An electronics hobbyist has designed a “laptop form factor device” that is estimated to run for two years between charges. The modest PotatoP combines a mix of low-power components, plus a 12,000mAh battery and a modest bank of solar cells. Eventually, Andreas Eriksen, the designer of PotatoP, wants to develop this laptop project to offer unlimited battery life, plus a bigger screen.
The inspiration for PotatoP came from the creator’s annoyance with his existing laptop always running out of battery. For the “small programming projects” it was used for, powerful hardware was not necessary. It would be better for the user if the laptop design leaned towards very low power usage, as long as the screen was sharp and readable and the keyboard worked.
To execute the above vision, PotatoP’s design relies on the SparkFun RedBoard Artemis ATP development board as its “motherboard”. This foundational component choice features the Ambiq Apollo3 SoC, which is claimed to “set a new standard in power efficiency for battery-powered devices.” The Arm Cortex-M4F SoC runs at up to 96 MHz and draws less than six microamps per MHz. The SBC also has 384 KB of RAM and 1 MB of flash memory, as well as a wide variety of interfaces/connectivity options considering its size.
Another component that was key to the PotatoP as you see it today is the Sharp memory in the Pixel LS044Q7DH01 display. This is a 320 x 240 pixel monochrome display with a diagonal of 4.4 inches. Eriksen says he’d like Sharp to make a larger version of this display, and he’s probably open to an alternative as long as it’s economical on power consumption. The screen does not have a backlight, which will help with energy efficiency. However, this 4.4-inch screen is claimed to be “surprisingly readable” in good lighting conditions. Finally, we must say that the tiny screen gives this PotatoP device a unique style.
While obvious sacrifices were made in display and processing power, it’s nice to see that the creator of PotatoP couldn’t put up with a poor typing experience. So, he sacrificed an old Happy Hacking Keyboard Lite 2 to integrate it into the PotatoP.
For software, PotatoP runs a Lisp (uLisp) environment. PotatoP creator Eriksen says that using Lisp to create the necessary application software is another part of the fun of using this home computer.
Lastly, the PotatoP, with its already impressive battery life and measured in years, is being tuned to never require a charging cable. The creator has been busy working on system optimizations to reduce power consumption, which you can read about in the development project logs. If software tweaks alone can’t extend battery life to infinity as it stands (with the help of solar power), Eriksen is considering adding more solar cells to achieve this goal.