The $25 Raspberry Pi is 3.14x More Useless than XO Laptops



Lilputing is reporting on a new "$25 computer":

The first project from Raspberry Pi is a tiny computer with an ARM-based processor and USB and HDMI ports for connecting a keyboard and external display. The system runs Ubuntu Linux and the  developers say it could sell for as little as $25.

The specs aren't going to blow anyone away. The computer has a 700MHz ARM11 processor, 128MB of RAM and an SD card slot. A typical smartphone is more powerful -- but much more expensive.

The Raspberry Pi device can handle 1080p HD video, OpenGL ES 2.0 graphics, and basic computing tasks such as running a web browser or office software.

The BBC reports that games developer David Braben and the team behind the CPU, want to give it to children to learn with:

They believe that what today's schoolchildren learn in ICT classes leaves them uninspired and ignorant about the way computers work. David Braben says the way the subject is taught today reminds him of typing lessons when he was at school - useful perhaps in preparing pupils for office jobs, but no way to encourage creativity.

Raspberry Pi is a non-profit venture, whose founders are mostly part of Cambridge's thriving technology sector. Their hope is that teachers, developers and the government will come together to get the device into the hands of children who may not have access to a computer at home or would not be allowed by parents to "muck about with it".

I would like to point out that a $25 CPU is useless without memory and a monitor, keyboard, and mouse. So let us first disregard the hype-price, like we would a "$100 laptop" marketing slogan. Next, as we've learned with XO laptop deployments, any technology platform is itself useless for education without educational content, teacher training, local maintenance, and community support.

So good on Raspberry Pi for making a cheap CPU. May they, like OLPC, drive down the cost of hardware. But if they really want to inspire students with their technology, they need to start on the hard part - everything else.


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The tone of this post seems unnecessarily negative. I think a project of this nature has a lot of potential to do good. Too many kids think of computers as a "black box," a portal to facebook, and have no idea what's inside. A cheap platform that could open up this box and allow kids to experiment is a solid idea.

When I was a kid and first getting interested in technology, I was lucky enough to have my parents give me a computer to play around with. The years I spent opening it up, building websites, and more on this computer directly lead to where I am now. Not everyone is as lucky as I was, and a project like this could fill that void.

I'm not saying all (or even most) of the hard work is done, but let's give it a fair shake eh?