The 28-Euro Computer

Enrique Dans. Professor. IE Business School

24 January 2013

A British foundation has designed a computer that costs so little that anyone will feel confident enough to experiment with it.

The best technological surprise of 2012 from my point of view was the Raspberry Pi. If you still don’t know much about it, it’s worth finding out more. Basically the story is that a UK-based non-profit foundation has designed a computer that drastically reduces the barriers to learning about computers and which is aimed mainly at schools and children. However it is having much further reaching effects than that.

The configuration is definitely worth taking a look at: a reasonably powerful ARM processor, 512MB of RAM, and operating system on a memory card. The whole setup fits onto a cigarette packet, and it comes ready to plug in a keyboard and mouse, then use an HDMI cable to connect either the television or a monitor, and then all you have to do is connect it to a mobile charger. You can switch it on by simply plugging it in, and you switch it off by unplugging it. It’s that simple. It comes with a configuration that includes a totally simple graphical interface that enables the user to do everything with the click of the mouse.

What is so great about it? Basically, the fact that it only costs €28 means that anyone is brave enough to experiment with it, play around with it. You can connect up several to build a more powerful computer, or convert it into a media center connected to the television. When you connect it to an Arduino platform, a paradigm of the so-called open hardware, you can make it control any interactive electronic object. Or you can use it to teach children computer programming using MIT’s Scratch language, Kids Ruby or something similar. And if you need any help there are thousands of pages online on the subject created by users.

At that price there is so little feeling of risk that it opens the floodgates for all kinds of experiments. With desktop or laptop computers most users prefer to remain mere users. With the Raspberry Pi, the sky’s the limit for experiments, and taking an active role is not difficult to do. It invites the user to play, and that is precisely why it is so interesting.
 

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