The era of the $5 computer has arrived.
The latest version of the Raspberry Pi is even being given away free with a magazine. Not a subscription. Just buy the single issue of Magpi and you get a free computer.
Behind it all is the Raspberry Foundation, a U.K. charity dedicated to computer education and cheap technology. The latest Raspberry Pi, called the Zero, is part of a movement that combines inexpensive hardware, collaboration and open source software to drive prices down and create an explosion of new uses for computers.
One place keen on the ultra cheap computers is Hackspace, a place where hobbyists meet to swap ideas and work on technology projects in Vancouver.
Hackspace director Rob MacKenzie has one of the devices hooked up to a monitor and keyboard to show that, at its heart, the Pi can handle word processing and web browsing like far more expensive computers.
Nearby, inside a vending machine alongside Snickers bars and other junk food, is a row of cheap computer parts including earlier versions of the Raspberry Pi.
"I'm definitely waiting to get my hands on some of the $5 ones. They're really hard to get right now. They've been sold out everywhere I can see, but they're pumping them out as fast as they can."
Hackspace member Jon Grieman is using a Pi as the brains behind a futuristic pinball machine he's designing.
He says it brings powerful computing down to mere pocket change.
"It's a cup of coffee. I can have a couple sitting in a box and when I need one pull it out and leave it in a project."
Google just introduced a whole new kind of Chrome OS computer—a dongle that plugs into any HDMI-equipped display. It’s called a Chromebit, and it isn’t your run-of-the-mill streaming stick. For under $100, you’re looking at a full computer that plugs right into your TV.