Other Devices

Various other devices share many characteristics with computers, including Smartphones, Media Players and Single Board Computers.

Smartphones

A smartphone is a mobile phone built on a mobile computing platform, with more advanced computing ability and connectivity than a simple mobile phone.The earliest smartphones combined the functions of a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA)and a mobile phone. Current models can also act as portable media players, digital cameras, pocket video cameras and GPS navigation systems.

Modern smartphones generally have high-resolution touchscreens and web browsers that display standard web pages as well as those optimised for mobile devices. They also support data communications via WiFi or Mobile Internet. Common smartphone operating systems include Google Android, Apple iOS, RIM BlackBerry OS and Microsoft Windows Phone. At present the most popular Smartphones are the Apple iPhone range and Android phones, available from various manufacturers.

Digital Media Players

Digital Media Players, such as Apple’s iPod, are now the most popular way to enjoy music. Although Apple is currently the market leader a number of devices are available from other manufacturers, including Microsoft and Creative.

Early digital media players could only be used to play audio file, generally in MP3 format. Modern devices can also play video files. Music and video files can be bought and downloaded from sites such as Amazon and iTunes. Raw audio files are very large and need to be compressed for storage and playback on Media Players. The compression techniques used, such as MP3, are lossy, meaning there is some loss of quality during the compression process. As storage capacities increase, more use is being made of lossless compression techniques, such as FLAC.

E-book readers, such as the Amazon Kindle, or the Barnes and Noble Nook can be regarded as a specialised type of media player. E-books for these devices are now outselling traditional paper books.

Single-Board Computers

A single-board computer (SBC) is a complete computer built on a single circuit board, with microprocessor(s), memory, input/output (I/O) and other features required of a functional computer. Unlike a typical PC, an SBC does not normally offer slots into which accessory cards can be plugged. An SBC may be based on almost any available microprocessor.

Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi (Wikimedia Commons)

One currently popular example is the Raspberry Pi,  a credit card sized computer developed in the UK by the Raspberry Pi Foundation with the intention of stimulating the teaching of basic computer science in schools.

The Raspberry Pi has a Broadcom BCM2835 system on a chip (SoC). It includes an ARM processor, a graphics processor and 512 megabytes of RAM, but does not include a hard disk or solid-state drive, as it uses an SD card for booting and file storage.There are two versions costing US$ 25 and US$ 35.

Several Linux distributions are available for download and there is support for Python as the main programming language, in addition to support for BBC BASIC, C and Perl.

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