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The Itsy/Cue Computer

The Wearable Group at Carnegie Mellon
computer engineering · computer science · design · hci


The Itsy/Cue prototype computer is a derivative of the DEC (Compaq) Itsy, a StrongARM-based palm-sized device. The Itsy/Cue design extends the original WRL work by adding two Type-II PCMCIA slots, 48MB of DRAM (in addition to the 16MB on the Itsy), 12MB of flash RAM (in addition to the 4MB on the Itsy), and a lithium ion battery with recharging circuitry (to replace the alkaline cells on the Itsy).

Within the Wearable Group, the Itsy has provided a flexible platform for research into low-power computing, producing theses at the masters and doctoral level in electrical and computer engineering. The Itsy/Cue device also motivates the development of PCMCIA Card Services for StrongARM, and a partnership with Lucent to port the WaveLAN/IEEE driver to the StrongARM microprocessor. WaveLAN-equipped Itsy/Cue prototypes are being used by a graduate rapid prototyping course currently taught at Carnegie Mellon for the investigation of mobile speech interfaces.

The Itsy/Cue device will be followed locally by the Spot computer, which will continue to use the StrongARM architecture, run ARM Linux, and feature a large main memory. Spot will additionally focus on wearability and flexible, high-performance I/O. The initial research applications of Spot are currently scheduled to include interaction design, mobile/ad-hoc networking, low-power computing, and image processing.


The Itsy/Cue runs release 4.1 of the Itsy software distribution, which for Carnegie Mellon users can be obtained by contacting John Dorsey. The distribution includes documentation on the use of the hardware monitor, ramdisks, cross-compilers, and so forth.

Documentation for use of the PCMCIA daughtercard is included in the Card Services patch. Note that the ARM Linux kernel currently distributed for use on the Itsy requires a small patch in order to work with Card Services.

Hardware Loans

Itsy/Cue prototypes are not permitted to leave the design labs without first being signed out. Borrowers must provide personal contact information, and the loan must be endorsed by a member of the Wearable Group. The following form must be completed and returned to John Dorsey:
itsy-release-form.pdf Portable Document Format 28 kilobytes PostScript 1.16 megabytes
For internal use only: Itsy sign-out sheet.
itsy-signout-sheet.pdf Portable Document Format 29 kilobytes PostScript 1.17 megabytes

Images © 2000 Wearable Group. Photo credit: Rob Long.

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Updated 8 December, 2000 - <>