a flexible curriculum in computer science and programming, designed with the help of universities and industry.

Mr Gove even name-checked the Pi, predicting that the scheme would give children "the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of programming with their own credit card-sized, single-board computers"."

That can probably be translated as "this is a very big hint as to what is about to happen with tiny linux boxes that are cheap enough not to make people cry when kids sit on them".

Combine that with the licensed manufacturing and suddenly it appears that the infrastructure is set up to sell the UK a few million if required. This was never just about the hardware, and the government is liking what they see. That's quite aside from their ongoing love affair with Google and the fact that Eric Schmidt just came over to tell them there should be more programming. Probably on small linux boxes. Etc.
posted by jaduncan at 6:40 AM on February 29, 2012


I'm looking at it and thinking there is wonderful potential for the cases people will be building for them. Oh, and I'm sure I'll be getting one to tinker around with.
posted by azpenguin at 6:41 AM on February 29, 2012


It must go boop-beep at startup to be a Model B.
posted by scruss at 6:43 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


If this only had a SATA port, it'd be ideal for mini-servers

With USB there's workarounds. You'd just need an adapter like this. (although that comes with the performance hit of USB 2.0 vs SATA)
posted by samsara at 6:45 AM on February 29, 2012


I'm looking at it and thinking there is wonderful potential for the cases people will be building for them.

Certainly what you really mean is "how people will be decorating their Altoids tins."
posted by ShutterBun at 6:48 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


What is it with fruit and computers? Apple and Orange, Blackberries and Rasperries - !

My Blackberry Is Not Working: The One Ronnie, Preview - BBC One
posted by Mister Bijou at 6:50 AM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wonder how well Squeak would run on the Pi? The whole focus of that is to make a nice friendly programming environment. It's based on Smalltalk, so it's kind of a weird programming environment, but it seems right up the RPi's alley.
posted by Malor at 6:51 AM on February 29, 2012


acb: "If this only had a SATA port, it'd be ideal for mini-servers"

Why not just use a Buffalo NAS running Debian instead? It's more expensive, but you get SATA and a nice enclosure too.
posted by vanar sena at 6:51 AM on February 29, 2012


...also, ever since I saw MAME running on a digital camera ca. 1999 I've had nothing but faith in the MAME team.
posted by griphus at 6:51 AM on February 29, 2012


... and confirmed delivery.

For 16/04/2012.

Why can't I have toys sooner!
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 6:53 AM on February 29, 2012


(from griphus' link)

DP: What are you working on now, any goals for the not-too-distant future?

James Surine: I'm trying to get MAME and MESS up and running on the DCAM processor-based camera's, the Minolta 1500 EX and the HP C500 Photosmart.


This is not an example of "why? because it's there!" it's more an example of "why? Umm...what do you mean?"

Awesome and ridiculous, and I'd totally do it if I could.

(granted, in my case, the answer would be "to completely freak people out.")
posted by ShutterBun at 6:56 AM on February 29, 2012


I also wonder how much of the demand is from folks like us, versus from the families of kids who otherwise would not have a computer to experiment with at home.

It's hard to imagine that after allowing for some kind of monitor, keyboard, storage and a net connection this is actually noticeably more affordable or easier for the non-tech minded to get into than a refurb laptop.

For the monitor part, even if you already have a TV with HDMI, do you have it in a place where the child can comfortably use it, and at a time that suits them?

That said, it certainly arouses that: "I want one!" feeling.
posted by philipy at 6:57 AM on February 29, 2012


griphus: Meanwhile, NeoGeo can run at full speed on a P2/300Mhz with 64 mb RAM

Hmm, I thought I remembered NG games having framerate issues at 2Ghz, but maybe that was an early iteration, or perhaps I'm confusing my hardware lines.

Regardless, the Pi is supposed to be pretty comparable to a P2/300 with much more impressive video hardware, so that might actually be the line, but from the other direction. (ie, NG games will work, but nothing more demanding, where I thought they wouldn't.)

Thanks for the reminder on Rampage, I knew someone would remember it. I was going to go look it up soon if nobody had chimed in. :)
posted by Malor at 6:59 AM on February 29, 2012


Why not just use a Buffalo NAS running Debian instead? It's more expensive, but you get SATA and a nice enclosure too.

Do they have audio output ports? The Iomega StorCenter IX2 I have (also an ARM box running a custom Linux) doesn't, which makes it unsuitable as a combination MP3 jukebox/file server.
posted by acb at 7:01 AM on February 29, 2012


It's hard to imagine that after allowing for some kind of monitor, keyboard, storage and a net connection this is actually noticeably more affordable or easier for the non-tech minded to get into than a refurb laptop.

Well, it'll be a hell of a lot more durable, and a lot harder to lose, and if the computer itself goes walkabout, it's only $35 to replace. Plus, it runs Linux, which is probably better for learning computing for real than either Windows or OS X. Getting Linux running on laptops is always iffy. Ubuntu has improved that process a fair bit, but it's still chancy.
posted by Malor at 7:03 AM on February 29, 2012


acb: "Do they have audio output ports? The Iomega StorCenter IX2 I have (also an ARM box running a custom Linux) doesn't, which makes it unsuitable as a combination MP3 jukebox/file server."

Nope, no audio that I know of. I had a spare USB audio dongle lying around that I plugged into my home linux server (Asus RT-N16) and it worked straightaway, since they're almost all class compliant these days.
posted by vanar sena at 7:08 AM on February 29, 2012


philipy: one of the founders of the project was on Today this morning here in the UK, saying that one of his aims is to be able to give these things away for free to certain groups of kids every year. So the nice thing about high demand from folks like us is that it subsidises entry-level hacking for kids like them.

malor: ...and on BBC News today, there was another of the founders demoing the thing; looks like it comes with Scratch pre-installed (was the first thing he showed, I think. I'd got up early to pre-order, so brain was fuzzy).
posted by prehensile at 7:10 AM on February 29, 2012


Hmm, I thought I remembered NG games having framerate issues at 2Ghz, but maybe that was an early iteration, or perhaps I'm confusing my hardware lines.

Now that I think back to it, I think it was specifically NeoRageX that could do that. I definitely remember having issues with MAME back in the P2 days. Everything was running full speed by the Ghz days, though except maybe really late-model (early-2000s) games.
posted by griphus at 7:13 AM on February 29, 2012


I'm just in love with this thing. A bloop of silicone to stick it on the back of a cheap monitor and it's all the thin client anyone would ever need. I should tell my partner, who runs the disgustingly underfunded IT department of the arts faculty of a major university, that this might be something to look at.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:15 AM on February 29, 2012


vanar sena: "acb: "If this only had a SATA port, it'd be ideal for mini-servers"

Why not just use a Buffalo NAS running Debian instead? It's more expensive, but you get SATA and a nice enclosure too.
"

Because I have a Buffalo NAS (old one mind you) with a dead drive and apparently no way to bring it back to life.
posted by Samizdata at 7:27 AM on February 29, 2012


I have since managed to place a [pre-]order, with a claimed lead time of 30 days. The morning is looking a little better.

I've been fascinated by these since I learned of them last fall. I've got several projects in mind already, but I'm especially interested in using them to help teach my kids about programming and computers. There are some definite upsides to living in the future.
posted by Songdog at 7:41 AM on February 29, 2012


Apparently it won't fit in an Altoids tin, whatever one of those might be.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 7:46 AM on February 29, 2012


Apparently it won't fit in an Altoids tin, whatever one of those might be.

I suddenly envision a website which is just a database of products that come in tins and whether or not the Pi fits in one.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:49 AM on February 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


I also wonder how much of the demand is from folks like us, versus from the families of kids who otherwise would not have a computer to experiment with at home.

The glory of this is, those families don't know about it yet, and are unlikely to learn about it save through word-of-mouth, from folks like us. Also, the R&D and manufacturing costs are covered by people like us, and the more people who buy it, the more it becomes widely available. Finally, folks like us will be building tools and a body of technical knowledge that will be easily tapped by "everyday" users in the future.

$25 computers that plug into the family's TV being everywhere and well supported and understood by the technical elite are a big freakin' deal, and availability won't be an issue this time next year.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:56 AM on February 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Whoa, this is brilliant.
posted by zarq at 8:06 AM on February 29, 2012


35 years ago I woud have KILLED for one of these. Instead I had to hang out at Radio Shack and bang on the display TRS-80; three years later my mom hocked her beloved camera and went into debt with her employer to get me an Atari 400 and a cassete recorder (worst storage medium ever, can't count how many programs I lost) which was still nearly a thousand bucks.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:09 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


35 years ago I woud have KILLED for one of these. Instead I had to hang out at Radio Shack and bang on the display TRS-80; three years later my mom hocked her beloved camera and went into debt with her employer to get me an Atari 400 and a cassete recorder (worst storage medium ever, can't count how many programs I lost) which was still nearly a thousand bucks.

My parents were working class poor, but they busted ass to get me a C-64 with a tape drive and some summer school classes to use it. 10 years later, they were kicking themselves, as I'd rather hack away on that than attend class or do homework....

but it's a straight line from that computer to my career in IT and a degree in electrical and computer engineering.

I can't wait to get my hands on several of these.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:29 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just what Britain needs, a whole new generation of programmers ready to bugger off to the US when enough cash is waved in their general direction.
posted by Quantum's Deadly Fist at 8:38 AM on February 29, 2012


This is giving me a very pleasant hit of deja view. People getting cranked over ordering a single board computer with no keyboard, no monitor, no storage, not even a case. Shades of the kim, sim, aim, and osi. Not to mention the Apple 1. I expect to see some awesome homemade cases, people.

> There are sources that claim that its architecture was intended to be similar to the 6502 line, but I don't know how
> seriously to take that.
> posted by JHarris at 9:05 AM on February 29 [+] [!]

Maybe not specifically intended, but already knowing a lot about the 6502 can't help but have had an influence. ARM was originated by Acorn, and earlier Acorn computers (Acorn Atom, BBC Micro) had been 6502-based. Also, in the wikipedia article on ARM there's this note:

Acorn would need a new architecture, having tested all of the available processors and found them wanting. Acorn then seriously considered designing its own processor, and their engineers came across papers on the Berkeley RISC project. They felt it showed that if a class of graduate students could create a competitive 32-bit processor, then Acorn would have no problem. A trip to the Western Design Center in Phoenix, where the 6502 was being updated by what was effectively a single-person company, showed Acorn engineers Steve Furber[7] and Sophie Wilson that they did not need massive resources and state-of-the-art R&D facilities.

Wilson set about developing the instruction set, writing a simulation of the processor in BBC Basic that ran on a BBC Micro with a second 6502 processor.

posted by jfuller at 8:38 AM on February 29, 2012


Way back when we invented the future we imagined supercomputer overlords called GOLEM or HAL9000 or SKYNET - we didn't expect to be enslaved by a robomaster called "triple-berry swirl".

That's how SKYNET will win -- by changing its name to triple-berry swirl. By the time the first T-101 Cherry Pie 'Borg steps off of the assembly line, it'll be too late.

On a more serious note, I wonder how many of these actually went to the intended audience (i.e., school children) and how many went to hobbyists. I'm guessing a lot more to the latter than to the former.
posted by asnider at 9:13 AM on February 29, 2012


So, how many of these are actually being purchased by or for children?

Right now? Very few. This round is to seed developers.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:19 AM on February 29, 2012


I'm still disappointed that they decided their price point was more important than paying their workers non-awful wages. Oh well, they'll get rich on it, and isn't that what really matters?
posted by Pope Guilty


Eponysterical!
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:33 AM on February 29, 2012


I got 2 on pre order, both of which will be going to the school where my kids attend. Very excited. So we're hobbyists who are giving them to our school. Plus the local Coder Dojo is going to ask people if they manage to get one, pls buy a second one and donate to the Dojo. Which would be the shizzle.
posted by piearray at 9:47 AM on February 29, 2012


Apparently it won't fit in an Altoids tin, whatever one of those might be

The Raspberry Pi is apparently 3.370" × 2.125"

An Altoids tin is 3.5" by 2.25"

Apparently the problem is that the Altoids tin has slightly rounded corners, whereas the Raspberry's PCB has "stuff" all the way out to the edges, making rounded corners impossible.

Also apparent: I'm about the 4,000,000th person to look at the dimensions of the Raspberry and immediately think "that looks like it could fit in an Altoids tin"
posted by ShutterBun at 9:49 AM on February 29, 2012


I'm sure they left out a SATA interface to keep costs as low as possible, since the Model A even omits an ethernet controller. For the sort of tasks that these computers are likely to be used for, relatively low bandwidth storage via USB should be just fine. I think the Raspberry Pi will be fantastic for a lot of purposes, and I'm going to pick up at least two when they're more readily available.

There are lots of similar small ARM based computers that don't have a $25 or $35 hard ceiling on pricing, and those would likely be better suited to some of the projects people are talking about here.

Just a note about Neo Geo emulation - lots of Neo Geo games had framerate issues on the original hardware, see Metal Slug 2 vs. Metal Slug X. Proper emulators will replicate original hardware limitations quite faithfully.
posted by helicomatic at 9:51 AM on February 29, 2012


I got 2 on pre order, (posted by piearray)

Well, that's a start.
posted by ShutterBun at 9:54 AM on February 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


This round is to seed developers.

What would be needed are developers that actually understand the lives of kids and families that can't afford a computer, are befuddled by tech, alienated by schools and libraries, not into math or reading, and so on.

I'm sure there are some like that, but by and large the way I see this going is that geek parents will develop things that are appropriate for their own kids, but miss the mark for the people that the project originally meant to help.

For people living in families like the one imagined by codocorolla, I would think it's going to take a lot more than a cheap board with linux on it to make a difference.
posted by philipy at 10:00 AM on February 29, 2012


Instead I had to hang out at Radio Shack and bang on the display TRS-80

Ahh, memories....

10 PRINT "RADIO SHACK SUCKS"
20 GOTO 10
posted by Daily Alice at 10:25 AM on February 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


Adding a cheap keyboard and mouse, and slapping it in a case would still keep this thing under $40. It plugs right into the TV, and runs Google and Facebook and Youtube and all of the other internet stuff people have been hearing about, but can't get to, because the PC is broken (malware, usually.)

Bringing the cost of entry into the Internet to under $50 for a brand new computer that can play HD videos is a huge freakin' deal. All of a sudden, internet access is a better idea than cable for a poor family - $35/month plus $80/year for all-you-can-eat movies and TV from Amazon Prime and Youtube, and you're still coming out ahead when compared to cable TV at $70/month. (Those are the prices for the bare-bones Internet and TV packages here, YMMV.)

Kid's having trouble with algebra? You can sit her down in front of Khan Academy, and tell her she can go back to Facebook for a half hour if she watches two lessons a night.

Even for kids with uninvolved families... this is a way out, now that library and school computer access is disappearing.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:27 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Apparently the problem is that the Altoids tin has slightly rounded corners, whereas the Raspberry's PCB has "stuff" all the way out to the edges, making rounded corners impossible.

No, the problem is that Altoids need a slightly larger tin.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:03 AM on February 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


What would be needed are developers that actually understand the lives of kids and families that can't afford a computer, are befuddled by tech, alienated by schools and libraries, not into math or reading, and so on.

There are, and they want to develop for a computer that those kids' families and schools can afford.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:10 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do they have audio output ports?

According to Wikipedia, there is both a 3.5mm jack and audio out through HDMI.
posted by jcreigh at 11:11 AM on February 29, 2012


It's been about a decade since I was into linux in any serious way, so excuse the dumb question: is this meant to be able to run XWindows or some other GUI/WIMP-type environment?

My read on it was as a mass-produced pocket server (not for production, of course) but if it runs as a desktop that's amazing.
posted by gauche at 11:22 AM on February 29, 2012


I managed to miss this on the front page, found the news elsewhere, and was just coming here to post it.

We've had announcement after announcement of the dirt-cheap whole-computer for years now. And, every time, it's been years late if it came out at all, at least twice as expensive as predicted, and often underdelivered on the specs.

This is later than some of the Raspberry Pi's Foundation's "we hope it might be ready by" statements in the past, but, by God, it's really here and it's really $35. A whole computer with modern video and otherwise what would have been a decent desktop about 13 years ago. That could nearly fit in an Altoids tin. Damn.
posted by Zed at 11:24 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


is this meant to be able to run XWindows or some other GUI/WIMP-type environment?

The recommended distribution is a version of Fedora offering either the medium-weight XFCE desktop environment or the light-weight LXDE (so, yes, X and a GUI.) Whether or not it'd be a painful experience, we'll have to see.
posted by Zed at 11:33 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ya know, Midway could make some quick cash by releasing an inexpensive (in this case that would be ~$50-$100) licensed commercial rom pack for this. Then, all we'd need is a USB-operated coin slot and controls, power stuff, a monitor and a cabinet. And a suitably programmed emulator of course. Not cheap, but not terribly expensive I think.

To this day there remains something magical about playing a game on a real arcade cabinet. Something you can show off to friends on, that you don't have to configure, that you can play while waiting for laundry to finish.

Of course, Midway is more about "exploiting IP" than anything else these days. The very act of going to them with such a plan in mind will probably cause them to jack up the price for such a license 100%.
posted by JHarris at 12:08 PM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just paid Midway (actually, Warner Bros) a dollar for a dozen ROMs in their shitty iOS application. The laggy, ugly ass interface sucks balls and crashes constantly; it's not even worth trying to play. And I won't see that dollar back. So I'll feel perfectly fine running those games on MAME. Especially since, I've got a legit copy of a PS2 bundle with most of those games emulated in that, too. So I've already bought them twice.

But, yeah, if they'd just sell a "get legit" license for their MAMEable IP they could start raking it in with no need to support anything at all.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:15 PM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just what Britain needs, a whole new generation of programmers ready to bugger off to the US when enough cash is waved in their general direction make a mint working in Canary Wharf on the next generation of high-frequency wartrading algorithms.
posted by acb at 12:25 PM on February 29, 2012


What would be needed are developers that actually understand the lives of kids and families that can't afford a computer, are befuddled by tech, alienated by schools and libraries, not into math or reading, and so on.


You underestimate the kids. It's the adults that are befuddled by tech, but that doesn't matter. If you can put the tech into the hands of the children, unimpeded by adult gatekeepers, the rest will take care of itself. Yes, it's important to develop applications, too, and that's what the hobbyists are for. But in terms of revolutionizing education in developing nations, it's really a question of access to hardware and internet, which RP is directly addressing.
posted by kaibutsu at 12:35 PM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


One thing I wonder about Raspberry Pi, which isn't quote clear to me yet, is whether or not the fact that it's running Linux is a good thing for the target market of "underprivileged youth" or not. I understand that running Windows on a box like this is not really feasible, but if this is aimed at youth in situations like that described by codacorolla, what limited experience they will have had with computers is probably going to be Windows-based. Will having a Linux distro significantly increase the learning curve for this type of user?
posted by asnider at 12:39 PM on February 29, 2012


Will having a Linux distro significantly increase the learning curve for this type of user?

Which version of windows will they be familiar with? 95? XP? Vista? 7? They all look and act differently, and have significant changes in configuration and maintenance. Or do you mean apps? Menus or tool ribbons?

As long as the UI is "easy enough" folks will be able to figure it out without too much hand-holding. Not having to root out malware and cruft alone is worth not having Windows within a country mile of this thing.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:49 PM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


XFCE and LXDE are your basic Windows-Icons-Menus-Pointer interfaces... if you were an inexperienced user, you'd probably be hard-pressed to say what was different about them from MS Windows. I find it hard to imagine the learning curve would be shaped differently. (A more experienced user is the one who might be tripped up by some things.)
posted by Zed at 12:52 PM on February 29, 2012


yeah, it's not like we're dropping them onto a command line with nothing but the 'man' command...
posted by kaibutsu at 1:01 PM on February 29, 2012


seanmpuckett, the problem is a little deeper than that as these days legal ROM images tend to be "licensed" for specific uses, so if one wanted to be completely legal I expect one would have to get something akin to a public performance license for this. Midway make some money licensing ROM compilation for products like Ultracade, so I expect it wouldn't be too cheap.
posted by JHarris at 1:04 PM on February 29, 2012


it's not like we're dropping them onto a command line with nothing but the 'man' command...

Yeah, we're totally letting them have ed and gcc, too.
posted by Zed at 1:06 PM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I figured that I was probably asking a stupid question, but my knowledge of Linux is incredibly limited and I've only ever played around with one particular version.
posted by asnider at 1:41 PM on February 29, 2012


It wasn't a stupid question. Around ten years ago I helped a Delhi school transition to desktop Linux in the student labs. This guy I know through the local LUG had made a tough sell to the principal, who was keen on Windows and was worried the students wouldn't know how to use Linux. He had told the principal it would be fine, but secretly he was still worried so he asked a couple of us to come in and check out the OS and desktop setup. We didn't do anything fancy, just a couple of dozen diskless PCs net-booting off a server with KDE as the default desktop.

On the day of the first trial with a labful of kids (they would have been 10-11 year olds; this wasn't a rich-kids' school, most were unlikely to have computers at home), we just plonked them down two to a computer and asked them to do whatever. It took them a couple of minutes, no exaggeration. They were playing games, drawing things, messing around with calculators... it was joyful.

I'm certain that a similar trial with adults would not have gone even remotely as well.
posted by vanar sena at 2:27 PM on February 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sorry, asnider; didn't mean to make it sounds like a pile-on. The link I made up above really hits home on the fact that kids pick this stuff up waaaaay faster than adults do. Adult assumptions about what kids need to pick up technology are often misguided as a result. Probably the most important things are actual free access and time to play with the technology in question.
posted by kaibutsu at 3:23 PM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Adult assumptions about what kids need to pick up technology are often misguided as a result.

Yeah, kids are remarkably plastic. Think language acquisition.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:11 PM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Neogeo emulation (sorry to bring this back up) is kind of an interesting thing, inasmuch as NeoDS emulated the Neo-Geo at shockingly high frame rates and with sound, on the DS. It didn't work for all games (notably the later encrypted ROM sets, as well as just plain ol' bigger games) but if memory serves I got Samurai Spirits 4 running remarkably smoothly on a friggin' DS, through an emulator.

So I'm thinking that pre-Super SF2 games will run just fine on this guy here.
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:28 PM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


In terms of helping people, and particularly kids, in developing countries, the low power demands of the Pi are pretty significant. Lack of a stable electrical power infrastructure (in many cases, no access to the grid at all) is a big obstacle to the adoption of computing technology.
posted by bardophile at 3:28 AM on March 1, 2012


Yeah! It's power connector is... a microUSB port. A cellphone charger can power it. A battery-powered MintyBoost can power it on the go.
posted by Zed at 6:35 AM on March 1, 2012


Maybe I misunderstood who they were aiming at, I thought it was primarily disadvantaged kids in the UK. But from some of the coverage I've seen maybe they were thinking more about encouraging kids from all backgrounds to play with tech.

I didn't get any sense that they were thinking about developing countries in particular.

Btw one of the differences between poor kids in developing countries and poor kids in the West is that in developing countries they're likely to have lots of enthusiasm for any education they can get, rather than be disaffected with it.

Btw, anyone know of a VM image of what's on the Pi? It would be interesting to take a look.
posted by philipy at 7:51 AM on March 1, 2012


As a teaching tool, I'm hopeful this captures kid's boundless curiosity and wonder, gets them interested in learning and computers, but this is not a computer for the impatient. It's a bare-bones computer - your smartphone probably outperforms this in general usage, but I'm hopeful that because it's so much cheaper than a full blown PC and has no case, that schools are much more comfortable letting kids just playing around with them. The much more expensive computer lab with brand new Windows7 machines and Office teach kids very little about computers because, well, it was very expensive. (Hopefully it was expensive enough to have DVI inputs on the monitors - so the RaspberryPi has something to plug into.)

Another way these differ from the full blown computers is their choice of ARM architecture, which is just different enough from x86 to make for some really-steep but not insurmountable learning curves. Running this in a VM is one of those - you can't. Well, you can, but unless you're already a die-hard running Qemu (and not KVM either), there's some learning to do. There's actually a disk image floating around (XMBC to be included by default), but it's not runnable with VMware/Virtualbox. (The one that is, is a build environment, and not what's on the machine itself, but it's on TPB if you're interested.)
posted by fragmede at 9:07 AM on March 1, 2012


Google turned up pages on their site talking about an official VirtualBox image, but they're all 404 currently, and don't seem to be cached either.
posted by philipy at 9:16 AM on March 1, 2012


raspberrypi.org was getting crushed, so the whole thing seems to be about 5 static pages now -- so any searching you do that points you there is liable to be fruitless.
posted by Zed at 10:08 AM on March 1, 2012


Cell phones weren't really targeted at developing countries, either, but they've become a fantastic leapfrog technology.

And even my cheapo Galaxy 5/Europa costs well over $150 in both the UAE and Pakistan. i.e. smartphones are still far from widely affordable. The Pi, on the other hand, costs less than a part time cleaning woman earns in a month, even in a country where unskilled labor is shockingly underpaid.

So, this might not be intended for developing countries, but it sounds like a pretty darn good fit to me.
posted by bardophile at 10:11 AM on March 1, 2012


Muddler: "older, more powerful computers that usually have full operating systems and sometimes other software are sitting unused in the basements of most people - or they are being recycled with questionable environmental and labor practices. "

Older and more powerful also means 50 times the electricity consumption.
posted by wierdo at 10:25 AM on March 1, 2012


Cell phones weren't really targeted at developing countries

Of course something can have all kinds of wonderful unintended uses. Radio was not invented with developing countries in mind either, but it's critical where a lot of people are functionally illiterate and don't speak any "major" language.

But the cell phones that are used by poor people in developing countries *are* very much designed with them in mind. And not just the handsets, everything about the ecosystem.

There have been cases all through the decades where well meaning people in the West tried to help, but got it all wrong through not having a good grasp of the circumstances of the people they wanted to help.

For example it's happened with giving people tractors that don't make any sense because the farms are too small, there's no one able to maintain the tractor, no spare parts system etc.

I've been watching the tech-and-development space for over 10 years. By and large the things that are hugely successful were not thought of by geeks in the West, but by people with on-the-ground experience. Usually actually local people. Examples: Celtel, Grameen Phone, M-Pesa.

When you think about it, that makes perfect sense because it's the same in rich countries. When people make tech to solve their own problems, they make things that have just the right features, the right design, and appropriate specs, and it ends up successful. When someone tries to imagine what "users" will need without any close connection with those users, they more often than not get it horribly wrong.

Personally I'm expecting the computer-for-the-poor to come out of India. Maybe it will be the Aakash, or maybe some later iteration of that kind of idea.
posted by philipy at 11:17 AM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Will this run XCOM? Think i may have to buy one to try.
posted by PeteUK69 at 11:53 AM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Coincidentally Datawind the company behind the Aakash, aka Ubislate, has just won an award . However the device certainly has its shortcomings.

But I guess things are looking up if people are getting any kind of computer in production and out there for Pi or Ubislate prices.
posted by philipy at 7:24 PM on March 1, 2012


I just realized that this could make for an awesome thin client. Throw in a USB keyboard and mouse, a monitor with HDMI and built-in speakers and you've got a complete terminal for ~$200.
posted by jcreigh at 7:47 AM on March 2, 2012


It's a bare-bones computer - your smartphone probably outperforms this in general usage,

But it does have a surprisingly powerful video chip and hardware video decoding, which are two of the most processor-intensive things a computer does. The iPad isn't really powerful hardware, and the original Nintendo DS has two processors that add together to less than 100 MHz.

Especially that video chip. A lot of things I see computers do nowadays don't really require much more processor speed than my old Commodore 64, and that ran at one MHz. (The C64 was capable of running, albeit slowly and clunkily, a Mac-like OS in the form of GEOS.) If the video hardware can take care of most of the graphical pizazz then the CPU's workload is greatly lessened.
posted by JHarris at 10:03 AM on March 2, 2012


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