Thursday, November 26, 2015

How Much Does a $5 Computer Cost?

This week the Raspberry Pi Foundation announced their new Pi Zero.  It only costs $5 in the US. Wow! Here are the specs, via the foundation:

  • Four fathers!?!??BCM2835 (same as Pi 1) but up-clocked to 1GHz, so 40 percent faster.
  • 512MB of RAM
  • micro-SD
  • mini-HDMI
  • micro-USB for data
  • micro-USB for power
  • unpopulated 40-pin GPIO connector (same pinout as A+/B+/2B)
  • size: 65mm x 30mm

Think of a class set of 20 for only $100. Sounds amazing. But let's hold on a minute. What else do I need? I wanted one (actually my wife wants one too but we'll share at least initially. So I went to Adafruit (the US outlet) and took a look. Raspberry Pi Zero is not available as an individual thing right now but can be bought with starter packs. They have two offerings:

I went with the budget pack. What does that include beyond the $5 computer?

Yeah I probably need all that. I also added a wi-fi dongle. With shipping I spent $50 which is still pretty inexpensive but it’s not $5. Of course I need a monitor and a keyboard and mouse to really do any development on it. I have some of them around but not everyone does.

So now we are talking about a class set of 20 for $1000 which is more than $100 but I can remember when one Apple IIe was $2,500 so pretty cool.

I don’t really see it as a replacement for a desktop or laptop though. At least not realistically. It’s still pretty limited in today’s world. What I would like to do is use it or something like it for learning about the Internet of Things. Add some sensors, some controllers of some sort, and have some of these for a Maker Space and who knows what will happen. There is potential there. I can’t wait to get mine and start playing.

3 comments:

Garth said...

I went through the same path. $5 cool. No, wait $60. Not so cool. I have a bunch of Arduinos that will fill the urge to drop down to this level. I like the Arduinos. Electronics and programming and little blinking lights. What more could you want?

AndyNu said...

While considering exactly this problem of total cost of ownership rather than the price of the board, I came across C.H.I.P. which comes with a bit more baked in from the start. I think the overall cost for what I'm trying to do will be lower.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1598272670/chip-the-worlds-first-9-computer
http://makezine.com/2015/11/28/chip-vs-pi-zero/

Alfred Thompson said...

I have a C.H.I.P coming as well. Can't resist a tiny computer. Not sure what I'll do with them all though but I *need* them. :-)