In what will probably be the most talked about news all week, Raspberry Pi has launched a keyboard with a Pi computer built inside and a bunch of ports on the back. You just plug in a display and you have a working, ARM-based computer.
It’s called the Raspberry Pi 400 and it’s built around the newest Raspberry Pi 4. It’s a 60%, mostly white keyboard with hot pink accents around the sides and bottom that sells for $70. There’s a kit that includes a similarly colored mouse, a beginners guide, HDMI cable, and memory card for just $30 more.
I really love everything about this, except maybe the color. (I don’t dislike the Raspberry Pink color, I just think I like the idea of having a choice of color.) The biggest annoyance to having a computer like the Mac mini or the regular Raspberry Pi is having to plug in a bunch of peripherals to use it. All this keyboard needs is a built in trackpad to eliminate the mouse and you have three-quarters of a laptop for less than a hundred dollars. I’m amazed no one has thought of this before.
Well, except they have. According to Jon Porter at The Verge, the Raspberry Pi 400 is actually based on the idea of early computers like the Acorn Atom (although a more popular reference might be the Apple II). These systems just needed a display and you were all set to start computing. Of course, on those old systems you couldn’t just swap out the keyboard if you didn’t like the keyboard.
And that’s the biggest criticism I’ve seen of the Pi 400 so far: the actual keyboard. Jim Salter at Ars Technica writes:
The integrated keyboard is functional but noticeably narrower than a standard keyboard. […] I was plagued with constant mistyping problems the entire time I tested the Pi 400.
That’s disappointing, as you definitely don’t want to be making typos while learning to program. You can always attach a larger keyboard to the Pi 400, or simply get yourself a Pi 4 for about $35 and attach your own preferred ‘board and mouse, but then you lose out a little on the sorta-all-in-one Pi design.
However you choose to have your Pi, this is so much cooler than an iPad. Yeah, I said it, and I really believe it. The Pi 400 is so much more than a computer in a keyboard. The Pi is built on open technology, with a GPIO built onto every Pi, including the keyboard. (GPIO circuits are undefined and used however the user decides.) Pi’s run the full desktop Linix experience, which gives the user full control over the software, right down to the kernel. Nothing is locked or restricted on the Pi. The system is yours to do with as you please. No walled gardens here.
Every kid on the planet should get a Raspberry Pi 400. If you read this site, you were probably the kind of kid who would have gone crazy if a Raspberry Pi 400 had shown up under your Christmass tree, and then spent the remainder of your Christmas vacation learning to program with it. If technology like this had been easily available to me in the 80’s for less than a hundred dollars, I’d be a very different person today.