(Hint: This is not a baking recipe!)
If you, a friend, or a family member has ever expressed an interest in learning more about computing, this topic may be of interest to you. A nonprofit organization in the UK has designed and built a computer that is about the size of a credit card, with the specific goal of empowering young people and enthusiasts to learn and experiment. Called the Raspberry Pi Foundation, the development of hardware and specific projects has been spurred on by an active and dedicated community of beginners, experts, and even children!
The finished product has been available for just under a year now, and the results have been inspiring. Children as young as eight have programmed games, the device has been used as a controller for homemade robots, and people have found ways to make media players and household automation devices. There are many more examples, and new ideas are always being put forward. For ordinary users, the device should be powerful enough for general web-surfing and media playback.
In order to make it accessible to as many people as possible, the device itself is fairly inexpensive ($25 or $35 depending on the features you want), and can be powered and setup with things that many people have in the home. A television can be used as a display, a phone charger supplies power, and USB keyboards and mice should have no problem working with it. Free software for the device is available from the Foundation’s website, which also hosts forums for users to ask questions and share ideas.
We have all seen smart phones that pack more power into a (slightly) smaller space, but the hardware and software on them is not always open to modification. Lacking a case and having pins for expansion, the Raspberry Pi was built for people of all ages who want to learn and tinker. Initiatives like these are especially exciting for young people, as technical skills and programming know-how will always be in demand. The initial learning curve may be steep for those without Linux experience, but the forums contain plenty of information for beginners. The open platform and active community provide for an excellent learning opportunity.
More information is at the Foundation’s website: http://www.raspberrypi.org/