Singleboard: Alpha Is A Very Stylish Computer On A Single PCB

When we think single-board computers, we normally envision things like the Raspberry Pi. But Arduboy creator [Kevin Bates] has recently come up with his own take on the SBC that’s a bit like a modernized take on the early computers of the 1980s. Introducing Singleboard: Alpha.

The build has an incredibly pleasing form factor — it’s a single PCB with a capacitive keyboard etched right into the copper. The brains of the Singleboard is an ESP32, which provides plenty of grunt as well as wireless connectivity. Display is via a small LCD, currently configured with a green-on-black terminal that looks fantastic.

You’re not gonna run a fully-fledged GUI operating system on this thing, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be useful. We could imagine a device like this being a flexible wireless terminal for working with headless systems, for example, and it would be a charming one at that.

32 thoughts on “Singleboard: Alpha Is A Very Stylish Computer On A Single PCB

  1. On the one hand undeniably cool wit hthe batteyr clipped via plug meaning I could theoretically swap out for something that would stow behind it in a printed case, and there is indeed a cool factor I can’t deny having something literally credit card sized you can just whip out.

    On the other I ain’t seeing shit on that postage stamp of a screen. Can we at least get something that could clamshell?

    1. The screen is arguably too small to be useful. This is more of a proof of concept, developers play thing to learn about developing on the ESP32 without having to attach anything else. Think of it as artisanal computing. :)

    1. tldr; you’re right but you may have missed the point.

      It’s not so much a device as it is a concept. In fact the lilygo t-deck is a similar concept, and it is well executed and because it’s made by an established series manufacturer with direct market access in China, it’s very competitively priced.

      This is just my “version” of a computer. The device itself is intended to get people excited about making and building their own computer, of their own design. I would like to see a world with more bespoke computers. It’s getting easier to do, and people can learn a lot from the process.

      It’s art, quasi-functional art at that. Just because there is better, cheaper art out there doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make and create your own and this new “platform” is designed to explore that space and hopes to give a similar opportunity to what I had with the original Arduboy.

      1. You aren’t wrong. I have 2 Yardstick One’s, which have pretty great hardware, filters, and good firmware. I have spent 3-4 months writing a poor-man’s Yardstick One with an ESP32 and CC1101. Not anywhere close to the same level of awesome hardware/fw. But I like creating my own stuff, and cheap equipment that can work on anything that can establish a Serial connection has its own uses.

        The one ask I would have for you, that would increase my (and probably other’s) interest….have GPIO available. The M5Card uses nearly all of them.

  2. No way that I’ll ever use something smaller than an 80 column wide terminal again. Every phone I have can do that, some even have a keyboard. Ok, a finger sharpener may be needed… but at least they have real keys…

    Such systems with too small screens seem to be the new playground for everyone.

    Rethink the screen size. Even with 80 CpL on a 320 pixel width, it would be much more fun.

    It can be done, it can be fun.

  3. The nitpicks are valid but this reader still thinks it’s supercool. Thanks! Always thought the Mac Mini should have had a trackpad on top but that’s just me.

    1. I like it. Sorry about parent comment. I am on mobile right now and managed to hit the send button.

      Personally, I would want a better display. Move the battery and generally consolidate the top region items to get at least 320 pixels across, 512 would be better, 640 excellent! Any of those gets the user an 80 column display with however many rows will fit.

      That way, it could be a portable terminal, if nothing else.

      I can see this little guy being similar to the Raspi 400, only for the ESP32, which packs a solid amount of compute and features into s small package.

      $75 seems quite reasonable too.

    1. It’s hacked together from OTS parts and a neat ESP build.

      It’s generous of them when someone does the labor bits for free for you. But it’s not mandatory they give their work to you for it to be a hack.

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