If you’re into Raspberry Pi, then by now you’ve probably heard of the recent announcement and release of the newest RasPi model: the Raspberry Pi Zero, which costs a mere $5. Even better, the Zero is included with every printed copy of this month’s issue of the Magpi, making it the first computer ever to come free with a magazine! I think I’ve managed to convince my mom to bring me to Barnes & Noble to get a copy of the magazine when it hits the States in a few weeks.
Anyway, I wanted to write a reflection on how the Pi Zero could become a technological and educational game-changer even more so than the original Raspberry Pi models have been. It might sound kind of nostalgic and dramatic, but hey… I gotta say what I gotta say.
When the original Raspberry Pi model came out in 2012, the world got a cheap computer that would help educate kids in computing and making. Since then, the Raspberry Pi has become one of the ultimate tools of the maker, and its found its way into both proprietary applications and the hands of young kids who learn Scratch. The Raspberry Pi’s popularity derives from both its cost and versatility. And now, not long after the second generation Pi 2 was released, the miniaturized Pi Zero enters the scene at the same price as two cups of coffee. As far as computers that anyone can use, the Zero is by far the cheapest.
The most obvious of the Zero’s features is its cost. It’s a computer that only costs $5, so anyone can have one to use. It costs less than even the nano versions of standard maker microcontrollers like the Arduino. It’s certainly no longer too expensive to give every child in the world (including kids in third-world countries) a computer to learn on.
Another more subtle impact of the Pi Zero is how it transforms the computer from, well, a computer into a component. Makers and proprietary prototypers alike will reach for the Pi Zero in the way they reach for wires, breadboards, and LEDs. The Pi Zero turns the computer into a mainstream building material. Certainly if we can make a $5 computer, we can also make a new plethora of other cheap technology building component staples.
In my opinion, the Raspberry Pi Zero is going to end up being a critical point in the development of primary education, the power of makers, and computing-for-everything. Going from a $20 computer (model A+) down to a $5 computer, even if it’s a minimalistic computer in some respects, is a giant leap. At the very least the Pi Zero is a testament to the rapidly improving cost-optimization in electronics production and design.