Cheapest Computer In The World Hits The Streets: The Raspberry Pi

Posted by · April 18, 2012 12:17 pm

Retailing for just $35, the Raspberry Pi is the cheapest computer money can buy.

That is, if you can manage to get your hands on it. The credit card-size microcomputer has had a waiting list since it was introduced in February. According to ZDNet, said Raspberry Pi waiting list has now topped the 250,000 mark.

The single-board microcomputer uses an SD card for storage: plug it into a keyboard and a TV and voila, you’ve got a computer. We’ve had on our name on the wait list for over a month, so who knows when we’ll get ours (by the way, you can enter to win a Raspberry Pi from Experts Exchange this week); however, a few lucky folks have already received their orders, and unboxing videos are beginning to pop up online.

Bit-Tech has an excellent write up on the Raspberry Pi’s origins, performance and specifications. Here’s a quick overview of the specs:

Image courtesy of hobbsy.com

Raspberry Pi Specs

  • Single-board computer (no case)
  • Power: 2.5 W (model A), 3.5 W (model B)
  • CPU: ARM1176JZF-S 700 MHz
  • Storage: SD Card Slot (SDHC card)
  • Memory: 256 MB
  • Graphics: Broadcom VideoCore IV

The Cheapest Computer for the Classroom

Originally developed in the UK to help British children develop programming skills, it seems only logical that the first shipment of the inexpensive computers go to a school. Raspberry Pi Foundation coordinator Dr. Eben Upton presented the first batch of microcomputers to schoolchildren in the West Yorkshire city of Leeds this past Friday. While at the school, Dr. Upton and his team held classes to get the children started programming on the computer.

“There isn’t much any small group of people can do to address problems like an inadequate school curriculum or the end of a financial bubble,” says the Foundation on their website, speaking about the problems that led to a decline in programming skills amongst British students.  “We felt that we could try to do something about the situation where computers had become so expensive and arcane that programming experimentation on them had to be forbidden by parent.”

The Cheapest Computer for a Media Center

With an underpowered ARM11 CPU running at 700 MHz, the Raspberry Pi isn’t going to replace your desktop computer. However, the Broadcom VideoCore IV GPU, HDMI output and Altoid tin-sized dimensions have made the Raspberry Pi an ideal candidate for home theater use. It’s also likely the cheapest computer you can find to power your home entertainment. Here’s a look at a Raspberry Pi running XBMC Media Center:

The Cheapest Computer for…?

Gizmodo offered up their top five things you can do with the Raspberry Pi when the microcomputer was announced in February (top of the list is, of course, make a media center). But now that the Raspberry Pi is in the hot hands of hobbyists and hackers everywhere, we look forward to seeing some creative applications.

“We don’t think that the Raspberry Pi is a fix to all of the world’s computing issues; we do believe that we can be a catalyst,” says the Foundation. “We want to see cheap, accessible, programmable computers everywhere; we actively encourage other companies to clone what we’re doing.”

In the market for the cheapest computer that can actually do something worthwhile? What would you do with a Raspberry Pi? Share your ideas in the comments below. And don’t forget to enter to win a Raspberry Pi from Experts Exchange this week.

More reading on the Raspberry Pi microcomputer