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How many of us grew up with the personal computers of the late 70's, early 80's...? When memory was as tiny as it was expensive...? When programming meant worrying about every bit because if you used too much there would be insufficient memory left to run...


Well, those days are long gone but the agonies and ecstasies of yesteryear hacking may just have been re-invented by the Raspberry Pi Foundation (a registered UK charity). It plans to release the RaspberryPi Model A (128MB RAM, no ethernet) for $25.00 and Model B (258MB RAM, 10/100MB ethernet) for $35.00 this December. Yes, at those prices they are barebones bare boards, just like back in the day but with significantly greater capability than when - computing relativity is a thing of wonder! :D


The £25 computer to teach youngsters real computing skills, The Register, 28-November-2011.


So how do you make something so small and cheap?


First of all, the RaspberryPi's processor is really designed for mobile products: it's a gaming and multimedia graphics chip - the Broadcom BCM2835 [4] - with an ARM1176JZF-S [5] core and floating-point maths unit bolted inside for good measure.




Therefore you get high-end mobile graphics capabilities, and a general purpose processor thrown in for free, inside a small system-on-a-chip package that doesn't need any cooling, even after eight hours of HD video playback, which can play Quake 3 in 1920x1080. Soldered directly on top of the processor package is the RAM, which along with the lack of a cooling fan saves an immense amount of space and some cost.


Next, there's no onboard battery-backed clock, which is used to maintain a real-time record of the time and date when the board is switched off. On the Pi, the operating system must grab these settings from the web or network (using NTP) or get the user to type them in after power-on.


The USB and Ethernet hardware is packed into one chip, the SMSC LAN9512; there are no other clunky buses present that are found on larger motherboards, no PCIe or SATA IDE for example to take up space.




There's no onboard chunky flash memory: when the board is powered up, the GPU starts executing instructions from a small boot ROM that locates the GPU's firmware and a kernel for the ARM core in a FAT16 or FAT32 partition on the memory card or USB drive plugged into the Pi. Once the firmware and kernel are running, the operating system can be booted from the memory card, USB drive or over the network.


The reliance on removable boot memory also ensures the kit can't be bricked, not even by the most inquisitive or vindictive schoolchildren.


There's also no Wi-Fi chipset, although you're welcome to try a USB or Ethernet-connected adapter to get your Pi hooked up to your wireless network


What we wouldn't have done to get our hands on this 30-years ago...

Whether todays up and coming hackers will be as fascinated is something else...


As for me...

Dear Santa...

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I learnt more about the Caribbean from this game then from any geography program:



I learn about the stock market from here:


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DCrx: I can't imagine the thought and planning and debugging and time that went into that factory. Truly amazing.


glyn: I still play Pirates a couple times a year :) - it was the first 'graphics' game I ever saw - 1987. Never played Elite, closest was Vega Strike, which obviously was inspired by it. Sad to say, my first years with computers were games free, wonder how I managed? :D I like some of the new games and the graphics are engrossing but few have the gameplay.

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