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article imageThis $9 computer wants to 'work, play and everything in between'

By James Walker     May 9, 2015 in Technology
A $9 computer seeking crowd-funding right now is making waves in the technology world because of its promise of being able to do anything an ordinary computer could do, while still fitting with ease into the palm of your hand and carrying that low price.
Named CHIP and developed by Next Thing Co, the tiny circuit board is described as "built for work, play, and everything in between." Clearly designed to draw on the success of the Raspberry Pi, CHIP is a remarkably powerful invention which wants to target everyone including "students, teachers, grandparents, children, artists, makers, hackers and inventors."
CHIP is a $9 computer
CHIP is a $9 computer
Next Thing Co
The Kickstarter page shows just how small CHIP really is. A banana, lightbulb and pen all dwarf the fully-fledged computer which looks as though it should be a component for something else. Like the Raspberry Pi, CHIP is supplied without a case but its board is even tinier.
Despite this, CHIP is surprisingly powerful. It has a 1GHz Allwinner A13 processor with 512MB of RAM which gives it enough performance to enable it to run its own tailored open-source distribution of a full Debian-based Linux operating system. Graphics come from a Mali400 GPU, often used in Android phones.
CHIP is a $9 computer
CHIP is a $9 computer
Next Thing Co
The 4GB of storage contains a familiar graphical interface out of the box. Several popular apps are preinstalled including VLC Media Player, the Chromium web browser and LibreOffice. Like the Raspberry Pi, coding tools are also included. In short, CHIP wants to be able to do everything you throw at it.
CHIP can work with any type of screen. The tiny board has a composite output built in but you can also get HDMI and VGA adapters to use monitors with. Peripherals can be connected with USB or Bluetooth 4.0 and the board has WiFi 802.11b/g/n built in. This eradicates the need for multiple USB ports and allows the board to be made smaller as peripherals can be attached wirelessly.
The only ports on the board are a micro USB for power and charging, the composite video out that can be adapted to VGA or HDMI and a full-size USB port. The micro USB also supports USB OTG so you could connect a peripheral to that too. Additionally, there is a battery connector for a 3.7V LiPo or NiCd battery to let you take CHIP anywhere. An integrated circuit lets you charge the battery directly with the micro USB port.
CHIP is a $9 computer
CHIP is a $9 computer
Next Thing Co
You can get a portable version of CHIP called PocketC.H.I.P. This attaches a 4.3-inch touchscreen with QWERTY keyboard, turning CHIP into a strange sort of Linux-powered phone to take with you anywhere. It also includes a battery and the ability to "use a pencil as a kickstand".
If CHIP can hold up to its promises then it looks set to become a very popular base for all kinds of hacking and making projects. The team explains that the $9 price has been achieved by ordering tens of thousands of processors from Allwinner, reducing the cost.
CHIP is a $9 computer
CHIP is a $9 computer
Next Thing Co
CHIP measures up at 60mm by 40mm. It includes 8 digital GPIO pin outputs that let you connect CHIP to other hardware including camera sensors, LCD panels and touchscreens or simpler accessories like LEDs to show the current status of an operation.
The $9 price will get you the core CHIP board. For $19 you can add a VGA adapter and for $24 you get an HDMI adaper. PocketC.H.I.P will cost $49. The boards will be made available later this year and will be completely open-source allowing members of the community to incorporate them into all manner of projects. With the unbelieveably low starting price and promise of achieving everything that you could reasonably expect of it, CHIP looks set to become very popular with people who may ordinarily use the Raspberry Pi to power their projects.
The team was originally looking for $50,000 of funding to make CHIP a reality but has already raised nearly $350,000 after just one day, with 28 days to go. I for sure am going to be pledging my $9 as the future of this tiny computer looks to be distinctly interesting.
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