The super-cheap Raspberry Pi Linux computer has been given huge New Year boost with the news that the first beta development boards have been put up for auction on eBay.

The project team said on 31 December that it planned to put up two boards for sale every day to an initial total of ten, since which six have appeared.

The battle to buy the first board, number 10, has proved intense, drawn perhaps by the lure of history-in-the-making. After 48 bids the price for this board reached £1,900 ($2,970), an astonishing price for a computer the team hopes will end up retailing in two versions costing $25 or $35.  

Subsequent boards have also attracted prices way above their face value, ranging from £565 to £930.

“We really weren’t expecting to see this level of interest, and we’re quite humbled by it,” read a message on the Raspberry Pi website.

The first two boards were for sale to overseas as well as UK bidders, the team said, despite a glitch in setting up the auction that made it appear otherwise.

 “We have parts in stock for our first 10,000 units, and expect to be in volume production by the end of January.”

The sale boards are not exactly what the team hopes to put into production, coming with a prominent SD card slot (the reference design is neater) but shipping with a Debian image as the operating system.

Amidst the usual crush of expensive gadgets shown at the forthcoming Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the Raspberry Pi is an idealistic outsider.  Designed as a platform for a super-cheap Linux-based computer that could tempt British schoolchildren to take up programming without having to spend serious money, exactly what the idea will turn into is anyone’s guess.

That is perhaps the idea. Raspberry Pi will depend on the enthusiasm and ingenuity of the development community which currently seems to be highly motivated to play its part.