Dan Dias

| Blog and Portfolio
Jun 10 2017

I remembered that Pocket C.H.I.P. existed. I remembered seeing it come through as a Kickstarter when I had decided I needed to stop backing projects on Kickstarter. Still yearning to own one, I plopped down ~$90 I had earmarked for computer replacement and waited for a shipping notification.

Alternate Timelines

About a week later it showed up in the mail. The simple box it came in had a real late 80s feel to the design. This made my dumb nostalgia brain giddy. Taking the actual product out of the box intensified that giddiness.

The best way to describe the design is raw. The keyboard is a circuit board material with bumps for buttons. The keyboard has a resistive touch LED attached to the top with a bezel that feels like it could fall off. Under normal circumstances, that’s a bad thing but the other thing about this is it’s designed to be hackable and disassembled without tools. The whole thing feels like it fell out of an alternate history where the video game market didn’t crash in 83 and the Nintendo Gameboy was instead made years earlier by a company like Commodore International.

Shellfish Designer

Two features drew me to this device. The first is the fact it’s a little Linux computer. Downloading a terminal emulator on your smartphone pales in comparison to having a device dedicated as a handheld terminal. There’s something distinctly cyberpunk about bringing up a terminal on a handheld device and I love the crap out of it even if I rarely use it.


The second is PICO-8, “a fantasy console for making, sharing and playing tiny games and other computer programs”. It’s a Lua based game engine/console designed for making 8-bit games. I originally picked up PICO-8 on a Humble Bundle pay-what-you-want deal and toyed with it for a bit. But I was messing around with a purposefully limited engine on my computer which was capable of messing around in Unity. It felt wrong. On this little device I don’t mind poking around at a smaller scope game when I’m unable to get onto my computer.

The language and tools bring me back to C64 era programming where design could be more functional oriented and less classy. It’s fun to go back to that mindset every once and awhile and see what you can do in that space. For simple editing, you can use the built in keyboard. I plug in a full sized keyboard when I get down to writing a lot of code.

Next Big Thing?

Is The Next Thing Co.’s CHIP the Next Big Thing? Probably not. Negative traits about the device: the keyboard isn’t reliable, battery life is somewhat short and the CPU isn’t powerful. All that aside, it’s still been keeping my interest for over a week now. I love this little thing.

Rocking Basscss