We need more little systems that are somewhere between underpowered Arduinos and entire Linux systems.
If only Blackberry hadn't killed off open-source QNX. A board with a few megabytes of RAM and QNX in ROM would be a nice system for many embedded applications. You get processes, threads, message passing, and real-time scheduling. But disks, users accounts, networking, etc. are optional add-ons. Nice for embedded applications where you need to control hardware but have other things to do as well.
More than the memory you would have on a small PDP-6 LISP system! Enough to run PROLOG: :)
I wonder if uLisp is portable to the ESP.
They are surely more powerful that the Amstrad PC1512 that we used to play Defender of the Crown back in the high school computer club.
And MS-DOS had plenty of nice high level languages to choose from.
However even those 5ms might not be an issue, if the chip is doing single purpose tasks, like wake-up, do its thing, go to sleep, like opening a garage door, read a measurement and send it off, ...
That's not a lot of gap; openwrt is tiny and "embedded" boards grow more powerful every year. Every time I see a new board, one of my first questions is, "does it have enough RAM+flash for Linux?" and we're getting close - if the teensy 4.1 had a touch more ram it'd work (well, uclinux, but still).
(Just to clarify: I am not trying to dismiss this as "useless". I am genuinely interested about knowing about use cases: in part because embedded systems or low resource self-contained systems are not my area of expertise).
I see it asked today more like "What of the programs that we've already think of by today can we run on this? With an implicit answer that it seems so underpowered for anything non trivial and we already have more powerful systems so why bother with its limitations?"
When I was starting to learn about computers everything about them was cool and awesome (later but soon enough I've learned later that they do games as well).
But if I would have been asked by my father what good were they then I would have not have an answer that would be acceptable in the 'business' sense. Computers were cool in themselves. The process of hacking them was its own reward but my father would see me typing or playing games.
The most important realization for me was that I could make them do "anything" that I could think of. The realization that I was not limited in the space of programming was empowering.
So yes. Running most of today's programs doesn't make sense on it. But if you can see it as a playing (safe exploration) ground then the question is irrelevant. The most important issue is that playing may be the only thing that would allow you to imagine applications that you would not be able to imagine otherwise.
Its use cases are probably similar to Arduino and other single-board computers, to interface with many kinds of hardware I/O, sensors and signals. I imagine the Lisp Badge has unique advantages and constraints, due to its choice of components and form factor.
Since it has a display and keyboard, an idea that comes to mind is: programmable calculator for education.
And maybe for professional niches - that require, I don't know, certain kinds of common calculations, formulae, graphs, to be done "on-site" (somewhere awkward for carrying laptops, but a smart calculator in a pocket would be handy).
From its size, cost, and simplicity of hardware/software design, perhaps it's suitable for computer/engineering education - including for beginners, children, or in developing countries.
Is it hard to do a touch keyboard on devices like this? Full tactile switch arrays adds so many solder points and I feel it drives up costs somewhat.
At this size, yeah. It's tough to make touch keys large enough that you don't tap multiple buttons at once.
It also takes a lot of processor IO, and generally a dedicated cap sense peripheral as well. Plus, many of those peripherals have a scan interval that's laggy when you get to large IO counts.
Check this link http://www.technoblogy.com/show?2AEE
and the "Parts list" is shown in the Construction section
Here are the details about how to build one: http://www.technoblogy.com/show?2AEE