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What is the Commander X8?

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On Github, you can find this group: (redacted)

There's not really much to it, other than a logo looking in line with the X16 line, a description reading "The X16's little brother.", a non-functional github.io link and only one member of the group: Frank van den Hoef, the VERA designer. Based on this, I think it's fair to conclude that this is, to some degree, official and coordinated with the rest of the X16 team, but unfortunately, there is not much else to conclude.

If anyone on the team can clarify anything, it'd be interesting to hear. Even a simple "no further comment", as disappointing as it is, would probably satisfy my curiosity for now.

(And yes, apparently I'm the first on these forums to bring it up.)

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Posted (edited)

Frank created the page, so I'll take a random guess: it's VERA with 6502 emulation and an embedded open KERNAL.

So, a 128K RAM 6502 system with integrated video, PSG, and KERNAL.

 

OK OK, actually I think it's a gag for April Fools' Day.

 

Edited by rje

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Posted (edited)

Performing a Google search using the following search phrase 

Quote

"commander x8" site:github.com

reveals several repositories, most of which are private. These include an emulator and documentation. However, there are two public repositories containing PCB designs and FPGA source code that appear to support your theory of a system implemented entirely in FPGA.

Edited by Elektron72
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Maybe it's a minimal 6502 + VERA implemented in FPGA that he used when originally designing the VERA before there were real X-16 dev boards?

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Posted (edited)

I don't think that's likely; the most recent commits in the public repositories I found were from the end of last year. Whatever this system is is likely still relevant. Besides, I don't think it would have a separate name if it was just a prototype board for the X16.

Edited by Elektron72

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My guess is that Frank made a mistake and accidentally made those repos public without meaning to, only fixing the error upon seeing they were forked.

In addition, I would venture to guess that those projects are all stripped-down, minimalist implementations of the X16 features that Frank would have needed to develop the VERA and write test software that could be easily created in his minimalist environment and run directly on the prototype boards when and as they arrived.

It's unfortunate to me that these are being publicized, doubtlessly against the wishes of the rest of the team, who do not want to see the X16 cloned or FPGA'd until they've had a first bite at sales and production. And if that's the case, then this is the kind of leak that could be quite damaging, depending on what, in all, is included in all the leaked materials.

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50 minutes ago, StephenHorn said:

My guess is that Frank made a mistake and accidentally made those repos public without meaning to, only fixing the error upon seeing they were forked.

In addition, I would venture to guess that those projects are all stripped-down, minimalist implementations of the X16 features that Frank would have needed to develop the VERA and write test software that could be easily created in his minimalist environment and run directly on the prototype boards when and as they arrived.

It's unfortunate to me that these are being publicized, doubtlessly against the wishes of the rest of the team, who do not want to see the X16 cloned or FPGA'd until they've had a first bite at sales and production. And if that's the case, then this is the kind of leak that could be quite damaging, depending on what, in all, is included in all the leaked materials.

On that front they should be able to relax somewhat.  The repositories are visible in Google search results, but following the links gives a 404 error.  Except for the PCB repository.

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2 hours ago, StephenHorn said:

My guess is that Frank made a mistake and accidentally made those repos public without meaning to, only fixing the error upon seeing they were forked.

This is exactly what happened.

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The X8 is a somewhat cut-down X16 that exists entirely in FPGA.  It has much less RAM.  It does use the VERA, albeit with reduced VRAM.  I have one of the few prototypes in existence on my desk.  It is a concept we have toyed with and may or may not release at some point after the X16 launches.  The core team is somewhat divided over whether or not it is a good idea as it does somewhat compete with "stage 3" of the X16.  

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25 minutes ago, The 8-Bit Guy said:

 it does somewhat compete with "stage 3" of the X16.  

I hope that this doesn't mean that "stage 3" will be a cut down spec. :0(

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I am not interested in a x8. I will purchase the x16 and eagerly await an x32. LOL
More is more. 

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6 hours ago, Terrel Shumway said:

I hope that this doesn't mean that "stage 3" will be a cut down spec. :0(

Peri and Lorin have both said that all 3 stages will have the same specs, although stage 2 or 3 might not have the expansion ports. (Although if Stage 3 is entirely FPGA, we could see certain expansion options built right into the FPGA.)

 

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Actually as per the FAQ stage 3 might have some features removed (or to be clearer, some features may not be possible) whilst it may have other Enhancements, hence X16E. I say this only to clarify they won’t all be exactly the same, just as different models from any manufacturer are usually not all the same in features.

 

But yes, the X8 was/is an idea that may never materialize on the market. It’s far too early to discuss the X16E let alone any possible X8…

 

Perifractic, X16 Visual Designer

http://youtube.com/perifractic

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I just want to throw out there, while it may be terribly obvious, that simpler is going to beat more complex.
You're already dealing with a small-ish market, how many people under age, say 30, are even going to be remotely interested in retro stuff?  Some yes, but your largest market is going to be older-ish folks yes?

This market is probably going to have a fair amount of discretionary income, therefore drop any options that save on the initial purchase price, I'm mainly talking about RAM here, just fix it at the 2MB and go. (The optional keyboard is fine, I'm talking about internal specs)

This market is going to have more money than time, don't make the consumers or the developers that will exist in this market spend time trying to sort out permutations of all kinds of configurations, set the specs and then in higher Phases, just reduce form factor.  A handheld CX16 sounds awesome.   I'm even starting to think a speed boost may not be a good idea in higher phases, since it might break existing software's timing (unless the speed is configurable, easily)

The most successful portion of the C64 market (all the games, then and now, and all the demos then and now) relied on stock hardware (I said *most* successful portion of the market).

Having all kinds of configurations, while sounding nice on paper, is more likely than not going to muddy the waters, causing fragmentation and confusion, and hurting your market penetration, in my opinion.

My 2 cents.  Thanks.

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I just want to throw out there, while it may be terribly obvious, that simpler is going to beat more complex.

Having all kinds of configurations, while sounding nice on paper, is more likely than not going to muddy the waters, causing fragmentation and confusion, and hurting your market penetration, in my opinion.
My 2 cents.  Thanks.


I certainly agree with that, which is why X8 hasn’t been publicly mentioned (until someone discovered a page that wasn’t meant to be public). Our 3 tiers as announced a year ago are as simple as we can be. Best, better, good.

Right now we’re focusing only on the best model, the X16P. Can’t wait till you guys see it fully working. Announcements when we have them…


Perifractic, X16 Visual Designer
http://youtube.com/perifractic
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3 hours ago, x16tial said:

This market is going to have more money than time

Can't disagree with this, but I remeber numerous posts, where people said that price is crititcal obstacle for them. Plus don't forget shipping. So despite target product consumers are not broke kids, the price tag still needs no be as low as possible.

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35 minutes ago, Cyber said:

Can't disagree with this, but I remeber numerous posts, where people said that price is crititcal obstacle for them. Plus don't forget shipping. So despite target product consumers are not broke kids, the price tag still needs no be as low as possible.

I agree to a point, but if the lower price comes at a cost of complexity, it's probably not worth it, in the long run.  Personally, I'd rather it not be obtainable to some, if the choice ends up being it not being produced at all.  Which would happen if there's low market uptake.

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6 minutes ago, x16tial said:

I agree to a point, but if the lower price comes at a cost of complexity, it's probably not worth it

Totally. Being simple is one of the project goals. Being cheap is another goal. X16 team is doing their best to reach a golden mean between these two.

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8 hours ago, Cyber said:

Can't disagree with this, but I remeber numerous posts, where people said that price is crititcal obstacle for them. Plus don't forget shipping. So despite target product consumers are not broke kids, the price tag still needs no be as low as possible.

Really that is exactly why two or more models would exist ... the kit-buildable design cannot be below a certain price threshold as a commercial product ... even as a commercial product with a quite modest margin. And that is what some people are jonesing for. And at the same time, some people will compromise on through pin chips if it slices enough off the purchase price. Setting details aside as the design team sees fit to nut them out, that seems like the CX16P and CX16C in a nutshell.

And some people will be happy with hardware that works like a CX16P, even if its all in FPGA without any ASIC processor, VIA, sound chip or any of it. There's your CX16E.

If, EG ("eg" means, "free example", or in other words, nothing official, just tossing it out as an example of cost shaving), the CX16C was a 1MB SRAM with the Low RAM allocated to the top 5 banks, it would be compatible with any software designed to run on a single through-pin SRAM CX16P system, and would be just a few high RAM segments short of the RAM of a CX16P with two through pin SRAM chips. So the Vera circuit on the main board, a single surface mount SRAM chip, a surface mount flashROM,  a surface mount 65C02, surface mount VIA's, the sound chips, and a CPLD to replace (sigh) all of that lovely CX16P glue logic, and you could have a system that is substantially cheaper to build, including fitting on a smaller board.

Even the design sequence makes sense, because getting the addressing and chip select all worked out with glue logic means that there is a working target model for the CPLD that is one of the keys of cutting down the build cost ... because even if the glue logic are not individually very expensive, the commercial board assembler still has to place them and solder them.

 

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Posted (edited)
On 3/2/2021 at 8:14 AM, Perifractic said:

Actually as per the FAQ stage 3 might have some features removed (or to be clearer, some features may not be possible) whilst it may have other Enhancements, hence X16E. I say this only to clarify they won’t all be exactly the same, just as different models from any manufacturer are usually not all the same in features.

But yes, the X8 was/is an idea that may never materialize on the market. It’s far too early to discuss the X16E let alone any possible X8…

Perifractic, X16 Visual Designer

http://youtube.com/perifractic

I'm still holding out for a MiSTer core.  😉  

 

Edited by TomXP411
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So Commander X8 would probably be/have been a low-cost alternative to X16?

You could say that, but then again that’s the goal of the X16E (phase 3) and David’s goal from the start. Hence why the X8 isn’t a thing…

 

Perifractic, X16 Visual Designer

http://youtube.com/perifractic

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Just now, Perifractic said:


You could say that, but then again that’s the goal of the X16E (phase 3) and David’s goal from the start. Hence why the X8 isn’t a thing at the moment.


Perifractic, X16 Visual Designer
http://youtube.com/perifractic

I think it would be fair to wait for X16 Phase 3 to discuss about as the original X16 (the very hackable, Phase 1) isn't even out the time I wrote this comment.

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On 3/3/2021 at 1:09 PM, TomXP411 said:

I'm still holding out for a MiSTer core.  😉  

 

This brings up a question I've had about the X16e since reading about it: what would it have that isn't already in the DE-10 Nano? If the X16e has the physical hardware ports (PS/2, IEC), that would be something, however it seems like those could be implemented far more cheaply as a daughterboard for the DE-10 Nano. Given that other than Vera there are freely available Verilog models for all other hardware used in the X16, it would be reasonable to expect that a Mister X16 core will show up soon after the phase 1 design is finalized.

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Posted (edited)
On 3/7/2021 at 4:58 AM, Wavicle said:

This brings up a question I've had about the X16e since reading about it: what would it have that isn't already in the DE-10 Nano?

Are you referring to the CX16p. CX16c or CX16e?

The CX16p would have an actual 8bit processor, all ASIC through pin chips on the board. The CX16c, though we haven't seen a prototype yet, would have similar, except mostly surface mount and possibly a CPLD replacing the glue logic, and the VERA circuit on the board.

[+] If you don't see the appeal of that, this implies you aren't in the target audience for those. That's normal: nothing is attractive to everybody.

The CX16e, though we are even further from seeing a prototype, would give the ability to run much of the same software that can run on the CX16p (unless it requires the undefined whatevers that can't make the transition to FPGA), without forcing someone to muck about with something like a Mister system.

Ditto [+]

If the software ecosystem around the CX16 is attractive enough to make it worthwhile to develop a Mister simulator for it and for a reasonably large number of people to use that simulator, it would be due in part to the stable development target implied by the system reference design. Without the CX16p existing, there isn't the stable development target which might (bearing in mind that little in life is guaranteed) be the kernel for an attractive retro kind of software ecosystem, for chameleon systems to benefit from by simulating.

Bear in mind the genesis of the CX16 project is people asking The 8bit Guy for advice on what 8bit system to buy if they wanted to have some experience with that style of system, and his realization that there wasn't a classical system that he could recommend without reservation. It's not likely there is a lot of overlap between that core target audience and the typical Mister owner.

Edited by BruceMcF
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