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A nonprofit thinks small: a $25 computer the size of a thumb

Raspberry Pi would be aimed at low-income students and allow video, email, and social networking.

By Staff Writer / May 9, 2011

Raspberry Pi, a thumb-sized computer costing about $25, may be available within a year, the product of a nonprofit group in Britain.

Courtesy of the Raspberry Pi Foundation

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British game developer David Braben is showing off a working prototype of a tiny, thumb-sized computer that he says can be sold at $25 per unit.

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The nonprofit group Raspberry Pi is aiming the inexpensive device at less affluent school children and others who would benefit from having an ultra-small, ultra-cheap computer available to them.

In an announcement on its website Raspberry Pi explained:

"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.

"Our first product is about the size of a USB key, and is designed to plug into a TV or be combined with a touch screen for a low cost tablet. The expected price is $25 for a fully-configured system."

The computer would need a keyboard as well as a TV or other monitor in order to operate. It would use free open-source software, such as the Linux operating system. Users would be able to send emails, create and download documents, display high-definition video, and navigate to websites. One version might also be equipped with a camera for creating photos and videos and for videoconferencing.

Mr. Braben hopes to have the tiny computer available for purchase within the next year.

One Laptop Per Child, a nonprofit project originated by Nicolas Negroponte, the former head of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has aimed to produce a laptop computer, including its own monitor, for $100. While the OLPC computers have not achieved a price quite that low, they are in widespread use among school children in developing world countries.

As with the OLPC project, the Raspberry Pi computers might be bought by donor groups and distributed free of charge to students in less developed regions of the world.

A video of Mr. Braben talking about the Raspberry Pi with BBC News is available here.

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