Raspberry Pi is an open source general purpose computer about the size of a credit card that runs Linux and has great graphic and networking capabilities … all for 35 dollars or less. A simpler version costs 25 $. There are many things Raspberry Pi or Raspi, as it’s also called, doesn’t have like – for now – a case, or an automatically updating real-time clock, or a power supply, or, or.
But what it does have, will be quite sufficient to stimulate a renaissance in how we think about using computers. It will provide kids, experimenters and – in a rather wide sense of the word – hackers, with a platform that can almost infinitely be adapted to all kinds of creative uses that today we can only dream about. We won’t even know what exactly its limits are until millions of kids have one and start tinkering and exploring…
The computer is a GNU/Linux box constructed with commercially available parts. That means it’s open, free, running freely available software, and despite the fact that, compared with today’s computers, it might seem like a rather limited package, it can be modified, adapted, and put to any use that creativity can dream up for it.
Here’s what the Raspberry Pi Foundation, which is just about to make it broadly available, says about it.
What’s a Raspberry Pi?
The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized computer that plugs into your TV and a keyboard. It’s a capable little PC which can be used for many of the things that your desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word-processing and games. It also plays high-definition video. We want to see it being used by kids all over the world to learn programming.
Can I buy shares in the Raspberry Pi Foundation?
We’re a charity, so you can’t buy shares in the company. If you want to support us, we’d love you to buy one. We’ll also be offering a package where you can do a buy-one-give-one purchase, and we’ll be accepting donations too once we start shipping.
What operating system (OS) does it use?
We’ll be using Fedora as our recommended distribution. It’s straightforward to replace the root partition on the SD card with another ARM Linux distro if you want to use something else. The OS is stored on the SD card.
What Linux distributions will be supported at launch?
Fedora, Debian and ArchLinux will be supported from the start. We hope to see support from other distros later. (Because of issues with newer releases of Ubuntu and the ARM processor we are using, Ubuntu can’t commit to support Raspberry Pi at the moment.) You will be able to download distro images from us as soon as the Raspberry Pi is released, and we will also be selling pre-loaded SD cards shortly after release.
Does the device support networking? Is there Wi-Fi?
The Model B version of the device includes 10/100 wired Ethernet. There is no Ethernet on the Model A version (which we expect to be taken up mostly by the education market), but Wi-Fi will be available via a standard USB dongle.
What educational material will be available?
We’re working with partners to get software materials developed, as well as with the open source community. Computing at School are writing a user guide and programming manual, we’re aware of a few books being planned and written around the Raspberry Pi, and others have already started to produce some excellent tutorials including video. We’re also working with partners to use it as a teaching platform for other subjects, including languages, maths and so on.
Once we launch, we hope that the community will help bodies like Computing at School put together teaching material such as lesson plans and resources and push this into schools. In due course, the foundation hopes to provide a system of prizes to give young people something to work towards.