(CNN) -- The tiny $35 Raspberry Pi computer went on sale today, crashing its distributors' websites on the way to selling out within hours of launch.
Looking like little more than a credit card-sized chip of circuit board, the powerful, fully-programmable PC can plug into any TV and can power 3D graphics and Blu-ray video playback.
Its British-based designers at the Raspberry Pi Foundation hope the computer, which has been in the works for six years, will spark new interest in programming among children.
"The primary goal was to build a low cost computer that every child could own, and one where programming was the natural thing to do with it," said co-founder Robert Mullins.
The computer's miniature uncased circuit board is crowded with an Ethernet connection for the internet, two USB ports and an SD card port for memory and is powered by a standard USB mobile charger.
The low-cost computer runs a free, open-source Linux operating system and does not include a monitor or keyboard.
The first version of the Raspberry Pi will ship soon to developers, and the hope is that they will design software that will enable children to design their own computer programs.
The project came about when a group of Cambridge-based computer programmers noticed that fewer and less-qualified students were applying for computer science courses at Cambridge University.
Inspired by computers like the BBC Micro and the Commodore 64 in the 1980s, the group of engineers set out to build a new programmable machine for a new generation.
"Each year we had fewer and fewer students applying, and most of them hadn't really done much more than write a web page," Raspberry Pi co-founder Eben Upton told CNN. "So we kind of set out to recreate that feeling of the BBC Micro in the hopes it would spark a new wave of kids knowing how to program."
Upton told CNN that an even cheaper version of the computer, which will retail for just $25, is going into production within the next several weeks.
In the long term, he hopes the computer will generate an additional 1,000 engineers in the UK each year -- an "industry-changing development", according to Upton.
"Anyone who expresses a desire to get into designing software should have a platform to do it," he said.