100 Allwinner A20 EOMA68 CPU cards manufactured for testing

Last week, and technically last year, we wrote Dragonbox Pyra open-source hardware handheld Linux PC was ready to ship after 6 years in the making, and 4 years after initial pre-orders, highlighting that such projects can take a long time.

But it’s not the only project to have suffered from long delays, but still slowly getting things done. Rhombus Tech started working on earth-friendly EOMA68 (Embedded Open Modular Architecture Standard) computing cards based on the 68-pin PCMCIA form factor in 2012, before launching Allwinner A20 based EOMA68 cards on Crowd Supply in 2016 together with laptop and micro PC shells.

EOMA68 CPU Card Laptop Micro Desktop

The project had regular updates over the year, mostly to discuss the progress of the project, and unexpected challenges encountered. But there may light in the tunnel,  as in the latest December 30th update, Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton (LKCL) announced the company had managed to manufacture 100 OEMA68 cards based on Allwinner A20 dual-core Cortex-A7 processor with the help of partners like ThinkPenguin.

The project managed to get 1,000 backers during the crowdfunding campaign, and those first 100 cards were mostly done for testing purposes to make sure everything works as expected. This is still progress, and there’s no ETA exactly when backers will get their cards, but at least that’s progress, and hopefully, backers will get their cards and optional the shell they paid for soon.

EOMA68 cards were mostly designed to fight against excessive e-waste and planned obsolescence since the cards can be updated or placed while the shell (micro desktop or laptop) remains the same.   It’s easier in theory than in practice, as ports also evolve (think USB 3.0 vs USB 2.0, 2.5Gbps vs Gigabit Ethernet), so shells also become obsolete, but it usually takes a longer time to happen.

EOMA68 CPU Card
EOMA68 CPU card

Luke also noted there’s consumer demand for modular, self-serviceable hardware with the initial success of/excitement over Phonebloks (900,000 supporters), and the Intel Compute Card that Nexdock planned to use in their latest laptop shell. Both project eventually failed. Phonebloks ended up part of Motorola/Google Project Ara that folded a few years later, and the Nexdock project apparently failed because of a “failure to cope with the DRM built into Intel Compute Cards”.

Luke hopes the delivery of the first EOMA68 A20 cards will start the journey to bring mass-volume, inexpensive, carbon-conscious eco-computing to the world. The standard may need to evolve over time for different types of cards (entry-level, mid-range, high-end), as the interfaces offered in the current standard may not suit all modern requirements. Only time will tell.

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