Low-Cost Computing

On Tech Evolution (more computer for fewer $)

Price drops continue to surprise me. A 2012 article describes The 8 Cheapest Computers in the World. On Wikipedia you can find List of Single-Board Computers. and List of Open-Source Hardware Projects.  I’m surprised at the length of these lists.

If you’re looking for a powerful and cheap computer, check the article A $99 Linux supercomputer has been built, will ship this summer (2013).

Two of the most popular low-cost computer kits are Arduino and Raspberry Pi. Arduino is a low-power system, simple to get working, good for controlling hardware, robotics (see, e.g., Arduino launches its first robot kit complete with wheels). Lots of support, lots of choice in kits, shields. Raspberry Pi (see FAQs) is a full Linux computer. Model A ($25) connects to an SD card, an HDMI display, one USB device, and a power source. Model B ($35) has a second USB port and an Ethernet port. Their 5-set Quick Start Guide has the steps:

1.   Insert SD card
2a. Connect HDMI display
2b. If not HDMI, connect analog TV or display
3.   Connect USB keyboard and mouse
4.   Connect to ethernet (optional)
5.   Plug in micro USB power supply to turn on power

You need an operating system on the SD card. Their Downloads page has various choices, including Raspbian “wheezy” for beginners, and Arch Linux ARM “… which aims for simplicity and full control to the end user … may not be suitable for beginners … boots to a command prompt in around ten seconds.”

From there it takes some knowledge of the operating system to get going. It’s hard to imagine what’s going to get built on this platform and its offspring.

Earlier comments on “what’s at the low-cost end?” follow.

Low-end Laptops Getting Cheaper

Prices are headed lower – devices available for $50-$200 continue to grow smarter. Article titled Tiny, sub-$100 PC runs Puppy Linux describes an early effort from 2006. From 2008, Forget The $100 PC; India Now Working On A $10 PC… Or Not Linked article describes trends, makes projections.

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