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Debian Open Source Hardware Linux Technology

$9 Open Source Computer Blows Past Crowdfunding Goal 180

An anonymous reader writes: A team of engineers and artists has launched a Kickstarter campaign for C.H.I.P., a small computer that costs $9. The campaign met and far exceeded its $50,000 goal on the first day. The device runs an R8 ARM CPU clocked at 1 GHz, 512 MB of RAM, and 4GB of storage. It has built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and runs a version of Debian. The price was enabled by two things: super-cheap Chinese tablets pushing down processor costs, and support from manufacturer Allwinner to make it even cheaper. The team is also building breakout boards for VGA and HDMI connections, as well as one with a tiny LCD screen, keyboard, and battery. Importantly, "all hardware design files schematic, PCB layout and bill of materials are free for you the community to download, modify and use."
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$9 Open Source Computer Blows Past Crowdfunding Goal

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  • Not $9 (Score:5, Funny)

    by Mr D from 63 ( 3395377 ) on Friday May 08, 2015 @09:40AM (#49646381)
    $9 is too much. 7's the key number here. Think about it. 7-Elevens. 7 dwarves. 7, man, that's the number. 7 chipmunks twirlin' on a branch, eatin' lots of sunflowers on my uncle's ranch. You know that old children's tale from the sea. It's like you're dreamin' about Gorgonzola cheese when it's clearly Brie time, baby. Step into my office.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It is $7 Canadian.

    • No 8 minute abs. You can't get abs in 7 minutes. Don't be rediculous.

      Does that price include a power adapter, wifi adapter, and case? If so I might buy it an use those parts for my Rasberry Pi. If not then those will cost more than the "computer".

      So this thing is basically a cheaper Rasberry PI without all the I/O features?

      • I think it's has a bunch of GPIO pins, but not the built in usb, hdmi, etc. The built in wifi is nice too. Let's hope it works better than the wifi dongle I bought for my RPi. I second the argument that after you buy a case, power adapter, and anything else just about, the price is never going to be only $9.

        itd be nice if it booted and auto joined your wifi network. Then you could ssh and really only NEED to buy a power adapter. We'll see what they come up with.

        This board is perfect for a few projec
        • The built in wifi is key, there are a number of headless applications that I can think of, as long as setting up while headless isn't too much of a burden. If the audio DAC is quality, I can see me buying a couple.
          • I have a bunch of network connected lighting experiments that I'm interested in doing and having a $9 board with this much going on (and that many GPIO pins!) sounds amazing. I was thinking I would get a beaglebone black but just couldn't get psyched to spend the money. I'm definitely going to pick up a few of these boards.

            Out of curiosity, what projects are you thinking you'll do that need reasonable audio quality?
            • Out of curiosity, what projects are you thinking you'll do that need reasonable audio quality?

              Some custom build network music players. R- Pi has crappy audio and costs too much. I don't need super hi grade, but reasonably good. This might be so cheap I could just add a USB DAC. I then just use a Lepai amp or similar and some decent speakers and you can make some pretty good sounding stuff. If I get the internals works out, I'll pick up some antique radio boxes or build something with nice wood and give as gifts to family.

              I also have some LED lighting ideas for my TV room, but arduino type boards

              • the lighting projects tend to get started but never finish

                Amen to the that. Might change "lighting projects" to just "many of my electronics projects..." ;-). The only audio-related project I've done is an arduino controlled magnetically-levitated record playing with a friend of mine as a gift for his sister's wedding, but it didn't come out all that great. Overly-complex combined with lack of knowledge, funds, and time. Shoulda kept it simple (stupid).

      • Re:no $8 (Score:4, Informative)

        by Zerth ( 26112 ) on Friday May 08, 2015 @10:21AM (#49646629)

        Wifi b/g/n AP|client, bluetooth 4, and a battery charge controller(easy UPS) are onboard, as are 8 digital GPIO, 1 PWM, and a parallel LCD output(it has an HDMI converter, but I wouldn't expect 1080p)

        No power or case for the $9 version. No ethernet on any of them, looks like.

      • Re:no $8 (Score:5, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 08, 2015 @10:26AM (#49646677)

        I agree that 8 is better. It's like infinity taking a nap.

      • The $9 does not include a power adapter or battery. It can be powered from USB so any standard USB charger should work as a power source. They are selling batteries if you want to go that way. It also does not include a case.

        WiFi is built into the board. So is Bluetooth. But no wired Ethernet.

        Yes, in a way it's a cheaper Raspberry Pi. Overall it's comparable to the original Pi - pluses are a faster CPU and built-in WiFi and Bluetooth, the big minus is no built-in HDMI. It falls short of the power of the Pi

        • ... but we shouldn't expect a $9 computer to be as powerful as a $35 computer.

          The 1975 me just thinks this is really funny.

          We are truly living in the future. $35 computers? $9 computers? Bring it!

    • Re:Not $9 (Score:5, Funny)

      by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Friday May 08, 2015 @09:52AM (#49646457)

      $9 is too much.

      It would have been cheaper, but (as per TFA) it

      runs a flavor of Debain* Linux

      So they had to up the hardware specs in order to support Systemd

      * Although they may have been better off spending that extra money on a proof reader.

    • 9 rings (Score:5, Funny)

      by electrosoccertux ( 874415 ) on Friday May 08, 2015 @12:51PM (#49648107)

      actually no

      7 were for dwarf lords in their halls of stone
      this $9 is for mortal men doomed to die
      in the land of silicon where transistors lie

    • by antdude ( 79039 )

      8 is good too for Chinese. ;)

  • by tapspace ( 2368622 ) on Friday May 08, 2015 @09:47AM (#49646419)

    This is pretty amazing if they can actually sell those for $9. Definitely one of the better kickstarters I've seen recently, so I am glad to see its successful.

    However, once you add the HDMI, it's essentially the same price as a raspberry pi model A.

    • by afidel ( 530433 ) on Friday May 08, 2015 @10:06AM (#49646527)

      However, once you add the HDMI, it's essentially the same price as a raspberry pi model A.

      But a heck of a lot cheaper than an rPi plus WiFi dongle plus BT 4.0 dongle and I'm sure it uses way less power (you generally can't run both wireless dongles without a powered USB hub. I'm working on a hub for my BT LE thermometer (ET-735) and it turned out to be cheaper to buy a Moto E or Allwinner based tablet than to add all the components to an rPi, which is just insane to me considering the non-rPi solutions added storage, a screen, a battery, and case to the BOM, oh and the Moto E would be considerably smaller.

    • by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Friday May 08, 2015 @10:45AM (#49646883) Journal

      Your comparison is flawed. The Raspberry Pi doesn't have Wifi, Bluetooth, or any onboard storage. By the time you add those three things to the Pi, C.H.I.P. will still be less than half the price (even with the HDMI board).

      • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

        It really all depends on your purpose. I can see these used headless for all kinds of things. Low power projects will line up. If you want a PC then you can pick up one off the curb more powerful than this or the pi. I see them thrown out all the time. I picked up a core2duo laptop for 25 dollars the other day with 2 gigs of ram. The battery only lasts about 10 minutes but it works good running makulu linux. It's all according to the purpose you have.

    • This is pretty amazing if they can actually sell those for $9. Definitely one of the better kickstarters I've seen recently, so I am glad to see its successful.

      However, once you add the HDMI, it's essentially the same price as a raspberry pi model A.

      As long as it has a USB port, digital GPIO and an on board A/D chip. The A/D chip would be optional if the thing has a I2C connector but it would be a nice touch. I don't care about the HDMI. I use these things for all manner of gadget projects because I'm not familiar with the industry standard embedded boards, Arduino is to simple for my needs and I'm a Unix developer so I know Linux and just being able to add a web-server with a single apt-get call is heaven compared to computers in this category. Being

      • by chihowa ( 366380 )

        It looks like it has an onboard LiPo charger and connector, but I'm not sure if it's integrated enough to be able to shutdown gracefully. Since it's based on a phone SoC, it probably is.

        I agree about the lack of HDMI, too. I'll never use it and it shaves off considerable cost and space.

    • However, once you add the HDMI, it's essentially the same price as a raspberry pi model A.

      If you are interested in the HDMI, you're doing it wrong. Did you see the picture where it's about the size of a standard LiPo? If they provide these things for the stated price, you're basically getting an ESP2866 with a built-in computer for only 3X the price.

    • I'll soon be creating a Kickstarter to fund the creation of a crowd-sourced funding system. Stay tuned!
    • by Nyder ( 754090 )

      This is pretty amazing if they can actually sell those for $9. Definitely one of the better kickstarters I've seen recently, so I am glad to see its successful.

      However, once you add the HDMI, it's essentially the same price as a raspberry pi model A.

      I remember when I could get a Timex Sinclair for $100 and I thought that was the best thing ever. Never did buy one, so I guess maybe I should buy one of these? =)

      It's cool that we've gotten to the point that we can have cheap computing hardware for whatever the fuck we want. And compact.

  • Ok you got the parts cheap.
    Then you need to put it together.
    Then you need to package it.
    Then you need to advertise it.
    Then you need to ship it.
    You have to pay taxes on your profit.
    You need to pay for the people managing this process.
    If there is a failure rate you will have returns that you need to refund.

    All in all you are probably up to $30-$40 for a unit. This is still a good price, but it is comparable to a Raspberry Pi.

  • I love the Pocket Chip flavor - already pledget for two piece set. I was looking for something similar for Raspi but couldn't find any decent enclosure with integrated input, display and battery in slick case. Also integated wifi and bluetooth are very nice.

    The $9 basic board comes without any display port but the modular aproach in which you can add VGA or HDMI via addon board is IMHO better than all-in-one Raspi - the board is cheaper that way and you can own only one display adapter and use it in multipl

  • OK, so it's a $30 board. The problem is $79 get's you a Windows 8.1 x86 tablet.

  • Lame. (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Has wireless. Less space than a Nomad. Lame.

  • Said it roughly 15 years ago already here on slashdot:
    We're smack in the middle of a transition to a post-scarcity cyberpunk society. A throw-away end-user PC for 9$ is basically exactly that.
    Computers aren't the deal anymore. Who can operate them, how do I connect x to y to z and how do I migrate data from a to b - that's what this is all about. I can hardly be bothered to replace my 4.5 year old HTC Desire HD Smartphone because it's already basically a supercomputer in my pocket. With a replacable battery - which most of todays smartphones don't have.

    The fact that I would like a bigger screen and that the browser with Android 2.3 Gingerbread is starting to have problems with todays website might actually just get me to do it. I would love to have a convergence device though - one that can act as my desktop as soon as I plug it into its cradle. ... Maybe I should really wait for that new Ubuntu phone to come out ...

    • by Khyber ( 864651 )

      Why are you using the Android browser instead of Firefox or Chrome?

      • by afidel ( 530433 )

        Because Firefox or Chrome would run like crap on something as low end as a Desire HD, not enough ram or CPU. The best browser for something that old is Opera Classic or maybe Dolphin.

    • agree, but not so much about 'migrate data from a to b' because a redundant 2TB is not that cheap and if you go cheaper, you go with lousy, small and slow flash (USB, SD).
      Bandwith is similar if you pay for it (e.g. 360 euros per year for DSL, or similar for limited 4G)

      I could get by with a computer with single core, 256MB RAM and 4TB storage (can play a lot of audio/video)
      a good PC from 1999 costs $0, you can add a PCI controller card and two 2TB hard drives ; a junk iphone only has 8GB or 16GB ; a single b

    • by Lennie ( 16154 )

      When you say post-scarcity in other words you are saying abundance: []

      In this video it's explained how the price of solar power is on a similar Moore's law-track like a lot of electronics.

      And if you have cheap solar power, you have cheap power, when you have cheap power can convert salt/unclean water to clean water cheaply. When you have cheap water and power you can grow food pretty darn cheaply.

      What they didn't know when they made the video is that energy storage is also on a

    • The fact that I would like a bigger screen and that the browser with Android 2.3 Gingerbread is starting to have problems with todays website might actually just get me to do it.

      Bigger screens are overrated. As for the rest, just install Android 5.1 [],

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 08, 2015 @10:38AM (#49646825)

    why are we enabling them and encouraging them?

  • by Khyber ( 864651 ) <> on Friday May 08, 2015 @10:46AM (#49646895) Homepage Journal

    "Importantly, "all hardware design files schematic, PCB layout and bill of materials are free for you the community to download, modify and use."

    I guess you people have never heard of Allwinner, a fairly serial GPL violator. They're also pretty hostile towards the OSS community.

    No Linux device tree that I can tell, which means no support for shit.

    Oh, also - $9 computer with $20 shipping cost? That's the oldest eBay scam in the book. That thing only weighs a couple of ounces at most - $5 maximum even WITH insurance.

  • I went to the Kickstarter page with the intent of buying one. But then I found that shipping the $9 board to anywhere except the US starts at $20. So the price just tripled !

    So it looks like I'll wait until I can order it directly from china, with no detour through the US, with free shipping.

  • Let's add it up, shall we?

    $9 for the board
    $15 for the HDMI board so you can actually hook it up to a monitor
    $20 shipping
    Total: $44

    At that point you're better off getting a Pi. More performance, more support/accessories, more ports, more everything.

    • by afidel ( 530433 )

      $20 is international shipping, US is $5, not every project needs HDMI, and this board includes WiFi and BT 4.0 which are expensive and bulky when adding to an rPi plus it includes storage.

    • by Ksevio ( 865461 )
      But this is great for those projects needing an embedded computer that doesn't need a display. Just the WiFi alone will run you more than $9 in most cases if you just need to add it to a project that doesn't have USB capabilities.
  • Clearly, the cost of computing isn't in the chips or the PCB design. It's in the device enclosures. Tooling costs for nice enclosures are expensive even if you do have them made in China and 3D printing isn't quite mature enough to make short-run production-quality parts.

  • runs a version of Debian.

    What does that mean? From the official Debian wiki []:

    Porting to new platforms

    Unlike x86, each and every arm platform boots in a slightly different way. Thus, most of work of getting Debian running will involve dealing with bootloader and Kernel. Which is not really debian-specific work. After that, people can start working porting debian-installer for the system in question.

    Something tells me that we have another weirdo ARM board with its own "Debian" distro, joining the disarray ranks of dozen others: poorly supported, barely maintained, and soon forgotten.

    Considering the total amount of effort invested (and wasted) by developers into building the custom distros, I'm surprised (and disappointed) that nobody has actually stepped up, organized and standardized booting/etc on the ARM SoC yet. (IMO ARM Ltd itself should have do

  • If this had a cell reciever/transmitter I'd be sold. Of course, it'd then be $400 for no apparently logical reason.

  • That's truly all over Arduino's territory price-wise, it's hard to knock off even a chipduino cheaper than that. If you need more horsepower and/or wireless with your GPIO, it seems kind of a no-brainer.

    How much hardware is on the VGA breakout? Does it actually have caps and whatnot on it or could you replicate it with just some jumper wires and a through-hole VGA connector?

  • I'd love a portable little OpenBSD machine. I wonder how standard the hardware will be?
  • by Required Snark ( 1702878 ) on Friday May 08, 2015 @09:38PM (#49651399)
    On Slashdot, it's not about the technology, it about the whining and complaining. A quick scan of all the comments reveals that no one has anything good to say about a $9 card size computer that runs Linux.

    Are you all nuts? This is an incredible price performance point. Yet all I see is nit picking: it can't do this, it doesn't run that, the "real' price is X (what about SHIPPING!!!), the Raspberry Pi is the same only better, etc. What the hell do you expect for $9? A cold six pack and a back massage?

    Speaking of the R Pi, if you go back and look at the responses to those announcements, you see the same kind of mindless bitching. The complaints are similar: t doesn't do enough, It's overpriced for what it does, it should be cheaper, more things should be optional, etc. Pretty much the same crap. Yet here the R Pi is the gold standard, and this board sucks. Make up you damned minds.

    No matter what anybody comes up with, it's wrong. Have any of the legions of critics done anything even remotely like this? Of course not. They're all just sitting in their parents basement sniping at people who get stuff done. It sounds bunch of pathetic losers who knock everyone else down so they can try and feel superior. It's a disgusting display.

e-credibility: the non-guaranteeable likelihood that the electronic data you're seeing is genuine rather than somebody's made-up crap. - Karl Lehenbauer