Balloon is an Open hardware development board intended for use as a computing module in embedded devices, development projects or educational settings.
Balloon should be viewed as a versatile 'computer component'. Most projects need their own bit of hardware or IO. Balloon means you can concentrate on that part and add it on to the base Balloon. Balloon has the CPU, RAM, NOR and NAND Flash, serial, USB client/host/OTG, I2C, Compact Flash, IO header, buffered expansion bus, simple 8-bit bus, and a CPLD or FPGA. It is particularly suitable for battery-powered devices, wearable computing, low-power instrument monitoring, robotic control and university or corporate research needing physically small, lightweight (<30g), low-power(<1W), high-performance computing.
The board is designed so that unneeded parts can be left off and things still work, to keep costs and power consumption down. The possibilities are described under build options. Small batches of boards (30 or more) can be built to a given spec.
Balloon will develop according to the needs and enthusiasm of those using it. Various developments are already clear from those involved so far.
In September 2004 the Balloon 3.0 design process was started. Balloon 3 is an Xscale balloon variant which is needed as StrongARM 1110 becomes obsolete. This design remains very similar apart from the CPU upgrade, and remains compatible (as far as possible) with the Expansion connector physical and electric specs so add-on boards will still work. The most major change is the addition of an FPGA build option, allowing extensive DSP functionality. Some changes are also caused by the move to Xscale PXA270, which includes USB host and slave, so the extrenal USB device is gone (which is good because it used far too much CPU support to do its job). The design also incorporates a number of other improvements that seem sensible, such as a shift to FPC connectors which are cheaper and more reliable.
There are a number of add-on boards proposed for balloon3:
Development board - Board to bring out connectors to and access the advanced features such as the configurable samosa bus. Input is wanted on what people would like to see on this - please tell the list, or Chris Jones direct Application specific Breakout boards - Small boards for specific purposes may also be a good idea as a cost-effective way of accessing specific features during development. Ethernet, Video, User port, Serial ports and LCD port boards are proposed.
- Steve Wiseman - Originator, Designer. Ultimately everything is Steve's fault.
- Nick Bane - Kernel port, bootloader and familiar-based distro. Toby Churchill's chief software man. (CE Computing)
Wookey - Webmaster, Aleph One Developer support and general helper-out. (Aleph One)
David Bisset - Manufacturability guru, CPLD logic, Balloon3 layout (Itechnic Ltd)
- David Mason - (TCL production manager) - interfaces with build people
Chris Jones - Pinouts and interface definer and general Balloon3 expert. (Martin-Jones Technology)
Peter Long - Cambridge University Multidisciplinary Design Project Lead - chivying, collaborations
James McKenzie - Guralp developer
Colin Tuckley - Balloon Emdebian distro developer
- Laurie van Someren - Production liason and Sales at Aleph One
- Paul Fidler - Real-time linux, i2c (MDP project)
Hector Oron - Emdebian developer, toolchains, BalloonBuildSystem
Neil Williams - Emdebian developer, rootfs