The Raspberry PI is a low cost ($25 A-model) credit card sized computer aimed at stimulating young IT programming talent in the UK and overseas.
This device relies on chip technology know as ARM widely used in the smart phone industry due to its ability to run on small amounts of power as is possible to provide through existing battery technologies.
The custom chipset from Broadcom called the BCM2835 which was developed especially for use on the Raspberry Pi and performs impressively even when measured against some of the most recently released smart phones such as the iphone 4s. The GPU in particular apparently provides twice the performance of the iphone and is expected to outperform Nvidia’s latest mobile chipset.
The Raspberry Pi has been available for purchase as a developer release for a few months now, high demand has outstripped supply for these devices throughout most of this period and made them somewhat difficult to acquire.
The model B Raspberry Pi uses a maximum of 3.5 watts (depending on CPU load), generates little to no heat, has no moving parts and hence makes no noise making this device idea to leave running constantly whilst hooked up to a TV for instant internet and email access much like you would find on a “Smart TV” but for a fraction of the price.
It is also possible to install XBMC media centre on to the Raspberry Pi which provides a user friendly and aesthetically pleasing user interface through which to play your media (both music and video) shared from local network locations in your home of office. The Broadcom chipset used is able to decode high definition video which allows for a wide range of quite demanding content to be played.
As previously mentioned the intended market for this device is schools and aims to provide a low cost versatile platform which aims to train a new generation of computer programmers. A compatible version of a program called scratch provides a graphical interface from which commands can be compiled into a program which control and cat or other animated character, needless to say this something aimed at young children with the intension of instilling some of the essential principles of computer programming.
With its excellent video performance and low power consumption this device would make a very good terminal client and with more of our data being stored and accessed online this could soon be all that is required to access work and day to day web content such as media and email.
In conclusion the Raspberry Pi is a compact, low budget, high quality, versatile device which in the right hands could be used for almost anything.
It has brought a low cost solution for web access and software development to anyone with £35 and could be the beginning of a swing towards the use of such low power devices over tradition laptop and desktop computers.
When the Raspberry Pi is officially release it will apparently be supplied complete in plastic casing and not just a PCB as it would be if you were to buy one at present. I look forward to the release of a second Raspberry Pi with slightly more RAM and onboard wireless connectivity (which I’m sure is inevitable).