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I'm a programmer that's a little out of his element here, and not sure where to start.

I'm trying to figure out a way I can connect this TTL camera to a PCB that also has a cheap ARM or DSP CPU on it. The ARM would be running some kind of headless Linux (probably Debian) with a homegrown device driver (I'd have to write it myself) that could read the serial video bitstream from the camera and do something with it.

So my constraints:

  • Cheap ARM/DSP processor that can run Linux
  • The camera (linked above)
  • Custom device driver (unless the camera comes with drivers, which the link doesn't indicate)
  • I'd prefer to spend less than $100 on the entire solution (camera, chip, board, etc.) --> cheap

Everywhere I look for an ARM chip, I get one of the following:

  • I have to buy in bulk (not an option; this is a hobby project); or
  • I have to buy a full MCU/SoC with lots of excess stuff that I don't need/want

Do I have any options here? I've been reading up on custom/DIY PCBs using this "toner transfer method" and it seems interesting. If it's possible, I'd be happy to design my own circuit, make my own PCB, and then attach a cheap standalone ARM chip to it (as well as the camera and anything else). But perhaps that's not an option; perhaps attaching a CPU to a homemade PCB isn't feasible for technical reasons.

My first preference would be to find a cheap CPU, solder it to my own homemade PCB, and do the same with the camera. Is this possible? If not, perhaps someone could explain why, and tell me what my options are?

Either way, I'm not real familiar with ARM. What's a good make/model that would suit my purposes? Thanks in advance.

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You could certainly marry that camera to a Raspberry Pi and still stay within your budget.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks @Dave Tweed (+1) - my only concern with the Pi is that I may want to add other devices (servos, LEDs, etc.) to the Pi and there are only a finite number of GPIO pins. I'm still a novice in the world of electronics: is it possible to add an "extension board" to the Pi that enables me to somehow map to more peripheral devices than what the GPIO pins currently offer? Thanks again! \$\endgroup\$ – HeineyBehinds Dec 11 '12 at 1:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Oh, sure! You could, for example, hang any number of I/O expander chips from an available SPI or I2C port. Microchip's MCP23017/MCP23S17 is just one example. \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Tweed Dec 11 '12 at 1:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ And, if it's not possible to "extend" the Pi's GPIO pins, then can you daisy chain Pi's together: a "main" Pi board that is connected to, say, 3 other Pi boards: 1 for my camera, another board that controls servos, and another that contains LEDs? \$\endgroup\$ – HeineyBehinds Dec 11 '12 at 1:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Absolutely! There are any number of ways that multiple Pis can communicate with each other: UART, SPI, I2C, Ethernet, etc. \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Tweed Dec 11 '12 at 1:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks again for all your help so far - last follow up (this should tie everything together for me): if I do "marry" the camera to the Pi, I assume I'll have to write my own device driver for it, correct? And in that driver, I'll have to expose an API that user applications (other "apps" running on the Pi board) can use to turn the camera on/off, start streaming, etc. Am I on track of way off base? Thanks again! \$\endgroup\$ – HeineyBehinds Dec 11 '12 at 2:09

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