X Racer from Gadget Gangster on Vimeo.

The Propeller Platform is open-source hardware with a mighty 8-core Parallax Propeller chip as its brain. Like the Arduino, it comes as a simple protoboard. But unlike the Arduino, the Propeller board is loaded with I/O pins and can output video and audio without much modification. It also comes with a powerful, high-level programming language called Spin, which makes coding it a bit easier. (The chip itself has a byte code interpreter.)

Video output means you could use this as a visual source. The game X Racer at top is actually running on this little board.

Also, it’s nice to see that there are open pins without header stuck in them, so you can more easily integrate the board with a finished project. Output to PAL, NTSC, or even VGA. (Sound options include 16-bit audio playback, and oddly, even TOSLINK/SPDIF output.)

Great write-up on Adafruit, which has just started carrying the board. Most astonishing is the price: US$50.

NEW PRODUCT – Propeller Platform USB

Now all we need is an open source, analog video mixer for combining these kinds of fun tools in performance. Anyone?

Addendum/update: Talking to a couple of folks I know who have looked at Propeller, the big problem is that its language is proprietary and, well, just not found anywhere else. It is powerful, but perhaps better suited to video than audio. The multi-core setup is still interesting for video, though; it’s just that my dream of open video devices may wind up appearing on a different platform. Hope we can kick off that discussion.

  • I got really excited about Propeller about a year ago and ordered a demo board.  Unfortunately, I realized later that there is no Propeller C compiler for Mac.  I would recommend that anyone who's interested take a look at some Spin code and decide if that's something you want to take the time to learn from scratch.  On the upside, Parallax accepted a return on the board and generally seemed like upstanding folks.  

  • Peter Kirn

    @Zach: Yeah, that appears to be a non-trivial problem right there. May be time to revisit some of the alternatives out there.

  • Gav

    I'm looking for something like this which has s video/composite in and out. Does such a thing exist?

  • Looks promising, but Spin is just an atrocious looking programming language.  

  • Looks like they have sorted the IDE, complier problem. Seems interesting. Now to figure out shipping to India.