I’ve been a fan of the Raspberry Pi computer for some time now, although to be honest, I’m as big of a fan of the concept as I am of the actual computer itself. The Raspberry Pi is a small computer designed to run Linux that costs $35. On top of that price you’ll have to provide your own keyboard, mouse, and monitor, but chances are if you’re the type of person who is interested in a $35 computer that runs Linux, you probably have at least one spare keyboard, mouse, and monitor somewhere out in the garage.
The original Raspberry Pi (the model A) had two USB ports and a single core ARM processor clocked at 700MHz. The modern version of the board, the Raspberry Pi B+, has four USB ports, a quad-core, 1GHz processor, and a gigabyte of RAM.
Last week, Raspberry Pi announced a new, compact version of the Raspberry Pi computer: the Raspberry Pi Zero. It’s similar to the original model A with a slightly faster (1GHz) processor. Physically it’s roughly 1/3 the size of a credit card. It costs $5.
When I was a kid, home computers were an exotic luxury. For the TRS-80 Model III, Tandy was charging $200 to double the machine’s RAM from 8k to 16k. (My dad upgraded ours himself.) Adding a single floppy drive was an $849 option. The thought of a $5 computer was inconceivable, as was a computer the size of the Pi Zero. The Commodore SX-64, the world’s first portable color computer, weighed 23 pounds. The current issue of MagPi magazine comes with a Raspberry Pi Zero computer, attached to the cover. I don’t know how much it weighs, but it can easily be mounted to the rear of a flat screen television with a small square of Velcro. If you want to take it with you on a trip, you can stow it inside your wallet.
The guys over at Element 14 literally installed their Raspberry Pi Zero inside a tube television, configured it to run RetroPi, and built a self-contained emulation television.
For any adult or kid with $5 and an imagination, the sky’s the limit.