Everybody knows the typical technology trend: things continue to get smaller and cheaper. Which is all well and good, but you would imagine it has to stop somewhere. For instance, just how small and cheap could a PC get?
Well, according to founder and Chairman of Frontier Developments, David Braben: at least as small as a flash drive, and less than 25 bucks.
Braben, who is best known (to date) for the pioneering computer game Elite, Rollercoaster Tycoon, and most recently, Kinectimals, is now working on Raspberry Pi - a PC you could hang on your keychain.
The idea has evolved from Raspberry Pi Foundation's plan "to develop, manufacture and distribute an ultra-low-cost computer, for use
in teaching computer programming to children," while putting "the fun back into learning computing."
Raspberry Pi SetupGreat, you're thinking, Impressive goals. But how on earth do you make a PC that small? Well, you start by acknowledging what a PC actually is. For this, you need to think inside the box for a change. Because that's where you'll find a PC: inside a box. The monitor is the monitor, the keyboard is the keyboard, the hard drive is the hard drive, and with the right kind of software, who needs a mouse?
So Braden has managed to fit a 700 MHz processor and 128 MB of RAM on a circuit board no bigger than your thumb, with an HDMI video output at one end, a USB port at the other, and a memory card slot. Add some open-source software, and you're away!
So long as you have a USB keyboard and an HDMI-equipped TV, you will soon be able to have a PC. Better still, being an educational tool, Raspberry Pi deliberately doesn't rely on today's commercial operating systems, which build a wall between the user and the programmer. Braden is concerned about the relatively recent trend away from computer science, and believes that bringing this kind of bare-bones device back into the classroom will rekindle interest in the discipline.
And at the kind of price he's talking about, he'll most certainly rekindle parents' interest in having their children studying computer science!
Here he is explaining this ingenious piece of technology to the BBC: