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Tiny, Cheap, and Great

January 29, 2016
By Jarrod Whaley

A new generation of tiny, extremely affordable computers like C.H.I.P. and Raspberry Pi Zero is coming onto the market, and they stand to make a huge impact on the way makers go about making the things that makers make. For just $9 or $5 (respectively), you can now get a completely functional computer running a desktop or server configuration of Linux. The implications are huge--not just for hobbyists and enthusiasts, but for the entire future of electronic products. Anyone can now experiment with incredibly complicated computing situations for nearly no money, and in nearly any physical context.

It also seems clear that education will be transformed by these kinds of devices, in both the developed and developing worlds.

NPR recently published an excellent high-level overview of the rise of these tiny computers, beginning with this bit of historical context:

When the first Mac computer came out in 1984, it cost nearly $2,500 and had a floppy drive for storage. In 2016, a spate of computers with a price as low as $5 and a lot more storage are hitting the market, and they may be opening up a new era of experimentation.

We live in an exciting time. Even more exciting things are to come.