Need an Inexpensive Kid-Friendly Computer?

Karla Andrew

This article, entitled Want a computer you aren’t afraid to let your kids experiment on? Check out the Raspberry Pi! comes from Karla Andrew and partner site Tech Ed 4 Kids

Raspberry Pi is one of the hottest and cheapest little computers in the world right now. Almost one million of these $35 machines have shipped since last February!

The Raspberry Pi is a single-board computer developed in the UK by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized computer that plugs into your TV and a keyboard. It’s a capable little PC which can be used for many of the things that your desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word-processing and games, as well as plays high-definition video. The design is based around a Broadcom BCM2835 SoC, which includes an ARM1176JZF-S 700 MHz processor, VideoCore IV GPU, and 512 Megabytes of RAM. This revision 2.0 board features two mounting holes for easy installation, a built-in reset circuit, and can be powered via the USB data ports. The design does not include a built-in hard disk or solid-state drive, instead relying on an SD card (not included) for booting and long-term storage. The Raspberry Pi is intended to run Linux kernel based operating systems.

This computer is designed for kids to play with the nuts and bolts of the PC without losing a lot of money if it’s damaged and becomes a brick. The Raspberry Pi — about 3 inches by 2 inches and less than an inch high — was intended to replace the expensive computers in school science labs. For less than the price of a new keyboard, a teacher could plug in the Pi and connect it to older peripherals that might be lying around. Pi initially ran only Linux, but kids will pick it up very quickly. Lots of new books are available on Amazon too to help with the learning curve. The Raspberry Pi Foundation began selling these computers in February of last year. They soon could not keep them in stock. What they found was not only do kids love these computers, but so do technologically-competent adults. Hobbyists, scientists and more are on the waiting list besides schools and homeschoolers.

They are even cheap enough that one owner sent a Raspberry Pi to the upper atmosphere to take live video, photos and measurements. Picking up a Raspberry Pi is not as easy as popping into a store. The Pi is so popular that many distributors are constantly out of stock. It is also difficult to find them online. Amazon has them listed but the company listing them is selling them for about $20 more than retail…

The Pi costs $35, or $25 for an older model, and comes as a bare circuit board. You can get a plastic enclosure or make your own case. The Raspberry Pi works with HDMI-compatible monitors and televisions (our TV is HDMI) and USB keyboard and mouse. For power you use a standard USB cable – just like many phones. It includes an audio-out port for connecting a set of speakers or headphones. There is no on-off just pull the plug is you want to turn it off. It has no operating system or hard drive when you get it. You will need to use an SD Card, external hard drive, USB drive. You should use something with at least 4GB.

Also if you plan to store movies and hook to your TV you can use RaspbMC and a large external hard drive. There are a number of available operating systems for the Raspberry Pi. On the official Web site, raspberrypi.org, you’ll find something under downloads called Raspbian, a Raspberry-flavored version of the Debian (Linux) operating system that includes tools for beginners. It even has a GUI interface. For kids there is Adafruit

You’ll need to scavenge around your house for some extra parts to do more than just marvel at the Raspberry Pi’s compact design. Find an old USB keyboard, a mouse, and a screen (most old TVs or computer monitors should be suitable) and plug them into the computer’s sockets. Grab a four-gigabyte SD card and flash it with the free Linux-based operating system on the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s website.

Right now I’m thinking this could be fun to plug in a video camera and add this to a remote control car…



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