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May 06, 2011

Nonprofit Builds $25 Mini PC for Children in the Developing World


In the computing space, smaller is almost always better. Engineers spend countless hours working to design smaller microprocessors, USB drives and other computer-related hardware.  

Smaller also tends to be more expensive. Hence Apple's super-lightweight, razor-thin MacBook Air costs $600 more than my 20 pound Toshiba (News - Alert). This general rule of thumb flies out the window with the latest mini PC, which may soon be available for as little as $25.

A British nonprofit led by game developer David Braben has manufactured a prototype computer called the Raspberry Pi that is no bigger than a USB stick. The pint-sized PC comes equipped with a 700MHz ARM11 processor, 128MB of RAM (News - Alert), an HDMI monitor output, an SD card slot and a USB input for a keyboard or mouse. That's all.

However, when the nub is plugged into a keyboard and a television through the HDMI and USB ports, a fully functioning computer magically appears. The Raspberry Pi runs on the Linux operating system and is capable of browsing the Web, sending emails and crafting documents, which can be offloaded and stored via the SD card slot. Braben was even able to add a 12-megapixel camera to one model for videoconferencing, photo taking and video recording, according to Mashable.

The end goal of the project is a selfless one. Braben and his colleagues are looking to create a bare bones computer so that children in underserved areas can afford access to what many of us take for granted.

"We plan to develop, manufacture, and distribute an ultra-low-cost computer, for use in teaching computer programming to children. We expect this computer to have many other applications both in the developed and the developing world," reads a passage on the foundation's Web site.

The group is currently working the kinks out of the prototype and hopes to introduce something in the next 12 months. Time will tell if mass production can truly drop the cost of the Raspberry Pi to the aforementioned price. A similar initiative, known as One Laptop per Child, has a goal of providing laptops to children in the developing world for a cost of $100 per device. The organization has struggled hitting their price target, according to the BBC. Let's hope Raspberry Pi can jump this hurdle.


Beecher Tuttle is a TMCnet contributor. He has extensive experience writing and editing for print publications and online news websites. He has specialized in a variety of industries, including health care technology, politics and education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves

 
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