23 January 2015

REVIEW: Fuze Programmable Computer

Source code.

With computer programming now, finally, making its way onto the national curriculum, teachers and educators may find themselves stuck for what tech to best give their budding young coders. The Raspberry Pi, that fine British-made micro-computer, is at the heart of the UK's coding push, but getting it into a usable mode for kids and adults alike to master can be difficult. But not anymore, thanks to the Fuze.

The Fuze is essentially an enclosure for the Raspberry Pi which not only adds a built-in keyboard and extra USB ports, but also protects both the delicate motherboard from damage and the user from live exposed wires. But, aside from giving the user a base from which to start on a coding career, it also incorporates a very impressive (and crucially safe) simple electronics station. Basically, if you or your child have just a passing interest in how computers work, they need this right now.

Styled after the old BBC computers from the 70s and 80s (which was our Editor's first experience of the digital age) the Fuze is extremely robust being built from sheet aluminium. The keyboard section, although plastic, is also very firm and well put together, resulting in a product that seems far more resilient and tougher than most actual laptops. As well as the functionality of the keyboard, you also get a wireless mouse included (or rather you do in the pack we were sent to test), and thanks to the HDMI port, all you need to get cracking is a monitor or TV.

There's a wealth of goodies in the Fuze's box, the most prominent of which is the electronics pack. LEDs, wires, connectors, and a digital number readout are all included for adventurous minds to start experimenting with. All this, along with the actual coding possibilities, can be understood and interpreted by the included source book. The book teaches the coding language Fuze Basic, an extremely simple yet effective programming language that seems straightforward enough to be mastered by children - which is the primary audience considering the Fuze is designed for use in schools. You'll find a copy of Fuze Basic on an included SD card, ready to run.

On the top of the Fuze casing sits the GPIO board - the nerve centre for the electronics side of the unit. This essentially draws out all the Raspberry Pi's pins and clearly labels them, which in turn can be connected to a wealth of things - from the included LED lights, to other more complex things you can add yourself such as joysticks and, in one Fuze pack which is also available, a robotic arm! The breadboard, from where all the small electronic pieces can be added, is great as it requires no soldering at all - you just plug in all the components and you're done.

This really is a one-stop-shop for anyone wanting to get started in computer programming, and it'll be no surprise if we see the Fuze in countless classrooms across the land very soon.

Units available with and without a Raspberry Pi, but for a fully kitted out version expect to pay around £260.

© The Test Pit

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