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ARM11 Linux educational computer aims for $25 pricetag

May 6, 2011 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 5 views

U.K. games developer David Braben has launched an OLPC-like foundation called Raspberry Pi, hoping to sell a tiny ARM/Linux computer aimed at K12 computer education for as little as $25. Braben demonstrated a single board computer (SBC) prototype running Ubuntu 9.04 on a 700MHz, OpenGL-enabled ARM11 processor with 128MB SDRAM, HDMI, USB, and SD connectivity, supporting 1080p video.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has designed its $25 Linux computer prototype as a flexible platform for computer education in both the developing and developed worlds. The foundation, said to be registered as a U.K. charity, plans to develop, manufacture, and distribute the USB-key sized computer within the next 12 months.

Raspberry Pi prototype with 12-megapixel camera option on top
(Click to enlarge)

The project was originally reported by BBC News, which received a demonstration of the device by project lead and well-known gaming developer David Braben (Rollercoaster Tycoon, etc.). Braben also released a video demonstration of the device on YouTube (see farther below). The video doesn't actually show the device running, but the BBC report suggests it performed as advertised.

The computer has a USB port on one end and an HDMI port on the other to connect a keyboard and display, respectively. The device will also support touchscreens to create a tablet device, says the foundation. The Ubuntu 9.04-based device lacks Wi-Fi or Ethernet, but web connections can presumably be made via the USB port, with the help of a USB hub.

Raspberry Pi prototype bringing up the web, apparently with the help of a USB hub

(Click to enlarge)

Accroding to the Raspberry Pi website, provisional specs for the prototype include:

  • Processor — 700MHz ARM11 with OpenGL ES 2.0
  • Memory — 128MB SDRAM
  • Memory expansion — SD/MMC/SDIO slot
  • Display:
    • 1080p30 H.264 high-profile decode
    • composite output
    • HDMI output
  • I/O — USB 2.0; GPIO
  • Software — Ubuntu 9.04, Iceweasel, KOffice, Python

The processor was not listed, perhaps because it may change by ship date. One possibility could be the 800MHz Telechips TTC8902 ARM11 processor, which has a video digital signal processor (DSP) and Open GL ES 2.0 3D graphics acceleration. (This processor is found in a number of low-cost Linux and Android tablets, such as the Coby Electronics Kyros.)

The goal of Raspberry Pi is to encourage direct hands-on experimentation in computer education, something missing from most current curricula, says Braben. In this, as well as its charitable foundation, the project appears to imitate the U.S.-based One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) foundation. Although the XO tablets OLPC is seeding throughout the world are general-purpose educational devices, their Linux-based Sugar operating system and related apps have a K12 computing curriculum focus, encouraging hands-on experimentation and creativity.

David Braben showing off computer at BBC News

While OLPC is still struggling to achieve its original goal of selling its netbook to emerging-nation educational systems at $100 a pop — it might finally achieve this price with an upcoming Marvell Armada based "Moby" tablet version of the XO — Raspberry Pi is aiming much cheaper.

The $25 price may be possible because the device is not only missing a keyboard — like the upcoming XO-3 and the still vaporish $35 tablet being developed by the Indian government — but also omits the display. Still, one would assume that a considerable degree of charitable subsidization might be necessary to push out a $25 ARM11 computer with this device's HD-ready ARM11 processor and other extras.

Last year, for example, the open platform Hawkboard SBC went on sale for $89, with an ARM9-based, DSP-enabled Texas Instruments OMAP-L138. A Cherrypal Asia netbook with an ARM9-based Via VT 8505 processor clocked at 533MHz is available for $99, and $99 Android tablets have appeared such as the Maylong M-150.

Raspberry Pi prototype demonstrated by David Braben on YouTube
Source: Raspberry Pi Foundation; BBC News
(Click to play)


The Raspberry Pi computer is expected to ship within 12 months for a price of $25. More information may be found at the Raspberry Pi Foundation. The company is looking for open source educational projects that would like to collaborate with the project.

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