Friday, 26 July 2013

World’s cheapest computer gets millions tinkering


It’s a single circuit board the size of a credit card with no screen or keyboard, a far cry from the smooth tablets that dominate the technology market.

But the world’s cheapest computer, costing just $25, has astonished its British creators by selling almost 1.5 million 
units in 18 months.

The Raspberry Pi is now powering robots in Japan and warehouse doors in Malawi, photographing astral bodies from the United States and helping to dodge censorship in China.

“We’re closing in on one and a half million (sales) for something that we thought would sell a thousand,” said Eben Upton, executive director of the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

“It was just supposed to be a little thing to solve a little problem.

“We’ve sold many more to children than we expected to sell, but even more to adults. They’re using it like Lego to connect things up.”

The device, which runs the open-source Linux operating system, was designed as an educational tool for children to learn coding.

But its potential for almost infinite tinkering and customization has fired up the imaginations of hobbyists and inventors around the world.

Ways to play

Tokyo inventor Shota Ishiwatari has created a small humanoid robot run by a Pi, which can tell you the weather, manage your diary and even make coffee.

“I wanted to create something by using a 3D printer and the Raspberry Pi – two cool items,” he told AFP, adding that he also wanted to demonstrate the potential of the microcomputer.

“Many Raspberry Pi users did not know how to have fun with the chip. I wanted to present practical ways to play with it.”
Upton and his colleagues first thought of creating a cheap computer suited to programming when they were teaching computer science at Cambridge University.

They noticed that children of the wired generation lacked the day-to-day experience of coding that was so formative for the computer geeks who grew up in the 1980s.