BeagleBone Black swishes its cape

Gadget Masters must be interested in the new BeageleBoard, the BeagleBone Black.

BeagleBone Black

Whereas the BeagleBoard and BeagleBoard xM were more like a desktop computer, the BeagleBone was a little bit more focussed on makers and robotics, Jason Kridner, Beagle guru at TI, told Electronics Weekly. Now, with the BeagleBone Black, Texas Instruments has squeezed the video and much of the performance of its more powerful BeagleBoard computers into its credit card sized BeagleBone format…

Black includes the HDMI interface (in Micro, Type D connector form) of the two BeagleBoards, at the same time as selling for half the price of the original BeagleBone: $45 instead of $90.

How can it have a video interface and cost less?

“A big price difference is the RAM. We were using DDR2 in BeagleBone, now we are using the more commodity DDR3 at 400MHz. We saved a lot of money there,” said Kridner. “Having 2Gbyte of on-board flash is saving money too. Our requirement is to provide software to run out of the box and, before, we were shipping with a microSD card. Now we have on-board flash which is cheaper, and faster because of the wide data bus and a new controller.”

While Beagle products have previously been marketed towards hobbyists, students, and other ‘makers’ as embedded controllers, Kridner is emphasising the educational possibilities of BeagleBone Black.

“It is hard to compete with Angry Birds. It is not enough only to be running scratch. Kids need do more than just engage with sprites on the screen. You need to give them a reason to get down to the low level,” he said. “For young people to get really engaged, they need to set something high and set something low in the real world. It is really empowering when they see this happening. You need to get kids engaged in robotics.”

It is possible, according to Kridner, to be toggling an LED in under a minute from turning the board on.

For just such activities, there are four LEDs on the board, plus the two I/O headers into which wires can be poked for direct connection, or into which capes can be plugged.

“You can interact with the pins directly from JavaScript running on one of the browsers. So you can edit a code line, hit run, and see an LED turned on,” said Kridner. “It is easy to wire-up a pressure and temperature sensor breakout board, and a pressure/temperature app ships with BeagleBone Black. You can develop your own app: for example, one that will tweet the weather with JavaScript.”

He is an evangelist for JavaScript:

“JavaScript and HTML are everywhere. JavaScript is a great first language for kids as they can do coding in their browser. It is well suited to physical computing.”

For more sophisticated programming, the computer also ships with a C compiler and a Python interpreter.

Read more on the BeagleBone Black »


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