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Raspberry Pi £16 computer project nears lift-off

The Raspberry Pi project, which aims to sell tiny £16 Linux-based computers to help kids learn about real computing in schools, has said it is now testing beta versions of the device.The project published photos of its first populated beta circuit boards on Thursday, having shown off the naked boards earlier in the month.

The Raspberry Pi project, which aims to sell tiny £16 Linux-based computers to help kids learn about real computing in schools, has said it is now testing beta versions of the device.

The project published photos of its first populated beta circuit boards on Thursday, having shown off the naked boards earlier in the month. If electrical and hardware and software testing goes well, Raspberry Pi devices will go on general sale in January.

Photo credit: Raspberry Pi

"If all the boards from this batch perform well in testing, we'll be auctioning ten of them off," team member Liz Upton said. "Once we're happy that this test run is fine, we'll be pushing the button immediately on full-scale manufacture in more than one factory."

The Raspberry Pi project is run by a charitable foundation in the UK. Praised by the government for providing a potentially viable platform for programming education, the scheme is working on credit-card-sized, single-board computers that run Linux or RISC OS.

The device uses SD cards for storage and runs on a 700MHz ARM processor. Python provides the main programming language, and bundled apps will include Iceweasel and KOffice.

There will be two variants: a $25 (£16) version with one USB port, no Ethernet connectivity and around 128MiB of memory; and a $35 version with two USB ports, 10/100 Ethernet and twice the memory. Both will come with both HDMI and composite video outputs, and will be able to be powered via microUSB.

Although the main Raspberry Pi products will come as populated boards, the project also plans to sell an add-on GPIO expansion board called a Gertboard, which can be used to run sensors, motors and lights.

The Gertboard will come as a 'virgin' printed circuit board, leaving customers to pick up their own components and solder them on, although Upton blogged a week ago that the Raspberry Pi Foundation may also sell it as a kit and — at a premium — a completed product.