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.