Philip Friedin takes us on a Deep Dive into his OSHChip

Once a month, Bay-area hackers and engineers-by-night gather in the grand office of our evil overlords (Supplyframe) and take us on an adventure in hardware. This past month, [Philip Friedin] gave us the hands-on tour of the OSHChip, a project we’ve seen floating around our pages for the last year. OSHChip might look like another open source development board, but the DIP package and all the packaged features are telltale signs that OSHChip is the offspring of a seasoned double-E. Scroll down to watch his presentation in full.

[Philip] gave us a few extra tweaks that make the OSHChip a creature of many features. For brains, it has a 16 MHz ARM Cortex-M0 running inside the Nordic nRF51822. While 16 MHz won’t win you first place at the worldwide chip-sprinter Olympics, this chip does, however, offer something special in its peripherals. While we’ve only got 14 I/O pins, peripherals and pins are linked with a full-crossbar switch, which means any pin can be mapped to any peripheral. This chip also features a “task-event” system, where peripheral events can trigger simple behaviors independent of the processor. Finally, we wouldn’t think of Nordic without forgetting their wireless hardware. This chip also has a built-in bluetooth (BLE) radio to get your wireless projects alive-and-kicking without any extra hardware.

Programming other dev boards usually requires some unwilling commitment. Whether it’s a proprietary IDE or an unfamiliar operating system, we usually need to install some extra fluff to get code onto our microcontrollers. Not the OSHChip, though. [Philip’s] custom programmer masquerades as a USB flash stick when you plug it in, and programming is as easy as dragging a hex file into the folder on your PC. Finally, since it’s an ARM chip, you can use any open-source ARM toolchain you prefer to generate executables.

Finally, we can’t look away from the OSHChip without commenting on how adorable it is! The OSHChip packs itself into the footprint of a classic DIP-16 package, making it incredibly convenient for prototypes on a standard breadboard. As a result, it’s tiny–tiny enough to slip into a case and kick off your smartwatch!

You might call the OSHChip a dev-board–or even a chip imposter! In the video after the break, Let [Philip] be your guide on how to use this small, but flexible DIP-16 beast.

33 thoughts on “Philip Friedin takes us on a Deep Dive into his OSHChip

    1. Most DIP form factor parts – current and historic – are 5V or 5V tolerant. The nRF51822 is definitely NOT 5V tolerant. So if the goal is simply plated through-hole for either easy bread-boarding, hand-soldering, or plug compatibility with standard .1″ IDC headers, the 300 mil width isn’t an issue. The only advantage of .3″ is using standard narrow DIP sockets. But I just don’t see many projects that are 3V where using two rows of .1″ IDC female sockets are a deal-breaker over a machined Mill-Max DIP socket. My $.02

      There are many other modules with Nordic nRF51822/422 that are either pinned on .1″ IDC or are castellated PCBs for easy soldering. And most importantly, most are already FCC certified. So if you want to sell your overall project, big brother can’t take it away from your patrons.

      1. > Most DIP form factor parts – current and historic – are 5V or 5V tolerant.
        Well, maybe most, but these days there are enough popular ones which are not – e.g. Parallax Propeller and Teensy LC – that one simply cannot count on it.

    2. Just to disclaim, I like people hacking and I’m sure the point of this is no point. It’s the journey not the destination. So I don’t want to come off as a Negative Nathan.

  1. You can find nrf51822 modules with exposed 36 pins for 5$ at Aliexpress. You can use Mbed libraries or Redbearlabs Arduino port on them. You can program them using Jtag, St-link or you can cook your programmer using Black Magic Probe. So…”A” for the effort.

  2. What would be a huge deal for me is if the BLE stack is made easy-to-use for someone who doesn’t want to have to learn the entire Bluetooth protocol – and if there were GCC examples of it that worked. I didn’t hear the speaker talk about it, so I assume that the BLE / BT stack is still a work in progress? I look at this chip allot like the ESP8266 (WHICH I LOVE!!) — but the reason I love the ’66 is three-fold: 1) its $5 or so. 2) there are many vendors of the same boards (unlikely to go away anytime soon) and 3) the Arduino IDE makes it so any dumb ass can open a socket / answer one in just a few lines of code. No doubt, at some point you will see this with this chip, but you loose me when ever you start talking about Kiel compiler. — I know its a great compiler, but no way am I gonna drop that much money on what is arguably not much better than GCC.

    1. Oh yeah, and reason to love the ’66 #4 — I can serial-boatload-program it. No need for any special programmers. (although, the USB-file-drag-drop programmer is cool as heck!)

    2. I’ve played a bit with nRF51822, and as I can see Nordic offers BLE stack in form of something they call SoftDevice. You upload binary to one part of ROM and you’re BT ready. The other part of ROM is for your program. You get BLE SDK and are ready to program. You can use mbed if Keil is not suited for your needs.

  3. I case anyone is interested

    I have ported the RedBearLabs Arduino IDE hardware core files, for the Nano, to work with devices like the WaveShare nRF51822


    I did a rather poor demonstration video here

    The cheapest way to Flash them is to buy a STM32F103 board and Flash it with the Black Magic Probe (version on my github account)
    Alternative my repo works with the Segger (or clones) JTAG.

    Going back to the OSH module

    One thing to note is that, as far as I can tell, the design lacks the 32kHz crystal that allows the nRF51822 to operate at very low currents (and means it won’t work with my repo)

    The nRF51822 can be configured to use its internal 32kHz RC oscillator, but in that mode, the code has to wake up periodically and calibrate the RC osc vs the 16Mhz crystal, which increases the current consumption by at least 5 times

    This isn’t the only board that omits the 32kHz crystal, but IHMO the “better” module have this crystal

    One plus point with the OSH module is that it does use the 32k RAM version (QFAC), where as some of the cheaper nRF51822 modules use the (QFAA) 16K RAM variants

  4. This is an ARM with BLE comms ready to use in a breadboard/protoboard compatible package that works with low-profile cheap sockets. It’s designed by a professional in the USA, it’s $25, it’s something you can use to build yourself a tiny device that can talk to your phone. You can make something very small and still not have to solder anything difficult.

    Philip designed, built, iterated, released files, and is manufacturing An Actual Thing. He dug into the gritty details of this chip and figured out a way to pack everything necessary into a small form factor. And worked on the BOM cost until it because feasible to sell this for $25.

    I guess basically I’m saying this to everyone above who found something negative to say: if you don’t have a link to a better product that you designed, screw off. Philip is my friend and does good work, and doesn’t deserve this.

    1. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with Phillips product, but there are loads of nRF51822 products already available

      Nordic have a big list on their site

      And there are ones specifically for hobbyists

      For development, MBED already supports multiple nRF51822 based boards

      Nordic also have documented on their blog how to develop using GCC and Eclipse

      1. I only saw you provide some useful info, so my comment wasn’t aimed at you anyway. However, the list of devices you linked does indicate to me that there is room for the OSHChip here. The majority of the suppliers are offering a PCB-on-PCB integrated module and appear to be looking for customers who want to buy a large number of devices and integrate into a product. The very few hobby-oriented products (such as the WaveShare and Red Bear stuff) are still pretty bulky in comparison.

        1. Waveshare do a smaller module

          However, I totally agree that Philip’s product is the only nRF51822 based device that uses a DIL pin format

          This seems somewhat of a niche to me, but I’m not in the business of designing and selling hobbyist hardware.

          Personally, I like the Waveshare development board

          It is robust, it has 2 user buttons as well as 5 user LEDS, It has lots of peripheral lines broken out to pin headers and also to a UART, I2C and SPI connector.

          You can connect to it using the industry standard JTAG connector to program it

          It has built in Serial to USB.

          You can remove the RF module so that its possible to plug in the RF module and program it in their development board, then take it out, solder some wires to it and use it in a project

          The only thing that would make the Waveshare board better, would be if they replaced the USB to Serial chip with a STM32F103 (or GD32F103) flashed with the Black Magic Probe, as that would provide both the GDB programming and debugging interface as well as USB to Serial

    2. [slow claps]

      I have a variety of nRF51822 boards, including the cheap Chinese ones and Nordic devkits. For my purposes, they do what Philip’s board does. But none of them are as pretty or have as thoughtful a design as this module. And none of them were designed for and by hobbyists.

    3. HAD comments are a hard room with little take away… Don’t take anything personally, these guys are uber geek assholes… (…love y’all:))
      It is a cool project, I admittedly got lost in the burning silicon angle in the video, I”m at the end of the day a pretty simple guy , you can sell me a hyper speed arduidino all day long. When the video started leaning toward chip designers… I know enough that I don’t know enough. But I also know enough to opine that these guys are going to tear you a new orifice no matter how cool the product is…

    4. I saw this device in person, and the person behind the device, last year at the HAD bar party after San Mateo Maker Faire.

      It is a TINY 9x20mm system-on-module in a DIN form factor. Solidly built, with stainless (!) pins he had custom made for the application. They were heavier duty than bendy DIP pins, not wire-wrap post thick, but pretty stout. Smooth fiberglass PCB edges; no sharp or rough points. High build quality standards throughout.

      It’s more suited to wearable applications than the ESP (IMHO). It’s an ARM Cortex M0 in a tiny DIP form factor and is built tough. It uses BLE which is not present in the ESP8266. It’s exclusively a BLE device, but it was also designed that way from the ground up.

  5. Why is there always someone that asserts if your posts don’t overflow’ith with gushing praise you must be an a-hole?

    I pointed out a product that is essentially the same thing in a .6″ pin spaced package rather than .3″. May be even better for some if you trade 16KB RAM and steel pins for an on-board LDO, included RF shield, and already FCC certified. And can be ordered from SparkFun for $17.95. Add Mill-max tapered pins and a .6″ DIP socket to the Nano if you need that socket ability.

    Philip is selling his project commercially as well as RedBear. Surely a feature based commercial product comparison isn’t off-limits? I haven’t seen anyone attack his work. I admire it. Most of the ‘undeserved criticism’ has been about what does the average hobbyist get or not get for $25 verses alternatives.

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