Design your own PC with Raspberry Pi Compute Module system-on-a-stick

The Raspberry Pi is an inexpensive, tiny computer that’s about the size of a deck of cards. Now the group behind the mini-computer are going even smaller with the new Raspberry Pi Compute Module.

It looks like a stick of laptop memory, and actually uses the same connector as a DDR2 SODIMM. But it’s got all the important bits of a Raspberry Pi computer, including a processor, storage, and memory.

So what’s this little guy good for? Designing your own Pi-powered PC.

Left: Compute Module / Right: Raspberry Pi

The idea is that designers can create their own printed circuit boards to work with the Raspberry Pi Compute module. So if you want to build a laptop, desktop, or developer board that has more functionality than an off-the-shelf Raspberry Pi, you can make one yourself… (assuming you can read the schematics and have access to a PCB fabricator).

Or you can buy a Compute Module IO Board, which is an open-source breakout board that connects to the Compute Module and provides HDMI and USB connectors, among other things. When you add the Compute Module to the IO Board, you’ve basically got a full computer.

raspberry pi compute module io board_01

When the Compute Module launches in June, it’ll be available as a bundle with the IO Boardfrom Raspberry Pi partners RS Components and Premiere Farnell. Eventually the goal is to sell the Compute Module as a standalone device. 100 units will cost about $30  each, while individual units will be available for a “higher” price.

Like the standalone Raspberry Pi, the new Compute Module features a 700 MHz Broadcom BCM2835 ARM11 processor and 512MB of RAM. Instead of a removable microSD card, it features 4 gigabytes of eMMC flash storage attached to the motherboard.

  • The_Cageybee

    Wasn’t the rPi supposed to be about kids and education not hackers.
    Can’t see many kids designing, manufacturing and debugging carrier boards.

    • artinvent

      What a device is intended for, and what it’s actually used for by the masses, are not always the same thing. I don’t know the stats but I would imagine the R Pi was sold in such unexpected numbers, not so much to kids and schools, but to hobbyists and hackers and geeks, and even for commercial use. For instance someone put 1000 of them or something into a bitcoin mining factory. A very cheap and adaptable general purpose computer will find its own markets regardless of what the creators intended it for.

    • Cassie

      1) “Wasn’t the rPi supposed to be about kids and education…”
      You bet your booties it was and very much IS.
      “…not hackers.”

      I can find nothing in the charter of the Raspberry Pi Foundation which precludes anyone, including rheumatizm-ointment vendors, from buying all the Rπs they wish, and thereby forcing the design in directions which some find questionable.

      Perhaps you should have this discussion with Eben Upton to discover EXACTLY what percentage of the almost three million Rπs sold have been sold into the “hacker” market, and suggest to him that he return the 75% (my guess; updates are highly desirable) of the monies gleaned from us “hackers” be returned. I would further suggest that you prevail upon Mr Upton to limit Rπ sales STRICTLY to people who can demonstrate a valid educational end use for the device.
      One absolutely MUST maintain the purity of one’s goals at all costs, mustn’t one?

      “Can’t see many kids designing, manufacturing and debugging carrier boards.”

      Fortunately for the children, Mr Upton’s vision extends much further than does yours.

    • The_Cageybee

      @Cassie @artinvent:disqus
      Typical rPi sycophantic apologists. One of the reasons I stopped using the forums was the Stasi style overprotective nature of debates/discourse on them.
      Any talk of issues and the poster would swiftly be banned. The only people allowed to post were those who followed the party line (try a different PSU).

      So, let’s look at how things actually were rather than the revisionist view. The ‘Foundation’ was setup to further IT knowledge amongst school children who were being sorely let down by the then IT courses. This was to be aided by being able to supply each child with a cheap computer.

      They are a charity with a mission statement, as paraphrased above. There mission was not to enable bitcoin mining server farms (which is pretty pointless, btw,),

      As far as the charities raison-d’etre has gone, it has failed. Where it has succeeded is shifting a whole bunch of broadcoms outdated and underpowered SOC. At least it now looks like they’re being a bit more honest with this new release. Talk of the poor kids being left behind and let down has now disappeared to be replaced by the mantra ‘we’re a business, duh’.

      BTW I actually own a rPi. Original batch. The hardware was pants to start with. A couple of years down the line and there are similar efforts which are light years ahead in terms of power, reliability, usability. Also, there support forums are much more helpful and actually nice places to hang about.

      • Mar

        I have no idea how much this board was used for education (it’d very unfortunate if this thing was hardly used for helping kids learn about technology and programming) but I wouldn’t use it for my own hobby projects. It’s just too slow (or what I want to do is just out of scope for this board) and ARM SBCs are always too much of a pain to use for just a hobby project. I may use Linux but I’m no kernel developer.

        For me, I’d rather get a more expensive x86 SBC. I have no idea why people would get the rPi for their “hacker” projects even if the initial cost of the board was ~$25 unless they were using it for their own initial learning purposes which seems to kind of match the original purpose of the board. Their site does say “Our Foundation’s goal is to advance the education of adults and
        children, particularly in the field of computers, computer science and
        related subjects.” I guess adults learning to “hack” would be included.

        For this new SoM, maybe they gave up on the teaching kids thing. The source link does say it’s “aimed at business and industrial users” unless they hope it’s going to be used by the industry to make better teaching tools (ya, right).

      • Daniel Lundh

        I think the point of the Pi _is_ to be slow. Or, rather, to be a known quantity. You get the same Pi today as when they first shipped (let’s pretend the first Model Bs w/256MB RAM didn’t happen). Performance may be pants, but they’re the SAME pants.

        Having this board be the same year after year let people really flesh out what its uses are. I have five of them, 2 of which are in use right now, and also a bunch of the other available board computers.

        I even built a Pi with UPiS and a 3G USB dongle running Nagios to have a cheap way of telling me if there’s a power outage in the data center at work. For these niche uses the Pi is awesome. No moving parts, always on, if SD fails just write your backup image to a new card and start it up again.

        They’ve given me back something I hardly knew I missed: FUN!
        I think thats a worthwhile effort, I know I will be teaching my son all about Pi in a year or two, because of fun.

      • Lakeshia Davis

        Or maybe the “hackers” are helping fund things for kids. Think about it, as the “hacker” crowd and the industrial crowd are willing to pay more, they can develop better inexpensive tech for the kids. I don’t see how any of those uses precludes Pi from still helping kids.

  • artinvent

    Doesn’t the Compute Module plus the IO board add up to – a regular rPi? But with fewer ports . . . can you explain why you would opt for that over the regular rPi?

    • CyberGusa

      Simple flexibility, a standard RPi is a preset design with limited configuration options… For system designers a single board computer can be treated like a plug in module for a much more flexible range of system designs…

      In embedded markets these options have been around for quite awhile and some companies even have boards and modules that are interchangeable between x86 and ARM based modules…

      While, even for basic usage it means you can always upgrade the module but not have to worry about replacing the rest of the system each time… much like how people can replace the CPU in their desktop but even easier as it’s as easy as replacing RAM…

      There’s actually a few form factors in the market but a SO-DIMM form factor is one of the smaller options…

    • Jon

      It’s likely mainly for a reference design to help developers make their own. SoMs aren’t new and many companies provide reference breakout boards to help others make their own boards for their SoMs.

      Also, as pointed out by CyberGusa, some design boards meant to work with more than 1 SoM and/or for future upgrades. For companies, this can save a lot of money. For hobbyists then they’re probably better off getting the original rPi.

  • m w

    100 for 30$ is ridiculously cheap. It can’t be right…and it isn’t. Price is 30$ each if you buy 100 units