Is This The End For The C.H.I.P.?

There have been so many launches of very capable little single-board computers, that it is easy to forget an individual one among the crowd. You probably remember the C.H.I.P though, for its audacious claim back in 2015 to be the first $9 computer. It ran Linux, and included wireless connectivity, composite video output, and support for battery power. As is so often the case with ambitious startups, progress from the C.H.I.P’s creator Next Thing Co came in fits and starts.

In recent months there has been something of a silence, and now members of the community have discovered evidence that Next Thing CO are the subject of a Notice of General Assignment from Insolvency Services Group. This is followed up by the discovery that their office is available for rent.

A process called Assignment to the Benefit of Creditors is an alternative to bankruptcy proceedings yet still signals the end of a company as the service liquidates remaining assets. Despite the website and forum remaining online it appears that we may have seen the end of the C.H.I.P. and its stablemates. Hackaday has reached out to Next Thing Co for comment and will update this article if we hear back.

At the time it was launched, the C.H.I.P. was a pretty impressive product, and though it has since been eclipsed by products like the Raspberry Pi Zero, the board remains a useful item. The addition of the PocketCHIP all-in-one keyboard and display peripheral made it an instantly recognizable device, and it and its more powerful companion C.H.I.P. Pro module found their way into quite a few projects. For us the most impressive C.H.I.P. project is a retrocomputer, this miniature Apple II complete with monitor. If this really is the end for this particular little board, we’ll be sorry to see it go.

Thanks [smerrett79] for the tip.

Header image: Kiwamu Okabe [CC BY-SA 2.0].

88 thoughts on “Is This The End For The C.H.I.P.?

  1. I guess that explains why their store links 403’d for the last few weeks.
    I actually wanted to use the GR8 SoM for a design but could not get the devkits or buy any samples.
    It was a really interesting chip too, no DDR routing anc significantly cheaper then the octavo beaglebone-on-a-chip.

    1. It’s no coincidence that there are >7,000 PocketBeagles in Arrow’s inventory right now, with no quantity limits. Pi Zero (W) is also priced too low, but since quantities are limited and not actually sold (much?) below cost, it’s sustainable for rpi trading…

  2. Sad, but it’s also nice to have a resolution to their situation, and quite overdue.

    I loved their products, and the documentation, community, and SDK ecosystem around them always seemed above-average. I still think my kickstarter-ed C.H.I.P. is fantastic, and the C.H.I.P. Pro could have been the basis for so many neat projects if it had ever become genuinely available.

    So I’m sorry to see them gone and I wish their products were still available, but spending this past year trying to pretend the corpse was still alive was not helping anyone.

    1. “I loved their products, and the documentation, community, and SDK ecosystem around them always seemed above-average.”

      Whaaaaaaa??? Are you submitting to hackaday from an alternate reality? I got a CHIP Pro dev kit that turned out to be a coaster. The flasher failed with no useful errors, the dumbass thing was written as a chrome plugin (seriously WTF!?), and their github repo of the OS did not compile (not even any CI testing?)

      and the community… OMG “how comes you no like Chrome plugins! Its tweet-tastic!” Narf!

      Anyone feel like buying a $50 coaster?

      1. I liked the community. They gave me a lot of support when I tried to use the Vagrant method of flashing, bypassing the Chrome plugin. Maybe you didn’t meet the right people.

        I initially had the same coaster issue you had, but I found that it was indeed possible to flash the dev board with a lot of effort. It was an immense pain, due in part to those github repo issues you mentioned. But I got it working in the end.

        I wanted to like CHIP but nope.

  3. That’s disappointing. I really like my C.H.I.P. I used it to turn a regular printer into a wireless printer. I found it to be quite a capable little board, and very easy to use. Hopefully the community can continue to support the Linux distro.

      1. I wish the maker-internet community wasn’t so appalling insecure that it needed to suggest a better way to do something anytime anyone clearly does something just for the learning experience.

  4. Another “disappointed, but not shocked” here. I loved the little things for their built-in battery management as much as anything else. None of my other SBCs are so easy to run portably, and I don’t see that feature on any of the other cheap boards.

        1. Good to know, though at €45 it’d be cheaper to get a pi zero and a separate Lipo board.

          Sometimes you just want something cheap that runs Linux and has WiFi and GPIO. The CHIP was perfect for that.

          1. Absolutely agree the spec wasnt great but it fitted a need and gave you comunications via WIFI and the LiPo charge controller. BTW the HardKernel’ Odroid C0 does this at $28 which is still more than it used to be but at least it’s all there if you require

  5. When I decided to buy one and accept the excessive shipping price, they were discontinuing the first edition, with the R, G, B pins for a LCD display brought out, so I ended up not buying it. Sadly, If they had tried selling in AliExpress or similar places, they would have sold a lot more.

  6. Not that that I really care about the product’s demise, but what are the chances of interest parties of riving it using a business model that could allow it compete, or is it truly irretrievably eclipsed by the RaspPi and other SBC? Despite hopeful intentions, this was a supply side venture destined to fail regardless of how much demand it could create. Unfortunately unreasonable expectations on the demand side often make it difficult for the supply side to meet demand. IMO in this instance C.H.I.P. reinforced unreasonable expectations out the gate. Perhaps the Hackaday staff could create a series an basic commerce, and business. Perhaps weighted towards being somewhat altruistic without loosing your shorts.

  7. I bought one, and while it had a lot of potential, mine at least, suffered from being hyper sensitive to power fluctuations. Crashed often. And sometimes wiped out the storage requiring the firmware to get reloaded. As a result I never trusted it enough to graduate it from a toy/curiosity on my workbench.

  8. I have a CHIP and it is has better capabilities than the Pi Zero as it has more GPIO pins broken out and battery management built in. I would have happily paid more than $9 for one. I am interested to find out how they got their business model wrong. Other Linux SBCs have suceeded even with the dominance of the Pi.

    1. It wasn’t that long ago that one could say of the U.S.’s semiconductor industry, “Other semiconductor manufacturers have succeeded even with the dominance of Fairchild…”; and, “No one can catch M

  9. They may have tried hard to launch a good product, but the mix never attracted me.
    For starters I don’t care if a linux capable board costs USD 5 or USD 60 as long as it’s capable enough.

    And then the version with the plastic case, batteries & keyboard was far too clumsy to take with you.
    And when you are at home I’d rather have a headless board with ssh.

    If there ever comes a project along with capable Linux hardware in psion size / form format / quality I’d be interested, but the very few products I know in that range are > USD800.
    I really liked my MX5. I probably would still be using it if the screen conrast would have been a lot (and I mean a lot) better (B/W is fine, I don’t need color) and the software was compatible with my linux boxes.

    Some phone with a bluetooth keyboard addon seems to be the closest match nowaday’s.

    1. Ever since the zipit z2 went down, there hasn’t been much in the low cost off the shelf handheld space.

      Of course the entire reason people want them is probably because Android phones aren’t real Linux (And usually there’s no third party distros for $100 phones).

  10. Probably they could have sold many more (Pocket-)C.H.I.P.s if there would have been a way to pay not using a credit card (so via PayPal, Ebay, whatsoever). Ok… they didn’t want my money… their problem!

    In hindview I’m happy not to have got a PocketCHIP. My acceleratedly expanding (dark energy inside!) to do list holds enough unfinished projects, so I’ll definitely will not end my life because of lethal boredom because not having got one… :-P

  11. I’ve got two CHIPs myself and I actually really liked them, much more so than the RPi Zero W, in fact. I would’ve bought a bunch more, but I saw some red flags quite early and decided to wait. I am really quite sad about my suspicions being right on the money :(

    I hope someone else comes up with something similar, so there’s a useable alternative to the Pi Zero W.

  12. I bought two boards, one is a internet radio to FM transmitter, and second one is an alarm clock. I loved the design and the idea, it was picky about the supplied voltage but i would defenitely pay even $12 to but it again now (original C.H.I.P). I do not like pi zero, it is too generic, needs an SD… The laser engravings on the header of the chip was great. Serial on USB is my favourite feature, battery management – marvelous, built in wifi was a hit, the only thing that i did not like was flashing but for tinkering it was ok. In my previous job i was waiting for a GR8 to build a product but (a year ago) but we smelled that the company is not going to relase anything soon and we abandoned this GR8 idea.
    I wish for a remake, it can be $3 more and with the same specs and i would buy like 5, i really liked it!

  13. \o/ Finally we get rid of these suckers. I designed a product, first around the chip, then around the chip pro, just to see a message on their site stating that it would be available in quantity “next month” for the last half year. two months wasted… i’ve switched to a nanopi and only recently thought about visiting their site to see if things had changed: not so.

    also the name sucked big time” yeah, the wire should go from the chip to the connector.” “what chip?” “the c.h.i.p., with all the dots in between” “Oh that one” “yeah, i know”

  14. The CHIP was great fro those who just wanted Linux some I/O and a LIPO charger for those truely portable apps. I got a few for that $9 the main problem was that people were more interested in the Zero which was a bit cheaper but lacked the charging etc and you could only buy them 1 at a time after 2-3£ postage !!!

    #in fact we should all be glad of the CHIP regardless otherwise it would never of started off the SPoiling mission that was the Zero!

  15. The Pro was looking great for my product, a chicken coop monitor. It was:
    * Promised to be available in nearly unlimited quantities
    * With FCC certification
    * And onboard storage (not an SD card)
    * With enough RAM and storage for my needs
    * Professional appearance (hah, appearances can be deceiving as I will explain shortly)
    * Cheaper than a Raspberry Pi Zero when you add the SD card and Wi-Fi adapter (the W wasn’t yet available)
    * With an onboard lithium battery charger
    * And a responsive and supportive forum with some fun and intelligent people
    * With some promising production level software tools
    * And a camera connector

    Compared to other offerings such as the Chinese boards (no FCC, lousy software support), and the Pi Zero — which couldn’t be sourced more than one at a time — it really shone.

    Troubles began when I actually got the dev board. (Yes, I was one of the few who actually got one.) I couldn’t even flash it at first, and holding the flash button was a painful experience. One guy used a C-clamp for holding down the button!

    I finally got it to flash using a very convoluted method of installing Vagrant, patching some files, installing some SDKs, etc. etc. It was a huge mess.

    And that camera connector? No driver for it. No way at all to use it.

    I got the impression right there, this is /not/ the company I want to bet my future on. Their product was /super/ janky.

    About that time the Pi Zero W came out, with promised greater availability. I tentatively bought some based on the promise. Though the availability is still not strong, it’s a lot better than the first Zero, and FAR better than the C.H.I.P. A few months ago I was able to buy ten Pi Zero Ws through Pishop.us. (Contact the owner, he’s good.) It looks like I should have no problems obtaining more.

    Sad to see this company going down in flames. Promises, promises.

    1. “One guy used a C-clamp for holding down the button!”

      That was ME!

      Sad to see this day, but when the Pro couldn’t even be flashed, I knew the end was in sight.

  16. CHiP was too picky about power input to be universally useful, something that could of been alleviated through a better design. The pocket CHiP is cool with a few 3D printed upgrades to make it easier to type on, and I’ve seen some useful hacks on it for using as a portable serial viewer, etc. Too bad, because visually the CHiP is a beautifully designed product but the power issues and storage design are a breaking point w/ me.

  17. I have like 16 of these and the pocket chip. The good thing is the community has actively begun preparing for this by making the tools available for flashing your chips available off-site (off CHIP’s site).

  18. I’ve got an Alpha 0x21 version with my Outernet package. The C.H.I.P died in less than a year and Outernet followed (they’ve dropped support for some regions and changed frequencies so the equipment I’ve got wasn’t useful for Outernet anyway). The good part about this story is that this project sparked my interest in SBCs, digital radio, satellites, and stuff like that.

  19. Well damnit…..
    I was popping in every few months to get my kid a pocket C.H.I.P. as a starter personal portable linux machine.
    He has an old Zaurus SL-5500 but that is limited and stuck on Linux kernel 2.2 something from around 1999.

    1. Now there’s a name I’ve not heard for a long time.

      I wish keyboard parts were more available. I guess there’s the Blackberry ones that someone has been reverse engineering recently. Maybe another option would be to disassemble Rii keyboard clones for the buttons. I’d like to see a pocketchip style carrier for Pi Zero boards one day.

  20. We were trying to get them to sign a deal to help them distribute their products since they started. They were never interested, apparently. Maybe we’ll look into their open-source hardware files and see about producing them ourselves now that NTC is out of business (with a few improvements, of course).

    We were also investors in the C.H.I.P. and the in-car system.

    In case anyone is now looking for Raspberry Pi products, we sell all of them in any quantity (up to what we have in stock), including the RPi0, RPi0W, RPi3B+, RPi Touchscreen, etc.

  21. Well, I’m so glad i chose to stick with the RPi and a USB WiFi adaptor so the antenna could be case mounted rather than develop with the CHIP. My product is selling very well to the medical sector and is rock solid stable. The problem with the CHIP was, too low price point, crap method of flashing, rubbish forum, too expensive to ship and absolutely god awful phone support. It’s absolutely pain to see why so many people choose the RPi over anything else, price point, power, forum support and long term availability. RIP CHIP, but tis a shame we can’t buy the GR8 SoM from anywhere though, they’d be great to play with :(

  22. It is real shame that they never were able to get this ball rolling. I was a kickstarter backer and was initially active in the community as well. The product seemed to be a step up for making projects larger than an ESP8266 but not needing to be a full-blown computer. Raspberry Pi are generally overpowered for project use but underpowered for being a desktop/nettop so this filled the niche at an (overambitious) nice price. Lipo power management, raw LCD output, a bunch of I/O, built in wifi and storage, and the Pro was even ready to drop right onto an OSHPark PCB without adding 100 pinheaders. I was hoping to use this in my project (almost 3 years ago now) but they never were able to produce them in any quantity. :(

    1. I must say I supported the Kickstarter and actually got my stuff. Also the Outernet lot got a load of them for their products so how come these folks never even got their units since they should of had dibs on the units!?!

  23. After some research, it looks like the demise of the C.H.I.P. and the entire company is due to the discontinuation of the Allwinner R8 chip that was powering all (or nearly all) of NTC’s products. We were looking to revive the product line, but this is the insurmountable obstacle.

    1. They sure picked a lousy way to end though. Silence, taking people’s money without sending either product or refund, no transparency, etc. I would have had no problem if they would have said, “Sorry folks! We cannot honor the order you placed because we cannot obtain any more supply. Here’s your money back.” But instead they just refused to ship, and kept people’s money. What the heck.

  24. I ordered a CHIP over 2 years ago. The jerks never sent it. They never refunded me.
    They have not answered attempts to be reached. They have screwed over thousands of angry
    people, the forums are full of us but we can not really do anything. Most have been waiting for
    someone with the legal knowledge to finally sue them so that we might hop on that wagon and
    maybe get some sort of compensation. It angers me still to see the pictures of the device and know
    I wanted one, paid for one and never got one.

    1. Ah… I’ve told many commentators to read the article as in RTFA, but you seem to have missed the headline, too. “Notice of General Assignment from Insolvency Services Group” like bankruptcy, means they are legally protected from having to pay their debts. Debts to other companies, but perhaps especially customers. The company has run out of money to ever, ever pay anyone back. What’s so hard to understand here? Also, it’s Kickstarter campaign, their own website, but no product in stores or on Amazon. That means you are taking your chances, for every Kickstarter product ever. Dude, I don’t mean offence, but I kind of think you deserve the loss here. Take it like a man and learn a lesson.

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