Before Amazon’s Echo Show, there was the Chumby


Amazon is all set to begin selling its Echo Show this week: the touchscreen-equipped speaker can play music, function as an intercom, tell you about the weather, look up recipe videos and add items to your grocery list. And while it seems like an obvious addition to the company’s lineup of smart speakers, it really is an evolved version of a much-loved device from a decade ago: the Chumby.

Designed to sit on your nightstand as an alarm clock would, the original $180 Chumby that launched in 2008 featured a 3.5-inch color touchscreen, Wi-Fi connectivity, a 350MHz ARM processor, 64MB RAM and 64MB of flash memory — all housed in a cute, rounded, squeezable body.

Once you’d connected it to your home network and your computer, you could install and configure widgets for things like weather and news updates, sports scores, streaming internet radio and podcasts, displaying Facebook photo albums, playing games and video, and listing hot posts from Reddit and Twitter.

Both the hardware and the Linux-based software platform were fully open source, so you could hack the device to run practically any app that you could code for it. By the time the third iteration (the Chumby 8, named for its 8-inch display) arrived in 2011, there were about 1,300 different apps to choose from.

The Chumby Classic featured a squeezable body and a 3.5-inch display