CHIP (computer)

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CHIP
CHIP Computer logo.svg
Release date May 31, 2016[1]
Introductory price US$9[2]
Operating system Linux (Debian)[3]
CPU 1 GHz R8M/R8 (ARMv7)[4]
Memory 512 MB DDR3 SDRAM[5]
StorageGB - 8 GB onboard[5][6]
Power 5 V DC >500 mA, wired or optional battery[5]

CHIP (stylized as C.H.I.P.) is a single-board computer crowdfunded by now-defunct Next Thing Co. (NTC), released as open-source hardware running open-source software.[7] It was advertised as "the world's first $9 computer". CHIP and related products are discontinued. NTC has since gone insolvent.

Milestones[edit]

Next Thing Co. was an Oakland, California based start-up company founded in 2013 by Dave Rauchwerk, Gustavo Huber and Thomas Deckert.[8] NTC initially launched CHIP computer via a successful Kickstarter campaign in May 2015. The campaign started with a goal of US$50,000, and ended with 39,560 backers pledging US$2,071,927.[5]

Next Thing began shipping alpha boards to "Kernel Hacker" backers on September 25, 2015.[9] First customer shipping (for Kickstarter backers) began by May 31, 2016.[1][10] Pre-order opened by December 2015.[11] Pre-order for the original CHIP had stopped by April 4, 2017 as the line was discontinued.[12]

Next Thing Co. Insolvency[edit]

By March 2018, Next Thing Co. had entered insolvency. Many customers still had not received their pre-orders.[13]

Models[edit]

CHIP Board, front face
CHIP board, front side.

CHIP[edit]

C.H.I.P Board, back face
CHIP board, rear side.

CHIP was the original board, mostly targeting hobbyists. The system is built around the AllWinner R8 SoC processor, which integrates an ARM Cortex-A8 CPU (based on ARM architecture V7-A) and peripherals, such as Graphic Engine, UART, SPI, USB ports, CIR, CMOS Sensor Interface and LCD controller.[14] The CPU is also accompanied by a NEON SIMD coprocessor and has RCT JAVA-Accelerations to optimize just-in-time (JIT) and dynamic adaptive compilation (DAC).

CHIP was discontinued by April 2017 in anticipation of CHIP Pro.[12]

Features implemented on this model:

The CHIP is 60 mm × 40 mm in size.[20]

CHIP Pro[edit]

CHIP Pro is similar to the original CHIP board, but uses the newer GR8 version of the chip. It is a system in package (SiP) made by Next Thing Co. It features a 1 GHz Allwinner R8 ARMv7 Cortex-A8 processor with NEON SIMD extensions and a Mali-400 GPU. 256 MB of Nanya DDR3 SDRAM is combined with the R8 SoC into a 14 mm × 14 mm, 0.8 mm-pitch 252-ball FBGA package, simplifying the routing of connections. Instead of having two dual-line 40-pin sockets as on CHIP, it implements castellated edges where the pin holes are designed and optimized to embed to another board with SMT.[21] Most of the CHIP's hardware features are also included in this model.

CHIP "v2" (unreleased)[edit]

Few details were available in regard to CHIP's would-be successor or successors except it would have used Next Thing's own SiP GR8 instead of Allwinner's original R8. In addition to feature-sharing with CHIP Pro, the company wanted to "take advantage of CHIP Pro's much more stable supply chain"[12] in order to address the uneasiness in its user base about the future of the product.[22] In responding to user concerns, Next Thing also disclosed that more than one successor product line was in the works.[23]

As Next Thing Co. entered insolvency with its assets and intellectual properties being sold[13], release of "v2" is improbable.

Hardware extensions[edit]

In addition to open-source hardware and software, Next Thing also published an HPI and an API for users to develop add-ons boards called "DIP" [24] The company produced several DIPs including the Pocket CHIP.

Pocket CHIP and Pockulus[edit]

Pocket CHIP includes a CHIP, a case with a 4.3 inch 480×272 pixel resistive touchscreen, a clicky keyboard, GPIO headers on the top of the device, and GPIO soldering pads inside of the injection mold case. A 5-hour battery is included. Following DIP specifications, the CHIP snaps into the case with no "screws or glues" creating a portable computer. On the lower right corner of the Pocket CHIP is a hexagonal hole that takes a standard #2 HB pencil. Inserting the pencil creates a stand that allows the Pocket CHIP to stand upright on a desk. Likewise, on the lower left is a circular hole for a pen.

PocketCHIP comes loaded with a special edition of CHIP OS that includes the DIP's driver and a couple of additional applications, including a special version of video game console virtual machine Pico-8, a fully functional Linux terminal, a file browser, a terminal based web browser called surf, and modular synthesizer Sunvox.

The Pockulus is a virtual reality setup incorporating a Pocket CH.I.P. that requires some 3D printing.

Other DIPs from Next Thing[edit]

For users who did not want to use the small screen in Pocket CHIP and also did not want to use the built-in composite TV output, Next Thing sold a VGA DIP[25] and an HDMI DIP[26]. Unlike Pocket CHIP, physical dimensions of these DIPs are similar to CHIP, so the snapped assembly looks like a thicker CHIP.

Media coverage and user community[edit]

(Part of this section was merged from the article Next Thing Co.)

CHIP received favorable reviews, and constant comparisons to Raspberry Pi. Laura Sydell of NPR asked if the device could "spark a new wave of tinkering and innovation", noting it was also open source hardware.[27] Marco della Cava of USA Today said that the device "represent[s] opportunities to both close the technology gap in developing and developed countries alike, while encouraging children to learn coding, due to their approachable design".[28]

Reviewers also noted its low price. Bo Moore of PC Gamer said the price of CHIP "[puts] Raspberry Pi 2 to shame",[29] and Ian Paul of PCWorld said it made "Raspberry Pi's price seem luxurious".[30] Within days of the launch of its Kickstarter, US national media outlets like Washington Post and Time followed with glowing coverage.[31][32] Even Fortune joined the chorus with headline "This $9 computer could change the economics of building hardware."[33]

Since its Alpha shipping, CHIP has attracted an enthusiastic user base, communicating mainly on NTC's bulletin board system (BBS). At the time of NTC's demise, the BBS had over 10,000 users, with hundreds of active users and hundreds of postings every month, to a total of over 100,000.[34]

Despite enthusiasm from reviewers and users, Next Thing Co. declared bankruptcy in March 2018, leaving many pre-order customers with undelivered orders.[13]

Archives and continuing support[edit]

While NTC has published many of its hardware and software repositories on GitHub, surviving CHIPsters (as CHIP users call themselves) also launched an effort in order to preserve useful document, software, and other artifacts by leveraging the Internet Archive (a.k.a. archive.org). One effort is led by a user who has never received his preordered CHIP.[35] Another user set up a standalone site focusing on binary packages and GIT repo. [36]

In addition, the community also has a Wiki site that is independent of NTC.[37]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Next Thing (May 31, 2015). "HOLY C.H.I.P.!!! Final Kickstarter Fulfillment Has Begun!!!". Kickstarter. Retrieved September 14, 2016. 
  2. ^ Biggs, John (May 8, 2015). "The CHIP Is A $9 Computer That Can Almost Do It All". TechCrunch. Retrieved July 9, 2017. 
  3. ^ a b Adhikari, Richard (May 11, 2015). "$9 Debian-Based C.H.I.P. Computer Is a Kickstarter Smash". LinuxInsider. Retrieved July 16, 2016. 
  4. ^ Scheltema, David (July 22, 2015). "With Linux and Creative Commons, The $9 CHIP Computer Reveals Its Open Source Details". Make. Retrieved July 9, 2017. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Next Thing (May 7, 2015). "CHIP - The World's First Nine Dollar Computer". Kickstarter. Retrieved October 11, 2015.  Most users also paid shipping fees between $5 and $20 per order.
  6. ^ a b The original specification from NTC's Kickstarter campaign is 4GB. With 4.4.13, Next Thing announced "new C.H.I.P. software will double the storage of all C.H.I.P.s shipped to date. That’s an extra 4 gigs!" (Next Thing (November 11, 2016). "3D Acceleration for C.H.I.P., Improved Web Flasher, and Alpha C.H.I.P.s are back!". Next Thing BBS. Retrieved May 15, 2018. ) Users later revealed that initial shipments to Kickstarter backers were equipped with 8GB Hynix NAND. Nevertheless, CHIP OS versions up to 4.3 only used 4GB of its capacity. Later CHIP production employed a 4GB Toshiba NAND unit. OS 4.4.13 made possible to utilize 8GB on CHIP equipped with Hynix. (mvusse (BBS handle) (Dec 25, 2016). ""Disk" Space Without GUI". Next Thing BBS. Retrieved May 15, 2018. )
  7. ^ John Patrick Pullen (May 14, 2015). "C.H.I.P Could Be the World's Cheapest Computer". Time. Retrieved July 16, 2016.  (This reference was originally cited in the Next Thing Co. article.)
  8. ^ Rosenblum, Andrew (February 8, 2016). "For Oakland startup, a $9 computer about more than getting rich". The Mercury News. Retrieved 2016-10-30.  (This reference was originally cited in the Next Thing Co. article.)
  9. ^ Next Thing (November 24, 2015). "Holy Ship! Alpha Ships Have C.H.I.P.ped!!!". Kickstarter. Retrieved September 14, 2016. 
  10. ^ Jones, Brad (September 25, 2015). "Computer and change for a $10 bill: First units of $9 computer are shipping now". Digital Trends. Retrieved July 9, 2017. 
  11. ^ Next Thing (November 30, 2015). "The Clear Case for C.H.I.P. (also pre-orders are open)". Kickstarter. Retrieved September 14, 2016. 
  12. ^ a b c Next Thing (April 4, 2017). "Backorders Start Shipping April 15th & GR8 News!". Next Thing BBS. Retrieved May 24, 2017. 
  13. ^ a b c As of April 19, 2018, the user community has received definitive confirmation that "Next Thing Co. has executed a General Assignment for the Benefit of Creditors on March 16, 2018" with an insolvency service company that is selling its assets and intellectual properties. ("Reports about Insolvency true?". April 19, 2018. Retrieved May 30, 2018. )
  14. ^ "NextThingCo/CHIP-Hardware" (PDF). GitHub. Retrieved October 30, 2016. 
  15. ^ Next Thing. "Open Source Hardware: Where To Get It". Retrieved September 24, 2016. 
  16. ^ a b Raymond Wong (May 7, 2016). "C.H.I.P. — the super tiny computer that only costs $9". Mashable.com. Retrieved July 16, 2016. 
  17. ^ David Scheltema (November 28, 2015). "C.H.I.P. vs Pi Zero: Which Sub-$10 Computer Is Better?". Make. Retrieved September 14, 2016. 
  18. ^ Next Thing. "CHIP OS 4.4 Released [VGA, HDMI, and more!]". Retrieved September 16, 2016. 
  19. ^ Next Thing (April 12, 2016). "Flash C.H.I.P. from your Web Browser - So Shiny! So Chrome!". Kickstarter. Retrieved September 14, 2016. 
  20. ^ JeGX. "CHIP : a $9 Computer with an OpenGL ES 2.0 GPU – Geeks3D". geeks3d.com. Retrieved May 11, 2017. 
  21. ^ Co., Next Thing. "Get C.H.I.P. and C.H.I.P. Pro - The Smarter Way to Build Smart Things". getchip.com. Retrieved October 30, 2016. 
  22. ^ (Various). "My feelings about the CHIP". Next Thing BBS. Retrieved May 24, 2017. 
  23. ^ Next Thing. "We Hear You! Here's a Quick Hardware Update". Next Thing BBS. Retrieved May 24, 2017. 
  24. ^ Next Thing. "DIP Specifications". Retrieved September 24, 2016. 
  25. ^ Next Thing. "VGA DIP". Retrieved June 1, 2017. 
  26. ^ Next Thing. "HDMI DIP". Retrieved June 1, 2017. 
  27. ^ Sydell, Laura (January 21, 2016). "Can A $9 Computer Spark A New Wave Of Tinkering And Innovation?". NPR. Retrieved July 9, 2017. 
  28. ^ Marco della Cava (May 11, 2015). "$9 computer killing it on Kickstarter". USA Today. Retrieved July 9, 2017. 
  29. ^ Moore, Bo (May 11, 2015). "C.H.I.P. is a super-small, $9 Kickstarter computer". PC Gamer. Retrieved July 9, 2017. 
  30. ^ Paul, Ian (May 11, 2015). "Meet Chip, an ultra-tiny $9 PC that makes the Raspberry Pi's price seem luxurious". PCWorld. Retrieved July 9, 2017. 
  31. ^ Basulto, Dominic (13 May 2015). "How a $9 computer could change the way we think about computing". Washington Post. Retrieved 21 May 2015. 
  32. ^ John Patrick Pullen (14 May 2015). "C.H.I.P Could Be the World's Cheapest Computer". TIME.com. Retrieved 21 May 2015. 
  33. ^ Higginbotham, Stacey (May 11, 2015). "This $9 computer could change the economics of building hardware". Fortune. Retrieved 21 May 2015. 
  34. ^ Data collected on April 24, 2018. The BBS is at risk of shutting down soon."About Next Thing Co. - Bulletin Board System". Next Thing Co. April 24, 2018. Retrieved April 24, 2018. 
  35. ^ The user's BBS handle is joedemo42. joedemo42 (April 25, 2018). "Ongoing C.H.I.P. Preservation efforts". Next Thing Co. Retrieved April 26, 2018. 
  36. ^ The user's BBS handle is jafcobendjafcobend; et al. (February 25, 2018). "Planning for the inevitable". Next Thing, Co. Retrieved July 18, 2018. 
  37. ^ "CHIP Community". Retrieved April 26, 2018. 

External links[edit]