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Fenner Machine

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  1. This is a question that I’ve been pondering for ages. A “What if?”. What would be your acceptable minimum specs for an alternative everyday computer/games system? Maybe not a complete replacement, but a useful secondary system. In comparison to a few years ago modern computers: Seemingly do almost anything. Simultaneously more efficient, yet can demand much more power! Near photo realistic graphics, but requiring £1000+ graphics cards to do it. What would an alternative be like? Something that maybe mixes the simplicity of older computers with the efficiencies of newer tech and manufacturing processes. Not an emulation system, but something designed as a new ecosystem. Keeping things simple, I think these specs would be enough for me: 32 bit CPU, maybe dual core, with a good FPU (probably an ARM CPU) 1GB RAM Sound chip capable of MIDI, FM synthesis and PCM (CD quality) Dedicated audio RAM (1MB) for FM and MIDI 2D/3D graphics chip or chips Dedicated VRAM, 1GB A dedicated 2D graphics accelerator; tiles, sprites, scaling, rotation… 100’s of tiles and sprites with effects applied A dedicated 3D graphics chip with some fixed function features Resolution: 1920x1080, 1280x720 or 1360x768, 640x480, 320x240 natively Colour: 32, 24, 16 & 8 bit natively, palettes/colour look up tables Inputs/outputs – VGA, HDMI, USB, stereo headphone jacks... If using an ARM CPU there is some software already available that could be useful. Option to boot to a version of BASIC designed to take advantage of this systems capabilities. How much would something like this cost if mass produced? Would it be viable? (A "What if?" question). What would your alternative system be like, or do you already have a decent secondary system like ARM, Amiga or other?
  2. The Amiga chip is called Paula, 14-bit. Needs the right chipset and CPU to reach full potential. There is some really nice Amiga music on YouTube.
  3. Yamaha YMF292 (also known as the SCSP) used in the Sega Saturn and other Sega hardware from that era. 2 SID chips (for stereo). Technically 3 chips, but...
  4. Thanks you for your replies. The road including centre lines would be part of the tile layer. Sprites used for things like cars, track side detail (trees, houses etc) and random encounters with obstacles like potholes and animals running across the road.
  5. Hi ZeroByte. You did an impressive Sonic demo using lots of scrolling. My original idea is probably a bit ambitious and doesn’t take advantage of the X16 strengths. Instead, I’m planning on a pseudo 3D driving game, a bit like OutRun or Pole Position, but I don’t want to do a clone. So I’m going to try a new style and slightly different perspective. A slightly more zoomed out look, trying to reduce the amount of ‘scaling’ required, as ‘scaling’ would just be different sized sprites. That should free up VRAM for more variety. It might work, and if not at least I will have experience programming and making graphics. I’ll use that experience to make a decent driving game for the X16 eventually. 320×240, 4bpp tiles and sprites, custom colour palette and make use of palette offsets, tile flips etc. Background layer 128×32 tilemap, 8×8 tiles. Over 3 times the viewable screen width, so could maybe simulate 360 degree rotation. Road layer 64×32 tilemap, 8×8 tiles. Use line scrolling for bends. Maybe palette swaps for road movement, but maybe just vertically scrolling centre tiles. Is that even possible, and if so would it save CPU cycles verses palette swaps? Sprites, whatever combination of sizes for optimum VRAM use and number of sprites per line.
  6. I’ve made some placeholder/concept art. I’ve made it in a way to easily encode it and test effects. Also learning pixel art and animation. This is a scene with several elements merged.
  7. The game I’m working on has butterflies in it, but not as the main ‘character’. Just one of many animals that will be in it. I'm also planning on making it from the ground up, my own take on a specific genre, designing it to take advantage of the X16 strengths.
  8. Answering what is the unique sale proposition (USP) of an FPGA only X16. The others, good and bad points: The C256 Foenix products, especially the A2560K, look and seem amazing on paper! Downsides: Cost, user base and current available software. Mega65. Stunning, if released early/mid 90’s. Downsides: Cost. Tied to legacy hardware and backwards compatibility. ZX Spectrum Next. If you are nostalgic for the Speccy, great! Possibly the best way of playing old Spectrum games, plus some new ones taking advantage of the new features. Downsides: Cost OK, but a bit high. Graphics enhancements seem held back by backwards compatibility? Colour Maximite 2. Very powerful. Cheap. Fast enough to run BASIC decently. What about the user base, and software? Main code and graphics are done in software on a CPU. There is a reason why graphics are done by separate chips/boards on most games consoles and PC’s. Commander X16 FPGA USP’s: Cost (potentially). Not tied to backwards compatibility. VERA – unique graphics chip. Direct to the metal programming. User base (hopefully!). Already has some programs, games, software available, and its just an emulator at the moment! Commander X16 FPGA could be an amazing product.
  9. What if you could connect an X8 to an expansion slot on the X16?
  10. Last but one post from David on page 8. Quote: “The X16 is definitely happening.”
  11. My preference is X16 Phase 1. I don’t mind FPGA’s. The X8 is cheap. Why not have both? Especially if they can be used together somehow?
  12. I think what you say sounds logical, but the X16 is the better system. Maybe. Not sure. If an expansion port was added to the X8, would it be possible to connect it to one of the expansion slots on the X16? It might then be possible to use both together. I don’t know how or what could be done with that.
  13. I voted 1: No, 2: No, 3: Pre-assembled. After having read all the comments so far I think I've changed my mind on all 3 to a certain extent. Specifically the X8: It seems that David maybe wants to release the X8. At under $50 it might be worth doing so. The only big issues I have with it is the seemingly low amount of RAM and VRAM. I know it’s something to do with the FPGA, but the VERA seems like it deserves more RAM. Other than that, for $50 it seems like an interesting ‘mini’ X16. What would be the feasibility of a bigger FPGA and adding a YM2151 as others have suggested plus more RAM? Could it be done, and what would be the likely cost? But at $50 for the current, working, almost ready to ship X8, I say why not? As a famous emperor once said “Dew it!”.
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