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That Brit-built £22 computer: Yours for just £1,900 or more

RaspberryPi beta boards sell like hot cakes at auction

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The British-designed credit card-sized RaspberryPi computer, eagerly awaited due to its £22 price tag, can be yours this week for a mere £1,900 or more.

The tiny GNU/Linux ARM-powered machine, which is priced less than a textbook, is due to go on general sale by the first half of February, several weeks later than expected thanks to a delay in its component supply chain.

In the meantime the charity that designed the system will flog 10 beta boards at auction on eBay - six are up for grabs right now, with four more to come this week – and the highest bid is nearly 100 times the $35 price point. There are several days remaining until bidding closes, leaving plenty of time for the final amount to skyrocket.

The Pi could therefore end up being both the most inexpensive and expensive pocket-sized bare-board computer. Eagerly awaited by hardware hackers, teachers and kids, the system is hoped to encourage youngsters to dive into computer science.

The beta Pis being auctioned off this week bear serial numbers from 1 to 10 on the PCBs and in the on-board read-only memory - making them ideal for collectors of first-edition hardware. The pre-production systems have a tiny circuit track modification after an error on the original schematic (which will be fixed for the first production run) and a large SD card slot held on by Araldite. According to the RaspberryPi Foundation, a delay in getting the right size SD connectors has caused the Pi production slip.

"If you want a $35 computer, this isn't the way to do it," admits the foundation's executive director Eben Upton in a video ahead of the auctions. Instead, the high-stakes sale is more suited to companies wishing to grab one early for a commercial project or for anyone wishing to effectively donate a large wad of dosh to the charity, which insists it has the necessary funding to see the project through to completion.

"I'm pleased to finally be selling some boards, even if it's in small numbers," he told The Reg. "Although it took a while to get a good board design in place, we think this was time well spent as the final product is cheap to produce and is yielding well in manufacture; we wanted to avoid six months of building 500 boards, debugging marginal bits of the layout, building another 500 and so on."

Adding that the bidding war on eBay is "a very pleasant surprise", Upton said: "Given the level of interest I suppose we might have foreseen it. As much as anything else, it's a real vote of confidence in the project that people want to get their hands on limited-edition hardware like this.

"I'm very much looking forward to getting the first large batch out. Our schedule slip has been mostly down to supply issues around the SD card connector and the need to get the beta boards back and running before we commit a large PCB order. I'm currently being told third week of January, so fingers crossed."

If you fancy buttonholing Upton, he will be present at the CES show in Las Vegas this month, representing his employer Broadcom - the chip design biz that designed the 700MHz mobile multimedia processor at the heart of the Pi. A breakdown of the computer's hardware is here. ®

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