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Change of product direction, good and bad news!


What should we do?  

357 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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7 minutes ago, Birk said:

At the risk of throwing a monkey wrench into the discussion... I was thinking (always dangerous) that if one of the issues is to help recoup costs, then why not release the VERA module?  I'd love to have a video interface like the VERA for some other projects.  This would let me connect something like the STM32 to a monitor or TV, or add some cool features to Ben Eater's 6502 kit.  The VERA could become a whole product on it's own with higher priced versions that could go up to 720 or 1080i/p HDMI.  I'd be happy with a version that might still have some bugs in it if there were a simple way to "Field Program" it.  (get it, get it, eh, eh... sorry)  Since it's an FPGA the feature set could evolve over time or allow for some trade offs that might not make sense for the X16 but might for other applications.  Just thinking out loud.

The VERA really is the killer app, million dollar idea here. I hope they take advantage of that fact.

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On 8/21/2021 at 1:31 PM, The 8-Bit Guy said:

So, I'm just going to answer a few more concerns about the X8... I made that clear at the beginning. I wanted to release it 6 months ago.

@The 8-Bit Guy, this was a good instinct.

On 8/21/2021 at 1:31 PM, The 8-Bit Guy said:

Several people seemed concerned about how much money I was going to make from this project and how the X8 might reduce that...  This project was NEVER about money for me...  My main goal was to have my dream computer, and that other people would have it too. 

It is amazing anyone thinks this is their business, or that you are somehow incapable of managing your own finances.  That being said, it is shocking how much money has been spent before having a solid prototype.  There seems to have been a lot of putting the cart before the horse.  For example, I never understood the rush to release a logo'd keyboard.

On 8/21/2021 at 1:31 PM, The 8-Bit Guy said:

I suppose I could find some time next week to port Petscii Robots to the X8 for demonstration

You did write that it should only take an hour or two.  Seems like a cheap investment if you care about X8 sceptics taking you seriously.

On 8/21/2021 at 1:31 PM, The 8-Bit Guy said:

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..

Here we get to the root of the problem.  Except for Frank, your team does not have the digital design experience to execute this project, at least not in a timely fashion.  There is no shame in this, nobody emerges from the womb an electronics expert.  Without experience the only path is to learn while doing.  This will always take longer, and starting down dead-end paths is inevitable. But there has been this constant drum-beat to lock down the design and build something, NOW!  I'm sorry, speed, quality and learning on the run are incompatible.  Your choices are build junk, go slow, or seek experienced guidance.

From the outside looking in, X16p appears not close to production ready.  The expansion bus, arguably its main feature, is just not good.  You have already told of other non-working areas that need firmware updates.  Speaking of which, how did you end up in a place where only one person in the world can do a firmware update?  That's just not OK for a project that wants to be serious.  After 35 years of designing digital systems I think I am a decent judge of projects and talent.  The project was stalled for ~6 months by about the simplest possible design bug.  How many marginal bugs are waiting for quantity production to show up? You are in worse shape than you think.

On 8/21/2021 at 1:31 PM, The 8-Bit Guy said:

I do not believe X8 sales will cannibalize X16p sales.

So what if it does?

I'll make this brief, unlike some commenters here.  I do engineering, not marketing.

There have been many ridiculous comments here, kneecap X8 to prevent competition, don't fragment the ecosystem, yadda yadda yadda.  None of this crap matters.

Let's be real, this is not the next dominant computing platform. This project is a toy targeted at a niche audience.  That's not meant to be pejorative.   I love toys. Watching the development from afar has been enjoyable.  You did this for fun and education, not to put a roof over your head and feed your family.  How did you end up with 1000 case minimum orders and 50% down on gawd knows how many keyboards? 

X8 sounds like a fun project that meets most of the goals you laid out in the first half of video #1.  If you like it, release it.  You don't owe the discussion forum armchair quarterbacks anything.

 

I closing I will make one final pitch against the Cloanto deal.  It's pointless, the only good reason to license firmware is for backwards compatibility.  This was a bad decision, one of the few cases where your instincts let you down. 

If you don't own your firmware you don't really control your project.  Is a small convenience worth having this millstone around your neck forever?  I hope you reconsider.

Best regards and I sincerely hope for your project's success.

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I wasn't going to post in this thread, I often "let the chips fall" where they will when I am interested in a project. However, now that I have had time to think about it, I just wanted to add my short little 2 cents.

Pretty much everything David said made sense, and can see the thinking behind it, and I will support whatever comes out the other end of the tunnel.

To be honest, my main reasons for wanting the X16 and/or X8 is as a hobby, and to learn. I want to play around in BASIC again, I want to maybe learn to play with 6502 assembly, all just for fun. I know I can do all of this via emulation, and those that know me on here know I have no problems with emulation. I do most of my retro via emulation becasue I simply don't have space or time for lots of original hardware. Hence my love of the Raspberry Pi. Still, to be able to do this on modern "retro" hardware really appeals to me, and that's what hooked me about this project, that and my love of Commodore of course. I have also seen some of the work posted here by others who already know how to do all of this, and I like what I have seen.

All of that being said, I would actually like a Phase 1 kit AND a Pi sized FPGA Phase 3 board. I want a P1 kit simply becasue it's what fits the image in my head of what I want to play with, I can hack and mod it easily, and I get to solder it all together! The P3 Pi sized board for the sheer convenience of it. As I said, my space and time are limited. So I would have 2 different ways to play with the system. Basically, this is going to be a hobby for me to keep my mind engaged. Something that's hard to do these days to be honest. I love modern hardware, but I know my way around it so well it actually gets boring, so I want to step back in time and learn things I missed back then.

I'm just glad to see it still moving forward as a whole, and while things can and will change along the way, just to see it come to life in the end will be a joy. 🙂

Edited by Strider
Darn typos!
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1 hour ago, Birk said:

At the risk of throwing a monkey wrench into the discussion... I was thinking (always dangerous) that if one of the issues is to help recoup costs, then why not release the VERA module?  I'd love to have a video interface like the VERA for some other projects.  This would let me connect something like the STM32 to a monitor or TV, or add some cool features to Ben Eater's 6502 kit.  The VERA could become a whole product on it's own with higher priced versions that could go up to 720 or 1080i/p HDMI.  I'd be happy with a version that might still have some bugs in it if there were a simple way to "Field Program" it.  (get it, get it, eh, eh... sorry)  Since it's an FPGA the feature set could evolve over time or allow for some trade offs that might not make sense for the X16 but might for other applications.  Just thinking out loud.

If possible release it also as an 8 bit ISA card  because as a matter of facts a very large number of retro machines are x86  : imagine what a boost an indie developer can get from having two bit planes , a tile mode with hardware scrolling and hardware sprites... better portability also between x86 and commander environments.

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30 minutes ago, Fabio said:

If possible release it also as an 8 bit ISA card  because as a matter of facts a very large number of retro machines are x86  : imagine what a boost an indie developer can get from having two bit planes , a tile mode with hardware scrolling and hardware sprites... better portability also between x86 and commander environments.

Given that VERA is Frank's baby, I think that's up to him to decide how to ship it for platforms unrelated to the Commander X-whatever. Unless he's assigned rights to David, it's not really a Commander issue. But given how the FPGA card interfaces with a prototype board, I'm sure it could be used in many other environments, as it is a matter of driving the IO pins in the right way.

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Im betting that had the X8 been released months ago and called a “working prototype with reduced feature-set” 99% of this discussion wouldn’t exist. I’m being as nice as I possibly can with my post here, but some of you guys are just whiny. There seem to be plenty of people complaining that they’ll only code for the X16 and won’t code at all if the X8 even exists. So, where’s your contributions to the X16 library? The emulator works. Again, that just sounds like whining.

My opinion is the X8 should have been released when David wanted to because it’s his baby. Whoever told him not to made this problem way worse that it had to be.

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On 8/21/2021 at 10:31 AM, The 8-Bit Guy said:

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.  

 

I've noticed a few people beside myself who have expressed interest in getting a VERA for their own Eater-6502/homebrew-6502 projects that lack video. Any chance that the team would be willing to sell the VERA alone for DIYers?

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8 hours ago, BruceMcF said:

Wait, how did you know that I ...

... OH! I get it ...

... make that two.

Make that nine.

I mean, I can solder, and the new soldering station my kid got me for Christmas makes it easier... but I don't particularly enjoy it, and if something were to go wrong during assembly, I would have no idea where to start. 

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5 hours ago, picosecond said:

So what if it does?

I'll make this brief, unlike some commenters here.  I do engineering, not marketing.

There have been many ridiculous comments here, kneecap X8 to prevent competition, don't fragment the ecosystem, yadda yadda yadda.  None of this crap matters.

Let's be real, this is not the next dominant computing platform. This project is a toy targeted at a niche audience.  That's not meant to be pejorative.   I love toys. Watching the development from afar has been enjoyable.  You did this for fun and education, not to put a roof over your head and feed your family.  How did you end up with 1000 case minimum orders and 50% down on gawd knows how many keyboards? 

X8 sounds like a fun project that meets most of the goals you laid out in the first half of video #1.  If you like it, release it.  You don't owe the discussion forum armchair quarterbacks anything.

This, thank you very much.  +1.

 

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5 hours ago, picosecond said:

@The 8-Bit Guy

I closing I will make one final pitch against the Cloanto deal.  It's pointless, the only good reason to license firmware is for backwards compatibility.  This was a bad decision, one of the few cases where your instincts let you down. 

If you don't own your firmware you don't really control your project.  Is a small convenience worth having this millstone around your neck forever?  I hope you reconsider.

Best regards and I sincerely hope for your project's success.

Yeah, I'm kind of wishing they had gone with the open ROMs and used a FOSS 6502 BASIC. There are a couple out there. 

Or if there isn't a suitable one, the community could probably have built an interpreter by now. Add the text editor and assembly environment written by other folks here on the forum, and we'd already be done with the firmware - without paying Cloanto a red cent. 

 

 

Edited by TomXP411
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28 minutes ago, TomXP411 said:

Yeah, I'm kind of wishing they had gone with the open ROMs and used a FOSS 6502 BASIC. There are a couple out there. 

Or if there isn't a suitable one, the community could probably have built an interpreter by now. Add the text editor and assembly environment written by other folks here on the forum, and we'd already be done with the firmware - without paying Cloanto a red cent.

Hindsight has a lot stronger optics than my actual physical eyeballs. The timeline they were imagining isn't the timeline that happened.

But by the same token, if the community could have done that by now without a Cloanto license, it could have done that anyway with the license. There could be a FOSS 6502 Basic and a FOSS implementation of the Kernel. If the already open source parts of the firmware are using the Kernel through its published API, it's a much less challenging task than the effort to get a compatible open source C64 KERNAL written.

It may be that in order to have a large enough ongoing open source community for that project, the hardware has to be out in the world. But you can't get the board out into the world without a BIOS ... and for a board that doesn't bootload an OS, an interactive control language ... which makes it a classical chicken and the egg question.

____________

2 hours ago, Brad said:

Im betting that had the X8 been released months ago and called a “working prototype with reduced feature-set” 99% of this discussion wouldn’t exist. I’m being as nice as I possibly can with my post here, but some of you guys are just whiny. There seem to be plenty of people complaining that they’ll only code for the X16 and won’t code at all if the X8 even exists. So, where’s your contributions to the X16 library? The emulator works. Again, that just sounds like whining.

On the other hand, David did ask everyone on the Facebook group to come here and say how they felt.

Its a hobbyist board. People who develop on it are going to be developing on it for pleasure. If imagining developing for a single stable development target that more than a small handful of people were using was part of the fun, and having the target split in two reduces the fun ... what should they do, not say how they feel?

There's a bit of an internal contradiction between "It's Just a Toy!" and "Don't get hung up about what makes it fun for you!"

 

Edited by BruceMcF
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1 minute ago, BruceMcF said:

But by the same token, if the community could have done that by now without a Cloanto license, it could have done that anyway with the license. There could be a FOSS 6502 Basic and a FOSS implementation of the Kernel. If the already open source parts of the firmware are using the Kernel through its published API, it's a much less challenging task than the effort to get a compatible open source C64 KERNAL written.

The deal "just happened" behind the scenes, and at that point, it was a done deal. 

So right now, there's no incentive. Even if some of us got together and built an interpreter, there's no guarantee David would use it, and so the effort would be largely wasted. 

For reference, a few people in various places have suggested Enhanced BASIC for 6502 computers:

http://retro.hansotten.nl/6502-sbc/lee-davison-web-site/enhanced-6502-basic/

 

 

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33 minutes ago, TomXP411 said:

The deal "just happened" behind the scenes, and at that point, it was a done deal. 

So right now, there's no incentive. Even if some of us got together and built an interpreter, there's no guarantee David would use it, and so the effort would be largely wasted. 

For reference, a few people in various places have suggested Enhanced BASIC for 6502 computers:

http://retro.hansotten.nl/6502-sbc/lee-davison-web-site/enhanced-6502-basic/

The deal didn't really "just" happened behind the scenes. The project started out with a hacked C64 KERNAL and Basic and unlike a lot of people in the early months, David was never dissatisfied with V2 Basic,. The only real surprise in the deal was the it came through at the 11th hour after we had heard that it might be in trouble.

If community developers with sufficient 6502 assembly language programming experience were waiting on whether or not the deal got signed before jumping into a community development effort, they were the ones who put the decision in Cloanto's hands whether the board would released with a Cloanto licensed BIOS and Basic or whether there would be an intrinsically risky "community development to the rescue" effort launched.

But that's spilled milk under the bridge ... or some such ... and with a commitment that it will be possible (but at User Risk) to flash a CX16p board, if the intersection of people interested in having a FOSS alternative BIOS and Basic, people with required range of 6502 assembly language and other development skills, and people with the time to commit to the effort is not an empty set, that project could be forked today.

I would not actually be surprised if it happens someday, but I wouldn't expect it to happen until the boards are released.

Edited by BruceMcF
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30 minutes ago, BruceMcF said:

Its a hobbyist board. People who develop on it are going to be developing on it for pleasure. 

This is me.

As I said above, I want it to learn and have fun on. The same reason I got into Raspberry Pi and Arduino, for the pleasure of learning something new, or in this case something old that I had missed the first time around.

Perhaps this is why I really don't have a strong opinion either way on many of these subjects. I just want them to do whatever makes it possible on their end to make it a reality AND meet their needs and/or desires. After all, this is one mans dream computer trying to become reality, I sort of look at myself as a passenger along for the ride because I happen to like the same ride.

🙂

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Just now, Strider said:

Perhaps this is why I really don't have a strong opinion either way on many of these subjects. I just want them to do whatever makes it possible on their end to make it a reality AND meet their needs and/or desires. After all, this is one mans dream computer trying to become reality, I sort of look at myself as a passenger along for the ride because I happen to like the same ride.

🙂

Yeah, there's a difference between "what would you advise" and "what would be a deal breaker for you".

The project has already cleared all of my product feature deal breakers, so the only remaining deal breaker for me is if whatever ends up getting to the crowdfund stage is not something I can afford.

I would have some initial disappointment if the CX16c with a case is not launched with a crowdfund level I can afford to pledge. But it's not going to feature among the tragedies of my life.

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1 hour ago, BruceMcF said:

Yeah, there's a difference between "what would you advise" and "what would be a deal breaker for you".

The project has already cleared all of my product feature deal breakers, so the only remaining deal breaker for me is if whatever ends up getting to the crowdfund stage is not something I can afford.

I would have some initial disappointment if the CX16c with a case is not launched with a crowdfund level I can afford to pledge. But it's not going to feature among the tragedies of my life.

Same for me.

Since I am most interested in a kit version first, or an assembled board if all else fails, the last hurdle for me will indeed be cost. I have made space for it already, I have a case sitting next to my main PC it's going to go in at first. But if it's too costly then I may have to put it off for a while. In the end though, I really can't see a scenario where I don't end up with one, maybe two if the FPGA Pi sized version makes it to market.

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Please everybody remember the rules of this forum, particularly "comment with kindness". I've seen some spikes thrown at people already, we're here for discussing and giving our opinion on this subject. Please respect our opinions, debilitating others comment in order to get yours "seen as better" is maybe nice for you but please consider that everybody sees this differently. We come from many different places with many different jobs and all so everybody here is different but yet needs at least to be treated with the same respect.

Tl;DR: please keep the conversation as kind as possible.

Thank you

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2 hours ago, BruceMcF said:

The deal didn't really "just" happened behind the scenes. The project started out with a hacked C64 KERNAL and Basic and unlike a lot of people in the early months, David was never dissatisfied with V2 Basic,. The only real surprise in the deal was the it came through at the 11th hour after we had heard that it might be in trouble.

If community developers with sufficient 6502 assembly language programming experience were waiting on whether or not the deal got signed before jumping into a community development effort, they were the ones who put the decision in Cloanto's hands whether the board would released with a Cloanto licensed BIOS and Basic or whether there would be an intrinsically risky "community development to the rescue" effort launched.

But that's spilled milk under the bridge ... or some such ... and with a commitment that it will be possible (but at User Risk) to flash a CX16p board, if the intersection of people interested in having a FOSS alternative BIOS and Basic, people with required range of 6502 assembly language and other development skills, and people with the time to commit to the effort is not an empty set, that project could be forked today.

I would not actually be surprised if it happens someday, but I wouldn't expect it to happen until the boards are released.

What I remember was David being firmly shut down by Cloanto, being told that "We can't license the KERNALto you because we have an exclusive deal with someone else." And then, suddenly, we had a KERNAL. At this point, I don't really care about the how or why... but there's still no incentive for people to spend thousands of hours re-writing an open KERNAL when David already has a license deal in place.

Setting all that aside, there were only two things I ever wanted the Commander to do: run BASIC code like a champ and work with a serial port. So far, it's one for two. 

 

Edited by TomXP411
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Please everybody remember the rules of this forum, particularly "comment with kindness". I've seen some spikes thrown at people already, we're here for discussing and giving our opinion on this subject. Please respect our opinions, debilitating others comment in order to get yours "seen as better" is maybe nice for you but please consider that everybody sees this differently. We come from many different places with many different jobs and all so everybody here is different but yet needs at least to be treated with the same respect.
Tl;DR: please keep the conversation as kind as possible.
Thank you
Word!
The cx-project ain't dead! @The 8-Bit Guy can make this possible, and we will help as best we can in whatever direction it goes, as a team!
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15 minutes ago, TomXP411 said:

Setting all that aside, there were only two things I ever wanted the Commander to do: run BASIC code like a champ and work with a serial port. So far, it's one for two.

Which one? It runs Basic code and is slated to work with a serial port, I can't tell for sure whether the "like a champ" is the missing bit or whether it's waiting on whether a bit banged VIA serial port will be successfully ported in case that falls to the wayside.

Maybe that's colored by being a lot more confident that there will be a serial port for my second terminal to work with in xForth than whether Basic will ever run more like a champ than it is now.

Edited by BruceMcF
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@The 8-Bit Guy

Hi David,

I don't have a clear opinion wrt your questions 2 and 3, but wrt question 1 I would say do release the X8 - I probably would buy one just because it's cheap and it's there.

My main interest in the project at the moment is as a platform to develop VolksForth and cc64 for, and at least the former I would likely port to the X8.

Regarding the X16 phases, I'm not sure what I would buy. I'm still attracted to self-soldering RC2014-style 65C02 machine, so I might fall into the camp that would consider buying a VERA 🙂

Cheers
/Philip

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11 hours ago, BruceMcF said:

On the other hand, David did ask everyone on the Facebook group to come here and say how they felt.

Its a hobbyist board. People who develop on it are going to be developing on it for pleasure. If imagining developing for a single stable development target that more than a small handful of people were using was part of the fun, and having the target split in two reduces the fun ... what should they do, not say how they feel?

There's a bit of an internal contradiction between "It's Just a Toy!" and "Don't get hung up about what makes it fun for you!"

Yeah, and I think that was a mistake. He owes us nothing, yet a lot of people are emotionally invested to the point that they are overreacting to hypotheticals. "Feels" aren't going to pay for development costs, so there needs to be a concrete plan to get the X16 made. Getting bent out of shape isn't helpful, but offering genuine solutions that result in real revenue with a path to a working kit and/or system are. Most likely people are just feeling let down, so maybe everyone just needs to have a couple beers and let reality sink in.

That said, I have been following the project since it was first discussed on the Youtube video, and honestly the current X16 has an insane amount of feature creep. The X8 does seem to be more along the lines David initially talked about, albeit non-discrete chips. I'd like to see an X8 implemented discretely, to be honest.

Also, I do find it amusing that most of us had "just a toy" for a system in the past and we did all sorts of productive things on them...

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9 hours ago, BruceMcF said:

Which one? It runs Basic code and is slated to work with a serial port, I can't tell for sure whether the "like a champ" is the missing bit or whether it's waiting on whether a bit banged VIA serial port will be successfully ported in case that falls to the wayside.

Maybe that's colored by being a lot more confident that there will be a serial port for my second terminal to work with in xForth than whether Basic will ever run more like a champ than it is now.

There is not yet code to run the big-banged serial port, and obviously the UART was left out, so there will be a speed limit on the serial port.

Edited by TomXP411
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1 minute ago, TomXP411 said:

There is not yet code to run the big-banged serial port, and I don’t particularly like  it banged serial, either…

Yup.  The lack of a hardware UART is galling.  The advertised workaround being the half-baked expansion bus makes it worse.

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1 minute ago, picosecond said:

Yup.  The lack of a hardware UART is galling.  The advertised workaround being the half-baked expansion bus makes it worse.

What’s interesting is there does appear to be some sort of serial interface on the CX8. Apparently, the ESP32 is connected to the FPGA and allows code to be loaded through WiFi.

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