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Raspberry Pi: Computer on a stick for only $25

British charity hopes to get ultra-low-cost Linux computers into hands of children in both the developed and developing world.

Raspberry Pi is a full Linux computer the size of a USB stick. Raspberry Pi Foundation

A British nonprofit has a novel idea for getting kids interested in computer programming--a computer that fits in a pocket and costs less than the latest video game.

It's called Raspberry Pi, and the prototype isn't pretty--it looks like a leftover scrap from electronics recycling day. But it's a working computer that game developer David Braben and his Cambridge-connected colleagues expect to make available for only $25 for a fully configured system.

Don't expect to see Raspberry Pi on store shelves anytime soon--although I think it'd do pretty well in the check-out line in between the tabloid mags and packs of Trident--because the rough prototype still needs some refining and the Raspberry Pi Foundation's goal is to get the systems into the hands of children in both the developed and developing world.

"We plan to develop, manufacture, and distribute an ultra-low-cost computer, for use in teaching computer programming to children. We expect this computer to have many other applications both in the developed and the developing world," reads a description of the project on the foundation Web site.

The mission recalls other projects that have attempted to make low-cost computers available to kids, like the One Laptop per Child initiative's dream of $100 Internet-ready laptops worldwide, or a $35 tablet from India. OLPC has had some notable successes in places like Uruguay, but has run into problems delivering on its low-cost promises, a challenge Raspberry Pi will also face, and with even fewer resources.

The computer is essentially an ARM processor, USB port, and HDMI connection. Connect it to a keyboard and a television or monitor and you have a fully functional Linux system. Here are the provisional specs:

700MHz ARM11
128MB of SDRAM
OpenGL ES 2.0
1080p30 H.264 high-profile decode
Composite and HDMI video output
USB 2.0
SD/MMC/SDIO memory card slot
General-purpose I/O
Open software (Ubuntu, Iceweasel, KOffice, Python)