Is OSHChip right for me
There are so many processor boards and modules available, trying to decide what is the right one for your project can be a real challenge. This page will try and help you in your consideration of OSHChip.
History of OSHChip
TLDR; Build a product that is like a 16 pin DIP with amazing capabilities.
Some insights into the conception, design, and trade-offs made in creating OSHChip may be of help. While not common for a technical site, I’m going to slip into first person for this section since the reality is that OSHChip is the work of one person.
My original plan was to create a platform specifically to support the creation of custom chips within the constraints of the programmable resources I built into the product. This is the “View 2” described on the home page. My goal is to motivate electronic hobbyists who are unlikely to ever have the opportunity to actually design and manufacture a custom chip to experience most of the challenges and rewards of the process, without the costs.
I had already spent about 2 years working with the Nordic Semiconductors nRF51822 System On Chip (SOC) and considered it an extremely good value for the price. Even without the 2.4 GHz radio, the rest of the device is very competitive with microprocessors from other companies. The biggest challenge for hobbyists though, is that the nRF51822 is only available in QFN and BGA packages, which means a hobbyist would need to design and manufacture a PCB before they could use the nRF51822. Even after creating the PCB, there is the quite significant challenge of soldering a fine pitch QFN device, or the even harder fine pitch BGA. While there are multiple manufacturers of modules that include this part, all the modules are surface mount, so the end user still has to create a PCB. There are also other challenges that hobbyists may not be up to, such as fine line PCB design, and design techniques for 2.4 GHz antennae. OSHChip solves these problems by dealing with the micro BGA package, antenna, power supply decoupling, crystal frequency reference, and bring it out in a package that is ready to be used in a standard solderless bread board.
I wanted to do as much as possible (within my cost constraints) to create something as much like a standard chip as possible. This lead to the 16 pin DIP form factor, and the custom pins that no other processor board has (well the closest is the Basic Stamp products from Parallax, but their pins are not as pretty as mine).
Pros and Cons of OSHChip
There are good and bad points about any processor board product, here are what I consider the main Pros and Cons for OSHChip.
- Very small size
- Very light weight
- 16 pin format with unique IC type pins, well matched to standard solderless bread boards
- Rapid prototyping with bread boards
- Very low power modes
- Fully functional from 1.8V to 3.6V (except for the LEDs which require at least 3.3V)
- 32 bit CPU, 256KB of Flash, 32KB of RAM
- Higher performance and more Flash and RAM than many models of Arduinos
- Bluetooth Low Energy radio
- Proprietary 2.4 GHz radio for chip-to-chip communications
- Broad range of built in peripherals, similar to most other micro processor products
- Except for ADC inputs, any peripheral function can be routed to any of the 14 I/O pins
- Efficient peripheral to peripheral Event/Task system that does not require CPU intervention
- Built in Red, Green, and Blue LEDs, that don’t use any of the user’s 14 I/O pins
- Extensive debug support
- Drag and drop programming.
- Existing support community at Nordic’s web site
- Existing support community within the mbed environment
- Multiple compiler/IDE options already exist
- Open source hardware design, all files are on GitHub
- All software from OSHChip is Open Source, most of the software from Nordic is available in source form, except for the radio protocol stacks
- Looks cute
- Only 14 I/O pins
- I/O is not 5V compliant
- I/O pins are only designed to drive CMOS type loads (mostly)
- Not currently manufactured in high volume, so price is not as low as some recently announced very high volume development boards
- OSHChip community has not yet been established
- Relying on 1 person at OSHChip, and the developer communities at Nordic Semiconductor’s DevZone for answering questions
- Currently minimal examples and tutorials
- It is assumed that you are familiar with processor boards, and you can navigate a processor chips data sheet and the API documentation provided by Nordic Semiconductor
- Initial support is only for C/C++
- Not yet integrated into the Arduino IDE
- Not designed to be soldered directly into a PCB (the pins may come out of the OSHChip board), should use a socket
- There are other 32 bit ARM CPU boards available with higher clock rates and higher performance