A small team of engineers and artists that make up Next Thing Co. launched a Kickstarter campaign today for Chip, their $9 single-board computer that boasts Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a larger processor than Raspberry Pi's most powerful models.
The tiny device runs a 1 GHz R8 ARM processor, and comes with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of storage. In comparison, the Raspberry Pi B and B+ models feature a 900 MHz quad-core ARM Cortex 7 processor. The Chip comes with a built-in composite output to connect to monitors and supports adapters for VGA or HDMI. It runs Debian Linux and comes preloaded with the Scratch programming language for those who might be new to coding.
The team also published a YouTube video with details on the device:
An article at MakeZine.com explained how the small company was able to create a device that was so small, powerful, and inexpensive – fostering a relationship with one of the world's most successful makers of tablet components.
The System-on-Chip used in the development board is based on an A13 processor by Allwinner, a Shenzhen-based semiconductor company. As recently as 2013, Allwinner was the second largest tablet manufacturer in the world, and the A13 was the most successful processor in Allwinner's lineup.
Eventually, Allwinner developed the R8 processor while "looking to redesign their successful A13 processor in a new, smaller form factor as a cheaper system-on-chip," according to the MakeZine report. Next Thing was given early access to the R8, and used it to create a $9 single-board computer.
The Kickstarter page shows the Chip doing some impressive things: surfing the web on the Chromium browser; creating spreadsheets, word documents, and presentations with LibreOffice; playing video games with Bluetooth controllers.
Most noteworthy, though, is the Pocket Chip – a small device with a crude-looking screen and hard-key keyboard that plugs into the Chip and makes for portable computing. It may not be an iPhone killer, but it's an impressively inexpensive mobile form factor.
A $9 donation to the Kickstarter campaign will get you a Chip by December (at least, that's the estimated delivery). More generous donations come with more add-ons, including a pocket chip for $49. The campaign was launched today with a $50,000 funding goal, which the team explains is meant to help them order components, and in the time since I started writing this to when I published it, its total money raised has grown from about $25,000 to exceed $32,000.