Computing and manufacturing have changed so much that things that were almost impossible to do unless you were a giant corporation are now something hobbyists accomplish in their spare time. That apparently includes making computers the size of business cards. No, this is far from being a Raspberry Pi clone that is the size of a hundred business cards stacked on top of each other. This computer that runs Linux is really a business card, the type that you give out for free to impress people and impressed they probably will be.
Granted, it’s an apple to oranges comparison. The Raspberry Pi, though the width and length of a business card, needs a lot more components and power to accomplish its goal of delivering an easy to use single-board computer (SBC) for educational purposes. If you just want to flaunt your engineering skills, you don’t really need that much.
Embedded systems engineer George Hilliard had enough time on his hands to put that to the test and build the cheapest functional Linux computer that could be put on a business card. And it doesn’t even occupy the entire surface of the card. There’s plenty of room for information to read at a glance.
“Functional” is pretty subjective at this point. It does boot into Linux but, as there’s nothing else, all you can really do is log into its minimal shell from another computer. There’s barely enough space for substantial programs, 8MB to be precise, and yet it has room for two text-based, a Python interpreter, and maybe a few KB of data. Yes, the business card also functions as a very tight USB storage.
All of that, Hilliard computes, cost $2.88 per card to make. Of course, that doesn’t factor in the time and skill to pull it off, nor the fabrication process that has to be done in batches. Still, it does show some of the cool things you can make these days with some off the shelf components these days, a bit of know-how, and a lot of patience.