Next Thing Co. May Be Dead, But the C.H.I.P. Form Factor Is Being Resurrected

Next Thing Co. made a big splash in the maker community a few years ago with their C.H.I.P. SBC (Single-Board Computer). It was a…

Cameron Coward
a year ago

Next Thing Co. made a big splash in the maker community a few years ago with their C.H.I.P. single-board computer (SBC). It was a completely new design that was very powerful thanks to its 1GHz Arm Cortex-A8 GR8 system-in-package. The hype was further fueled by the PocketC.H.I.P., which was an exciting, fashionable handheld computer built on the C.H.I.P. SBC. But supply problems caused Next Thing Co. to go out of business, and many customers — myself included — never received their orders. Now the C.H.I.P. form factor is coming back thanks to Popcorn Computers.

Source Parts’ Popcorn Computers has just launched on Kickstarter, and the campaign includes four different open-source products. The Original Popcorn is an SBC that’s pin-to-pin compatible with the C.H.I.P., and was first developed as the Kettlepop. The Kettlepop was built on the same GR8 chip that was used in the C.H.I.P., and Source Parts acquired those chips from Next Thing Co. when they went out of business. Unfortunately, the GR8 chip is no longer produced. For that reason, the Original Popcorn uses a readily-available Allwinner R8 with a 1GHz Cortex-A8 CPU and 512MB of DDR3 RAM. It also has 32GB of eMMC storage, 2 USB-C ports, WiFi, Bluetooth, 45 GPIO pins, composite video output, and onboard battery charging circuitry.

There are also two other SBCs available that are not compatible with the C.H.I.P. format, but which have a similar form factor. Those are the Super Popcorn and Super 8 Popcorn. Both have 1GB DDR4 RAM, 62 GPIO pins, HDMI video output, DVP (Digital Video Port) camera input, and analog stereo output. The Super Popcorn has a 1.5GHz quad-core Cortex-A53 CPU with Mali 450 MP3 graphics, and the Super 8 Popcorn has a 1.5GHz + 1.0GHz octa-core Cortex-A153 CPU with Mali T820 MP3 graphics. Other specs, such as storage, match the Original Popcorn.

Finally, there is the Stovetop, which is a companion board for the Original Popcorn. With it, you can expand your Original Popcorn’s capabilities to include HDMI output, Ethernet, and USB-C power input. Basically, it’s what you want if you want to use your Original Popcorn like other modern SBCs. If you just want to use the Original Popcorn has an upgrade for your PocketC.H.I.P., you won’t need the Stovetop.

If you want one of these products, the Kickstarter campaign will be running until June 27th. Backers can get the Original Popcorn for $49, the Super Popcorn for $69, the Super 8 Popcorn for $89, and the Stovetop for $39. Rewards are expected to be delivered in November.

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