Octavo Systems Shows Off With Deadbug Linux Computer

Once upon a time, small Linux-capable single board computers were novelties, but not anymore. Today we have a wide selection of them, many built around modules we could buy for our own projects. Some of the chipset suppliers behind these boards compete on cost, others find a niche to differentiate their product. Octavo Systems is one of the latter offering system-in-package (SiP) modules that are specifically designed for easy integration. They described how simple it would be to build a minimal computer using their SC335x C-SiP, and to drive the point home they brought a deadbug implementation to Embedded World 2019. [Short video after the break.]

Most of us encounter Octavo modules as the heart of a BeagleBoard. Their increasing integration made tiny wonders like PocketBeagle possible. But bringing out all those pins for use still required a four-layer circuit board. Octavo’s pitch for hardware professionals center around how easy integration saves time for faster time to market, and fortunately for us easy integration also translates to a more accessible device for our projects. It’s one thing to publish a document describing a hypothetical single-layer PCB for an Octavo module, it’s quite something else to show that concept in action with no PCB at all.

Of course, this little machine only has access to a fraction of the module’s functionality, and it is certainly overkill if the objective is just to blink a few LEDs. If so, we’d just use 555 timers! But it does show how simple a bare bones “Hello World” machine can be built, removing intimidation factor and invite more people to come play.

One of the three top winners in our circuit sculpture contest was a wireframe Z80 computer. There’s quite a jump from a Z80 to an Octavo SC335x, but we’ve already seen one effort by [Zach] over Supercon 2018 weekend to build a deadbug computer with an Octavo module. It won’t be long before someone one-ups this minimalist LED blinker with something more sophisticated and we can’t wait to see it.

11 thoughts on “Octavo Systems Shows Off With Deadbug Linux Computer

  1. It is nice to be able to use a BGA package on a single-layer with 6-mil trace and space. Keeping the pitch course and the layer count low can help save several tens of cents per device PCB, which really adds up in a production run.

    Paying $35, for the equivalent hardware to a Raspberry Pi Zero doesn’t help, though.

  2. I have thought about doing this. Of course, if you need off-chip memory and HDMI and a bunch of other high-pin-count additions, it gets ridiculous pretty quick, but I’ve done enough blue wire mods on fine-pitch parts, I don’t think that connecting things to solder balls would be overly challenging, for simpler systems. By which I mean, things like wiring from a SOC to a USB hub chip and then to various USB peripherals, that sort of thing.

  3. Octavo, has a great idea with what they have done. However there are so many things out there now that are faster and cheaper. I wish they would have picked a faster core to do it with.

    1. I think most AM335x users don’t care that much about the mediocre performance of its 1 GHz* Cortex-A8 core, they use it for mainly for its I/O capabilities and the real-time capability provided by its PRU subsystem. The core is usually perfectly adequate, which is all it needs to be.

      (* 1 GHz assuming you’re using an AM335x from the highest speed bin, like those Octavo uses for the OSD335x.)

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