Really, a $9 Computer?
If you’re in the market for the cheapest PC you can buy, head on over to Kickstarter and plunk down just $9.00 for one of the first C.H.I.P. computers from the Next Thing Co. How much computer can you get for nine bucks? Read on...
Tiny Cheap Computers
We've come to think of a computer as a collection of objects including a video monitor, a keyboard and a mouse. But really, those are all extras. The actual computer is a circuit board with a CPU, memory, some assorted chips, and input/output ports that can be used to attach external devices that make the computer usable.
That's what C.H.I.P is all about. What you get for nine bucks is a circuit board, smaller than a credit card, studded with chips and a variety of input and output ports . There’s a 1 GHz ARM-based CPU with integrated Mali-400 graphics made by Allwinner, which builds low-cost processors for HP’s $100 Android tablet, the HP 7 G2.
Other chips hold 512 MB of RAM and 4 GB of flash storage. There’s a WiFi adapter on a chip and Bluetooth 4.0 on another. The biggest component is a bulging USB 3.0 port. A mini-USB port is used to receive AC or battery power. A composite video cable is also included in the base price, enabling rudimentary connection to a TV or analog monitor. Optional adapters for HDMI or VGA video will also be available.
The operating system is a variant of Debian Linux, so C.H.I.P. can run a wealth of free, open-source software including Web browsers, email clients, productivity suites such as Libre Office, and games. And of course, it can connect to the Internet to run any web-based app.
Now, you’ll need to buy, borrow, or beg a keyboard (USB or Bluetooth), a mouse, and whatever other input device(s) you need. You can connect a game controller or MIDI piano keyboard if you're a gamer or musician. Extra file storage can be added in the form of a USB drive. An enclosure of sorts can be constructed of cardboard, or you can build something fancier. (I'm surprised there isn't a design file for a 3-D printable case included.)
Teaching the basics of programming is one of C.H.I.P.’s main missions. It comes loaded with Scratch, a kid-friendly tutorial that uses stories, games, and animations to teach programming in a simplified language.
The Pocket C.H.I.P. turns your bare C.H.I.P. into a mobile computing device. Just plug the basic board into the Pocket C.H.I.P. chassis and go. The Pocket C.H.I.P. includes a tactile-feedback QWERTY keyboard, 4.3” touchscreen, and a 3.7v battery with 3,000 mAH capacity that lasts 5 hours, according to Next Thing.
Who is Behind This Gadget?
The C.H.I.P. Kickstarter campaign had a goal of $50,000. But as of this writing, contributions have soared past $1.6 million. The campaign ends on June 6, 2015, and the C.H.I.P devices will start shipping in December, 2015.
The geeks behind Next Thing and C.H.I.P. have a track record of success with bare-bones, low-cost computers. They created the OTTO programmable digital camera, which is based upon the $35 Raspberry Pi “tiny computer.” OTTO gives users complete control over how it operates; there’s even a gallery of user-created “modes” that can be downloaded to a smartphone and implemented on one’s OTTO.
It's notable that the C.H.I.P. is completely open source, which means that the hardware design schematic, the printed circuit board layout and the bill of materials are freely available for anyone to examine, use and modify.
C.H.I.P., Raspberry Pi, Otto, and similar bare-bones devices are not for everyone. They’re tools that enable creation of solutions; like a saw or a lathe, you need to learn how to use the tool effectively. But learning is one of the joys of life, as is building things that no one ever thought of before. If you like to tinker, or know a youngster who does, you may be interested in the C.H.I.P.
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 22 May 2015
|For Fun: Buy Bob a Snickers.|
Hacking Airplanes: Fact or Fiction?
The Top Twenty
What's Happening in This Picture?
Post your Comments, Questions or Suggestions
Free Tech Support -- Ask Bob Rankin
Subscribe to AskBobRankin Updates: Free Newsletter
Copyright © 2005
- Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved
Article information: AskBobRankin -- Really, a $9 Computer? (Posted: 22 May 2015)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved