You can get a lot for $35 these days. It bought me what looks like a credit card-sized James Bond gadget prototype, but is actually a fully functional computer. It has an ARM processor like those in many cell phones, 256 megabytes of RAM, a wired network connection, two USB ports, an HDMI video connection, and a graphics coprocessor able to decode a Blu-ray DVD. It’s powered by a cell-phone charger and is intended to revolutionize technology education by helping to create a new generation of hackers and makers (see “An Ultracheap Computer”).
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. Put the SD card into the slot, apply power, and you’ve got a 700 megahertz Unix workstation with hardware accelerated 3-D graphics—something that would have been state-of-the-art in 2001 and set you back several thousand dollars.
In fall 1999 I purchased a 500mhz 256mb ram, dell with I think 6gb harddrive—set me (my parents) back $1400. It was the end all, be all, so as not to have to fuck with it again before I graduated. It was top of the line, and the envy of my geek roommates. It still took half a day to open an instance of photoshop.
13 years in the future and you can have more (700mhz processor, 256mb ram, 32gb sd harddrive, hdmi outputs) for about 1/50th the price. and it all fits in the palm of your hand. I feel we’ve finally reached a technological saturation point that will inevitably slow down this exponentially driven power growth—nobody has to wait for apps to load or think twice about opening 25 instances of their favorite browser anymore. the lowliest of laptops can handle those basic tasks with ease. nonetheless, the ubiquity of capable computers (that now fit in the palm of your hand) will have its own implications that will soon shape our near future in unexpected ways that the power race has done til this point. always exciting to be alive.
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