Olimex Unveils the RVPC, a Near-One-Dollar All-in-One RISC-V Retro-Style Computing Platform

Designed as an accessible soldering kit and a platform for RISC-V experimentation, the RVPC will sell for just one Euro.

Gareth Halfacree
12 days agoRetro Tech / HW101

Bulgarian open-hardware specialist Olimex has unveiled a new design for what is claimed will be the "lowest cost open source hardware all-in-one RISC-V computer" in the world — with a planned retail price of just €1 (around $1.10.)

"The idea about EURO 1.00 Do-It-Yourself educational RISC-V computer came at TuxCon 2024 and I made lighting talk about it," explains Olimex founder Tsvetan Usunov of the board's origin. "Then after the event I thought some more and decided to use SO8 package and to drop the SD Card which would take too much resources."

The finalized concept for what would become the Olimex RVPC was to deliver a kit-form system, designed to be accessible even to those new to soldering, which offers a complete all-in-one platform for experimenting with basic computing on a RISC-V platform — and to do so for a price of just €1.

The resulting design is based on the WCH Electronics CH32V003, a 32-bit RISC-V microcontroller with six general-purpose input/output (GPIO) pins. A PS/2 connector for a keyboard takes up two pins, a VGA connector for a display takes up another three, and the final free GPIO pin is connected to an on-board buzzer for audio feedback.

As a microcontroller, the CH32V003 may not be the first choice for driving a "personal computer" — but the march of time and technology means a modern microcontroller can easily go toe-to-toe with the microcomputers of the 1980s on which many people cut their teeth. For software, then, the board comes with what Usunov describes as a "bare minimum Woz-like monitor which will allow you to learn the RISC-V instructions by poking, peeking, and disassembling the memory."

The idea behind the project was born at TuxCon 2024 during a lightning talk by Olimex' Tsvetan Usunov. (📹: TuxCon Mobi)

"As CH32V003 have only 2k[B] of RAM, VGA resolution of 320×200 is possible," Usunov continues, "[and] in text mode 40×25 characters. The video will be generated without graphics video buffer, for the games user defined characters could be used. It is more toy than computer," he admits, "but this is how I learned computers 40 years ago."

Prototypes of the board will be available next week, Usunov says, and made available to anyone interested in assisting with software development; the finished kits will be sold on the Olimex web store at just €1 (around $1.10), and will also form the heart of a soldering workshop Usunov is planning to run at OpenFest 2024 in Sofia this November.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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