The Open Source Autarkic Motherboard

Seeing shall be believing: A solar-powered, Raspberry Pi-like Board Design project that runs on 5mW

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Welcome to my solar system! Project tentatively called "The Plato" Platform.

Seeking those with an interest in:

1. Solar Power & Battery Management

2. MCU & Memory PCB Design:

3. Lisp/RTOS software development--EPOC/EKA2?

4. E-paper/Reflective Display driver SHARP Memory in Pixel 4.4" RLCD LPM044M141A

If this project concept looks too complicated, see Andreas Erikksen's prototype for a simpler (and functional) demo: :)


Update 10/22/2023: See post on laptop design could benefit from Plato's Ideal World of 3rd Party components:

Update 9/28/2023: It cost $25 million to build the Raspberry Pi 5, plus $15 million to develop the RP1 I/O controller. "Under development since 2016, RP1 is by a good margin the longest-running, most complex, and (at $15 million) most expensive program we’ve ever undertaken here at Raspberry Pi." 

And, "However, the much higher performance ceiling means that for the most intensive workloads, and in particular for pathological “power virus” workloads, peak power consumption increases to around 12W, versus 8W for Raspberry Pi 4."

The first Raspberry Pi, Model B, released in 2012, used between 0.9W and 1.1W. The Model A and Pi Zero used as little as 0.4W. The Rpi 5 watt ceiling consumption has crossed into the double digits. 

With no indication that the Raspberry Pi seeks to develop a solar powered single-board computer anytime soon, this project can serve as that low power alternative, in the absolutely lowest possible terms:

To give you an idea how much this would cost, add $25 million (which includes $7-12 million alone for the CPU) to display integration- be it E-ink, Ynvisible (formerly Rdot Displays) or Azumo, then include low-power wireless bandwidth by telecoms interested in supporting NB-IoT LTE, Cat M2, NB2 & DSSS modulation, and the cost of this project exceeds $50 million. Still interested? Most venture startups don't have the funds for that kind of research and development. Save for a few, but it is being invested in AI, or something else. Can one put a price on connectivity? A product like this could connect 2 billion people who do not have any internet access, in regions with no electricity. It could also be a useful emergency cell phone in places where power outages hit utilities. Portable Bentocells could be a practical complement.

Another upside is, this wouldn't be an investment that requires redesigning the entire board for subsequent generations. The Raspberry Pi moved their Ethernet port back to the bottom right. Perhaps this could be a nod to wanting to keep a defacto standard to limit the disposal of older cases so that they can be re-used in newer systems. So designing an ATX standard, even for tiny motherboards would set the standard for decades of phones, as there is no indication anyone wants to start using Google or Apple AI glasses for their communications anytime soon. The ATX standard saved Intel money, but it also saved consumers money too. It just so happened to be a de facto standard that no one minded adopting. It is a standard that hasn't gone away for almost 30 years. Are phones really more personable that they need to be more special (at the expense of non-reusable outer shells), or is it that smartphone marketing is just really good at selling us different phones that make us feel like we have many personable options? Visit and you can see thousands of operating systems, yet they all work on a handful of architectures. 

What this era could use is a modular platform for upgradeable mobile hardware.

When a PC outlives its usefulness, it gets tossed to the side of a curb.

There is a reason certain products can't offer a shipping option. Obsolete hardware, back in the day, was rare/specific enough that modularity was not a practical idea- there was no need to standardize form factors because the next generation was certain to have a radically different operating system (PDP-11 vs. GE 645)  and more manufacturable, and smaller components. Phones cannot get any smaller than a flip phone, because the human...

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