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World's Cheapest Computer Gets Millions Tinkering

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Model A of the Raspberry Pi computer on a board.

Nearly 1.5 million of the Linux-based Raspberry Pi computer on a board, designed to help children learn to code, have sold in the last 18 months.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Raspberry Pi was designed to help children learn to code but has sold widely to inventors and others worldwide, for use in everything from astral photography to robots. Nearly 1.5 million of the Linux-based devices have sold in 18 months.

Raspberry Pi Foundation executive director Eben Upton and his colleagues conceived of an inexpensive computer designed for programming while they were teaching computer science at Cambridge University. They noticed that today's children lack practical programming skills. "They didn't have the grungy familiarity with the dirty bits, the hacking," Upton says. "The theory of computer science is maths, but the practice is a craft, like carpentry."

As technology advanced, Upton and his colleagues realized they could create a pocket-sized device that could run multimedia programs.

Users around the globe now meet in idea-sharing sessions called Raspberry Jams. One such session generated the idea for a Pi camera that will photograph endangered animals in east Africa and collect data on their habits and poaching. "It used to be very expensive--you'd have to run a laptop, with a huge car battery to power the thing," says the project's Alasdair Davies. "This saves countless power and it's easy for it to send out alerts automatically."

From Agence France-Presse
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