A reader brought this to my attention. An organization has developed a prototype of a small cheap computer on a USB stick that could bring back the enthusiasm of young people for IT that they had in the 1980s with the Ohio Scientific Superboard, and other inexpensive PCs for ordinary people. In those days, there were many who could afford a PC that cost a few hundred dollars but not the commercial stuff costing $thousands. Today there are still children who can be stimulated by smaller cheaper computers.
This video describes the device and the goals. ICT is “Information and Communications Technology”, a current theme in education, basically “using a PC”. The speaker wants to encourage youth to create programmes and content rather than just using a PC.
The speaker makes the point that “using a PC” stifles the creativity of young people who are curious and want to understand how things work rather than what others want you them to do with a PC. A lot of the vitriol on this blog is about that. Some folks think it is just fine to use M$’s software and no other. Others think we should cast off such limitations. In education ICT is a big step forward in making use of ICT universal but it does not encourage the mastery I have seen in “Information Processing” courses where computer programming and servers and networking and other content creation is taught/learned. Many high school students are turned off by “keyboarding” when they could be stimulated by solution of real problems and understanding the basics of computer science and pushing the limits of what a PC can do.
One of my most interesting lessons involves getting students to do a measurable amount of computation to see how fast a PC is. It is amazing to them that an 8 year old PC can do millions of calculations per second and yet be sluggish with XP… I also love to teach what kinds of things brute force attacks can do, like cracking passwords or graphing or searching. Comparing a binary search to a linear search is mind-blowing for some students. One of the tasks I loved to do in a computer lab was taking some large project and dispatching parts of it to every PC in a lab so that it is done N times faster. Simple ideas like that are immediately useful for students who are not afraid to look under the hood and use the hardware for what it can do and not just what some business lets them do. GNU/Linux and ARM has a role to play in making this kind of technology more available.
RaspberryPi The Raspberry Pi Foundation is a UK registered charity (Registration Number 1129409) which exists to promote the study of computer science and related topics, especially at school level, and to put the fun back into learning computing.
We plan to develop, manufacture and distribute an ultra-low-cost computer, for use in teaching computer programming to children. We expect this computer to have many other applications both in the developed and the developing world.
Our first product is about the size of a USB key, and is designed to plug into a TV or be combined with a touch screen for a low cost tablet. The expected price is $25 for a fully-configured system.