Free and Open Source Software has earned quite a following since the first Linux kernel was released in 1991. But for the most part FOSS software runs on hardware that’s not entirely open.

Even the popular Raspberry Pi computer which is designed to help students learn to program with the help of inexpensive hardware and Linux-based software relies on a chip with proprietary technology.

So one of the co-founders of the Rapsberry Pi project along with a few other partners have decided to launch a new project: They hope to design a completely open chip and development board. The new project is called lowRISC and the goal is to have a product ready for production in the next few years.

RISC-V prototype
RISC-V prototype

The lowRISC project will design a system-on-a-chip based on RISC-V architecture. That will allow the the team to develop 64-bit chips using 45nm and/or 28nm processes with expected clock speeds ranging from around 500 MHz to 1.5 GHz.

This won’t be a high-performance chip aimed at crushing Intel’s dominance in the desktop and laptop PC space or ARM’s dominance of mobile chip designs. The initial processors won’t even have graphics processors.

But they’ll be designed to allow you to run Linux reasonably well and the chips should be relatively inexpensive: the goal is to be able to produce chips for about $10 each.

More importantly, the lowRISC project is an effort to let you run open source software on truly open hardware so that every line of code is open to review and modification.

The founders of lowRisc are Raspberry Pi co-founder Robert Mullins, Raspberry Pi contributor Alex Bradbury, and Radioscape co-founder Gavin Ferris. The project’s also affiliated with the University of Cambridge and the team his hiring.

There’s also a technical advisory board which includes Bunnie Huang (one of the guys behind the Novena open laptop project) and folks from Google ATAP, OpenRISC, and the University of California Berkeley and San Diego).

via Linux Gizmos

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6 replies on “lowRISC wants to design a fully-open processor and development board”

  1. Very interesting new Open-risc-plattform!

    LowRISC plattform should also be more interesting for Russia and China to be part of instead
    of support ARM v8 as Russia have announced and lowRISC should have more possibilities
    for China instead of their support for MIPS-based Loongson and Godson.
    Hopefully, will lowRISC make new possibilities to develop much cheaper smartphones/tablets
    than today with ARM-based SoC.
    But gpu-cores must be part of lowRISC SoC if lowRISC shall be competitive!
    Display and SoC are the most expensive components in today’s smartphones and tablets.

  2. If they try to do a really open graphics core that is actually useful today, they will become BAIT for the greedy patent and trial lawyers. But I welcome the effort. BTW, The Parallax Propeller-I 8-core micro-controller just went open source, and that’s a chip that exists in current production.

  3. I fear for the development and implementation time.
    Things move mighty fast nowadays.

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