Single-board computing is hot on the DIY scene right now and riding that knife edge is C.H.I.P., a project currently in crowd-funding which prices the base unit at just $9. I was happy to run into the crew from Next/Thing Company who developed C.H.I.P. They were happy because, well, the project’s reception has been like a supernova. Right now they’re at about $1.5M of their original $50k goal. We spoke about running Linux on the board, what connectors and pinout headers are available, as well as the various peripheral hardware they have ready for the board.
Last week I published a post discussing the possibility of Linux evolving into mainstream because of engineers growing up with boards like C.H.I.P, Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone Black, etc. At that point I was thinking that most of these boards would be used as a desktop computer. My thinking has changed a bit (which I’ll get to in a moment) but I think it’s important to note that most people will not use the $9 base model for this purpose. It only comes with composite video. So the “but” about the price is you need to spend an additional $10-15 for VGA or HDMI adapters. As I said before, that’s not a deal-breaker.
Having now seen it in person, I’m beginning to wonder if this won’t be used for a lot of headless projects?
…yeah, maybe just $9
There are a ton of reasons this should make it into projects that don’t have any need at all for a display — giving you the savings of not taking up board space or BOM cost for unused ports.
It has power-management (X-Powers AXP209 PMIC chip) designed into it, allowing for easy operation and charging of batteries. There is WiFi and Bluetooth, camera support, 8 GPIO, and your standard UART/SPI/I2C. Think of all the relatively heavy-lifting embedded projects that are begging for this horsepower and pricepoint: rovers, drones, and visualisation displays (think huge LED matrices or giant flip-dot displays) to name just a few. I’ll be interested to explore the latency of the GPIO when I can get my hands on one of these; an issue we’ve heard about with Raspberry Pi powered devices.
You Can Take it With You
I’m not quite sure what to think about the Pocket C.H.I.P.
It’s a portable-form-factor which has a huge screen and a full keyboard. The base unit plugs into the back, inside of a case with an interesting geometric shape (anything is better than rectangular, right?). Of course it all runs from battery.
I don’t see myself using something like this but I’m obviously not the target demographic. In the age of smartphones it’s hard to envision something that’s not dirt-cheap taking hold. On the other hand, just having the reference design as an example of what you can build up around the base unit is a great marketing move on their part. “Hey, look at this ARM chip on a PCB” — meh. “Hey, watch this ARM-board power a portable touch-screen computer with clicky keyboard” — Awesome!