The $25 educational PC

May 05, 2011 by Katie Gatto weblog

(PhysOrg.com) -- Have you ever played Elite? What about games in the Rollercoaster Tycoon series, Thrillville, Lost Winds, or Kinectimals? If so, then you have enjoyed the work of David Braben. Mr. Braben is a fairly well known video game designer, he also runs the UK development studio Frontier Developments, but soon he may be known as much for his hardware as he is for his software.

Mr. Braben has developed a very small USB stick PC that has an HDMI port in one end and a on the other. The machine, which runs on a version of , is designed to help get programming and the general knowledge of how computers work back into the educational curriculum.

Mr. Braben’s central argument stems around the notion that computer science education has, in the 2000’s, veered away from development and towards teaching basic skills such as creating custom documents in a word processor, or making presentations, instead of higher-level skills, such as leaning about system architecture or development.

These small PC’s, which would cost about $25 a unit, would be able to be furnished to each student, and have courses structured around their use.

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You may be wondering what kind of hardware students will be able to get for that cost? As it turns out, the offerings are pretty solid. The system features a 700MHz ARM11 processor, which is paired with 128MB of RAM. The system runs OpenGL ES 2.0, which will allow it to have a decent level of graphics performance. The system is already confirmed to have 1080p output. An SD card slot provides storage for this unit.

This computer will be distributed by the Raspberry Pi Foundation, which promotes computer science education in schools. There is no final word on when the devices will be available, but its developer hopes to be shipping them out in the next 12 months.

Explore further: Tracking your digital fingerprint online raises privacy issues

More information: -- www.raspberrypi.org/
-- BBC

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User comments : 12

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EWH
2 / 5 (1) May 05, 2011
Looks nice, but I wonder why the camera interface was given higher priority than having a useful number of USB ports, or enough permanently attached Flash to hold the OS and basic applications. With only one USB a separate hub is needed to use a mouse and keyboard at the same time. Looking at the Raspberry Pi site, it looks like the several required cables, USB hub, power interface, keyboard and mouse would cost about twice as much as the computer, even if an HDMI TV is available without additional cost.

It would be far more useable if it were made so it only required a TV, keyboard and mouse - include 3 or 4 internal rechargeable AAs, an internal power supply and charger, a place to wind/store a standard-end (shaver-type) mains cord, and 3 or 4 USB ports.

It would even be better if it were built into a keyboard Commodore-64-style and integrated with a pointing device so that kids wouldn't have to try to keep a bunch of different components together.
googleplex
1.7 / 5 (7) May 05, 2011
Nice idea but tech has moved on. PCs will be obselete soon. Better to teach programming on smart cell phones which are becoming the primary personal computer. They are off the shelf and cheap. They include a lot more features e.g. gps, wifi, bluetooth, sd card, voice, data, sms, built in display/audio, better processor+RAM, battery power. In addition good apps can generate real money for the student.
EWH
5 / 5 (2) May 05, 2011
On second thought, having rechargeable capability wouldn't be useful without a built-in screen.

Adding a 2nd SD card slot would be better than having permanent flash - this would allow loading, trading, and copying files on SD cards without having to have the OS on every card, while also allowing upgrading the size of the OS SD card later. I still think a power supply and more USB ports are a must, though.

This device could be the key module in a modular system, but it needs other modules in order to be a fully usable system - I/O (USB hub, maybe Ethernet or RF, or an alternative I/O module for embedded uses); a rechargeable battery and power supply module for embedded or tablet uses; cases for PC (integrated keyboard, pointing device and power cord storage) and embedded applications; a sensor module with microphone, 2 or 3 axis accelerometer, user-hackable header inputs, etc.; a motor-control module for robotics; an open interface / communication protocol for 3rd-party modules...
TehDog
5 / 5 (4) May 05, 2011
You're both missing the point. This is an educational device. Reminds me (in intent) of the Lego robotics kits that were driven through Logo on the BBC micro many years ago. Anything which teaches kids how things work, as opposed to just using the tech, is a Good Thing imo. If it does take off, I'd exepect to see expansion modules appear. (Yes, I played Elite :)
plasticpower
not rated yet May 05, 2011
This will be great! I can already see all sorts of uses for this kind of a cheap programmable device. Instead of buying a $300 Arduino I can have six of these Linux "boxes" doing things the Arduino would choke on! I can even have this in my car for music and GPS. This little computer is awesome!
macsglen
not rated yet May 05, 2011
Does anyone (but me) remember the Timex computer? It came with it's own proprietary language ('Timex Basic') and you learned programming by writing your own lines of code. Excellent for learning the fundamentals. An up-to-date version could probably be done pretty cheaply.
The_P
5 / 5 (1) May 05, 2011
If you do any type of engineering work you will find knowing how to program computers and test benches incredibly useful, not programming phones. This seems along the same lines as an arduino. I haven't found too many limitations for an arduino (keeping in mind what they are and are suppose to do) it's merely a stepping stone to move people forward, no need to knock it!
knikiy
not rated yet May 05, 2011
I wonder if they've tried to port a OLPC Sugar type environment over to this?
warra_warra
not rated yet May 06, 2011
I'll take 3! At $25 this is much cheaper than an Arduino. This is fantastic. Might be possible to pair one of these with an Arduino to build some pretty sophisticated digitally controlled devices at low cost. Elite was the best game ever - the Mass Effect of the 80s.
Pkunk_
5 / 5 (1) May 06, 2011
Nice idea but tech has moved on. PCs will be obselete soon. Better to teach programming on smart cell phones which are becoming the primary personal computer. They are off the shelf and cheap. They include a lot more features e.g. gps, wifi, bluetooth, sd card, voice, data, sms, built in display/audio, better processor+RAM, battery power. In addition good apps can generate real money for the student.


Most cell-phones run on embedded RAM frugal OS's like linux . So programming in linux will prepare students with the basics like C / C++ . Also almost all cellphones run on an ARM processor , just like this device.

This isn't a PC . It's an embedded device just like a cellphone.
Na_Reth
not rated yet May 06, 2011
So programming in linux will prepare students with the basics like C / C++ .


C/C++ are not basics, they are mid-end languages. Basics have now shifted to java/.net ... sadly...
TJ_alberta
not rated yet May 08, 2011
for a look at what can be done on a USB stick I suggest googling "fun cube dongle"