A hackable platform disguised as
a red hotline. By Daniel Gentleman
Photography by Daniel Gentleman
There’s no simple explanation of the Chumby. It’s an
alarm clock on steroids, a digital photo album, a tiny
Linux box, an internet radio player, and more. Owners
can set up a queue of personalized software widgets
through which the Chumby continually cycles. These
widgets, made interactive through the Chumby’s
touchscreen and motion sensors, include news,
weather, email notifications, Flickr feeds, Facebook
friend status, and even Netflix queue status.
Above all, Chumby’s open design welcomes
hacking and crafting. The creators of Chumby
offer not only their entire base of source code,
but the schematics to their hardware as well, at
chumby.com/developers/hardware (login required).
With its “open everything” nature, the Chumby is
easy to craft into a personal information appliance
that can fit into any setting. In my case, this happens
to be my computer desk, where I thought a bright
red, 1980s-style telephone would look perfect.
Here’s how I repackaged my Chumby into an
old desk phone, swapping its touchscreen for the
phone’s original keypad, fitting its stereo speakers
into each end of the phone’s handset, and putting its
ports on the back, replacing the original RJ14 jack.
Chumby Inside Tour
The first step in crafting with the Chumby is
learning the parts and how they all fit together. The
leather case, slightly larger than a softball, has a
3" touchscreen face. The rear of the unit has a plastic
assembly that houses a couple of USB ports, a headphone jack, and a pair of rear-facing speakers. On
top of the Chumby, a single button under the leather
toggles the control panel on and off.
Now for the inside tour. Open the unit by running
a hobby knife or thin screwdriver between the