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Next Thing Co. Releases “World’s First”  Computer

Snugly situated in an industrial section of Oakland, California, is Next Thing Co., a team of nine artists and engineers who are pursuing the dream of a lower cost single-board computer. Today they’ve unveiled their progress on Kickstarter, offering a $9 development board called Chip.

The board is Open Hardware, runs a flavor of Debian Linux, and boasts a 1GHz R8 ARM processor, 512MB of RAM, and 4GB of eMMC storage. It is more powerful than a Raspberry Pi B+ and equal to the BeagleBone Black in clock speed, RAM, and storage. Differentiating Chip from Beagle is its built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and the ease with which it can be made portable, thanks to circuitry that handles battery operation.

Meet Chip, the $9 computer. All photos: Nathan Hurst/Maker Media
Meet Chip, the $9 computer. All photos: Nathan Hurst/Maker Media

If you’re wondering how Chip could be this inexpensive, you can thank cheap Chinese tablets. The system-on-chip (SoC) 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.

Try it now — query for “a13-based tablets” and you’ll discover sub-$50 devices at clock speeds near that of Chip.

Want to see how Chip stacks up against the competition? Make:’s interactive Board Guide lets you dial into the field to find the best board for your needs.

How an industry giant and a tiny startup came to partner on a sub-$10 computing device owes to Next Thing’s history developing products and business connections with Shenzhen-based accelerator HAXLR8R, says Dave Rauchwerk, one of Next Thing’s three founders. “Once they understood what we were trying to do, they supported us fully.”

Rauchwerk, outside Next Thing Co.'s Oakland headquarters
Rauchwerk, outside Next Thing Co.’s Oakland headquarters

Connecting with the right company wasn’t the only break the Oakland-based team had going for them. At the same time they were meeting with Allwinner and explaining their aspirations for a dirt-cheap computer, Allwinner was looking to redesign their successful A13 processor in a new, smaller form factor as a cheaper system-on-chip. It is this new chip, called the R8, that Next Thing received early access to and used in its board design.

This isn’t the first product Next Thing has offered on Kickstarter. The collaboration began among friends: Thomas Deckert, Dave Rauchwerk, and Gustavo Huber wanted to create an animated GI camera, and that led them to enroll in and successfully complete HAXLR8R in 2014. Out of the experience, armed with new business contacts and support, they designed, developed, and successfully funded the camera of their dreams, OTTO. Attracting 414 backers and raising $71,559 was an accomplishment. But more importantly, they have manufactured and are in the process of fulfilling rewards to backers.

Next Thing's camera collection, with OTTO on the lower right
Next Thing’s camera collection, with OTTO on the lower right

However, the OTTO design process was not without difficulty. Deckert, Rauchwerk, and Huber realized that the software and hardware available to them for making a product was suboptimal. It was overly complex in all the wrong ways, and the cost of entry to actually make something was way too much. While developing OTTO, the three swore they would eventually build the tool they wanted. To them, Chip is that promise realized.

“OTTO is a tool for experimenting with photography,” says Rauchwerk. “Chip is a tool for experimenting with computers.”


Though the team didn’t set out to make shields for Chip, they recalled their frustrations with available hardware accessories while developing OTTO. The board has a built-in composite video output, but they also built two video breakout boards — one shield for legacy VGA monitors and a second for the more modern HDMI connectors.

But just outputting video didn’t provide the full solution for how to develop on Chip. The final accessory — and perhaps the most exciting — is Pocket Chip, a portable, handheld enclosure with an LCD screen, full QWERTY keyboard, and internal battery. With this combination, the Pocket Chip is a fully functioning $50 computer — no need for a monitor or keyboard, it’s all built-in.

Both the Chip and Pocket Chip are priced so low it’s difficult to imagine a community not quickly coalescing around them. Spend next to zero time wiring a display, keyboard, and battery, and the first moments with the board can be spent making what you want. Bootstrapping is next to abolished.

“The $9 becomes really interesting when lots of people can help make it awesome,” says Rauchwerk. “We wanted to find a way to not only give everyone access to it but to give them the ability to participate in this process of developing it.”

Baring some unforeseen disinterest in cheap single-board computers, Next Thing Co. should attract enough backers and reach their funding goal. Certainly, any crowdfunding campaign is not without risk. Attempting to reestablish the cost of development boards is not likely to go unnoticed by larger players. Will supply chains narrow? Will big companies care about a $9 computer and try to cut costs, or will we see a concession on price, and redoubling of efforts to make their user experience better?

Chip is near reality. There’s a working prototype, though it uses the older A13. The new R8-based boards are due in the States later this week and the team has a positive crowdfunding history. If they pull this off, there’s a great deal of potential for the community, says Rauchwerk.

“Success for us is them seeing what we’ve done and being excited about it and backing it.”


99 thoughts on “Next Thing Co. Releases “World’s First” $9 Computer

    1. If you have a look at their kickstarter it says backer fulfillment starts in May 2016.

      Read first – ask questions later.. ;)

          1. You keep saying the obvious. I’ve see many of your comments saying the same thing.
            Dude, are you a parrot? We can tell you have a stake at this but come on!
            Maybe instead, you can tell people why it costs $20 to ship when they buy stuff like this all the time from China and don’t pay anything for shipping.
            Use the communist system to send stuff cheap around the world. Others are doing it.
            I for one don’t like this scheme and will try to educate unsuspecting buyers as to other alternatives.

          2. It’s more expensive to ship internationally from the US than it is to ship internationally from China because of the government, not because companies are doing something wrong. You can’t just say “do it like the Chinese” because it doesn’t work like that, it’s why American companies outsource manufacturing/distribution overseas.

  1. Wow! I tried to do this when I was at uni, but back in 1996 it was almost impossible to do a tiny, cheap computer here in Mx. A witness of changing times, I am. So good to see this a reality.

    1. well, this is just an advertisement for a kickstarter (not to deliver until May of 2016). but, if they do this, it would be a great thing.

  2. 9 doller computer with WIFI FREAKING BUILT IN??? My wifi chip on my pi cost 9 dollers….. This is amazing.

  3. I’m a little leery of those Allwinner chips. Who knows what kind of back doors the People’s Republic of China have hidden in those chips? I’m not normally this paranoid, but imagine what a hostile foreign nation can do with hundreds of thousands of “Internet Of Things” under their control? There might be a reason for those chips to be so inexpensive.

    1. Intel has 3G-enabled backdoors on some of their chips. These Allwinner CPUs are literally too cheap to include anything of the sort.

    2. lmao freetards are funny than tinfoil hats. Open source sucks, mkay?

    3. Well we can trust the American companies to be surely to have backdoors even hardware as Snowden documents revealed (on hard-drives by passing encryption).

  4. i love the raspberry pi, but this thing is way more powerful and packed with features for less than half?! this is amazing! How long before they’re so cheap that companies just start adding computers to mundane things like toasters?

    1. Well we don’t know if there are issues with it. So I’d wait a bit before making this judgement.

  5. I think I’ve just found true love! Anyone else? Imagine what this means for noobs, not having to worry about if they happen to break it? Imagine what this means for prototyping? design revisions could be made more cheaply, and more quickly. I LOVE THIS!

    1. It’ll be true love only if they deliver without issues. Have you bought shit from Kickstarter. They always promise to reach the skies, and reality is a half useless piece of hardware with multiple product issues. So I’m not so trusting, no more. If they deliver what they say I’ll buy, but better wait for reviews.

      1. Especially since the kickstarter video isn’t really demonstrating the capabilities promises which surely means at the time , they probably don’t have anything working.

    2. I’m cautiously optimistic too…no matter what people here are saying. I do feel bad that shipping to other countries is so expensive, but it is what it is I’m afraid. My support cost $14. That is just great to me. Hopefully in the future they’ll find distributors in other countries and people everywhere will be able to get them for that price.

      I totally agree that it’s potentially love-worthy, and think that it could be AMAZING for noobs and the semi-serious too…particularly since it packs WiFi, Bluetooth, and are handling battery charging and hookup.

      It’s what they’ve always said about the Arduino…it’s cheap enough to just leave in a project. But this is potentially even cheaper…and is on the net, for all the fun that that brings along.

  6. Allwinner? That company is hostile towards the open source community and is a serial GPL violator, their SoCs have no upstream Linux support (no device tree in linux), no proper documentation whatsoever coupled with a lot of proprietary components (CedarX, Mali drivers) and buggy closed sourced libs/blobs, on top of that you have no guarantee that the vendor will continue maintaining their sources in a few years’ time. Sure the price makes that thing attractive but I’d rather pay more to obtain a decent SBC that runs modern versions of Linux with open source drivers. I’ve used an A10-based device two years ago and Linux support was messy, if not broken.

    1. @yowanrdotexe:disqus like the rest we need to kill them with kindness not the other-way around look at intel and nvidia they weren’t far from allwinner.

    2. Actually the Next Thing Co. has an agreement with AllWinner. This one chip will be fully disclosed and all document made available to the public. It was an agreement with the order. So at least this one time they are obeying the GPL (in exchange for a huge order from Next Thing Co.)

      1. This sounds great. Does allwinner actually own the rights on the IP in their SOCs to the extent they can disclose everything?

        If they do and this works out, and this SOC gets everything mainlined into the linux kernel, this could easily be the next arduino.

      2. If that’s the case, where is the documentation? Where is all this opwn source stuff you speak of?

      3. If that’s the case, where is all this “Open” stuff? Where is the documentation? The Schematic? The drivers? The source code?

          1. You mean; when you take the $2M and run? Not good enough sir.
            You can start by posting the schematic now, call it Rev-1 or whatever. I doubt you will do anything cuz this is a scam and I’m calling you on it.

          2. Uh huh… Well let’s see, people have already received the prototype chip, the production model is being produced currently to be shipped in December / January as scheduled and they have stated multiple times that the documentation would be made available by January… Soooo they have so far been very transparent with more than monthly updates, they have met their production goals so far and have so far full-filled their promises on schedule and yet you all them a scam? Perhaps you don’t know what scam means.

            In addition, I don’t work for them, so you can’t actually call me “on it”.

            As for the whole point of the project, they were pretty straight forward with the goals and the reason for the price being low for KS and why they made it in the first place. 1) the price is low, because of the production volume and they were to sell it as close to at cost as possible. 2) They were making the CHIP to power their previous Kickstarter project the Otto, because the Otto they supplied their original backers with was not commercially viable, with it’s retail price tag being too high, partially due to the cost of the raspberry pi that powers it. They needed to come up with a cheaper mutli-purpose computer that could be used in a commercial version of the Otto and still be flexible enough to power any future projects of theirs, thus the CHIP concept came into being. They are making it open source, to benefit other inventors and encourage clones, basically anything that will help drive the cost of entry for peoples unique projects downwards.

            In any-case, I will be receiving my Chips in the mail come January, you can sit their crying conspiracy, while I’m off tinkering and doing computer things.

          3. So you say! Where is the god damn schematic? its not like it will change!
            Just because you say others have received some, doesn’t make it true.
            As far as you comment about crying, I don’t enough shit about it or you to be honest. Just saying, people should be weary of these claims. I love my Pi 2 with 4 cores and don’t really have any critical applications for an El-Chipo copy.
            If you don’t work for them, you sure put a lot of effort in something you don’t even have yet!

          4. I just have good reading comprehension skills; read and
            follow what I’m backing. I’m just a fan
            of the Chip, and I would like to point out you are putting in more energy as a
            detractor (looking through the forum here) than I am as a fan looking forward
            to tinkering with his battery powered computer.

          5. I go to a lot of forums. As an Engineer I am fascinated by technology.
            I call it the way I see it. Some people admire that, some call me a troll. I just don’t want people to fall for promises that won’t come true and feel taken advantage of.
            If this pans out, I hope you and others enjoy your chip.
            If it doesn’t, remember I was here to warn people not to walk into something with eyes wide shut.

  7. Allwinner sucks. They steal GPL code, they lie and cheat to cover it up.
    This doesn’t have video onboard, it won’t work right anyways since mali drivers aren’t going anywhere and won’t.
    Instead of selling some crippled POS for cheap they could actually be honest and provide what’s necessary to program the SOC and actually be able to charge more!

  8. Does somebody have details about GPIOs? This board with few digital pins, serial, I2C and maybe two ADC would be my wet dream

    1. I want to know about this too. I like the idea of nice shields that stack, then maybe if you want to embed it, you remove the HDMI shield and use it for your next thing…super cool.
      Race to the bottom!

      1. It does state this in the Kickstarter page…

        GPIO breakouts
        So there’s ‘something’

    2. In FAQ: 8 digital GPIOs, one PWM pin, SPI, TWI, UART, USB, MIPI-CSI, Parallel LCD output, touchpanel input, and a whole bunch of power rails in and out. Most of these are set by the processor, but others are still subject to change as we finalize part selections. We’ll post more specific pinouts and electrical specs when we have finalized the design for “Alpha” modules in September.

      1. Not bad at all.

        I was reading on the site that it even has everything onboard to charge an attached battery. Too cool. If they can pull this off, this could really be something.

  9. I really wish I could get my hands on this sooner (I guess I could if I had the money XD) but it makes me wonder if they’ll every release a better, even slightly more expensive version of this in the future… I love this idea though!

  10. Unfortunately this is not open source or open hardware. From their KS page:

    “We expect to be pushing files out publicly soon after the campaign.”

    Until they make the source and/or schematics they are not open source or open hardware.

    This project looks exciting and I certainly would want to give them the benefit of the doubt. Without knowing what license they’re actually going to release their source or schematics under I have no guarantee that they aren’t actually lying. There have been many cases of successful KS campaigns where they’ve gone back on their promise to release source and schematics under a permissive license, either by not releasing them at all or putting a NC clause on them.

  11. When it’s retail.

    Eschew crowd funded wet dreams unless you spend money with no expectations.

  12. It’s Debian, not Debain. Could someone please fix this in the second paragraph?

  13. When this thing gets released for public please make the shipping fee cheap too!

    1. But the chip costs 9$, they never said a word about shipping, also if you didn’t hear part of it was made from chinese tablets, which is a bit of money to spend

  14. Selling a $29 board as a $9 chip + $20 shipping is an old eBay pricing scam.
    Keep it if it’s that cheap.

    1. Go out and do your best shipping a package internationally for a dollar. Let me know how it goes.

          1. They are a communist regime hell bent on becoming a super power. What else is new?
            It’s an excellent example. Don’t kid yourself, its made there anyways. All the parts are and most likely the whole thing is made in the orient. Why not just ship it from there?
            How hard is it to setup a company in China to do that?
            They do it in the west all the time and call it drop shipment.

          2. What I’ve understood it is relatively easy to find partners in China (foreigners cannot easily set up companies), but finding somebody who delivers exactly what you want and doesn’t rip you off is a result of long term connections.

          3. My point exactly. I think they are called “Technology buyers” or technical assistants in China.
            You tell them what to do, and they do it for a fee.
            A no brainer really.

  15. Wait a minute. The Raspberry Pi has been out for over a year.
    What’s different about this one?
    Allied Electronics sells them too, but they cost more.

    1. Hahahahaha, your holy grail that which you call the raspberry pi is a ripoff of IM-NOT-TELLING-YOU, you tools! Go ahead and defend your sh*tberry pi, fanboy

  16. i want 1 n i was wondering can u makit look like a psp or hand held device hmm….

  17. its a single core by no means competitive with the raspberry pi what a useless product …

    1. The article says it’s competitive with the Raspberry Pi 1 B+, which has only one core. The Raspberry Pi 2 B has four cores. And being competitive with any kind of Raspberry Pi is not a very good criterion for usefulness. The MSP430 line is not in any way competitive with the Raspberry Pi, but it’s still useful, especially in ways the Raspberry Pi isn’t.

  18. It is only $5 for US, which is in line with everybody else. it is shipping internationally that is expensive in single unit quantities.

  19. I know I will be buying 16 core-SBC on a single chip for $9 in 3-5 years from now. I’ll wait till then.

    No Ethernet port, lack of proper display driver for Mali and expensive compared to say; an Odroid-C1 or RPI 2. By the time you add the display and $20 shipping, you have actually paid more than a raspberry pi and got less!
    I am sure someone else will get it right. I will then by a 100 to try my supercomputer idea.

  20. Brilliant work .Hopefully this will shrink down to 5$ dollars to enable varieties of products. Thanks Pradeep Reddy Gaddam

  21. This project was doomed to fail from the start for one reason;
    The design is obsolete!
    A Quad-core had to be the minimum. I am pretty sure that people who tinker with embedded and robotics wouldn’t mind spending the extra few dollars and get a Raspberry PI 2 Model B.
    By the time you add the video option and shipping, you’ll see what I mean.

    1. However I’ve bought some electronics copies from China that are better than the originals, they’ve improved their production tremendously. But still get shit from time to time…. but things are really looking up!

    2. China, where every manufacturer is identical and produces the exact same quality of product as every other company because they’re chinese. China.

  22. Nice, I’ll wait for reviews… so many bad Kickstarter products out there that I’m not buying anything out of the dark no more.

  23. makezine< my buddy's aunt makes $84 /hour on the laptop . She has been fired for eight months but last month her payment was $21123 just working on the laptop for a few hours.
    you can check here …. Find It More

  24. < col Hiiiiiii Friends….upto I saw the draft ov $8289 , I accept that my father in law woz trully earning money parttime from there labtop. . there moms best frend has been doing this for only about 8 months and recently cleard the mortgage on there house and purchased a new Dodge . linked here HERE’S MORE DETAIL


  25. < col Hiiiiiii Friends….upto I saw the draft ov $8289 , I accept that my father in law woz trully earning money parttime from there labtop. . there moms best frend has been doing this for only about 8 months and recently cleard the mortgage on there house and purchased a new Dodge . linked here HERE’S MORE DETAIL


  26. I just don’t think anyone except computer engineers should mess with this until the bugs have been worked out. And even though I am prepared to admit that it probably works, charging $20 to ship a small computer board 1/4 of the size of a banana is a bit of a scam to increase profits or cover their expenses. Nevertheless, I have to admit that this is a leap forward in cheap computer technology.

  27. Will “Chip” be able to run steam and some of its games because it would be alwsome if you would make it so Gaben makes a special steam (for “Chip”)that has only the games ” Chip” can run

  28. So they’ve taken a rpi, removed the video connectivity, and sold it back to people at a premium ?

  29. But I can buy a quadcore EGQ307 or Voyager II tablet with 1gb RAM and wifi and 1024×600 touchcreen and 8gb flash and microsd and hdmi out and 3D gpu and hardware video decoder for $30…. at ebay and walmart… that run Kitkat and googleplay store. 15,000 antutu scores…

    The EGQ307 runs the same Allwinner A13 SOC(which contrary to all the haters here Ive had zero software compatibility problems with over a year) and the Voyager II runs a Mediatek SOC(so there you go… Allwinner haters… an alternative)

  30. I see this shit hasn’t gone anywhere in 2 years. You still can’t buy one and the latest video on YT from these morons, is from 3 months ago.

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I love to tinker and write about electronics. My days are spent building projects and working as a Technical Editor for MAKE.

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