The much anticipated Raspberry Pi Linux PC, a credit-card sized computer launched by the non profit Pi Foundation has already sold out online hours after it was launched yesterday.
Under development for years, the creation of UK-based academics and technology companies, the tiny inexpensive computer priced between $25 and $35 just made the February launch window. Originally intended as a tool to promote programming among students with the aim of getting one in the hands of every school child, the PC is an uncased motherboard capable of running basic word processing, Internet and video applications. The PC provides basic functionality with input, display and networking ports and the ability to run Linux flavours including Fedora, Debian and ArchLinux. Built on a Broadcom BCM2835 700MHz ARM11 processor, it is intended as a cheap computing option that requires only a keyboard and RCA or HDMI-connected display to give a full desktop experience. It doesn’t come with a keyboard, mouse, monitor or even a hard drive case.
While there are two models that have been developed – the $25 Model A version that has recently received an upgrade from the planned 128Mb of RAM to 256Mb matching the Model B, which still throws in an extra USB port and an Ethernet hookup for $10 more – only the B Model is currently available for purchase. A buying frenzy after its launch, aimed at software and hardware enthusiasts, caused the websites of its two distribtutors to crash and left the first batch of 10, 000 completely sold out in just a few hours.
The aim of targetting software and hardware enthusiasts is so that when it is eventually distributed into the educational market there will be an experienced community of people using and making things with the Raspberry Pi, making it easier for students and educators to use.
Close alternatives like the Beagleboard and Pandaboard are more expensive, at around $150 and $180 respectively. Raspberry Pi’s costs have been kept low because of goodwill from suppliers and because its organizers aren’t paid by the charity. Co-founded Eben Upton told Linux User & Developer magazine, “None of us need another money-making start-up. We’ve all done reasonably well for ourselves at all the other things we’ve been doing. So, there wasn’t ever really that incentive to try and turn it into a money-making venture.”
The size of distribution is the other big difference to other scaled-down PCs. According to the BBC, the first few thousand machines released yesterday were funded by the six scientists behind the charity themselves, including Upton, whose other job is as technical director at Broadcom.
However, there are some limitations: Raspberry Pi can’t run WINE, an emulator that allows Linux users to run Windows programs. Keeping limitations in mind, some hobbyists are looking to use the Pi as a more powerful version of boards such as Arduino for applications like robotics.
Watch the Rasberry Pi PC in action in the video below: