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BASH script to provide a nice interface to CHIP's gpio pins.


I want there to be NO barriers to using this code, so I am releasing it to the public domain. But "public domain" does not have an internationally agreed upon definition, so I use CC0:

Copyright 2016 Steven Ford and licensed "public domain" style under CC0: CC0

To the extent possible under law, the contributors to this project have waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to this work. In other words, you can use this code for any purpose without any restrictions. This work is published from: United States. The project home is

To contact me, Steve Ford, project owner, you can find my email address at Can't see it? Keep looking.


The C.H.I.P. single-board computer has General Purpose Input/Output pins (GPIOs) which can be accessed with software via the "sysfs" virtual file system. The method of identifying specific GPIO pins is not mnemonic; e.g. one simply has to remember that the pin known as "CSID0" has the number 132 associated with it. Even worse, as changes are made to the device tree, the numeric value associated with a GPIO pin can (and has) changed. For example, under CHIPOS 4.3, the GPIO known as "XIO-P0" was associated with number 408. Under CHIPOS 4.4, "XIO-P0" changed to 1016. There is reason to believe that it will change again in the not-too-distant future.

This project's shell script, "", allows specifying GPIO by name instead of number. It derives the correct numbers at run-time for different versions of the device table, which allows it to work correctly across different versions of CHIPOS. It also provides a set of access methods (shell functions) which slightly simplifies the shell coding.

You can find gpio_sh on github. See:

Note: the "gh-pages" branch is considered to be the current stable release. The "master" branch is the development cutting edge.

Quick Start

These instructions assume you are in a shell prompt on CHIP.

  1. Get the shell script file onto CHIP:

     sudo wget -O /usr/local/bin/
  2. Get and run the example script:

     chmod +x
     sudo ./
  3. It can also be used for interactive work (as root):

     sudo bash  # enter root shell
     source /usr/local/bin/
     gpio_export XIO_P0
     gpio_direction XIO_P0 in
     gpio_input XIO_P0; VAL=$?
     echo $VAL
     gpio_unexport XIO_P0
     exit  # exit root shell

API Notes

  • Since accessing GPIO pins requires root access, the calling script should typically be run with "sudo". For example:

      sudo ./
  • The script must be sourced so that the shell variables defined will be available to the caller.

  • The symbolic names for GPIOs are the same as are shown in the CHIP documentation's Physical Connectors section (scroll down to the "Pin Headers" sub-section), except that all dashes ("-") should be entered as underscores ("_"). When is sourced, it defines a set of shell variables with the same names as the GPIO names. For example, the $XIO_P7 substitutes the proper numeric value.

  • When passing a GPIO identifier to a method, you can either pass the shell variable substitution, which is just the numeric value, or you can pass the GPIO name as a string. All three of the following lines export CSID0:

      gpio_export CSID0
      gpio_export $CSID0
      gpio_export 132    # not recommended.
  • Many pins on CHIP's pin headers are not GPIOs. For example, GND and VCC-5V cannot be accessed with software. The list of symbols defined by is: PWM0 AP_EINT3 TWI1_SCK TWI1_SDA TWI2_SCK TWI2_SDA LCD_D2 LCD_D3 LCD_D4 LCD_D5 LCD_D6 LCD_D7 LCD_D10 LCD_D11 LCD_D12 LCD_D13 LCD_D14 LCD_D15 LCD_D18 LCD_D19 LCD_D20 LCD_D21 LCD_D22 LCD_D23 LCD_CLK LCD_DE LCD_HSYNC LCD_VSYNC CSIPCK CSICK CSIHSYNC CSIVSYNC CSID0 CSID1 CSID2 CSID3 CSID4 CSID5 CSID6 CSID7 AP_EINT1 UART1_TX UART1_RX XIO_P0 XIO_P1 XIO_P2 XIO_P3 XIO_P4 XIO_P5 XIO_P6 XIO_P7

The available gpio methods are:

  • gpio_export gpio - open a GPIO pin for use.

  • gpio_direction gpio in/out - set the GPIO pin for use as an input or output.

  • gpio_output gpio 0/1 - for GPIO pin set to output, set its output value.

  • gpio_input gpio - for GPIO pin set to input or output, read back its value. It is made available to the caller via its return status "$?". Remember that the return status variable is ephemeral, so it is strongly suggested to copy its value into a regular shell variable. For example:

      gpio_input XIO_P0; VAL=$?
  • gpio_unexport gpio - close the GPIO pin.

  • gpio_unexport_all - close ALL opened GPIO pins. WARNING: this is potentially disruptive. It does NOT restrict itself to only those pins opened by the currenly running script. It checks for ALL opened (exported) GPIOs and closes them. If you are running other software which accesses GPIOs, using "gpio_unexport_all" will disrupt the operation of that other software.

Release Notes

  • 23-Jul-2016

    • Added ability to pass the GPIO name without the $.
    • Added extra error checking.
    • Added version number (release date) to file
  • 30-Jun-2016

    Initial release


BASH access to C.H.I.P.'s GPIO pins with symbolic names instead of numbers.




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