Back in 2004, Bill Gates predicted that computer hardware would almost be free within a decade. The best prediction of these days.
Without ever suspecting that Raspberry Foundation prepares a much more low-cost and minimal version of the Pi, now I can play with a Pi computer at a price of a pizza. This insanely small and cheap new computer is called Raspberry Pi Zero. The Zero board costs $5 (it is not a typo).
Do you want to buy one? The board is sold through online partners such as Adafruit, Element 14, or you can have it with the MAGPI magazine. Back in the day we got free CDs, now we get small computers.
In theory, you have to spend only $5 to run Linux. In practice, the equation is more complicated. If you don’t have a micro USB + HDMI adapters (another $5), a micro USB power supply (another $6), a micro SD Card with storage capacity of 16GB (another $7) and a USB ethernet adapter (plus more $10), the price of your Zero is increased with at least $28. But even so, with costs of $33 you can have a Linux computer.
A prototyping board is good enough if you have something useful to build. Otherwise, you just have to sit in front of your desk and run Linux on a very small single board computer, use it as a media center or emulator for old video games, etc. But nothing practical.
Its cost and specifications make it attractive for building DIY connected things. So you can build a robot connected to the Internet of Things, you can turn your house into a smart home, you can control your coffee maker or your washing machine. You can do things that in other times these could be made with the Model A+.
The core of the Zero is the same system on chip used in the Raspberry Pi 1 – it’s the Broadcom BCM2835 that running at 1GHz. The board comes with 512 MB of RAM and the standard 40-pin header of the Pis.
As a conclusion, the beauty of the Zero computer is that encourage to learn programming and electronics at a fraction of the price compared with others single board computers.