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The 8-Bit Guy

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The 8-Bit Guy last won the day on August 21

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  1. So, I'm just going to answer a few more concerns about the X8. One person said I was clearly in favor of this, or something to that effect. Well, I made that clear at the beginning. I wanted to release it 6 months ago. I haven't tried to cover that up. Several people seemed concerned about how much money I was going to make from this project and how the X8 might reduce that. I know I have said this before, but I'll say it again. This project was NEVER about money for me. In fact, I've made it clear many times that I never intended to profit from this project at all. All profits made from the X16 would be split between Kevin, Frank, Michael, Perifractic, and a few other people. I have told the entire time many times I didn't want anything. I'd rather my "profit" be sacrificed to help reduce the cost of the system. My main goal was to have my dream computer, and that other people would have it too. Now, if it ends up selling millions of units, ok, we'll re-visit that conversation. But that's not likely. I haven't released the emulator for the obvious reason that if this product is to be buried and never see the light of day, I'd rather the emulator just not be out there. So we'll release that if it is decided to go forward with it. I suppose I could find some time next week to port Petscii Robots to the X8 for demonstration, since some people were asking about that. It shouldn't take long. Petscii Robots doesn't use any banked RAM. After all, it was originally designed for a computer with 32K. However, I was going to be using banked RAM for the new soundtrack eventually. But at the same time, having access to the SD card can compensate for that. I could load each song in as needed, for example, rather than storing them all in RAM at once. Some people seem confused on why I'm in favor of releasing this. So I'm going to open up and totally lay it out here. This is my honest opinion on that matter: The X16 has taken much longer to bring to market that I thought. There were many times where development was halted for 6 months or more because of unsolvable bugs. And even though we are close to being able to release a kit fo the X16, it's going to still take more time to get this out the door and the people wanting fully assembled systems will be waiting extra time. The X16 is definitely happening. The X8 is not meant as a replacement for it. But, I felt like the X8 with it's super-low price-tag and easy manufacturing could help keep interest in the project much like "The C64 Mini" did, even though everyone was wanting a full-sized machine. This would keep development on-going, and most anything made for the X8 could easily be ported to the X16 later. I do not believe X8 sales will cannibalize X16p sales. And sales of the X8 could even help to fund more development on the X16 surface-mount version and eventual X8-FPGA version. And for those people that don't want an X8, it seems like the solution is simple. Just don't buy one. Buy the X16p instead. Or wait for phase-2, or whatever.
  2. So, I just wanted to address some of the questions/concerns about the X8. Just to reiterate, BASIC code should be compatible unless it uses a bunch of pokes and peeks. You could literally take the SD card out of the X8, stick in in the X16 and the code should run. For machine language programs, as for the differences in how the Vera is accessed, it's not nearly as many here are thinking. I saw one person who seemed irate over the idea that we'd be throwing away all of the coding work people have done. It's still the same features, the same registers, and same behaviors. The sprites, the layers, the PSG, it's all the same. The primary difference is how you copy data to VRAM. I suppose with some software this could be a major problem. But in most cases, I suspect it would be less than an hour worth of work to convert a game from X16 to X8 or vice-versa. I haven't actually ported Petscii Robots yet (since I don't know if this product will see the light of day) but I suspect I could have it running on the X8 in maybe an hour or two. It's nowhere nearly as difficult as porting between something like the VIC-20 and C64 which have very different video/audio systems. The reason it has USB, or more specifically, the reason it CAN have USB is because this is all handled by the FPGA. There was no way we could handle USB on a 6502 system due to the enormous complexity of USB. However, the USB support would be limited to keyboards and controllers. For the person that asked why on earth you would want this and compared it to a C64 and then saying a C32 instead. Well, the main benefits are: half the price and immediate availability. As i've mentioned before, the X16e might never see the light of day because it is going to be dependent on the X16p being a success before that gets developed. But we could have this available now. And it will be so darned cheap, there's no reason you couldn't have this along side the X16p, or use this to develop on and wait for the X16e or whatever. For those asking where to donate. I haven't set anything up yet. I've already seen a few paypal donations come in. But I'd rather people wait until we have some official account for the X16 development.
  3. Regardless of whether a crowd funding platform requires something or not, I have a reputation of integrity to uphold. The last thing I want is people saying that the 8-Bit Guy took their money and didn't deliver on a promise. However, I have been considering doing some sort of crowdfunding where it would literally just be asking for donations to keep this project alive. An infusion of $20,000 with no requirement to repay it would go a LONG way to pushing this product out to the public. $100,000 would guarantee a successful launch. But that's a lot to ask. I know there are several thousand people interested in this. If everyone just donated $5 that would probably be an incredible help.
  4. I just wanted to chime in about the costs and confusion on the X8. First and foremost, it is really hard to narrow down a cost structure with the crazy chip market at the moment. Hopefully that is a temporary problem. So let me tell you where we would be if the chip market were the same as two years ago. The X8 could be available immediately and be well under $50. I'm not sure how far under $50. I'd say as low as $25 and as high as $50. The Phase 1 system sold as a DYI kit could be well under $300. Maybe under $250. Add another $100 to $150 for a pre-assembled kit. Again, you can't hold me to these numbers because so many things are unknown right now with the cost of chips. But that hopefully puts things in a ballpark for people trying to figure this out. For those trying to figure out what the advantage would be of an X8 versus what is envisioned for the X16 Phase-3 (known as the X16e). Well, the X8 would still be half the price. For example, the X8 might be $35 and the X16e would be like $70. There is simply no way to ever produce an FPGA based X16 as cheaply as the X8 can be produced. And the X8 brings with it most of the functionality and personality of the X16. And it's not an emulator. So, there's that. And there's another more depressing matter to consider. If the X16 doesn't sell well enough to recoup some of the costs we've plunged into it, the X16e will never see the light of day. Where as the X8 could start sales very quickly and actually help fund the entire project. So there's that too.
  5. Absolutely. I had already planned to bundle Petscii Robots with the X16. And it can certainly run on the X8 as well.
  6. Phase 2 would likely have 1 or possibly 2 expansion slots compatible with the phase-1 system. Phase 3 would have no expansion capabilities.
  7. I wanted to address the recent departure of Perifractic and talk about some of the change in direction. This could be a long one, so settle in. The absolute first thing I want to clear up just in case anyone is thinking this, Christian (Perifractic) and I are not mad at each other, we didn't have a fight or a falling out or anything like that. We are still friends. This was a mutual decision and it is really mostly to do with his personal issues as he has already stated. That being said, Perifractic and I often disagreed over certain aspects of this project. And because I respect his opinion and experience, I often gave in to his advice on matters. There were two issues specifically that we disagreed on, which was the inclusion of a case on phase-1 systems, and whether or not the Commander X8 should ever see the light of day. So, now that he's stepped back from the project, I want to talk about both of these issues and a general change in direction for the entire project. Dropping the case, moving to kit sales. One huge issue that Kevin and I have been dealing with (mostly Kevin) is trying to figure out how we can get this manufactured. In order to get the cases we needed a minimum order of 1,000 units. And that in an of itself isn't a problem, but assembling 1,000+ motherboards would be. As I've shown in some recent videos with kit computers, it can take an entire day just to solder one together. So, 1,000 units (or more) means 1,000 days of work. So, the obvious answer would be to have them commercial built and wave-soldered. PCB-Way even offers this. But, this becomes more of a nightmare than most people can possibly imagine. I'm not going to go into the nitty gritty details. It wasn't until Kevin spent hours discussing the issues to me, that I was able to comprehend the enormity of that challenge myself. Here are just a few of the issues involved. Getting them the parts. They have to be shipped to China. Tens of thousands of dollars worth of parts. And they have to get through customs and actually arrive at the factory. If even one piece is missing, then the whole project stalls. Shipping to China is often a crapshoot with packages mysteriously disappearing. Many of the parts are custom or rare parts that cannot be sourced easily in China. And of course, factories like this require parts to be in reels and various forms designed for their machines to do. When you actually look at the BOM on the X16 and realize how many parts we're talking about, it becomes a nightmare to find all of the right parts in the right form factor for their machines, and get them those parts. And everything has to be right the first time. Every single part. And then there's the issue of where to store 1000+ cases, keyboards, and motherboards while it is all being assembled. We'd probably have to rent a space to do that. Somebody has to pay for that. And then somebody has to actually assemble all of this into a box. Thousands of boxes. Incredible amounts of labor here. And to top things off, there is a chip supply shortage right now. Some of the chips we need aren't even available at the moment. And those that are have gone up in price by 50%. This is hopefully a temporary problem. Then of course, we had a sample case from the manufacturer. When Kevin mounted the X16 board inside the power supply died after about 10 minutes. And our board is only pulling somewhere like 10% of the max load of that power supply. So, it was definitely a bad power supply. This made us very concerned about buying 1,000 of these cases and potentially having a bunch of dead power supplies. That was sort of the straw that broke the camel's back. And one last thing I'd like to mention. All of us on the X16 team have spent uncountable number of hours developing this product. And many of us have also invested quite a bit of money. In fact, most anytime an expense comes along, all eyes and fingers point to me. I know Perifractic has already invested a 4-digit number of Dollars towards this project. Myself, that number is 5 digits. And up to this point, none of us have made a dime back. Moving forward with the original plans of full case and fancy packaging was going to require another large infusion of cash (most likely from me) that I just don't have. I have no desire to mortgage my house to fund this project. The risk is just too high, and despite what some people think, YouTubers like me are not millionaires. So, bottom line is we're in over our heads. So, unless there is some wealthy benefactor out there that would be willing to finance this project and take on the high risk, things needed to change. So, after much discussion, Kevin and I decided the fastest and easiest way to bring this system to market would be to take a new approach. As you all know, we had always planned a stage-2 and stage-3 of this product. I always knew those would be the mass market versions because they would be cheaper. But I wanted to have the "real thing" with DIP style chips as the basis for the design. And I wanted it to be available along side the phase 2/3 products for those that wanted it. And we have that now. So, what we'd like to do is just start selling the product we have in two ways. One option is a kit that you solder together yourself. It would include no warranty and no tech support, other than community support here on this forum or facebook. Obviously, we'd be able to supply individual replacement parts if somebody fries or somehow destroys some part in the process of assembly. We just won't be able to help every Tom, Dick, and Harry to troubleshoot why their kit isn't working after they assembled it. The second option would be to build-to-order. So you place the order, we build the computer and add a substantial mark up for the 8-hours of labor to assemble it. But you get a fully working and tested board, which would come with some minimal warranty. I don't have specific numbers for cost. But I'd imagine a fully assembled kit would have a markup somewhere in ballpark of $100 to $200 over the kit version. I know that sounds like a lot, but when you see how much time is involved, it only makes sense. Also both the kit and pre-built machine will come with the custom keyboard. I've already paid 50% down for the PS/2 keyboards, so it makes sense for me to pay the rest and have those included with the computer. So, the bad news is, you don't get a case with phase-1. But on the bright side, this change means the kits could be available relatively soon. However, as you saw in the last video there are still some Kernal bugs that need fixing and our primary Kernal developer has taken a small hiatus due to some other large project that is consuming his time. We're not sure at this point when these bugs would be fixed. However, we could start shipping limited number of "development" systems to people who are already writing code. And hopefully all we'd need is a ROM update to fix these boards when the kernal bugs are addressed. Phase 2, Phase 3, and the Commander X8 So, once phase-1 gets underway, we will consider a few future options based on demand and popular opinion. Phase 2 would be an all surface-mount product. It would still have discrete CPU, RAM, ROM, etc. But it may drop some logic chips in favor of a CPLD to reduce size, complexity, and cost. It should be substantially cheaper. Because it is surface mount, assembly actually becomes MUCH easier on a mass-production scale. In fact, Kevin said he could possibly even assemble them at his own place of business (TexElec) which would simplify the situation a lot. This product could be sold as a board or possibly include a custom case, unlike Phase-1. But, we could potentially skip Phase-2 all together if it seems like people would be more interested in Phase 3. Phase 3 would be a small board like a raspberry Pi where the entire system is basically in an FPGA. I suppose if there were enough demand (like tens of thousands of units) we could maybe get a custom ASIC produced. The Commander X8 - Believe it or not, this product already exists. I've had one sitting on my desk the last 6 months. This is entirely designed by Frank. It's a 100% FPGA implementation. It is sort of a subset of the Commander X16. It has mostly the same architecture, but it has minor differences. There is also already an emulator for it. It's about the size of a Raspberry Pi. So what is the deal with the X8? Frank and I were in favor of bringing this product out 6 months ago due to the delays of the X16. But some team members didn't like the concept, saying it would dilute the image of the X16. And they made some good points. So, we decided not to release it at that time. But now that things are changing, I thought at minimum I should explain what it is and see what kind of interest people have in it. On the bright side, it is a product basically ready to be released. But does fall short of some of the cool things on the X16. So let me explain how it differs. Most of these concessions and incompatibilities boil down to using a smaller, cheaper FPGA design. It has 64K of base RAM and 64K of VRAM. It does not have any banked RAM beyond that. BASIC works essentially the same and should be compatible with most X16 programs that are coded in BASIC. VRAM access is fundamentally different. There is a 256 byte window into the VRAM which is mapped to a section of base RAM. You can move the window around. This is actually more efficient than what we do with the X16 and is only possible because it is all inside an FPGA. This does mean software written in assembly language will need to be tweaked to be compatible. The Vera is more or less the same. All of the same registers. Same PSG sound features too. But, programs that use more than 64K VRAM would need to be modified. There is no Yamaha sound chip. However, as we've seen already. The 8-voice sound system in the Vera is pretty darned capable! Uses a USB keyboard instead of PS/2. and USB for controllers (so, no SNES ports) Runs at 12 Mhz instead of 8. So, the big question is, if we were to release the X8, would that essentially replace Phase-3 of the X16? How would this product live along side the X16? Would it have an effect that people would simply code software for the X8, thus making the X16 be sort of like the Commodore 128 or the Plus/4, where all of the software is written for the lowest compatible system and therefor never taking advantage of the full system? So, to explore that, I would counter and remind people of what features the X16 has that the X8 would never have and see if that is enough to justify writing software for it? X16 has a TON more RAM X16 has twice the video RAM X16 has 4 expansion slots X16 has a Yamaha sound chip X16 has an IEC disk drive port (although admittedly that is not implemented in the kernel yet, but should be working at some point) X16 is infinitely more "hackable" X16 has SNES ports. So this product is "really close" to what I envisioned the X16 phase 3 to be like, but not quite. But on the bright side, it could literally be available almost immediately (pending getting a batch produced) if people are interested in this. So, at this point I'm looking for feedback on the future. Should we continue as planned to phase-2, then phase-3? Or should we drop phase-2 and move straight to phase-3? Again, phase-1 would still be available concurrently, and indefinitely for those that want it. In other words, Phase 3 doesn't replace Phase-1. Or, should we scrap phase-2 and phase-3 and release the already finished Commander X8? Or, should we do some other combination of things?
  8. Latest video from the 8-Bit Guy includes a small X16 update and demonstration at the end.
  9. The initial production run is going to set us back some serious cash. So, I'd think everyone involved would be happy to sell them all as quickly as possible to get us back in the black.
  10. Yes, it was suggested a bazillion times.
  11. Attack of the Petscii Robots (Shareware) View File This is a shareware version of Petscii Robots. It only includes 2 maps. It also lacks SNES controls and the cheat-code. It is also only presented in "color PETSCII" mode, as there hasn't been a version made yet with custom graphics and sound. The music routine is a direct port from the PET, which only uses 1 square-wave voice. PETFONT.PRG Submitter The 8-Bit Guy Submitted 03/04/21 Category Games  
  12. Version 1.0.0

    2373 downloads

    This is a shareware version of Petscii Robots. It only includes 2 maps. It also lacks SNES controls and the cheat-code. It is also only presented in "color PETSCII" mode, as there hasn't been a version made yet with custom graphics and sound. The music routine is a direct port from the PET, which only uses 1 square-wave voice. PETFONT.PRG
  13. I'll probably be doing an update on the X16 in a month or two. It might be good to show this assembly environment off again. Has anyone written anything in the environment that would make for a good demonstration?
  14. For a text adventure, I'd definitely go with BASIC on the X16. It should be plenty fast. There were plenty of text adventures written for Commodore systems in BASIC and those were only 1 Mhz. BASIC is certainly a lot better for dealing with strings.
  15. Indeed. The 8 Mhz limitation is due to various components on the board such as ROM, the sound chip, the Vera, etc. In fact, we only have it working stable at 4 Mhz at the moment on the latest rev of the proto-board. But, with a few minor changes we still fully expect to get it back up to 8 Mhz and stable. Having said that, stage 2 and stage 3 do present the possibility to go faster. Specifically stage 3, which is all inside a single FPGA. We have a prototype of that which runs at 14 mhz and seems stable. But, as far as the DIP style board, which serves as the basis for the whole computer architecture, 8 Mhz will likely be all you will ever see.
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