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Posted on April 13th, 2013 by Darien Graham-Smith

Raspberry Pi Fuze enclosure revives 1980s micros

FuzeHobbyist_2

This post was updated on 13 May 2013 to add information about the Fuze’s project cards and final hardware design.

It’s fair to say the Raspberry Pi is a hit with at least two constituencies. Without a doubt it’s captured the imaginations of youngsters attracted to its simple versatility. To those of us from an older generation, it also has a certain nostalgia value, harking back to the days when bare circuit boards were de rigueur and writing your own software was all part of the fun.

It’s appropriate then that the Fuze enclosure – made by Aylesbury-based Binary Distribution – looks like something that itself fell out of the eighties. Following consciously in the footsteps of the BBC Micro, Binary Distribution has aimed the Fuze at schools – a fact which explains its tough, aluminium casing. Each unit comes with a deck of 16 colourful and jovially written project cards (aimed at key stages one to four) that guide students through the fundamentals of BASIC programming, starting with a classic Hello World program and moving on to more advanced concepts such as variables and loops.

With its tiny space bar, clackety action and elevated, angled keys, the Fuze keyboard isn’t exactly a pleasure to type on for extended periods. But then, in fairness, neither were the majority of 1980s home computer keyboards – remember the Oric-1? So it all feeds into the atmosphere of jolly revivalism.

One big thing the Fuze does have going for it is the cavity at the top, which brings the Raspberry Pi’s GPIO connectors into a convenient and secure location, next to a 640-connector solderless breadboard – offering an easy way for beginners to play with switches, LEDs, potentiometers and so forth, at the same time as learning about the programming back-end. Since the Pi itself is also safely screwed inside the metal box, it adds up to a nice stable experimental platform, and a coherent introduction to the twin worlds of electronics and computing.

Physically, there’s not much more to the Fuze than this: the Pi’s data and power connectors are conveniently conveyed to the backplate (rather than sticking out on all sides, as they do on the bare board). There’s only one free USB port, to which you will presumably attach a mouse, as the Pi’s secondary port is occupied by the integrated keyboard.

FuzeHobbyist_5

The above image shows the  interior of the model I road-tested; Binary Distribution has since announced that production hardware will use a simpler internal design, with only a single board and tougher, shorter cabling.

For those who haven’t been bitten by the Pi bug, Binary Distribution also plans to offer a Maximite version of the Fuze, which boots directly into a BASIC environment (for an even more authentically 1980s experience).

The Fuze costs £150 + VAT with Raspberry Pi hardware already installed. That’s a steep premium over the standalone Pi, but the price does include a mouse, a 4GB SD card and a breadboard and component kit, so it should appeal to those seeking a one-stop education station.

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8 Responses to “ Raspberry Pi Fuze enclosure revives 1980s micros ”

  1. Mike Henson Says:
    April 13th, 2013 at 11:09 am

    Why put it in an ugly box with a nasty keyboard. Surely it would hold more appeal in a free standing box where you can use your own choice of keyboard and mouse?

     
  2. Carl Says:
    April 13th, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    Very nice, I did somthing like this last year with a dead C64, but breaking out the GPIO pins is a great idea to get more out of the PI.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnHFO0NRtWs

     
  3. Michael Horne Says:
    April 13th, 2013 at 4:34 pm

    Looks…. interesting. But you spell Raspberry with a ‘p’ in it.

     
  4. Mark Says:
    April 13th, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    @ Mike Hension
    Why do they think the ugly box with asty keyboard holds appeal? A 640-connector solderless breadboard.

    Personally I think they should have gone the extra mile for a nice keyboard, but hey.

     
  5. Barry Collins Says:
    April 15th, 2013 at 8:46 am

    Apologies for the typo. Now fixed.

    Barry Collins
    Editor

     
  6. Matt Harding Says:
    April 17th, 2013 at 9:48 am

    It all looked good until I noticed the windows button….. WHY? Not having a go at Windows, I just dont understand why its there. Windows doesnt even run on the Pi.

     
  7. Neil Postlethwaite Says:
    April 18th, 2013 at 9:18 am

    Nice idea, but not too pretty. looks a bodge halfway between a BBC Micro and an Acorn Electron, with a dodgy keyboard.

    I’m sure someone at BBC or Pace, who I think own the ex-Acorn rights, might have allowed a an exact retro-looking BBC Micro case.

     
  8. Jon Silvera Says:
    April 18th, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    Hello,

    Some great comments here but I am a little worried the point is being missed somewhat. I’m amazed at how the look of it overides what it is about. What we’re trying to achieve is quite simply to provide an ideal environment to learn about programming and electronics. It looks retro because it is not easy to make a computer in this framework that doesn’t look as such. However, saying that we’ve gone through a couple of design changes since the one above so it’s perhaps a little more unique now. Pictures will be released in a week or so of the new style – for some it will be even more retro looking and for others not so much.

    Anyway, what I wanted to stress was that we are not trying to remake the BBC and so on, but present a great educational tool for programming and tinkering / learning electronics through BASIC programming. It’s aimed at kids and beginners (oh and teachers of course).

    Sincere regards

    Jon Silvera
    BinaryDistribution (fuze.co.uk)

     

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