IchigoJam – Single ARM chip PC with Video and Keyboard support

PC

Everyone who has made their first steps with Apple ][, BBC micro, or Commodore 64 remembers the BASIC language, which nowadays is used by almost no one.

A few days ago, I was directed to an interesting project named IchigoJam BASIC. It was made in Japan and it was about creating a small computer with a BASIC interpreter, made on single LPC1114 Cortex-M0 ARM controller from NXP with only 32KB of Flash and 4KB of RAM.

Ichigo means Strawberry, so this keeps the tradition PCs to be named on fruits.

Although it is built on tiny resources, IchigoJam BASIC has quite an impressive list of commands including I2C read and write!

The schematic is quite simple.

The composite video generation is made via a couple of resistors, and the keyboard is connected with a simple USB-A connector, so with just a few components you have a small personal computer!

And this is not everything, the same hardware has firmware for Javascript called IchigoLatte , for Ruby called IchigoRuby, for IchigoFORTH and here.

On top of this, if you want to try IchigoBASIC you can do it on the web. How cool is that?

Needless to say, I wanted to try this project. I choose our LPC-H1114 board as it has almost everything already pre-soldered.

I had to connect:

for power supply:

LPC-H1114.pin50 – to GND
LPC-H1114.pin49 – PWR to +5V DC

for firmware update:

LPC-H1114.pin46 – to USB-Serial Tx
LPC-H1114.pin47 – to USB-Serial Rx
LPC-H1114.pin4  – to GND

for Videop output

LPC-H1114.pin27 – 470 ohm to video connector
LPC-H1114.pin28 – 100 ohm to video connector

for USB keyboard connector:

LPC-H1114.pin23 – DP
LPC-H1114.pin14 – DM

You can update the firmware using the instructions here.

If you did everything correctly when you apply the power supply you will see on the monitor the text “IchigoJam BASIC 1.4.2 by jig.jp”:

IchigoJam

Then you can use the keyboard to write your program!

You can repeat the project with quick dirty wire connections like I did:

LPC

What you need is a LPC-H1114, a Video RCA jack, a USB connector for the keyboard, a small monitor, a keyboard, and some jumper wires.

This project would be a very good fit for some next Soldering workshop as it has few components but it completes a fully functional BASIC/Ruby/JavaScript/Forth computer.

With the current state of COVID-19 probably TuxCon would be postponed for the Autumn, so there is plenty of time to make a small PCB for soldering 🙂

IchigoBASIC has a button, an LED, plays music on a buzzer and you have access to 4 Digital Inputs and 6 Digital outputs and I2C interface connector.

Too bad most of the educational stuff is in Japanese and needs translation.

 

How to get in the News? Tell people that you will make and sell something which cost you $20 for $9!

photo-original

Probably everybody heard for the next big thing after Raspberry Pi – the C.H.I.P. computer which sells for only $9.

What?? Single board computer with 512MB RAM and 4/8GB Flash and WiFi for only $9?

When Raspberry Pi foundation advertised they will make Linux computer for $25 very few believed this is possible, then after some time hitting rocks on the road they made partnership with Farnell and RS and made this happen. Actually lot of Android TV sticks in this price range were available so the technology was there just nobody from Western world had explored it.

The Rpi got quite successful, so lot of companies followed in the aim to make the next better Raspberry Pi (we at Olimex also 🙂 went to this route with OLinuXino OSHW Linux computers fixing the fact that RPi is closed source design).

The $35 was the magic number if you come close to it more chances to attract people you have.

Then few weeks ago there was the next big thing – computer with the specs of Raspberry Pi for only $9 on Kickstarter.

This blew people’s mind – they start fantasies like how Allwinner produce 1Ghz SOCs for $1 like on this thread on G+.

These guys plan was set for sale of 5000 computers, we purchased more than 150K SoCs chips from Allwinner last year alone and I know the DDR and Flash memory market, so I was quite skeptical this $9 is achievable even for the Bill of Materials not for sale price.

I asked Allwinner for quote and got $4.80/5K order (which is the original Kickstarter goal of Next Thing Co. guys). I assumed this price is for the module they use with the 512MB RAM and 4GB Flash (despite just the DDR and Flash exchange market price is higher than this number, well I hoped Allwinner manufacturing this module have some magic prices not applicable for mortals with the million of units they sell :).

Today I got datasheet of R8M and price of it is $16 including the PMU. Whaaat? Just the module is $16 but these guys sell this module on board with connectors and WIFI for $9 how this is possible?

I asked Allwinner again if there is mistake and they confirmed there is no mistake, R8 price is $4.80, R8M module price $16. Allwinner confirmed R8 just SOC cost $4.80 but this makes not much sense either this is the price of A33 quad core SOC why they price so expensive obsolete A13 Cortex-A8 SOC???

On my question how then Next Thing Co. sell this computer for $9 Allwinner response is:

“CHIP 9$ computer launched a big advertising campaign to promote their new development board, their actual cost is higher than 9$. After the Kickstarter their computer will sell for 39$.”

So, sorry guys to break your dreams for 1Ghz SOCs costing $1, maybe in future this would be possible, but not now.

The C.H.I.P. is just CHEAP marketing. At least for me R8 is not interesting at this price, better use A33 Quad core or H3 for your next design they are in same price range.

EDIT Update 08-06-2015: On the question why R8 cost is same as for quad core processor the response from Allwinner is:

R8 is new IC just published especially on IoT, it is not like A33 this one had used on a large scale forTablet PC.

So R8 is more expensive as produced in lower quantities than A33 which is selling for tablets in big volumes.