Raspberry Pi, a UK-based charity focused on computer science studies, has a slice of really interesting tech goodness on tap — a working PC that’s the size of a credit card, able to connect to a mouse and a keyboard, and can use a TV or even a capacitive display, for a make-shift tablet. And the most stunningly of all, it will cost less than last night’s dinner out. That’s 25 smackers for a fully configured system. (Amazing).

The idea itself is simple, but the concept is huge. And it began with an observation the organization made about the waning programming opportunities for kids these days. They note that many young tech users are cut-off in closed environments (whether hardware or software, by the manufacturer or even by the parents, who don’t want Junior monkeying around with the family computer). Then there are many, many others can’t even afford to lay hands on devices to begin with. In other words, there aren’t enough “mad laboratories” in which curious minds could educate themselves or run experiments.

So Raspberry Pi (love that name) figures if they can make cheap PCs, then it stands a better chance of reaching a broad swath of youngsters. They’d be able to play around, hacking them or writing scripts and running them — or even use them in a comp sci–based curriculum. Since they’re priced about the same as a textbook, schools and other institutions could even give them away.

There were plans at first to distribute game developer David Braben’s little USB stick PC (pictured), but spatially, it wasn’t big enough for the necessary connections. So the organization is looking at a credit card–type size. And the specs, while certainly not top-shelf, aren’t too bad considering the device’s intended use, cost and size:

  • 700MHz ARM11
  • 128MB or 256MB of SDRAM
  • OpenGL ES 2.0
  • 1080p30 H.264 high-profile decode
  • Composite and HDMI video output
  • USB 2.0
  • SD/MMC/SDIO memory card slot
  • General-purpose I/O
  • Optional integrated 2-port USB hub and 10/100 Ethernet controller
  • Open software (Ubuntu, Iceweasel, KOffice, Python)

Feels like a flashback to my childhood, when I won the TRS-80 — the same TV-connected computer my brother made off with, ran experiments on and then ultimately dismantled (just to see what was in there). But I hold no grudge. He went on to get a degree in computer science. And now, ideally, the $25 PC will be able to usher in a new crop of future tech-heads.

Response has already been huge, with requests for bulk orders are already coming in from all over the world. And hopefully, individual consumers will also be able to buy them. If that turns out to be true, you can expect to see these everywhere next year.

Would you be interested in a cheap, $25 computer? What would you do with it?

[via Geek.com, source Raspberry Pi]