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].

CES2017: Complete Register Documentation For The C.H.I.P.

Last October, Next Thing Co., makers of the popular C.H.I.P. platform unleashed the C.H.I.P. Pro, a very capable Linux system on a tiny board. The goal of the C.H.I.P. Pro is to be the brains of a project or product, similar to the Gumstix boards from an ancient era long before the Raspberry Pi.

Introduced alongside the C.H.I.P. Pro was a fantastic little device. The GR8 module is a complete Linux system on a chip, with an ARM Cortex-A8 processor and 256 MB of RAM, all on a relatively small BGA chip. This is a drop-in part that gives any piece of hardware a Linux brain.

There was a datasheet at the time the C.H.I.P. Pro and GR8 module were released, but a datasheet can only go so far. What you really need to use a Linux system on a module is a massive tome filled with descriptions of registers and all the hardware nooks and crannies needed to get the part working. At CES this week, Next Thing Co. brought what everyone has been asking for: an NDA-free complete register documentation for the core they’re using on the GR8 module. This is 400 pages of spiral-bound goodness that will tell you how to do everything with this chip.

Using the C.H.I.P. for products

When the C.H.I.P. was first released, it was easy to write it off as a board glomming on to the popularity of the Raspberry Pi. However, Next Thing Co. didn’t start with the C.H.I.P. – they started with Otto, an animated gif camera built around the Raspberry Pi compute module. The Otto was successful, but the compute module is a little expensive, so Next Thing Co. turned their attention to building a modern, inexpensive version of the old Gumstix boards.

The C.H.I.P. Pro and GR8 is the culmination of this work, and already a few companies have used it in production. At the Next Thing Co. suite, they showed off a new version of the Outernet base station powered by the C.H.I.P. Pro, and the TRNTBL, a wireless, Bluetooth, Airplay, and Spotify-connected turntable.

To illustrate how easy using the C.H.I.P. Pro in a product is, the guys at Next Thing Co. removed the Pi-powered guts of an Otto and replaced it with a C.H.I.P. Pro. There wasn’t much inside – just a battery, camera module, and a few bits and bobs. That’s great for anyone who wants to build a product that needs a relatively fast chip running Linux, and the stuff from Next Thing Co. makes it easy.