When the Raspberry Pi was launched it caused quite a stir, not just because it was a small, neat, single board computer with strong educational potential, but also because it cost around £30. It promised to be a useful tool to teach programming and to be the basis of electronic projects. Now Fuze, the company, has released Fuze, the product, and that product takes the Raspberry Pi board and builds it into a self-contained PC and experiment testbed.
The red and black metal case of the Fuze is decidedly retro, with a steeply angled keyboard set into its front face and the necessary I/O sockets in the back. These comprise network, single USB, SD card, audio, power and HDMI video.
Although the Raspberry Pi has two USB sockets, there’s only one on the back panel, and that’s used for the dongle for the supplied wireless mouse. The other is coupled internally to the keyboard. Shame the budget couldn’t have run to an internal USB hub.
Sitting in a trough directly behind the keyboard are probably the most interesting parts of the Fuze: a Fuze-designed I/O card, sat next to a prototyping breadboard. The I/O card enables Raspberry Pi to control various electronic components, supplied in the kit.
These include LEDs and resistors, a buzzer, mini button switches and a seven-segment display. To show how to use them, there’s a growing series of Project Cards with a weekly release schedule planned.
The kit also includes a 4GB SD card, containing Debian Linux, Fuze BASIC, Python, Scratch and a limited set of apps. There’s no office and no games, as the kit is intended for schools; you have to write your own. Python is a general high-level language with an accent on code readability and Scratch is aimed at teaching and multimedia authoring.
The power supply, which looks minute in comparison to those for most laptops, is enough to power the Fuze itself and the projects you construct. It would have been good to include a power switch on the case to save the miniature power plug some hammer.
The only things not supplied are a monitor – any display capable of HDMI input is fine – and a network connection. With the SD card plugged in, the computer boots to the LXDE desktop and offers icons for Fuze BASIC and a suitably retro graphics app called Grafx2, which claims to be a tribute to the circa 1985 Deluxe Paint…and is.