This ‘minimum viable computer’ is a pocket PC that could cost $15 to make

Developer (and former HackADay editor) Brian Benchoff has designed what he calls a “minimum viable computer”. It’s a Linux-ready computer that’s small enough to slip into your pocket and could be made from around $15 worth of parts… theoretically.

In practice, this price does not reflect assembly and shipping costs, and you will need to order enough parts for around 10,000 units to keep costs down. But Benchoff says he eventually “plans to make this thing available.”

It could mean that a crowdfunding campaign is underway, or some other effort to make economies of scale work so that this little computer can be sold for less than the price of a crappy prepaid phone.

For now, you can find more design details and parts list on Benchoff’s GitHub page. Specifications for the latest design include:

  • 2.3-inch, 320 x 240 pixel non-touch screen
  • Allwinner F1C100s ARM9 533MHz CPU
  • 32 MB of DDR memory
  • MicroSD card slot and 64GB card for storage
  • 48-key keyboard with silicone membrane similar to a TV remote control
  • USB 2.0 Type-A port (data)
  • USB Type-C port (for 500mA charging only)
  • 2 AAA NiMH rechargeable batteries

There’s also a custom circuit board, case, and some other odds and ends that bring the total materials cost to $14.16 at current prices when you order 1,000 units of each part. Benchoff notes that even with shortages in the supply chain, every BOM component is currently available.

With pretty barebones specs, no touch or mouse input and no wireless capabilities, the tiny computer isn’t exactly designed as a modern smartphone or laptop replacement. Benchoff doesn’t even plan to code a graphical user interface for the tiny computer. But he can run DOOM, like most things. And you can program it to perform a variety of functions – it could be used as a multi-factor authentication device or a crypto wallet, for example.

It’s also possible that some specs will change before the computer is produced – a bigger screen and larger keyboard would go a long way to improving usability, for example. But since the schematics, design files, and software will all be open source, people who want to customize their own may also have the option.

via Hacker News and @ViolenceWorks

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