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Build the 2006 Prototype $25 PC 120

An anonymous reader writes "As the launch of the $25 PC gets ever closer (sometime next month), members of the Raspberry Pi team have found time to start blogging about the history of the project. Eben Upton, director of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, has been working on the project for many years, and decided to share a couple of very early prototypes for the $25 PC with the community. The 2006 edition of the PC used an Atmel ATmega644 microcontroller. It ran at 22.1MHz with 512K of SRAM. Compare that to the final version of the PC, which will use a 700MHz ARM11 processor and 128MB/256MB of SDRAM. Five years clearly brings a massive leap in performance. For those of us happy to play around with components at this level, Eben has made the schematics and PCB layout available to download (ZIP file). Armed with this information you can create your very own 2006 Raspberry Pi machine."
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Build the 2006 Prototype $25 PC

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  • how about a $50 PC with one GB of ram :)

    • because 1GB RAM is so useful on a 700MHz CPU...
    • by 0racle ( 667029 )
      I'd rather it have 2 network ports.
      • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

        It does have USB and and SPI port so you could add another network port if you wanted too.

      • by Sleepy ( 4551 )

        >I'd rather it have 2 network ports.

        You can add USB hubs and switches if need be, OR you can choose an already available low-end single-board system which has multiple ports onboard.

        This is -supposed- to be minimalist, low-energy tiny-footprint platform. And adding more hardware changes what it is. I like the fact that it's basically the cost of an Arduino, but can do so much more.


      • by grub ( 11606 )

        I'd rather it have 2 network ports.

        VLANs, baby!
    • by psergiu ( 67614 )

      Raspberry PI uses a package-on-package technology (RAM chip on top on the CPU).

      They covered this on their forum:
      - There are no 1Gb SDRAM chips with that size available;
      - The 512Mb ones are too expensive - if Raspberry PI rev.A (128Mb) and rev.B (256Mb) are a success, they will consider a more expensive rev.C with more options.

      • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

        Sweet but I was half way kidding. What I really want is to find and SPI to SATA bridge so one could add a harddrive without using the USB port or network. But I have yet to see one.
        i will probably pick up one of these for hacking just because.

        • by mirix ( 1649853 )

          SD cards support SPI natively, speed is somewhat reduced over whatever mode they usually use, though, IIRC.

      • by Svartalf ( 2997 )

        They covered this on their forum:

        And they seem to cover it as a bit of a recurring theme. People keep assuming that this isn't going to be anywhere near as useful without the 512-1024MB of RAM on it. The conversations come back to the reality that it's a lot more than they think it is- and it's going to be more capable than they're giving it credit.

        • I have a Dell Latitude with 256 MB of RAM running Antix that I use for 2D game development in C++. It works perfect for when my kids are tying up my big gaming rig, and I bought it on eBay for $30. I bet the Raspberry PI using decade newer tech will kick that old Latitude's arse.

        • It's amazing what you can do with 256 MB of RAM when you don't have an OS that eats all of it for breakfast. Hell, my primary computer has 'only' 160 MB of RAM, and it's enough for most of my computing needs.

    • They have a lot of discussion about this on the RasPi message boards. The only reason they don't offer more everything is that they're targeting $25 on a board that will fit on a credit card. The project is about making a system kids (and many adults) can tinker with. Also remember this version 1.0 of the board.
      • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

        I do know. I have done development on a StrongArm board with only 64MB of memory. The RasPi is probably a lot more powerful than a DEC VAX 11/780 was in the day.
        However some software like browsers seem to really want a lot of memory these days.
        You are right but more ram is always better on a system but 256MB is not a small amount of ram... Until you put a full browser on the box. And let's be honest how many sites support Dillo these days?

        • In a few (or 5) years this $25 PC will be as powerful as a dual-core smartphone. I love technology's exponential increase in power.

    • After getting rid of X, I' running a Torrent (transmission), DLNA (miniDLNA), SSH and NAS (just a plain 3TB USB drive) server in 50-70MB on a similar ARM platform, so 256, even 128, should be plenty for a lot of things.

    • How about putting together a software suite that runs efficiently on this hardware? The hardware can be made even more cheaply through refinement, and the software can be fine-tuned to target these specs,it could lead to affordable and efficient computing in general. If the goal is to benefit the poor, or even to create a platform that will waste less resources, then don't create multiple targets, that will diminish the value of the lowest common denominator and undermine the ultimate efficiency and benef
      • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

        there is a lot you can do with that much ram and CPU. The big issue I see is getting a good full browser on it. The new Firefox might work. Your other choice is to get go with a mobile browser and hope for the best. Now if you want to run GCC you are actually in good shape. I would assume that at in say a school setting you would use the network for mass storage. You could also use these as Xterms to run more demanding software off of a local server.

    • Bloody kids! I remember getting an IBM PS/2 model 50 (IIRC - this was 2 decades ago) with 2MB RAM, and being frustrated that I no longer had time to go for a coffee and a cigarette while Statgraphics did my correlation analyses. Hell of a step up from an XT with 640KB... You don't know you're born....
  • Finally... I can afford to upgrade my home PC to something more powerfull!

  • I would expect now that the popularity of desktops is waning, a lot of the prices to make really beefy systems in the short term will go down to much of a cheaper rate. Hopefully it will revise the revival of build it yourself computers. Perhaps we can get the whitebox equlivlant of a tablet PC.

    • by psergiu ( 67614 )

      Well ... the Broadcom BCM2835 SoC in Raspberry PI can directly control an LCD (all required pins available on a header on board) and you can also interface with a touchscreen: []

      So you can use the Raspberry Pi to build a whitebox Tablet PC.

    • by Sduic ( 805226 )

      [N]ow that the popularity of desktops is waning

      I'm genuinely curious, is there significant evidence of this (i.e. that I might look over), or is this somewhat like with the ever-prolonged death of PC gaming I keep hearing about?

      • by Belial6 ( 794905 )
        I think they are using Wall Street math when they say the popularity of PCs are waning. It isn't that the numbers are going down. It is that there is no longer double digit growth of the industry. My house is a perfect example. In our 3 person home, we have 8 PCs that are used on a regular basis. How many more can we possibly have a use for? We don't replace them nearly as often as we used to either. Instead of a yearly upgrade cycle, our upgrades range between 3 and 5 years depending on which system
      • I can be witness. I used to have a regular PC, now I'm down to a nettop + arm server + netbook + tablet + smartphone, and I'll try out 2 Pis to replace the nettop. Also, the marketshare of tablets and laptops/netbooks compared to desktops is ever rising.

  • I think i'll wait a bit (end of November) for the 2011 version :)

  • HDMI displays are rare, VGA displays are plentiful, higher quality and more versatile than the offered alternative which is a old TV with composite input.

    a Rasperry with VGA would be better for its obvious use, as a game console loaded with emulators. there are truckloads of perfectly good 15" and 17" displays awaiting destruction as hazardous waste, having to buy a new hdmi display for a $25 toy or haul a big ass CRT TV and live with interlaced 640x480 is not fun.

    • Not really - every flat-screen TV made in the last couple of years has HDMI in, and every recent flat-screen monitor has DVI-D (basically HDMI). You have to think ahead, HDMI is the future and we're talking about a device that isn't even in production yet.

    • by psergiu ( 67614 )

      As it turns out, the Broadcom BCM2835 SoC they have chosen for the project has only HDMI, Composite & DSI-LCD outputs. No VGA, no Component, no S-Video.

      And it seems that there are no SoC's with VGA output available that:
      - are cheap enough;
      - are low-power enough;
      - have all the other required interfaces (USB, Ethernet, sound, SDIO ...)

    • There are adapters (passive if memory serves) that can convert from HDMI to VGA (

      Given that HDMI is a much higher quality signal dropping quality isn't too much of a problem. Going the other way, it is pretty much impossible to get HDMI quality from a VGA output.

      • by hplus ( 1310833 )
        Those passive adapters require that the device output a VGA signal, they aren't actually DACs.
        • Hmm, indeed. I was mistaking HDMI with DVI which seems to carry the analog signal separately (hence can support passive connectors).

  • The computer might be only $25 but without a few hundred dollars extra you will not be able to do anything with it.

    • So? Surely that's better than a box that costs a few hundred dollars, uses much more power, and still requires a monitor, keyboard and mouse? Not to mention that plenty of uses either don't actually require any peripherals or can use ones that are already owned.

      I'm planning to grab a Raspberry Pi next month to replace the Xbox in the living room for media streaming, for example - no whirring fans, better flexibility in terms of codecs and interface, and the total cost will be $35 for the Model B.

    • uhh no. a cheap lcd monitor costs ~$50 (here is an example [])
      a mouse and keyboard costs ~$11

      here []

      and here []
      all told and we are still at less that $100.
      • You should have looked at your $50 monitor more carefully: it only has a VGA input and won't work on a raspberry pi

    • Hundreds ? Rather, tens: an SD card and USB cable to power it are the bare minimum, for a headless server or station via SSH. If you want interactivity, add keyboard, mouse, and screen if you don't want to ssh into it, and micro-USB power supply if it's far from a PC. The most expensive by far is a screen , which most use don't require.

      • But you could only SSH into it if you already bought a fully priced computer and personally i did not think the point of this entire thing was to allow nerds to get their 2nd, 3rd, etc. computers very cheaply.

        • Do you think a lot of people reading this, on slashdot, do not have a computer yet ?

          • by Arlet ( 29997 )

            If you already have a computer, you could even leave out the Raspberry Pi, and just use the computer you already have. That should lower the cost to $0 (including handling and shipping).

            • 1- What's the fun in that ?
              2- Plus, some people can use (or need) several computers. I for one have a NAS/Torrent/DLNA server. Used to be an old regular PC (100-ish watts), then a nettop (40-ish watts), is currently a misused ARM netbook (15-ish watts)... I'm fairly sure the Pi will be able to take over competently. And I'll keep another one around for Linux education purposes.

      • You seem to be very mistake about the specifics of the device.
        I am pretty sure the it does not use USB power and you cannot SSH unto a device with no Ethernet port on the $25 edition.

        • We'll have to split the difference on that one:
          - the device does use USB power. this changed very recently, cf their site.
          - indeed, the $25 model A does not have Ethernet, sorry. the $35, 256 MB RAM that I plan to get does.

    • by Osgeld ( 1900440 )

      find a thrift store, bam 5$ vga monitors and 25 cent keyboards and mouses all day long

      kindly pull your head from your ass please

      • find a thrift store, bam 25$ used computer.

        • by Osgeld ( 1900440 )

          ha where? Obviously you have not been to one or else you would not have thought that the only way to get a keyboard monitor and mouse is to spend hundreds of dollars. Goodwill? nah they ship them to a central location and Charge like new. Ma-pa places, they are too dumb to know what they have so you see a 100mhz pentium for 100 bucks. (its not my fault your original argument is full of fail)

          Besides I dont know where people keep coming up with this being a desktop replacement, are you going to use a plug com

          • by hplus ( 1310833 )
            The Goodwills around you must all suck, mine always seem to have cheap peripherals, including mice/keyboards.
            • by Osgeld ( 1900440 )

              yes they do, they take anything computer related, ship them down town, put them in a plastic bag, and ask 20$ for a used ball mouse

    • You'd still need those things for a $250 PC. If you buy this one, you will be able to afford that monitor/mouse/keyboard a lot more easily.
  • Getting cheaper (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bigredradio ( 631970 ) on Monday October 24, 2011 @03:41PM (#37822546) Homepage Journal

    If they are sticking to the $25 cost, this is getting cheaper every year even though they are increasing performance. If you figure the future value in 2005 of the cost at 2011, it should be around $39.

    = $38.87

  • I realize that there are benefits to having large numbers of identical machines to ease management, but I assume these machines are going out into remote places where there won't be hundreds of them to control anyway.

    Wouldn't refurbished Dell boxen, acquired 50-100 at a time, be more powerful and cost less than $25 each to deploy? This could be especially true if skilled laborers in the destination country did the refurbishing, imaging, and deployment.

    • by Svartalf ( 2997 )


      1) A refurbished PIII is not much, if any more powerful than this board.
      2) The refurbished PIII retails for 2-3 times what this costs.

      To answer your question, NO, it wouldn't be cheaper or better. :-D

    • And they would consume orders of magnitude more power. Also, all refurbished means is that the board is tested for electrical continuity, its still old, in a power hogging design. The goal is not CPU power, it is low cost and ubiquity.
    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

      Can it run on a couple of AAs?

    • by Osgeld ( 1900440 )

      with 230 watt power supplies nearly maxed out? you would loose your cost benefit in less than a day in just power use

  • Can you call it a "PC" if it's not IA-86 compatible?
    • Re:ARM (Score:4, Informative)

      by micsaund ( 12591 ) on Monday October 24, 2011 @03:52PM (#37822724) Homepage

      Yes, because PC doesn't necessarily mean Wintel -- it means Personal Computer as well. One particular flavor of the Personal Computer happens to be the IBM PC, which features the xxx86 architecture. Remember, the concept of a "personal computer" came from the days when the big iron was locked-up in universities and companies, so it was a revolution to make a computer one could own personally, hence the phrase. This "2006" Atmel based computer is very certainly a "personal computer" since you build and own it.

    • by Svartalf ( 2997 )

      Yes, you can. "PC" stands for "Personal Computer", not Personal X86 Computer- though for many, it's come to mean the same thing- and they conflate Windows PC with that concept, which is even MORE wrong.

  • Vaporware (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday October 24, 2011 @04:22PM (#37823260) Homepage

    They've been talking about this since 2006. They've built prototypes. They have a web site, logos, a wiki, and a fan club.

    What they don't have is shipping product.

    They really need to shut up and ship. They we get to see if their price point is real.

    GuruPlug, the $99 Linux wall wart, is real and available. Gumstix has been offering machines around $100 for years.

  • Been there, done that. Between 2002 and 2009 I sold about 30,000 sub-$25 PCs to Egyptian geeks, who resold them in "Technology Malls". Our last 3 containerloads were seized by Egyptian customs and declared "e-waste" because they were "used." Our buyer was upset, but predicted that Mubarak was just "trying to put the genie back in the bottle", and it was too late. See German Language coverage on how these used PCs played a role in the Arab Spring. []

    Seriously, why do wealthy

  • As far as I know, this board offers:

    1) 1080P output
    2) Hardware media decoding
    3) 3D Graphics

    1 + 2 + 3: XBMC on Linux for ~USD 50 (Model B for USD 35 + guesstimating USD 15 for the case and the power adapter)
    • They said it would do 1080p24 in hardware so as long as you're playing media that the GPU can decode that's enough for most purposes. If your media was encoded 1080p30 or higher you're going to have to transcode it before you can play it back, and then you might as well convert the resolution instead of the frame rate unless you're really blowing it up, in which case, spend the hundred bucks or whatever and buy the fancy Roku box. I believe it does 1080p30 :p

      I want one pretty bad, too. I want a model B, I p

  • Armed with this information you can create your very own 2006 Raspberry Pi machine.

    Oh, really? Where can I order the CPU ?

    • by hplus ( 1310833 )
      You can order Atmega 644s from a number of places, including Digikey and Mouser.
      • by Arlet ( 29997 )

        Yeah, after I posted, I realized that this article was about the 2006 version. I thought it was about the new design with the Broadcom SoC.

When you are working hard, get up and retch every so often.