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Change of product direction, good and bad news!


What should we do?  

371 members have voted

  1. 1. Should we release the Commander X8?

    • Yes, it should replace Phase-3. It's good enough.
    • Yes, but you should still offer a Phase-3 Commander X16 eventually too.
    • No, don't release the X8, stick with the original plan.
  2. 2. Should we still make a Phase-2 product?

    • Yes, Phase-2 is what I want
    • No, skip and go straight to Phase-3
  3. 3. For the X16 Phase-1, do you prefer a kit or a somewhat more expensive pre-assembled board?



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1 hour ago, kelli217 said:

Last but not least: Those of you who have said that they would rather donate directly rather than buy an X8, great! You don't have to wait for the product to be available for sale nor for David to set up a specific donation infrastructure; you can donate right now, to his Patreon! I did! Here's the URL: https://patreon.com/8bitguy1

Pretty sure he has not set up a Patreon for that purpose (but he did say he might do it, see his post on page 7).

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So, here's another way of looking at it.  

The goal of the project was always to make cool stuff for the people who share this hobby (8-bit computing).  Frank came up with this X8 thing because he was doing what talented hobbyists do: making cool stuff.  And so, the Commander project resulted in two devices.  

The community is already enjoying that result: in this very thread people are discussing hypothetically how to port from one to the other, how to program so that things will work on both, etc.  In other words, we're already doing exactly the kind of stuff this community likes doing.

It looks like, if you release both, there will be more for the community to enjoy. 

I don't know that you have to worry about 'fragmenting' the user base. In particular, the idea that people will now only program for the X8 as the 'lowest common platform' doesn't really apply in a situation where the software isn't being made commercially anyway.  (If people only wanted to code for the bestselling platforms in order to make money, they'd code for Win/Mac/iOS/Android.)

My guess is that people will code for both the X8 and the X16 because they're both fun to code for.  If the community is split between the two, it's not necessarily bad, it's just the community enjoying more cool stuff.  (So, keep the X8 as awesome as possible and leave at full speed!)

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11 minutes ago, John Chow Seymour said:

My guess is that people will code for both the X8 and the X16 because they're both fun to code for.  If the community is split between the two, it's not necessarily bad, it's just the community enjoying more cool stuff.  (So, keep the X8 as awesome as possible and leave at full speed!)

I don't know how will it be in reality, but sometimes I want to look through rose colored glasses. I second on this! Nowdays we observe new games and other programs are being developed for different systems - different Commodores, different Spectrums, different Nintendos, etc. I'm so much astonished when I learn about a new flashy software product released for some retro system. I want to believe that over time both X8 and X16 will have their own collections of software they can be proud of.

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9 minutes ago, John Chow Seymour said:

I don't know that you have to worry about 'fragmenting' the user base. In particular, the idea that people will now only program for the X8 as the 'lowest common platform' doesn't really apply in a situation where the software isn't being made commercially anyway.

My guess is that people will code for both the X8 and the X16 because they're both fun to code for.  If the community is split between the two, it's not necessarily bad, it's just the community enjoying more cool stuff.  (So, keep the X8 as awesome as possible and leave at full speed!)

I believe people are very price sensitive. If you get the X8 now for under $50, it scratches the itch.  How many people will spend a lot more later for the X16 when the X8 runs most of the software?  

I think the X8 will inevitably cannabalize the X16 market, probably killing the X16's chances.  In the big picture, maybe that's not really a problem anyway?

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11 hours ago, Stefan said:

I do not believe in hiding the differences between X16 and X8 behind API layers. 8 bit computers running at 8 or 12 MHz need all computational power they have if we are to make great programs. Even if there were such an API many assembly programmers would avoid it to gain performance.

I appreciate that point of view, but not all applications are created equal. Software engineering is in large part about analyzing the pros and cons of different solutions and picking the best for a given use case. So for those people who do not want to use an abstraction interface, they have the option of having two versions of the program (if they want to support two platforms). If a single source base is more valuable for another application, it can use an abstraction interface.

Note: This presupposes that the X8 interface cannot or will not be reconciled to the X16 VERA interface. My comment is not about VERA specifically, just a generalized case of "not all problems require the same solution, and not all solutions are applicable to all problems".

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9 hours ago, VincentF said:

It's not possible with the X8's VERA implementation, we got a 256 bytes window that is just impossible (or too expensive) to do on real hardware for the X16 😕

It is not possible.  The VERA FPGA does not have enough pins for that. 

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11 hours ago, BruceMcF said:

Seriously, the point of crowdfunding is to let the "crowd" of willing customers help with funding the development of a project starting at some stage in its development. It also gives the most accurate real world indicator of whether to do the development, in terms of whether it hits its minimum funding requirement.

I agree *but* there is an ever increasing number of people in these communities that do not look at Kickstarter et al as a proposition with inherent risk. They look at it as a pre-order and they look at dates as inviolate contracts. Those of us who've backed a kickstarter that never materialized know better, but it stings to know you just blew $X on something that never happened. Like the Super Screen Kickstarter that took $2.5M and never released *anything*.

Then there is the Ultimate Hacking Keyboard that did ship, but it took about 4 to 4.5 years for me to get everything I paid for (and I bear them no ill will, because they were communicative).

David has spent a lot of time building a reputation that he clearly does not want to see disappear. Even if people are in the wrong for believing they are being guaranteed anything, the harm to his reputation is just as real whether or not they are being rational and reasonable.

I am often asked "how long will it take to accomplish X" at work. I hate to answer that question because of the the "unknown unknowns". Usually people understand if it doesn't come in at the exact time estimated. Sometimes people expected a rock solid answer when they asked for an estimate. Either way, if I miss it, I feel bad for not being better at my job.

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7 hours ago, Stefan said:

If doing code for both X16 and X8, I would for performance reasons first look into creating a set of macros rather than using a common API.

As to bank switching, such a macro could on the X16 just select the RAM bank.

On the X8 that macro could load a virtual memory file (for instance numbered 0-255) into memory area $a000-$bfff. However, first the current content of $a000-$bfff need to be saved to its virtual memory file.

Maybe similar solutions are available for VERA access. I haven't given that much thought yet.

This was more or less what I was suggesting in my original post. Whether the platform provides such a thing in the kernal or individual developers develop it themselves, this is an API. It would not be difficult at all, if it isn't baked into the ROM, to create a standardized library interface that people can include / compile / link into their programs.

Abstraction *can* be slow. It does not have to be.

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4 hours ago, SplitSpine said:

Pretty sure he has not set up a Patreon for that purpose (but he did say he might do it, see his post on page 7).

My thought, and presumably the thought of the person you replied to, is:

David said he has invested 5 figures (>= $10,000) into this project thus far. That is money that takes away from other things.

X16 started as a video on his YouTube channel. Thus, contributing money to his YouTube efforts is more or less the same thing. Sure, having a dedicated place for X16 is a good idea whenever he gets around to it. In the meantime, I've been watching his videos for some months now (while I've been on YouTube for years and created some of my own content, I've never subbed and waited for content until recently) without contributing to him. So if I start contributing to him now, it helps offset a tiny bit of his expenses thus far, and even if I *never* see an X16 in physical form, I figure I owe him for dozens of hours of content I've consumed.

So don't donate to Patreon if you don't want to, but it sure isn't going to hurt in the meantime.

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I am coming late to this, from the facebook group, but I wanted to say for whatever its worth, the X8 sounds exactly like what I was hoping for when this project first began. I think if the price point is low enough, this really would be useful for teaching as well. If it sells in numbers you can get a much broader base of people wanting to develop for it.

Someone mentioned slowing it down so that it would not be faster than the X16. That strikes me as a terrible idea that's been tried before.

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30 minutes ago, James Anders Banks said:

Tried before .................. in this context?

Er, no offence, but no.

If by "in this context" you mean "protecting one computer from harm by restricting the functionality of another" then absolutely it has happened. The Apple IIgs was deliberately kept at a slower speed than necessary to protect the more important Mac line.

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Just now, James Anders Banks said:

Specifically this context. Obviously you can find far more general examples. There's nothing been anything like this in this era so no point coming up with such examples that don't help.

I'm sorry you don't find my comment useful. It's not trying to be cute. Maybe you can better define what you mean by "in this context" because from what I've read, this is the very context being discussed.

What examples would be helpful?

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Man sorry you're running into these issues.  I must say that I would prefer a Phase 1 kit myself. Been keeping an eye on this place for when the development model release. I have a rc2014 I've been building and honestly wouldn't mind taking my time and building the X16 the same way. I can't recall if you initially planned this so excuse me if my memory has gotten a bit fuzzy. But a DIY kit with a board that fits the ATX standoffs and cases would be an easy fix for the case issue. I know there's some classic cases people can get, repoduction cases, and even new cases that could fit the style of the X16. Also if I may suggest another thing. Please release the manuals ether as an option with the kit or a standalone if at all possible. Heck maybe see if some designers would be willing to do mock boxes that people can purchase. I know that seems to be a new thing now as well.  Repoduction boxes that is. I don't know if this is at all helpful. But there's my two cents on the matter. I wish you the best f luck

Hedgie

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2 hours ago, xcv330 said:

... the X8 sounds exactly like what I was hoping for when this project first began. I think if the price point is low enough, this really would be useful for teaching as well. If it sells in numbers you can get a much broader base of people wanting to develop for it.

I just re-watched the Part 1 and Part 2 of 'my dream' and saw that $50 was one of the initial price point targets, or upwards of $100.  

Then later, David was talking about scope creep and showed a board design that looked nothing like the initial 'must haves'.  I think he said $250-$300 at that point.

So maybe $50 is a price that people will buy and just give up Starbucks for two weeks?

I'll throw $100 at anything (or in a pot for the project principals to deliver what they stated, if that is the ask) but it will be a supreme bummer to have it be 'yet another' single board computer (no power supply, no manual, no case, no included keyboard, no compatibility with 9 pin joysticks or IEC peripherals etc).  The next great thing was to be something that any hobbyist would be happy to dedicate the majority of their 'free' time to.

Hopefully whatever they decide to do is a) available soon and b) allows something that harkens back to the past besides just Basic 2.0.

 

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On 8/21/2021 at 5:03 PM, x16tial said:

I'd accept that, if we weren't being asked if we want the product or not.

With all due respect, David is just asking for our opinions with this poll.

This information is good for determining how many units to produce.

Close to 40% of the 228 poll participants want the x8 to come out first.

If 40% of the 20,000 facebook group members want the system, then as much as 8,000 units would be in demand.

That is not to say the x16p wont come out later.

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5 minutes ago, daschewie said:

With all due respect, David is just asking for our opinions with this poll.

This information is good for determining how many units to produce.

No, we're being asked if we want the X8 to be released.(Poll question 1. Should we release the Commander X8?)  And your statement of determining how many units to produce assumes the answer is yes!

 

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7 hours ago, Scott Robison said:

I agree *but* there is an ever increasing number of people in these communities that do not look at Kickstarter et al as a proposition with inherent risk. They look at it as a pre-order and they look at dates as inviolate contracts. Those of us who've backed a kickstarter that never materialized know better, but it stings to know you just blew $X on something that never happened. Like the Super Screen Kickstarter that took $2.5M and never released *anything*.
...

I agree, and this is why I am not complaining about the cautious approach, simply noting it.

But there is a point where if the main uncertainty is whether sales of product A will fund development of product B to step from a sales funded model to a crowd funded Mel and let those who really want product B to fund its development.

I'm arguing that WHEN the team thinks the crowdfund for the CX16p has arrived, THAT time has arrived for seeing if there is a crowd that WILL fund the CX16c.

Edited by BruceMcF
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2 hours ago, Scott Robison said:

If by "in this context" you mean "protecting one computer from harm by restricting the functionality of another" then absolutely it has happened. The Apple IIgs was deliberately kept at a slower speed than necessary to protect the more important Mac line.

Tried before in this context as in releasing the FPGA simulation of a retro computer family before the first actual member of that family. Really, that hasn't been done before.

Also releasing them simultaneously hasn't been done before either.

As for releasing the FPGA simulation of a retro system either with or without a turbo mode, both have been tried, both have successes.

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Just now, BruceMcF said:

Tried before in this context as in releasing the FPGA simulation of a retro computer family before the first actual member of that family. Really, that hasn't been done before.

Also releasing them simultaneously hasn't been done before either.

As for releasing the FPGA simulation of a retro system either with or without a turbo mode, both have been tried, both have successes.

Fair enough. Thanks for the thoughtful response.

This goes back to what I've said on the Monster Thread(TM). Everyone has an opinion of what they personally want which is authoritative. Many have an opinion as to whether this is good / bad / indifferent to the X16, but those are not authoritative. It is gut instinct.

I read some posts from people bemoaning how this is going to fragment the ecosystem and their hard work is going to be for nothing. I may not have sufficient imagination, but I do not see this ever being sufficiently successful for anyone to make a living based on their ability to release software for these platforms. I don't think it was never going to sell in a quantity to make that possible. I could be wrong, but based on that belief, I don't see how X8 fragments the community, especially given just how similar the X8 and X16 will be programmatically. Writing a single program that can run on both is not going to be like the difference between VIC-20 and C64, much less PC vs Mac. The program can be written to run on both, or some clever conditional compilation / assembly can be used to build two binaries that target the different platforms.

I feel bad for international fans of the platform who have a much harder time importing and potentially dealing with currency conversion issues. I do not think a $50 X8 is going to be the roadblock that keeps someone from buying an X16. If anything, the X8 builds an ecosystem faster and puts more machines in more hands because people who won't buy a $200 or $300 X16 might likely buy an X8. Some may choose to only target the X8, just as many decided to target the C64 over the superior C128. That didn't stop the C128 from selling 5.7M (or so I've read).

Obviously, today, Xanything isn't going to sell 1M units.

In the end, if people want to try to make a buck selling software, then IMO they should be begging for the X8 to be released, because that's going to build a userbase most quickly at the expected price point.

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19 minutes ago, Scott Robison said:

...  I do not think a $50 X8 is going to be the roadblock that keeps someone from buying an X16. If anything, the X8 builds an ecosystem faster and puts more machines in more hands because people who won't buy a $200 or $300 X16 might likely buy an X8. Some may choose to only target the X8, just as many decided to target the C64 over the superior C128. That didn't stop the C128 from selling 5.7M (or so I've read).

Obviously, today, Xanything isn't going to sell 1M units.

This is a point ... an LX8 won't cannibalize CX16c sales to any appreciable extent. Those who want to pay $200-$300 for a complete system in case will still want to do that, even if they have an LX8.

I'm imagining myself here ... since I am in the CX16c market ... with a CX16c case or reasonable facsimile (perhaps third party), a keyboard, my LCD VGA monitor on top, with an LX8 inside, and the CX16c crowdfund page goes live ... I'm there, first day, if I can afford it at the time. Because the LX8 is not really a CX16. Only difference from the pages launching side by side is in this situation, I pick the CX16c without the case option (another reason to launch them simultaneously, by the way).

By contrast, a CX16e might cannibalize CX16c sales a bit ... surely the CX16c case will have mounting options, either from the team or third party, for holding a CX16e inside, and once you have that ... buying the CX16c board might well turn into a plan that never happens for a more substantial chunk of the CX16c market. "Oh, here is an interesting board, should I try it? But first I would have to get a CX16c board ... oh well, maybe not. Let me see if there is an option to run it on my laptop in the simulator."

_______________

I believe people are very price sensitive. If you get the X8 now for under $50, it scratches the itch.  How many people will spend a lot more later for the X16 when the X8 runs most of the software?  

I think the X8 will inevitably cannabalize the X16 market, probably killing the X16's chances.  In the big picture, maybe that's not really a problem anyway?

You really need to define "the itch" here. The "itch" here is to have a real live 8bit computer running a real live 8bit CPU. That's what defines the "willing to spend in excess of $200 on it" segment of the market.

The cannibalization issue are those who have that itch, but rationalize getting the less expensive FPGA simulator while "planning" to get the real one "when they can afford it". If it's an exact simulation, those are the kinds of plans that often keep getting pushed onto the backburner and never really get executed.

But the LX8 is not a real CX16. Every time there is a CX16 application or game that the LX8 will NOT run, and you have to run it on an emulator on a modern laptop, ooh, that aggravates the itch to get a real CX16 once more.

Now, to be sure, you could get a $70 SBC and mini case that would have the grunt to run that CX16 application full speed. And there are people for whom that emulation option will satisfy them. But you can do that now ... I don't think those people who are satisfied with the emulator are in the market for either of the two real CX16's.

 

Edited by BruceMcF
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One of the neat things about the polls on this forum.   You can click on each response and see the screen names that picked that.   And you can hover over the screen name icons and see when they registered and everything.   Sort of interesting watching the flood of new folks (from facebook groups?   other forums?) and how they're leaning.     

I'm not accusing anyone of anything untoward, make no mistake.  Hell, I'm myself a FNG who just registered in January after lurking for a year or more before that.  Rather, the point I want  to make is that this bears on what someone (Bruce?) was saying about the benefits of getting on with it in terms of the Crowdfund.   There's obviously a lot more interest and awareness of the project than perhaps folks might have assumed....  

Just an observation.   And I tend to think that rolling out the formal Crowdfund might actually be the best measure of market sentiment...  folks voting with their pocket books and all that! 

 

Edited by Snickers11001001
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2 minutes ago, Snickers11001001 said:

One of the neat things about the polls on this forum.   You can click on each response and see the screen names that picked that.   And you can hover over the screen name icons and see when they registered and everything.   Sort of interesting watching the flood of new folks (from facebook groups?   other forums?) and how they're leaning.     

I'm not accusing anyone of anything untoward, make no mistake.  Hell, I'm myself a FNG who just registered in January after lurking for a year or more before that.  Rather, the point I want  to make is that this bears on what someone (Bruce?) was saying about the benefits of get on with it in terms of the Crowdfund.   There's obviously a lot more interest and awareness of the project than perhaps folks might have assumed....  

Just an observation.   And I tend to think that rolling out the formal Crowdfund might actually be the best measure of market sentiment...  folks voting with their pocket books and all that! 

 

David specifically directed people here from the Facebook group to vote on this poll. 

Yes, these are all people who never bothered to come here before, but on the other hand, the team has not really spent a lot of time pushing the forum over the FB group. This is arguably because FB has a lot more exposure, and so it gets more traffic. However, the better conversations definitely happen here, where you can actually find things. 

 

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1 hour ago, BruceMcF said:

You really need to define "the itch" here. The "itch" here is to have a real live 8bit computer running a real live 8bit CPU. That's what defines the "willing to spend in excess of $200 on it" segment of the market.

I think we can argue over a lot in part because there is no certainty about what's to come but I'll explain what I meant when I wrote this.  Perhaps best explained as a sequence of events that I think will unfold. 

The Commander X8 will become available and people will post their unboxing and experiences.  That will make more people buy it (also, a bird in hand is better than 2 in the bush - the CX16 is in uncertain territory till the finances get settled so may as well get the X8 now).  Then, those of us that have made software for the CX16 will convert our software to run on the CX8, and go on to write more software for it.  Soon, there will be more X8 software than CX16 software.  When the CX16 finally becomes available, will it make financial sense to buy machine that's slower but has more RAM and isn't compatible with all the software now out there? (this all depends on how long it takes to come out, of course).  I think for many the answer would be no.  For some the answer would be yes - those that care about the fact that the machine isn't all FPGA or maybe want to build the kit or can afford both and see value in the CX16.  It will also absolutely sell less than if the X8 doesn't exist (if only by 1 - me) - and this is more true if the CX16 is only in kit form.  Retro computers are loved for their look and feel along with their inner workings.  A kit computer just doesn't have that same identity.

Obviously I made assumptions and as the facts cement it could alter the script but for now I think the CX16 launches later, probably as a kit or maybe as a somewhat expensive ready to go system and the above narrative plays out.

Speaking just for me - If the X8 launches, I'll buy it and be done.  If the X8 doesn't launch, and a CX16 ready-to-go launches, I'll try to buy that if I can afford it.  I don't make the distinction between all FPGA and partially FPGA.  It's real, it's hardware and I can make something for it.  It's not a simulator or emulator.  What I make runs exactly the same for all others that have it - unlike on an emulator.  I am not a collector that want's something to display only - I want to use it and share my experiences with others that use it and the X8 will do all of that nicely at a low cost allowing more people in the ecosystem and that works for me.

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