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DIY-focused C.H.I.P. microcomputer costs just $9 (+video)

C.H.I.P. joins the handful of bare-bones, pocket-sized computers, but at a price that's hard to beat.

The seriously streamlined C.H.I.P. is a $9 microcomputer that can help you build your own machine along with an array of other nifty projects.

The company behind C.H.I.P., Next Big Thing Co., recently turned to Kickstarter to fund the new DIY computer. With 25 days to go, the fundraiser already has gathered 15 times more than its original $50,000 goal.

C.H.I.P. (which might be an acronym, but the company has yet to say what it stands for) is an open-source device that has a 1GHz processor, 512MB of RAM, and 4GB of storage that runs on Linux-based operating systems.

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Many do-it-yourself computer fans have compared this $9 computer to the Raspberry Pi, which kicked off this modern microcomputer trend. When the $35 Raspberry Pi 2 was released in February, DIYers applauded the affordable and versatile microcomputer. The two are quite similar, but vary in several important ways. One of the main features reviewers appreciated is that C.H.I.P. has built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0, unlike the Raspberry Pi 2. The microcomputer also has the capability of connecting a wireless keyboard or mouse, which is helpful with C.H.I.P.’s smaller size and limited options for ports. While The Raspberry Pi 2 sports four USB ports, C.H.I.P. only has one.

"Out of the box, C.H.I.P. can connect over composite video, so you can use an old TV or a tiny screen you have," Dave Rauchwerk, one of Next Thing Co.'s founders, says in a video for MAKE. DIYers can also purchase a VGA adaptor ($19) or HDMI adaptor ($24) to hook up to more modern monitors. In addition to the ability to surf the Web or play video games, add-on software such as LibreOffice lets users edit spreadsheets, create word documents, or generate presentations. 

"What we're doing is taking technology from tablets from a few years ago and making it palatable and smoothing over the rough parts so that [people] like us can use it for projects,” Mr. Rauchwerk told Ars Technica. "The thing that's really exciting is that if we as a community can agree on a chip to support and a platform and some software we can make sure that a $9 computer is a thing."

Another product that has been viewed as a stand out is the $50 Pocket C.H.I.P. The “hacker Game Boy” allows for a C.H.I.P. to be snapped directly into the device for immediate use and is a portable accessory for C.H.I.P. that doesn't require all the plugins. The pocket-sized personal digital assistant has a 4.3-inch touchscreen, QWERTY keyboard, and battery that lasts up to five hours. While Next Big Thing has dabbled in microcomputer technology for some time, the company realized the parts required to build a computer from scratch needed to be more affordable. The company's previous Kickstarter project, the OTTO camera, was designed to work with Raspberry Pi to create a "hackable GIF camera" that sold for $249.

The Kickstarter campaign for C.H.I.P. will end on June 6th at 11:06 am Eastern time. 

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