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Change of product direction, good and bad news!


What should we do?  

374 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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8 hours ago, Scott Robison said:

And until the X16 has native internet access, an app store would be limited to sneaker net anyway. I'd love to see the popularity surge enough to justify someone taking that task on (I won't be doing it myself) or someone doing it and thus causing a popularity surge. I would happily admit I was wrong. The purpose of the app store is to make download and install of applications easy. I'm not saying an app store couldn't work for X16, but it would have several strikes going against it from the get go with what is currently known about the design.

If we adopt Bruce's ideas about SPI expansions or something similar, you could produce an ultracheap wifi interface using an ESP32 (don't know the other ESP chip). All you'd have to do would be to wire the ESP32 to the SPI expansion and write a bit of code in it to connect and use it as a bridge.

I think the current Downloads with decent games and utilities and so on would help the hardware in that it would encourage more people to purchase and develop for it, especially if it is cheap. The advantage of the X8 idea, whatever else one may think, is that it's beer money almost, whereas a built X16, Mega65, Foenix256, whatever their merits as platforms, aren't. Even the backwards compatibility doesn't really help. If you actually just want to play C64 or Spectrum games, it's cheaper and easier to use an emulator, or a Mister than the Next or Mega65.

I think this was the rationale behind 8-Bit-Dave's original idea of selling it for £30. It wasn't about the money from the platform so much as widening the uptake.

People do make games for the Next that come in proper boxes (rather like PETSCII robots and so on) and people buy them. I suspect it's not a huge amount, but presumably it's enough to make it worthwhile as opposed to just releasing it as PD.

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I think some of y'all misunderstood the thrust of my argument re app store. Actually, I am the one who used that term so it is probably my fault. When I said "app store" I really just meant "a section of the current download page on this website that has content you pay for vs content that us free".

Also someone upstream responded to my last stating that in their opinion a few thousand units sold and a few dozen offerings in the downloads section would be a rousing success. Given my understanding as to the purpose of the project I respectfully disagree.

My understanding of Dave's (ie nortorious 8BG) vision is that he wants a spiritual successor to the 8bits he and a lot of us came up on. That from the spiral-bound lucid manual to the ability to grok and directly access the hardware, the goal is to have the experience of computing in that way is facilitated by the X.

If I am right about that, then there is something else those beloved 8bits have that the X does not and that's developers. Think about it - you may have learned to code on a c64 or atari or whatever, but I will bet you good money that is not the only reason you have such fond memories of the machine. I bet you ALSO have a lot of happy memories gaming, participating in the demo scene, BBSing, etc. In other words there was a scene at that time and that place and the computer wasn't the thing that made it happen- the computer was the thing that got you to the thing.

The point is what matters is not the mechanics of the app store or even if the developers have a way to get paid. What matters is the X will not live up to 8BG's vision if a critical mass of developers doesn't form making funky !@#$ for the platform. Creating the experience of that era of computing us about more than the hardware - it's also about the developers who make the hardware shine.

I could be wrong though. Maybe y'all are on the trajectory you want to be on and are perfectly happy with an end result wherein a very small number of people have an X and an even smaller number of people are actively using it. That's ok too. For what it's worth, I deeply respect the talent and effort that the team has out into this. It is actually that respect driving my words. If i am right about 8BG et al's intentions then it would be tragic if all that passion and hard work resulted in falling short at the finish line.

Regardless, if you guys come out with anything I do not have to solder myself (my hands shake too much not ti make a mess of things) I will buy one. You have won my admiration and earned some of my money 🤗

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2 hours ago, paulscottrobson said:

If we adopt Bruce's ideas about SPI expansions or something similar, you could produce an ultracheap wifi interface using an ESP32 (don't know the other ESP chip). All you'd have to do would be to wire the ESP32 to the SPI expansion and write a bit of code in it to connect and use it as a bridge.

I think the current Downloads with decent games and utilities and so on would help the hardware in that it would encourage more people to purchase and develop for it, especially if it is cheap. The advantage of the X8 idea, whatever else one may think, is that it's beer money almost, whereas a built X16, Mega65, Foenix256, whatever their merits as platforms, aren't. Even the backwards compatibility doesn't really help. If you actually just want to play C64 or Spectrum games, it's cheaper and easier to use an emulator, or a Mister than the Next or Mega65.

I think this was the rationale behind 8-Bit-Dave's original idea of selling it for £30. It wasn't about the money from the platform so much as widening the uptake.

People do make games for the Next that come in proper boxes (rather like PETSCII robots and so on) and people buy them. I suspect it's not a huge amount, but presumably it's enough to make it worthwhile as opposed to just releasing it as PD.

I will be doing just these things once there is hardware. I've already done some basic connectivity experiments using two Raspberry Pis connected together, and I have worked with ESP32/NodeMCU in the past as a connectivity tool.

For the record, I strongly support using NodeMCU, as NodeMCU lets you do exactly what you want, and you can always write a simple AT emulator in Lua for legacy terminal programs. 

My plan is to write software for microcontrollers: Arduino, ESP32/NodeMCU, and Rasberry Pi, and let users roll their own cables to connect their favorite dev board to the User port on the Commander. 

 

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All this talk about an app store, software development leading sales,  etc., all that...       It  seems almost chimerical.    Especially  in this thread, since the whole point is that the core architectural details are potentially in transition or at least may include an additional platform.  

 

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It's a very difficult topic to raise. Dave was right to do so I think, but it can cause people to wonder what hardware is actually coming down the pipe. Which is a shame, because AFAICS it's really about how you get data into the VRAM.

Raises a question. The X8 uses a RAM Window, the X16 the pipe. Is there a reason the X8 couldn't use the port as well as the window ? Does it ? If it does the only issue is the amount of VRAM (and the extra SRAM). It wouldn't be difficult to write code that could use 16 colour graphics or 256 colour graphics accordingly, and recompile (and dither ?) on the gfx conversion. I usually use Pillow for Python which I think does it for you.

I can see a dual port VRAM issue perhaps (?) FPGAs not my thing really, but you could have the use of one disable the other if that was a problem.

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4 hours ago, paulscottrobson said:

If we adopt Bruce's ideas about SPI expansions or something similar, you could produce an ultracheap wifi interface using an ESP32 (don't know the other ESP chip). All you'd have to do would be to wire the ESP32 to the SPI expansion and write a bit of code in it to connect and use it as a bridge.

I can see this as a super cheap way to add Internet connectivity, to support software for simple BBS style communities, or even simple FTP and HTTP type features.  I made a suggestion some time back for this kind of thing, but people seemed mostly uninterested.

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5 minutes ago, paulscottrobson said:

It's a very difficult topic to raise. Dave was right to do so I think, but it can cause people to wonder what hardware is actually coming down the pipe. Which is a shame, because AFAICS it's really about how you get data into the VRAM.

Raises a question. The X8 uses a RAM Window, the X16 the pipe. Is there a reason the X8 couldn't use the port as well as the window ? Does it ? If it does the only issue is the amount of VRAM (and the extra SRAM). It wouldn't be difficult to write code that could use 16 colour graphics or 256 colour graphics accordingly, and recompile (and dither ?) on the gfx conversion. I usually use Pillow for Python which I think does it for you.

I can see a dual port VRAM issue perhaps (?) FPGAs not my thing really, but you could have the use of one disable the other if that was a problem.

I feel like you're going to get contention problems if you try to do both... it really has to be one or the other, partly because the FPGA resources needed to share the RAM between the CPU and GPU are limited. 

In fact, part of the attraction of the C8 is the improved clock speed and performance. I mostly tool around in BASIC, so the 512K/2M extended RAM gets me no benefit (it's literally faster to read from disk than translate data into banked memory with POKEs), and so the C8 is actually a better BASIC computer than the Commander X16. 

Of course, I submitted a bunch of ideas for improving BASIC to deal with banked memory (a BANK command, along with special PEEK and POKE commands for floats, 16-bit integers, and strings), and if those make their way in to the final product, then the CX16 becomes much more attractive for BASIC.

I've watched the CX16 slowly become less attractive over time, with features disappearing: the clock speed got lower, the UART went away, and the BASIC interpreter still has some really stupid shortcomings. I actually welcome the C8 specifically because it's actually faster, apparently uses a boostrapped OS (meaning I can fix BASIC myself), and it has a UART I should be able to tap into.

 

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I'm software developer so less hardware, the better. That is why FPGA seems much closer to perfection - emulator 😀

Now on topic X16 vs X8. TBH X8 seems much better from software perspective  - 12Mhz, a window in VRAM (no registers), USB. So

On 8/20/2021 at 4:00 PM, ppescher said:
  1. Should we release the Commander X8?
    Yes, but only if it's made compatible with the X16 from a programmer's perspective.

But that compatibility to be reversed - x16 to be compatible with x8 - window in VERA, 12mhz, USB.


Wishful thinking:
The best will be x16 with 65816 that directly address 24bits of address space (no need for windows in RAM/ROM), VERA with window (as X8) or even directly mapped in address space (it will take only 2 banks), RGB to be at least 666 why not even 888, more VRAM so actually 640x480 could be used (now is only a feature on a paper)

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6 hours ago, paulscottrobson said:

If we adopt Bruce's ideas about SPI expansions or something similar, you could produce an ultracheap wifi interface using an ESP32 (don't know the other ESP chip). All you'd have to do would be to wire the ESP32 to the SPI expansion and write a bit of code in it to connect and use it as a bridge.

I think the current Downloads with decent games and utilities and so on would help the hardware in that it would encourage more people to purchase and develop for it, especially if it is cheap. The advantage of the X8 idea, whatever else one may think, is that it's beer money almost, whereas a built X16, Mega65, Foenix256, whatever their merits as platforms, aren't. Even the backwards compatibility doesn't really help. If you actually just want to play C64 or Spectrum games, it's cheaper and easier to use an emulator, or a Mister than the Next or Mega65.

I think this was the rationale behind 8-Bit-Dave's original idea of selling it for £30. It wasn't about the money from the platform so much as widening the uptake.

People do make games for the Next that come in proper boxes (rather like PETSCII robots and so on) and people buy them. I suspect it's not a huge amount, but presumably it's enough to make it worthwhile as opposed to just releasing it as PD.

Agreed. It's just that the group of people most likely to find an app store appealing will be the least likely (or so I think) to go out of their way to enhance their hardware to be able to utilize it.

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1 hour ago, Squall_FF8 said:

I'm software developer so less hardware, the better. That is why FPGA seems much closer to perfection - emulator 😀

Now on topic X16 vs X8. TBH X8 seems much better from software perspective  - 12Mhz, a window in VRAM (no registers), USB. So

But that compatibility to be reversed - x16 to be compatible with x8 - window in VERA, 12mhz, USB.


Wishful thinking:
The best will be x16 with 65816 that directly address 24bits of address space (no need for windows in RAM/ROM), VERA with window (as X8) or even directly mapped in address space (it will take only 2 banks), RGB to be at least 666 why not even 888, more VRAM so actually 640x480 could be used (now is only a feature on a paper)

The nature of the VERA hardware is what prevents the window into RAM in X16 (regardless of CPU model or speed). X8 puts a soft CPU core and VERA on the same FPGA so they can share resources internally without having to use limited physical IO pins. Thus why the design goals of x16 (separate components) are incompatible. It would be possible if there were more pins on the VERA that would allow decoding of more address lines, but that would drive up the price of VERA, and people are already showing resistance to most things that would involve an increased price on the hardware.

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Hey,

Made an account here specifically to comment on this topic. Been watching this project for a long time, and I've been a subscriber to the 8 bit guy for even longer.

 

Alright. So I vote for NO X8 release. I would hate to see things developed for the weaker X8 at the expense of the X16's potential.

 

I also am interested in the DIY board kit. After all the experience I have had working electronics, and extensive soldering experience, I feel like the DIY kit would be a breath of fresh air (something easy for once). I couldn't care less about keyboards, cases, mice, and whatnot. I just need the board. I've got keyboards and accessories coming out my ears, so I definitely don't need more.

 

Heck, send me the Gerber file and a BOM... and I'd make it all happen on my own. I'm gooooooood friends with mouser.

 

That's my two cents, for what it's worth.

Edited by mcpobr44
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23 hours ago, BruceMcF said:

"I just checked the downloads section for a system that doesn't yet exist except as a few prototype boards and an emulator, and it didn't look like it was enough to sustain a platform."

Man, I'm guessing you are a glass half empty type.

A few thousands sold and what I take it is a few dozen hobbyists releasing software on an ongoing basis for a few years (since a few dozen releasing at least one application of some sort has already been passed) would not actually be "the whole thing kind of goes nowhere", it would be a nice little hobbyist system. This is the level of success where the worriers among us would be worried about fracturing the software ecosystem between the X8 and X16 families.

Sure, the hope would be 10,000 or more sold. A hundred hobbyists or so releasing software on an ongoing basis for a few years while it is a thing, and a few dozen releasing software on a longer trajectory is more like what it would be aiming at, as that would be a level of success that would sustain repeated production of batches of the different systems in the product line. ...

 

11 hours ago, snerd said:

I think some of y'all misunderstood the thrust of my argument re app store. Actually, I am the one who used that term so it is probably my fault. When I said "app store" I really just meant "a section of the current download page on this website that has content you pay for vs content that us free".

Also someone upstream responded to my last stating that in their opinion a few thousand units sold and a few dozen offerings in the downloads section would be a rousing success. Given my understanding as to the purpose of the project I respectfully disagree.

(1) If what you meant by "app store" was not, in fact, what is widely understood by "app store" ... you open up an app on the device, it takes you to a site on the internet where you browse from available apps, and then install the one(s) you decide you want ... and you were instead talking about a paid application section of the current free download section of this site, it probably would have been better to call it something other than an "app store". Then the inevitable criticism of the idea would have been criticizing your actual idea rather than criticizing the idea that your original phrasing clearly implied.

(2) On the other hand, there's no guarantee that it would not be misinterpreted. For example, look how you took the level of success I called "a nice little hobbyist system" and blatantly misrepresented it as my saying that would be a "rousing success", when I did not even label that next step up as a "rousing" success. This is the internet. Sometimes what you say will get misinterpreted.

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10 hours ago, Squall_FF8 said:

I'm software developer so less hardware, the better. That is why FPGA seems much closer to perfection - emulator 😀

Now on topic X16 vs X8. TBH X8 seems much better from software perspective  - 12Mhz, a window in VRAM (no registers), USB. So

But that compatibility to be reversed - x16 to be compatible with x8 - window in VERA, 12mhz, USB.


Wishful thinking:
The best will be x16 with 65816 that directly address 24bits of address space (no need for windows in RAM/ROM), VERA with window (as X8) or even directly mapped in address space (it will take only 2 banks), RGB to be at least 666 why not even 888, more VRAM so actually 640x480 could be used (now is only a feature on a paper)

In addition to the below, note that much of your wishful thinking was the generation 1 board that they scrapped for being too complicated. So that is not Dave's dream computer project, but rather some other project ... specifically, for your wishlist, the Feonix256.

Remember that the FPGA is not because they wanted it, but because there is no appropriate ASIC off the shelf video chip for a tile and sprite VGA linebuffer system. They are all framebuffer chips. The sub $10 FPGA that comes with enough built in SPRAM memory to support the kind of sprite and tile functions they want comes with 1Mbit of SPRAM, which is 128KB. So, again, asking for "more VRAM" is asking for another project (and again, AFAIU, specifically the Feonix256, where the speed to support a 50MHz dot clock comes from accessing multiple 8bit SRAMs in parallel rather than from relying on SPRAM internal to an FPGA).

Also, from a software perspective, 12MHz, 64K total general purpose system RAM and 64K RAM divided between video output and data storage is only going to be faster than 8MHz, 40K general purpose system RAM, 512KB-2MB extended RAM, 512K ROM, 128KB video RAM  for applications that fit the limited RAM. The whole X8 for possibly $50 or less is because Vera was implemented on a less expensive member of its FPGA family, and because 128KB SPRAM has been reallocated to be divided between system RAM and video RAM. When you drop from using that internal RAM to using files on an SD card, your effective speed takes a much much bigger hit than the X16, which at a similar point pays a much smaller speed penalty to play extended RAM juggling games.

But mostly, keep in mind that "USB" is not "a general purpose USB stack". There is no reason to assume the hardware supports more than USB 1.0, which would be adequate for the keyboard + joystick support, and there is no reason to assume that it supports a hub. It's up in the air whether we will learn more, but if we do, it would not be surprising if efforts to use the USB for more than it's designed purpose would involve a lot more hair pulling than expected by those of use who have never implemented a USB device stack in 6502 assembly language on a USB system that is not designed nor intended for expansion beyond it's original purpose.

Indeed, implement an internal X16 user port board that holds an RPi nano, and you've got a USB host in an X16 system ... AND you only have to write the two pieces of software ... the client side for the X16 and the server side for the RPi nano ... and much more code will be in existence that either support or give a starting point for supporting the USB devices you want to support.

9 hours ago, Scott Robison said:

The nature of the VERA hardware is what prevents the window into RAM in X16 (regardless of CPU model or speed). X8 puts a soft CPU core and VERA on the same FPGA so they can share resources internally without having to use limited physical IO pins. Thus why the design goals of x16 (separate components) are incompatible. It would be possible if there were more pins on the VERA that would allow decoding of more address lines, but that would drive up the price of VERA, and people are already showing resistance to most things that would involve an increased price on the hardware.

Indeed, switching from the X16 register access with two auto-incrementing memory ports with associated accumulator/adders to a simple page bank register may be freeing up some of the logic resources used for the 6502 core.

I'm looking at the X8 as a happy accident. I still want an X16c on my desk, but I'd only want an X16e if I couldn't afford an X16c when the crowdfund launches.

If the X8 can get an opportunity for an expansion option, I'd want one of them too.

Edited by BruceMcF
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Originally this was supposed to be David's "dream computer" built with off-the-shelf parts. An emulated or FPGA experience was a whole different animal; other projects exist that already do this. Heck, how many emulators are there currently, which would run on a raspberry pi?

As a 45 year old, I completely understand David's fascination with homebrew PCs and pointing to what-does-what and completely understanding the roles of the different components of the system. Being able to hack anything. Fix any part of it. And teach the system - in toto - to others especially children.

8-bit computers are completely relevant in 2021, by the way. Kids don't come out of the womb these days with infused knowledge of ohm's law, electronic concepts, logic gates, buffers, address lines, etc. No matter how fast our desktop system become, newbies will always have to start at *square one* and that square one can only be so complex before it ceases to be "square one".

The point of the X16 is a standard system, which won't change, which can be more-or-less completely understood by one person. That's why the FPGA has to be a no-go. It might be fun to install the X16 EMULATOR on your R Pi or other PC system -- but it's not the same thing. The "phase 3" can only exist if the phase 1 is the "reference" or "real" version of the system. 

I think the X8 would dilute the market, as David describes (Commodore 128 scenario all over again).

Personally looking forward to the kit version of Phase 1.

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1 hour ago, maktos said:

I think the X8 would dilute the market, as David describes (Commodore 128 scenario all over again).

This is the main point where I would qualify it ... if the X8 is put out first, then there is a real risk of that happening. No matter how many times it is said "the X16 is still going ahead", it's going to get muddled and some people will have the impression that the X16 was scrapped for the X8. And an easy to believe fiction will often travel around the world twice before the truth has finished putting on its shoes. And then if people developing for the X8 are rushing to get out by release, while those of us developing for the X16 are taking our sweet old time, the numbers in the download section will start to support the misunderstanding.

If the X8 goes out alongside the X16 or after, I don't think it's going to prevent the X16 software ecosystem from getting going in a serious way. In that case, I expect in that scenario, a lot of the X8 software will end up being pared down versions of X16 software.

Hence my notion of launching the X16p and X8 crowdfund side by side. I know that I will put myself under some pressure to get xForth finished by the X16p DIY release ... even if I personally would not be ordering one of those (as noted previously, if I ordered the DIY version, it would actually end up being the DYI version ... Do Yourself In).

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9 hours ago, mcpobr44 said:

Alright. So I vote for NO X8 release. I would hate to see things developed for the weaker X8 at the expense of the X16's potential.

 

I'm not convinced it's weaker. It has less "sideways" RAM,  though SDCard storage could be used (no reason why the BIOS couldn't load video/audio data straight into VRAM AFAICS) and BruceMcF has wrote elsewhere about putting RAM on a fast serial connection.

Against that, it is half as fast again, and the window on VRAM idea is great. I was never convinced about the practicality of the VRAM Pipe a la TMS99x8. I understand why it was done that way but I reckon it made things like Elite extremely difficult / impossible.

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15 hours ago, TomXP411 said:

. I actually welcome the C8 specifically because it's actually faster, apparently uses a boostrapped OS (meaning I can fix BASIC myself), and it has a UART I should be able to tap into.

I don't know if you ever actually worked with the original MS Source. I have, and the Kernal. It's not the easiest thing to work with, and it's not very readable, or well engineered. I reckon the amount of additional work that goes into BASIC/Kernel fixes because of that already outweighs the benefits of having prewritten code. Much of the Kernal is rewritten anyway I think. Michael Steil probably knows those to sources better than anyone else alive including the original authors.

I think there's the programming skills here to produce something much better. The problem would be coordinating it so we don't end up with 12 different BASICs but one written by 12 people where different bits (evaluator, variables, string handling, structures, tokenising/detokenising etc.) could be done by different people. You could even make it MS compatible (though personally I'd chuck the Taylor series, or at best make them a loadable extension !)

And then there's the education problem. Some can see a use for this in schools. As it is now, I can't, because of the programming language that's built in.

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15 hours ago, Squall_FF8 said:

The best will be x16 with 65816 that directly address 24bits of address space (no need for windows in RAM/ROM), VERA with window (as X8) or even directly mapped in address space (it will take only 2 banks), RGB to be at least 666 why not even 888, more VRAM so actually 640x480 could be used (now is only a feature on a paper)

65816 is better at 16 bit data than a 6502 by miles, but it's still not actually that quick, so if you start using 24 and 32 bit data you bring problems back. You end up with a Camputers Lynx - a British Computer that had superb (for the times) graphics - something like 256x224x8 individual colours. The problem is all the RAM was multiplexed on a Z80 address space, so it could do great games where most things were Static (Pacman) but something like Defender was impossible.

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4 hours ago, maktos said:

Originally this was supposed to be David's "dream computer" built with off-the-shelf parts. An emulated or FPGA experience was a whole different animal; other projects exist that already do this. Heck, how many emulators are there currently, which would run on a raspberry pi?

As a 45 year old, I completely understand David's fascination with homebrew PCs and pointing to what-does-what and completely understanding the roles of the different components of the system. Being able to hack anything. Fix any part of it. And teach the system - in toto - to others especially children.

There are other projects like the X16 is currently designed, i.e. real hardware, and even more emulation/FPGA projects.

What makes Dave's project special is the community, not the hardware. Dave has a lot of followers who would buy the X8 or X16 because of Dave (as long as it wasn't complete rubbish which it obviously isn't !). All these projects have the same problem, no software base. This applies to the Mega65 and Phoenix256 as well. That's not to knock either design, but how much actual software will either have.

Obviously the M65 will run C64 games, but if you want to do that, buy one of those Mini things, or use an emulator, or a Raspi in a box, or Mister, or whatever.

I am utterly unconvinced there is any real hackability in the system. Most of the functionality is in Vera ; strip that away and you basically have a KIM 1 with more memory and a faster CPU.  I would divide it into two seperate purposes. Learning to program, which the CX16 could be suitable for but for MS Basic, as the Vera functionality is understandable and something like Ben Eater's course for those who want to know how the hardware actually *works*.

The Vera does what it does, it's not going to be practical to do any serious graphical hacks with it.

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1 hour ago, paulscottrobson said:

I don't know if you ever actually worked with the original MS Source. I have, and the Kernal. It's not the easiest thing to work with, and it's not very readable, or well engineered. I reckon the amount of additional work that goes into BASIC/Kernel fixes because of that already outweighs the benefits of having prewritten code. Much of the Kernal is rewritten anyway I think. Michael Steil probably knows those to sources better than anyone else alive including the original authors.

I think there's the programming skills here to produce something much better. The problem would be coordinating it so we don't end up with 12 different BASICs but one written by 12 people where different bits (evaluator, variables, string handling, structures, tokenising/detokenising etc.) could be done by different people. You could even make it MS compatible (though personally I'd chuck the Taylor series, or at best make them a loadable extension !)

And then there's the education problem. Some can see a use for this in schools. As it is now, I can't, because of the programming language that's built in.

I'd like to experiment making a BASIC interpreter, this would lead to an interesting challenge. As for compatibility, it's also possible to write a converter and store it into one of the ROM banks. If more people are interested we can start a thread dedicated to this.

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6 hours ago, BruceMcF said:

In addition to the below, note that much of your wishful thinking was the generation 1 board that they scrapped for being too complicated. So that is not Dave's dream computer project, but rather some other project ... specifically, for your wishlist, the Feonix256.

Remember that the FPGA is not because they wanted it, but because ...

Also, from a software perspective, 12MHz, 64K total general purpose system RAM and 64K RAM divided between video output and data storage is only going to be faster than 8MHz, 40K general purpose system RAM, 512KB-2MB extended RAM, 512K ROM, 128KB video RAM  for applications that fit the limited RAM. .. When you drop from using that internal RAM to using files on an SD card, your effective speed takes a much much bigger hit than the X16, which at a similar point pays a much smaller speed penalty to play extended RAM juggling games.

But mostly, keep in mind that "USB" is not "a general purpose USB stack". There is no reason to assume the hardware supports more than USB 1.0, which would be adequate for the keyboard + joystick support...

Indeed, switching from the X16 register access with two auto-incrementing memory ports with associated accumulator/adders to a simple page bank register may be freeing up some of the logic resources used for the 6502 core.

I'm looking at the X8 as a happy accident. I still want an X16c on my desk, but I'd only want an X16e if I couldn't afford an X16c when the crowdfund launches.

If the X8 can get an opportunity for an expansion option, I'd want one of them too.

Thank you very much, Bruce!!!
I always read your comments and especially your replays with a pleasure - right on point, there is no bla-bla, logical exposition supported by examples!!!

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I wonder if the spec of the X8 (before all the scope creep, supply chain realities and development challenges of the X16) was pitched in 2019, whether people would be complaining about the percieved spec compromises vs the x16. The stated X8 spec (other than a lack of expansion connectivitiy) seems to be right on the money for anyone interested in a more modern, better documented and less quirky implementation of the capabilities and compromises inherent to the the golden ages of development in the 8 bit era.

Also - I often wonder if Dave would have been better off all along reversing the original development and rollout plan, i.e. by starting with the launch of a cheap, easy to produce FPGA based core product with enough capability to encourage community buzz, tooling development and initial games built on the the core VERA and 65C02 functionality (and the added benefit of being able to correct or append any glaring logical hardware or Kernel code issues easily after devices were in the wild), and then offering the physical version (with a real 65C02, RAM etc) for those who wanted to tinker with hardware hacking and expandability afterward once the big bugs had been ironed out on the FPGA based devices.

Does anyone really expect that they'll make a living out of selling X16 software? If not, and if the goal is to develop software for personal enjoyment / use, why does it matter if a proportion of the community can't your code on their "base" 128k devices? If the goal is to sell software, the X8/16 don't seem like the smartest platforms to target, and for anyone who is interested enough in what you're doing, the cost and hassle of a full fat X16 kit shouldnt be a blocker right? 

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1 hour ago, Wonderdog said:

wonder if the spec of the X8 (before all the scope creep, supply chain realities and development challenges of the X16) was pitched in 2019, whether people would be complaining about the percieved spec compromises vs the x16

That's a valid point. I personally would have been perfectly fine with the X8 specs in the first place. My issue with it is the incompatible memory layout and access to VERA compared to the X16. If the X8 could be made 1:1 compatible in regards to memory layout and VERA access - I would be tempted.

1 hour ago, Wonderdog said:

Also - I often wonder if Dave would have been better off all along reversing the original development and rollout plan, i.e. by starting with the launch of a cheap, easy to produce FPGA based core product with enough capability to encourage community buzz

That's a very valid point, too... Maybe going for phase 3 directly would be the best option. I mean the emulator already achieved some if this effect, but didn't result in a cash injection.

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1 minute ago, AndyMt said:

That's a very valid point, too... Maybe going for phase 3 directly would be the best option. I mean the emulator already achieved some if this effect, but didn't result in a cash injection.

Exactly. Low risk, predictable margin device to get Commander hardware of some form in peoples hands to raise awareness, confidence, start tooling development/refinement and of course, raise funds for further development of the more niche / fancy fully custom product. 

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