Monday, October 08, 2007

Finder -> Susan Ware -> Chumby -> What?

The previous post was triggered by an article I'd read about Finder's development -> Writing up the post I went in search of some screenshots of the Sad Mac screen of death -> And that led me to links about Susan Kare (who designed the original Macintosh icons) -> Which in turn prompted me to look up her Wikipedia entry ->And there at the end was a cryptic sentence ...

"Kare is currently employed by Chumby Industries, working to create the Chumby device."

Front of a Chumby

Chumby? What? Am I so out of touch with the mad interweb that I haven't heard of the Chumby before? Have you?

Turns out that the Chumby is a consumer device that's on a limited beta test at the moment and going on sale to the public in November 2007. It's a small colour screen, backed by a wifi connection, that can sit anywhere in your house that has an AC socket nearby, and uses Flash widgets to download and display data from the web.

You can use it as an alarm clock, an email previewer, a weather reporter; tune it into your Facebook feed to see which friends have done what; listen to online radio stations. The Guardian's Jack Schofield described it as

"Think of it as a cross between an alarm clock and a Furby: it's the first computer you can both hack and hug."

Christine Herron describes the internals on her Christine.net blog as

"Chumby runs on a a 266MHz ARM controller, with 32MB SDRAM running at 133MHz bus speed and a six-layer board. The touchscreen is a 3.5" TFT LCD with LED backlighting, and an ambient light sensor tells chumby when to dim its backlighting. There are stereo speakers, a headphone jack, and a power supply that can use between 6 and 14 volts. A squeeze sensor allows users to open up the case after it's been nestled inside its soft, Tribble-like shell."

Back of a Chumby

The outside casing can be modified by owners (need to supply your own needle and thread!) while the internals (hardware and software) have been designed to be modified by interested parties, with the hardware components published, and the source code open-sourced. The manufacturers are quite proud of it, giving lots of progress on their corporate blog, and even describing the Chinese manufacturing process on their public engineering blog.

Selling for somewhere between $150 and $200, it will be interesting if there is truly a demand for another consumer electronic device to clutter up your desk and steal more amps from an already overloaded set of power adapters.

What makes it any different from plugging in your Blackberry to charge on your bedside table and using it as an alarm clock?

2 comments:

Stephen Barnes said...

Chumby? Yes, heard of it, but it's soooo last year. I've got a Nabaztag/tag. Does it all without a screen, has voice recognition, and is much more fun ;-)

(his name is 'Woger' if you want to send him a message from www.nabaztag.com)

Paul said...

Forget the rabbit thing...this looks great, but what I think they really should do is put the Slimdevices SqueezeBox inside as well
http://www.slimdevices.com/
that would be fantastic!! i'd buy a couple.