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UK developer creates £15 computer for kids

USB computer in the works
Fri May 06 2011, 11:47

A UK DEVELOPER has created a computer for school children that will cost as little as £10 to £15, potentially ending the education gap between wealthy and poorer families.

David Braben, who co-developed the Elite space trading computer game, has developed a tiny computer based around a USB stick called the Raspberry Pi. The little device will plug into a HDMI TV for video output and will allow a keyboard to be plugged in via the USB port.

There was no word about using a mouse in addition to a keyboard. It appears that there is only one USB port, which means users will not be able to plug in multiple peripherals, but that might change for the finished product.

The computer has a provisional specification of a 700MHz ARM11 processor and 128MB of SDRAM, a general purpose I/O interface for USB and HDMI, SD/MMC/SDIO memory card slots, support for Open GL ES 2.0 and HD 1080p H.264 high-profile decode. It will also feature a slew of open source software, including Ubuntu, Iceweasel, Koffice and Python. Not bad for 15 quid.

The device could feature more than this, however, as there is a version with a 12 megapixel camera module attached. This is likely to up the cost, but it means that more advanced versions could be made available.

Braben said that since the proposed price is so low for the computers they could even be given away to children for free, with funding coming from other means.

Critics of the idea might highlight the fact that the TV required to use the device will be significantly more expensive, even at the lower end of the market, but this allows a family to invest in a TV that doubles as a computer monitor. The computer can also be plugged into a touchscreen or low-cost tablet.

Braben was critical of the ICT classes taught in school these days, which mainly focus on Microsoft centric office skills like using Word, Excel and Powerpoint, instead of teaching the wider skills of computer science. He said college applications for computer science dropped by around 50 per cent in the early 2000s, calling it a shocking indictment of ICT. He hopes that the Raspberry Pi will encourage children to learn more about computer science.

A prototype of the computer is available and Braben expects the finished product to be available within a year. µ


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