Friday, November 25th 2011

Raspberry Pi: the Upcoming $25 1080p-Capable ARM-Based Hobby Computer

Yes, you heard that right, when completed, the Raspberry Pi foundation will be selling a credit card sized computer running Linux that can plug into your television and play H.264 1080p30 videos. Raspberry Pi is the somewhat cheekily-named UK registered charity which has been set up to design and build a very low cost computer that is targeted for use in computer science lessons in schools, to "put the fun back into learning computing." Why, was it ever not fun?! However, such a simple and cheap general purpose gadget has the potential for many other uses than the classroom, as the world is full of inventive tech-minded people that can tinker with something like this and build innovative projects with them, perhaps by using several of these together.

The product will come in two configurations, a $25 Model A with 128 MB SDRAM & $35 Model B with 256 MB SDRAM and both will come with the same 700 MHz Broadcom BCM2835 media processor featuring an ARM11 (ARM1176JZF-S) core, Broadcom GPU core, DSP core and support for Package-on-Package (PoP) RAM. We expect that in this day and age, most people will go for the 256 MB model, which is still a very small amount of RAM. For those that want to get the most out if this device, the website - www.raspberrypi.org - has a forum and a wiki with tons of technical details on the device, including benchmarks and links to many other news stories & blogs about the product. There's even a shop, although at the moment, it's only selling keyboard stickers of the foundation's logo.

Note that the target price of $25/$35 is a hard limit, so the standard feature set is limited by this. One example is that it has no analog VGA output, since this would require conversion electronics that would increase the price. The wiki however, does provide links to suppliers of HDMI to VGA adapters. This computer is expected to be available in December in the UK and possibly the US. In the pictures above, the diagram on the right is the final PCB artwork and the provisional specification is shown below:
  • 700 MHz Broadcom BCM2835 media processor featuring an ARM11 (ARM1176JZF-S) core, Broadcom GPU core, DSP core and support for Package-on-Package (PoP) RAM
  • 128 MB (Model A) or 256MB of SDRAM (Model B), stacked on top of the CPU as a PoP device
  • OpenGL ES 2.0
  • 1080p30 H.264 high-profile decode
  • Composite and HDMI video output
  • One USB 2.0 port provided by the BCM2835
  • SD/MMC/SDIO memory card slot
  • General-purpose I/O (About 16 3v3) and various other interfaces, brought out to 1.27 mm pin-strip
  • Optional integrated 2-port USB hub and 10/100 Ethernet controller (Model B)
  • Open software (Iceweasel, KOffice, Python)
  • Capability to support various expansion boards
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52 Comments on Raspberry Pi: the Upcoming $25 1080p-Capable ARM-Based Hobby Computer

#1
qubit
Overclocked quantum bit
Thanks to Easy Rhino for the tip. :toast:
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#2
Damn_Smooth
I have no idea what use I would have for this. It's weaker than any phone from the last 2 years. 1080p youtube videos? Meh, I'll pass.
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#3
TRWOV
Cool, nice and cheap. I might go ahead with my car pc project after all. I had considered a Via Nano board but prices are through the roof.
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#4
Damn_Smooth
by: TRWOV
Cool, nice and cheap. I might go ahead with my car pc project after all. I had considered a Via Nano board but prices are through the roof.
Thanks, I didn't think of that. I'm still good though.
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#5
Lionheart
Where can I plug in my GTX 580 thankyou ^_^
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#6
btarunr
Editor & Senior Moderator
For $25 that's a great hobby kit. One can already think of so many applications even for the 128 MB model.

by: Lionheart
Where can I plug in my GTX 580 thankyou ^_^
  • Stick two wires into its power connectors
  • Stick the other ends of those wires to the L and N of your 120V wall socket
  • Enjoy the stunning visuals™ (in Intel's words)
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#7
mediasorcerer
Ah, thankyou lionheart and btarunr, funny words!

This could be good for a pushbike, with a rear facing cam and a small screen mounted on the handlebars? Doesnt seem quite powerful enough at its current spec.

Good idea though.
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#8
Jstn7477
FXI Cotton Candy is a LOT better, but I guess this has a little more connectivity instead.
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#9
Trackr
What kind of OS can this thing run 1080p from?

I doubt you could run Windows 7 on 700Mhz ARM.
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#10
btarunr
Editor & Senior Moderator
by: Trackr
What kind of OS can this thing run 1080p from?
Debian, Fedora, any modern Linux-based OS for the ARM architecture.

by: Trackr
I doubt you could run Windows 7 on 700Mhz ARM.
You should be able to run Windows Mobile 7 "Mango". You can't run Windows 7 (the PC operating system) on any ARM platform for that matter. Not even NVIDIA Tegra penta-core chips.
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#11
theJesus
Complain all you want the low specs, but at this price it's pretty damn cool. Could make a very cheap alternative to an HTPC for those on a tight budget.
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#12
Zubasa
Exactly, people complaining about the specs need to realize they can't even get a decent router for $25.
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#13
Chevalr1c
by: Trackr
What kind of OS can this thing run 1080p from?

I doubt you could run Windows 7 on 700Mhz ARM.
Windows is compiled for the X86 architecture, so even if the embedded CPU of this device ran at a clock speed of, say 20 PHz, neither Windows nor Mac OS and not even gaming console OSes (being compiled for IBM's PowerPC arch, AFAIK) would be compatible. You are currently trying to compare peaches to cauliflowers.

And you should now (as a TPU member) that Linux and BSD, especially when properly adapted to the hardware that is used, is more leightweight than Windows.

And this is mainly meant to fiddle with and to practice programming on, as it seems.
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#15
qubit
Overclocked quantum bit
by: Completely Bonkers
Model A and Model B. Anyone else recognise that? I think you going to have to be over 35 and British to recognise Acorn BBC Micro. And their ARM evaluation system:

http://www.stumpie.com/armeval/
http://www.computinghistory.org.uk/det/4617/Acorn-ARM-Evaluation-System
http://www.heyrick.co.uk/assembler/proctype.html

1985 to anyone that is interested in retro/classic computing :)
Yeah, I remember it and I was thinking about it when I wrote up the article. :)
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#16
Completely Bonkers
Original ARM processor in Acorn Evaluation System



I remember it being "unbelievable" when it came out. The performance was not a % or double of existing systems. It was like 20-100x faster depending on what it was doing. Reason? It was 32-bit and had 25 separate registers, whereas, the CPUs of the time (excluding mainframes) were 8-bit with just 3x 8-bit registers and perhaps 1x or 2x hybrid 16bit registers.

So old 8-bit code was constantly swapping registers and PUSHing and PULLing to the stack. So there was a lot of "overhead" to actual computation time. Any 16, 32 or float calculations required a lot of lengthy routines and scratch space using memory as virtual registers. This was slow. Multiply didnt exist in 8-bit (typically) whereas these new processes had a MUL instruction.

Incredible breakthrough at the time.
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#17
Frick
Fishfaced Nincompoop
Ohh, possible release date! BTW, if you're interested there's an old thread about it here.

Do wantwantwant noew!

@C Bonkers: When was that released?

Oh, and here we can see it playing Quake 3!
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#18
qubit
Overclocked quantum bit
by: Completely Bonkers
Original ARM processor in Acorn Evaluation System

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/0a/Acorn-ARM-Evaluation-System.jpg/800px-Acorn-ARM-Evaluation-System.jpg

I remember it being "unbelievable" when it came out. The performance was not a % or double of existing systems. It was like 20-100x faster depending on what it was doing. Reason? It was 32-bit and had 25 separate registers, whereas, the CPUs of the time (excluding mainframes) were 8-bit with just 3x 8-bit registers and perhaps 1x or 2x hybrid 16bit registers.

So old 8-bit code was constantly swapping registers and PUSHing and PULLing to the stack. So there was a lot of "overhead" to actual computation time. Any 16, 32 or float calculations required a lot of lengthy routines and scratch space using memory as virtual registers. This was slow. Multiply didnt exist in 8-bit (typically) whereas these new processes had a MUL instruction.

Incredible breakthrough at the time.
Nice find. Yes, the performace gain was astronomical and those original Archimedes computers, which had an ARM2 CPU, absolutely flew. It was the first taste of high performance that mere mortals had seen in a desktop computer. :D Trust Acorn to f*ck up such a huge advantage. :rolleyes:

I think the Z80 had a multiply instruction, but it's been so long now, I'm not sure.
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#19
Completely Bonkers
@[USER=23907]Frick[/USER], 1986/87 I think

@[USER=46003]qubit[/USER]. No. Z80 had no Multiply. You had to do it with a series of adds and binary rotates (multiply by 2 in binary means shift all 1 and 0 to the left).

Here is someone showing you how to do it on the Z80
http://sgate.emt.bme.hu/patai/publications/z80guide/part4.html

IIRC, the Comodore 64 used a "special" 6509 processor called the 6510 which DID have a simple 8bit hardware multiply for one of its registers. It wasnt a "true" multiply, but it helped the coding significantly, meaning long-hand multiply as shown in the link above could be simplified and be about 4-5x times quicker. DIVIDE was still a PITA.

Remember that 8 and 16 bit integer multiple is EASY PEASY compared to the code needed on 8-bit processors to do floating point! Now THOSE PROGRAMMERS I really admire.

http://6502.org/source/floats/wozfp1.txt / http://6502.org/source/floats/wozfp3.txt

Steve Wozniak (and friends). Genius.
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#20
HalfAHertz
Yey! Finally my toaster will be able to display 1080p pr0n!
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#21
Jizzler
Can pick up a 48 10/100 + 2 Gb port switch for a little over $200.

Now to think of something to do with 48 ARMS.
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#22
HalfAHertz
by: Jizzler
Can pick up a 48 10/100 + 2 Gb port switch for a little over $200.

Now to think of something to do with 48 ARMS.
Ya but can you fit it into a toaster?
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#23
qubit
Overclocked quantum bit
@[USER=35819]Completely Bonkers[/USER]

The C64 and the 6510, I always did wonder what that variant did.
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#24
Jizzler
by: HalfAHertz
Ya but can you fit it into a toaster?
Yeah, MY toaster. Can do a whole loaf at a time :D

Hmm... may not have a need for a toaster with an ARM cluster. But I wonder if they would make good thin clients. Plug in into a TV, connect up to other computers in the house.
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#25
Completely Bonkers
Yes, in theory the C64 had a (slightly) better processor than the Acorn 6502. But the coding of the Acorn OS , "BBC Basic", the floating point routines, quality of the display output, inbuilt assembler, and the hardware expandability of the BBC Micro meant it was a far superior product. The only "win" the C64 had was the "sprite generator" within the VPU (what we now call GPU).

I actually think that the BBC Basic ROM, a full Basic Interpreter and 6502 Assembler, built within 16K, was one of the best "codings" of all time. How so much was squeezed into so little space, and how routines were designed to be re-usable by other functions. When the 65C02 came out, which added just 7 new instructions: PHX PHY PLX PLY INC A DEC A and STZ, Acorn developed Basic 4 that fitted an even better expanded BASIC, increased floating point accuracy by one digit, and even speeded up the interpreter, and all into the same 16K space. It is one of the "Wonders of the Programming World". It's up there with DOOM, HTML, Google Earth/Maps, etc.

by: TRWOV
Cool, nice and cheap. I might go ahead with my car pc project after all. I had considered a Via Nano board but prices are through the roof.
If you are happy to use ARM rather than x86 in the car, consider something like this with display included.

http://www.watterott.com/de/Boards-Kits/ARM/ARM11

Actually that whole website is fascinating... build your own robots etc. Website is a mix of english and german.

Err. Look what I just found on that website. This is what The W1zzard wears at parties! LED cufflinks! LOL http://www.watterott.com/de/iCufflinks-v10


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