Raspberry Pi models, a low-cost Linux computer, have finally begun shipping to the masses. The first batch of Raspberry Pi computers were shipped on Friday, April 13 to everyone at the front of the line, who have been waiting for some time now.
Many folks may be wondering why any of this is news, especially considering products ship all the time. The answer is that not all of those products being shipped are fully functioning, credit card sized Linux mobos priced at $25 a pop.
The developers of the Pi designed the miniature computers to be used in educational environments, and they wanted to provide kids (including those in third world countries) with an extremely affordable computing option. Thanks to ARM processor technology (specifically the size and mobility), the Raspberry Pi developers were able to make manufacturing happen and in 2011 the product went into mass production.
What is the Raspberry Pi?
With all the mundane shipping announcements aside, it’s time to get to the meat of the product.
The Raspberry Pi is a credit card sized computer motherboard that is fully functioning, meaning it works straight out of the box, and no other components are required. The Pi includes an SD card slot and boots expressly from SD but can be booted to an external hard drive after the initial boot. However, because of hardware limitations the Raspberry Pi cannot boot without an SD card.
It’s also worth noting that the Raspberry Pi includes a fully functioning HDMI output and also supports full HD video playback (BluRay quality playback, using H.264 at 40MBits/s).
- CPU: 700 MHz ARM11
- GPU: Broadcom VideoCore IV, OpenGL ES 2.0, OpenVG
- RAM: 256MiB (Onboard, which means it’s not interchangeable or expandable)
- Video Outputs: Composite video, Composite RCA, HDMI
- Audio Outputs: TRS connector, 3.5 mm jack, HDMI
There are two Raspberry Pi models available with a slight difference in hardware ports and memory capacity, but for the most part both versions are identical.
Model B vs. Model A
Model A includes 256MB of installed RAM (originally was quoted at 128MB, but got upgraded), only one external USB port and no Ethernet network connection – it costs $25. Model B includes 256MB of installed RAM, 2 external USB ports and Ethernet support (obviously including a port) – it costs $35.
The Raspberry Pi Has Incredible Potential
In a day and age where smaller hardware usually means inflated prices, it’s heartening to see the Raspberry Pi going for $25. It goes without saying, a credit card sized computer can be used for many things.
Unfortunately, the first generation of Raspberry Pi computers don’t ship with a power supply, or external case but considering the device is so small it won’t be hard for many to whip up a custom case for the device. Judging by some of the exceptionally designed custom cases which have been tailored for normal size computers, it won’t be long before we start seeing some unique things being made for the Pi.
In the official Raspberry Pi FAQ, the developers claim the computer won’t fit in an Altoid tin which certainly kills one compelling case option, but we’re quite confident that there are plenty more options out there.
The Raspberry Pi certainly works for educational purposes, but would no doubt make a perfect home and office companion. It’s also hard to deny the incredible portability options of the Raspberry Pi. A fully functioning desktop device that includes all data and software in a credit card sized body form would be a perfect home and office based machine. Instead of carrying around USB thumb drives and laptops, one could simply carry around the Raspberry Pi, virtually anywhere. The developers could even take future generations of the Raspberry Pi to the next level of mobility, and install a functioning portable power system like a battery.
How to Get Your Hands on a Raspberry Pi
Of course, since the Raspberry Pi is in high demand and the product is still being produced it might take some time before both distributors have the device in stock (the first shipment sold out). It is possible to express interest in the Raspberry Pi through the listed distributors and have your name added to an existing waiting list although it’s unclear how long that list is.
Nevertheless, it shouldn’t be much longer before the Raspberry Pi is produced in greater quantities thus increasing total availability. We’re going to get started on our custom case designs in the meantime.