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Tiny open source computer made from six ICs

Aug 7, 2008 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive

A tiny embedded development startup called Linuxstamp is shipping a tiny open-source computer comprised of only six integrated circuits (ICs). Demonstrated this week at LinuxWorld's “Linux Garage” exposition on a Linux- and Lego-based robot, the Atmel/ARM9-based Linuxstamp offers freely downloadable kit… schematics.

Designed by Linuxstamp's proprietor, Paul Thomas, the Linuxstamp is built around an ARM9-based Atmel AT91RM9200, which includes an MMU and is clocked to 180Mhz. The board offers 32MB SDRAM, but Thomas says memory quantity is limited only by the 54-TSOP SDRAM chip. There is also 8MB of SPI Dataflash, expandable via an SD card slot.


LinuxStamp
(Click to enlarge)

The simple dual-layer PCB design uses only six ICs: the processor, flash, RAM, serial-to-USB, Ethernet PHY, and power conversion. The USB host port is said to enable incorporation of WiFi adapters, flash drives, and other USB devices. Developers can access the device with a USB device port hooked up via an FTDI USB/Serial converter to the Linuxstamp's debug serial port.

The 3.3v power supply (1.8v output) has a “very tight input range” of 3.3v-5.5v, says Thomas. It can be powered via Power-over-Ethernet (POE), and a power supply can be implemented on a motherboard. Thomas is currently working on a motherboard for the Linuxstamp called the Mboard 1.

The Linuxstamp offers a choice of a kernel.org-based minimal filesystem, or a more complete, Debian-based install. The latter requires supplementary flash memory added via an SD card.

The Linuxstamp's specs include:

  • Processor — Atmel AT91RM9200 180Mhz
  • Memory — 32MB SDRAM
  • Flash — 8MB SPI Dataflash
  • Storage — 1 x SD card slot
  • Networking - 1 x 10/100 Ethernet
  • USB — 1 x USB host port
  • Power — 48v -> 5v
  • Debug — Serial debug port and JTAG port
  • Operating system — minimal kernel.org filesystem or Debian distro


Paul's Linuxstamp based robot
(Click any view to enlarge)

At the Linux Garage showcase at LinuxWorld, Thomas showed off a Lego-constructed robotic car controlled by the Linuxstamp. The mobile robot's Linuxstamp was equipped with a USB/WiFi adapter plugged into the board's USB host port, permitting remote control.

Availability

The prebuilt Linuxstamp is available now for $120 from the Linuxstamp site, where one can also download the design for free. Parts are said to cost $75 from Digikey, or $55 for quantities of 100.

DeviceGuru has written up a nice profile of the board, with photos of the Linuxstamp robot in action, here.


 
This article was originally published on LinuxDevices.com and has been donated to the open source community by QuinStreet Inc. Please visit LinuxToday.com for up-to-date news and articles about Linux and open source.



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