Sadly, the $9 computer is no more, it appears that a shortage of parts brought the demise of this wonderful affordable Single Board Computer.

I had purchased 4 of them and I was surprised and pleased the other day that I was still able to re-image one through their online Chip Flasher. After that, I downloaded all the images they have available on my personal NAS just in case I have to re image one the hard way.

One of the feature I really like about this Single Board Computer is the built in LiPo battery charger and level monitoring, no other board I have seen so far has this built in and even fewer have a decent add on available, especially at the price point of the CHIP; if you need to have a project running on batteries, this is a must.

Time permitting I will continue with documenting my CHIP ROVER Plans as I did put some decent effort and work into it. This is the CHIP that I had to re-image as the OS went into read-only mode and I could not recover from it; thank goodness I make periodic backups on my NAS. The quote I like to use is “Jesus saves, everyone else has to do backups”.

It also appears that someone is taking it upon themselves to make a similar board although it won’t be even close to the $9 price point.

At least their forum still shows some activity…






We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.

~ Carlos Castaneda

CHIP – The $9 Computer – ROVER Plans

CHIP – The $9 Computer – ROVER Plans

I have built and destroyed a few rovers in the past. Most of them I didn’t make any plans ahead, I just “MacGyver-ed” something from spare parts. It was fun and still is. It started several years ago with a unit that I built from Meccano parts which had tracks and two small Arduinos all connected via serial ports. Then went to a smaller unit using an ATtiny2313 and a Bluetooth module controlled by an Android app I created myself. The most recent dismantled victim was using a WRTnode module which was streaming a USB camera connected to it, my first true “rover”.  This one I used to run small cables underneath big greasy equipment at work, so it was actually a workhorse, well more like a “work-pony”.

Were are they all now? Hopefully in Robot heaven with only memories of their existence. l did keep the “brains” of the Bluetooth ATtiny2313 unit, it is still all mounted on a small breadboard. There is something special about this one that makes me keep it around. Maybe the fact that the ATtiny2313 only has 2K of memory and I made a rover out of it, maybe because I actually had a plan in action when I built this one instead of just winging it.

ATtiny “brains” with LED lights still intact on the original breadboard


After building several different rovers I came up with a list of my basic requirements:

  • It has to be controllable via WiFi in order to get decent range.
  • It has to have a live streaming camera to see where it is going.
  • It has to have a rechargeable battery.
  • It has to have lights to see in the dark.
  • It has to have adjustable speed for better control.
  • It has to have tracks instead of wheels for better traction.

The nice things to have would be:

  • Controllable colored lights (RGB Leds).
  • Speaker/Amplifier to speak or play sounds .
  • A variety of sensors such as battery status, wall and proximity sensors and/or environment sensors.
  • Docking station for recharging the battery.

Really cool things to have:

  • Being able to be autonomous.
  • Some kind of vision system.
  • Speech recognition.

I always  start with the basic and build up to the nice things before attempting the cool stuff, however the basic build  has to take in account for future upgrades as well.

This is how I put together my CHIP Rover. I started with the basics and added a couple of nice features later; I am still tinkering with it, currently planning on sensing stairs or void ahead to avoid an ugly demise.

For the basic setup I used the following material:

BRAINS: 1 CHIP – The $9 Computer
CHASSIS: 1 Zumo Chassis Kit (No Motors)
MOTORS: 2 Micro Metal Gearmotor (I Chose the medium speed 75:1)
MOTOR CONTROLLER: 1 TB6612FNG Dual Motor Driver Carrier
BATTERY: 1 Lithium Ion Polymer Battery – 3.7v 2500mAh
WIRES : 1 Breadboarding wire bundle
HEADERS: 2 40-Pin Break-apart Male Headers – 2mm Pitch
HEADERS: 2 Stacking Header – 2×20 Extra Tall Header
POWER: 1 5V 2A Micro USB Charger Power Adapter
CABLES: 1 Micro USB  (For accessing CHIP via computer)

I forgot to list a USB camera above but that’s probably because the first goal is to get it moving. I will have a dedicated post just for the camera.

The links in the BOM are for reference, you can obtain any parts from your preferred supplier. I chose each component after dry fitting several different part together until I found the right combination. This took several weeks as I had to wait for some parts to arrive.

In the following posts I will document how it came together.

Ciao for now.

CHIP – The $9 Computer – SETUP

CHIP – The $9 Computer – SETUP

After I unboxed this little mighty computer and connected to it through a Linux shell I realized I wanted to upgrade the operating system from the 4.3 kernel to 4.4.

They have different images and versions, I chose the Headless 4.4 Kernel for my new experimental rover.

I’m not going to duplicate the instructions because their website does a decent job, here is the link on how to do so; I found the easier way is through their Chrome browser plugin.

CHIP with jumper wire attached

Once I installed the Headless 4.4 Kernel image the first thing I did is software updates but I needed to establish a WiFi connection first, however the image being headless, I only have a command line interface available… No problem, their web site had the info, here are the instructions I followed; they are simple and detailed, the wireless configuration worked successfully on the first try.

Once I established a successful WiFi connection I ran the standard update/upgrade commands:

chip@chip:~$ sudo apt update

chip@chip:~$ sudo apt upgrade

It might take a few minutes to complete both but when it’s done you have your basic building block for a neat rover or whatever you want it to be.

In a nutshell:

So now the CHIP is ready for whatever you have planned for it.

Stay tuned for more post regarding this little wonder, including a rover I built using it.