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Meet The Incredible $15 Linux Computer

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Linux
Hardware

Brian Benchoff is an embedded engineer who has graced us with unique, whimsical devices like the RGB Gaming Coaster and the Zip Drive Tower. Now he’s back with a decidedly more practical design: a fully-functional Linux computer — screen and keyboard included — that costs a mere $15.

Well, sort of. . .

The self-described “Linux Swiss Army Knife” PC packs a surprising amount of functionality. With its 2.5-inch IPS display and 47-key silicone membrane keyboard (which feels like an older TV remote control), you can bust it out and run scripts, compile code, or even transform it into a crypto wallet.

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Allwinner F1C100s handheld computer should cost $15...

  • Allwinner F1C100s handheld computer should cost $15 to manufacture

    Brian Benchoff’s “minimum viable computer'” is a Linux handheld computer powered by an Allwinner F1C100s ARM9 processor that could fit into your pocket and should cost about $15 (BoM cost) to manufacture in quantity.

    The open-source hardware Linux “computer” comes with 32MB or 64MB RAM, a 2.3-inch color display, a 48-key keyboard, a USB port, and is powered by two AAA batteries. Don’t expect a desktop environment, but it can run a terminal to execute scripts, or even run Doom.

This ‘Minimum Viable Computer’ Could Cost Just $15

  • This ‘Minimum Viable Computer’ Could Cost Just $15

    Computers used to be luxury devices that only the wealthy could afford, but now you can carry a phone in your pocket that’s many times more powerful than the computers that sent men to the moon. However, even the cheapest phones are still $50-100 thanks to the cost of licensing and cellular components. Developer Brian Benchoff wanted to see just how cheap a functional computer could be. He came up with the Minimum Viable Computer, a pocket-sized Linux box that could cost as little as $15.

    Depending on what you expect a computer to have in order to be “viable,” you might be pleasantly surprised or completely uninterested in the MVP. It uses a simple two-layer PCB, integrated with an Allwinner F1C100s system-on-a-chip. Its single CPU core is clocked at a mere 533MHz, but it does have support for running modern versions of Linux. Don’t expect a GUI, though. This is a purely command line affair, as envisioned by Benchoff. It can run scripts, ping remote servers, and power a variety of USB devices. Also, there’s a physical keyboard.

The Fifteen Dollar Linux Computer

  • The Fifteen Dollar Linux Computer

    Over the years we’ve seen many small computer boards of various abilities, among them many powerful enough to be almost-useful Linux general purpose computers. We’ve also seen more than a few computers that claimed the impossible, usually an amazing spec for a tiny price tag. Here for once is a small computer that’s neither of those two; a minimum viable Linux handheld terminal whose $15 USD price tag is openly discussed as a target price for a large production run rather than touted as its retail price.

    It’s the work of legendary former Hackaday writer [Brian Benchoff], and instead of being merely a PCB it’s a fully usable computer with case, keyboard and display. It’s based upon an Allwinner F1C100s SoC, it’s powered by AAA cells, and it sports a split rubber keyboard that likely builds on his previous experience with the VT-69 portable RS-232 terminal. On the back is a USB port and an SD reader, and in the centre of the front panel lies a 320 x 240 pixel display. It’s important to note that this is not intended to run a GUI, while it’s DOOM-capable it remains very much a command-line Linux tool. Perhaps most interestingly it’s claimed that all the parts are available in quantity here in the chip shortage, so maybe there’s even a chance we might see it as more than a project. We can hope.

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