The Spirit Of The Zipit Lives On

As many of my readers may know, I’m a big fan of Kickstarter. I’ve backed a metric tonne of half-baked projects and bad ideas, and I love that we have platforms that allow us to shoot for the moon and try crazy things.

You may also remember the Zipit. It was by far my most popular series of articles, and the porting work I did is still used by a few die-hard fans. It’s been nearly a decade since, and the age of cell phones, Raspberry-pis and stick pcs seem to have eclipsed the need for a portable linux machine.. and yet, something is missing.

The new wave of ‘build your own laptops’ has swelled with the rise of 3D printers, and even a recent issue of Make magazine contains all of the know-how necessary to turn a raspberry-pi into a portable gaming machine. This is a wonderful time.

However, people still miss the Zipit. I still field emails looking for old drivers or OS images in 2015. There was just something so right about a portable linux box with a real keyboard. No keyboard-equipped cell phone ever replaced it for me, and let’s be honest. The keyboard on the Z2 was terrible, and the software was closed source. It’s unlikely we’ll ever see a new Zipit, and even if we did it wouldn’t be as open as we’d like.

So color me very surprised when I was forwarded a very interesting Kickstarter project around an embedded system on a chip called (fittingly) CHIP. At the basic pledge level, it’s a 9$ 1ghz SoC that can run linux and has wifi. Nothing too crazy, but certainly 4x faster than the original Z2, and plenty fast for many uses. That’s not the exciting part though. Oh no.

pocketchip

The exciting part (for me at least), is that at the 50$ pledge level you receive a docking station for this SoC called the ‘Pocket CHIP’. And wouldn’t you know it, this “docking station” has a physical keyboard, 5 hour battery, and looks very much like an unfolded Zipit. Add in the fact that this is open source hardware, and you’ve pretty much ticked off all the boxes in my ‘must buy’ list.

Will this Kickstarter be able to deliver on it’s promises? Who knows, and I suppose I’m the fool once again for backing a product at full retail price. If it does come to fruition though, expect some really fun projects coming at ya here on this blog.

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