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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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51 minutes ago, AndyMt said:

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.

I made that very point in another thread. I suspect the main hesitancy along this line is the fact that there's a major design decision in flux right now regarding the PS/2 interface. Personally, as long as the board is flashable without special hardware/cables, then I don't see any reason why it couldn't get "firmware updates" to go along with emulator updates. Anyway, I also suspect that the particulars of the "phase 3" design aren't as close to being done as the X8 which is probably why Dave's leaning towards releasing the X8.

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2 hours ago, Wonderdog said:

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. ...

Though the thing is, hindsight tends to be sharper than foresight (maybe that's why in Chinese, "the past" is what you see when you look ahead and "the future" is what you see when you look behind you) ... made with off the shelf ASIC parts seemed to be a compelling part of the vision for a lot of the people David was talking to, and there is no doubt that starting with Yet Another FPGA simulator, and this one for a retro system that did not, in fact, exist, would have been the path that made the real chips version of the board less likely to happen than the path that has been traveled.

Perhaps the experience, such as it was, would have been smoother, but it would have been smoother because of the different hardware constraints, and the various hangups that have been experienced getting the X16p to the "almost ready to crowdfund" point it is at now would have been even harder to fix if all of the software base was assuming something that turned out to be easier to implement in FPGA than with discrete chips.

The path has been harder largely because they tackled the harder challenge first.

Once they have all the kinks worked out, the only real hangups for the X16c and X16e would be market questions ... would there be enough demand to justify a cased X16c ... would there be enough market demand for an X16e when it is above RPi price points and up in the next tier of SBC's.

The smoother ride to doing the X16e first would likely also have meant an even bumpier ride to getting an X16p done, and it's all too likely that they would have ended up painting themselves into a corner, simulating a discrete chips 65c02 based SBC that they couldn't then actually make to work.

 

1 hour ago, Wonderdog said:

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. 

All of this "raise funds for further development" keeps confusing me. Why do people forget that crowdfunding exists? Crowdfunding raises funds for the product you are trying to build with the fact that there are people out there who want you to build it so they can buy it.

I made that very point in another thread. I suspect the main hesitancy along this line is the fact that there's a major design decision in flux right now regarding the PS/2 interface. Personally, as long as the board is flashable without special hardware/cables, then I don't see any reason why it couldn't get "firmware updates" to go along with emulator updates. Anyway, I also suspect that the particulars of the "phase 3" design aren't as close to being done as the X8 which is probably why Dave's leaning towards releasing the X8.

Setting aside my whinging about wanting an X8 that doesn't exist ... one with more I/O options than just working out how to reuse the debug UART port as a regular UART port ... when David says he has a prototype and it just works, I think that means that there's no software challenge, just open the crowdfund to fund production of the board and it would be prototype the version on the finished board rather than the development board, test that it works as expected, fix any mistakes (never assume there are no mistakes to fix just because there "shouldn't" be), then put them into production.

IOW, the alpha prototype worked out like it was the beta test.

Meanwhile, while the X16p DIY may be a month or two away from being ready to crowdfund even for a very conservative approach to crowdfunding ... there's been various times already when a month or two has ballooned to six months, and there's perhaps some well justified nervousness about when the X16 side is going to turn cash-flow positive.

 

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13 minutes ago, snerd said:

Yikes. Chill out dude. This isn't the academy. I am pecking these out on my phone between meetings and diaper changes. Go make some tea and leave me alone.

No flames intended ... I was just using your misrepresentation of what I said to underline that the way you described adding a paid option to the store was easy to misinterpret.

Of course, in China I am now officially an old man, so it's easier to be chill about such things ... I remember days on the early 90s Usenet that might have been the start of a four month flamewar.

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21 hours ago, Carl Gundel said:

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.

If it was a suggestion for an ESP32 expansion slot card or User Port card, it seems clear on Facebook and here over time that there is a substantial amount of interest in that.

(Now, present it as something to be built in, and people might get a bit intent on shooting that suggestion down because they don't want to add anything to the base design to slow development down further, or because they think it's not appropriate to include in the base design, or both.)

But even for the X8, without a slot, without a user port ... since it has SPI input and output lines and clock, and SPI can be bussed, one I/O pin and an ESP32 hat is possible.
(... send that I/O pin and the existing SD select out for decoding, 2>4, reserve one for SD, and with the other three you can have a multi-I/O hat on the external SPI bus ... just saying ...)

 

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1 hour ago, BruceMcF said:

All of this "raise funds for further development" keeps confusing me. Why do people forget that crowdfunding exists? Crowdfunding raises funds for the product you are trying to build with the fact that there are people out there who want you to build it so they can buy it

 

I seem to remember on one of 8BD's videos, might've been the first PetSCII robots, that crowdfunding had been more hassle than it was worth, or something along those lines ?

I saw an idea that Stefany (I think) had for the Foenix, which is you could Patreon at a sizeable but not absurd level, and that would be discounted off the final product.

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1 hour ago, ZeroByte said:

I made that very point in another thread. I suspect the main hesitancy along this line is the fact that there's a major design decision in flux right now regarding the PS/2 interface. Personally, as long as the board is flashable without special hardware/cables, then I don't see any reason why it couldn't get "firmware updates" to go along with emulator updates. Anyway, I also suspect that the particulars of the "phase 3" design aren't as close to being done as the X8 which is probably why Dave's leaning towards releasing the X8.

Having tinkered with the PS/2 myself, I was always amazed it worked at all. It's not a particularly complicated serial shift register OTOMH, but on a 6502 the problem is actually grabbing it, I presumed the keyboard clock was connected to IRQ or a gated NMI but I don't think it is. I'm guessing here it's moving to Vera as well, doing that in FPGA is sensible.

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6 minutes ago, paulscottrobson said:

I seem to remember on one of 8BD's videos, might've been the first PetSCII robots, that crowdfunding had been more hassle than it was worth, or something along those lines ?

I saw an idea that Stefany (I think) had for the Foenix, which is you could Patreon at a sizeable but not absurd level, and that would be discounted off the final product.

I might have missed that, likely from doing something else while it was playing. If someone recalls where that discussion happens, that would be informative.

As with several aspects of the project, the idea to do the crowdfunding here at this site was pretty ambitious ... there are reasons why crowdfunding has coalesced on Kickstarter and Indigogo, rather than the bulk of it fracturing out as the market has grown.

Having tinkered with the PS/2 myself, I was always amazed it worked at all. It's not a particularly complicated serial shift register OTOMH, but on a 6502 the problem is actually grabbing it, I presumed the keyboard clock was connected to IRQ or a gated NMI but I don't think it is. I'm guessing here it's moving to Vera as well, doing that in FPGA is sensible.

It doesn't seem like it could migrate to Vera, with I/O pins already constrained enough that adding two address pins made them cut the UART function out ... but in any event, it is clear from the thread on the topic that it is either going to be with the VIA or with the ATTiny, where the second solution would be in line with how the original PC-AT keyboards were accessed (which IIUC was then eventually followed by the clones all moving to Super-IO chipsets, but that all happened when I was no longer paying any attention to what was happening with PC hardware).

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I built plenty of kits for ham radio stuff when I was younger. I don't have my younger eyes, now. I suspect I am far from alone, and I am in the age range that grew up loving 8 bit computers and is drooling for an actual new one.

While I know i COULD build an X16 from kit, it would not be fun, and I have no interest in doing so. But if it is only released as a kit would there be something preventing third party assemblers from selling "Turn key" units?

That's how I obtained my Color Maximite 2. Seems like there is enough of a market for that computer to have at least 4 assemblers in the US, NZ, UK and Poland.

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Petscii Robots Video # at about 22.30.

"boxed copies could actually go on sale and be shipped out probably sometime in late January. So, a lot of people have asked if I’m  doing a kickstarter. And the answer is no.  The last time a did a kickstarter it  nearly killed me, so what my plan is,  when the game is complete, I’m just going to  discretely put it up for sale on my website and  let the sales start to trickle in a  little bit so that I can fill the sales  "

I don't think 8BD says why. Of course, hardware is different. Software is more time with less up front investment even if you are paying for graphics, sfx, music and even then you can get some sort of demo.

Though I seem to recall 8BD saying he'd already invested a fair amount of cash in CX16 ?
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1 hour ago, BruceMcF said:

If it was a suggestion for an ESP32 expansion slot card or User Port card, it seems clear on Facebook and here over time that there is a substantial amount of interest in that.

(Now, present it as something to be built in, and people might get a bit intent on shooting that suggestion down because they don't want to add anything to the base design to slow development down further, or because they think it's not appropriate to include in the base design, or both.)

But even for the X8, without a slot, without a user port ... since it has SPI input and output lines and clock, and SPI can be bussed, one I/O pin and an ESP32 hat is possible.
(... send that I/O pin and the existing SD select out for decoding, 2>4, reserve one for SD, and with the other three you can have a multi-I/O hat on the external SPI bus ... just saying ...)

 

Yeah, my idea was for it to be built in.  After all, if you're going to reinvent the 8-bit computer in the Internet age, it makes sense for it to have some sort of network facility, however simple.  The computer itself will have its OS in ROM so (as long as it isn't re-reflashable in situ) security isn't much of an issue.  On the other hand, as much as I like the idea because I think it makes for instant X16 community, it is feature creep to say the least.  😉

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On 9/1/2021 at 10:53 AM, TomXP411 said:

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.

I think "hackable from the ground up" is a big deal.

The reason i've been in the "no x8" camp has been the concern that two incompatible products would split the momentum, enthusiasm, and software base.

The reason i've been in the full-x16-with-real-chips camp has been that i think it would be cool to be able to poke at it with a scope to "really see" what's going on between the chips.

Really, though, if anything makes it to production, i'll buy 😉

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2 hours ago, paulscottrobson said:

Petscii Robots Video # at about 22.30.

"boxed copies could actually go on sale and be shipped out probably sometime in late January. So, a lot of people have asked if I’m  doing a kickstarter. And the answer is no.  The last time a did a kickstarter it  nearly killed me, so what my plan is,  when the game is complete, I’m just going to  discretely put it up for sale on my website and  let the sales start to trickle in a  little bit so that I can fill the sales  "

I don't think 8BD says why. Of course, hardware is different. Software is more time with less up front investment even if you are paying for graphics, sfx, music and even then you can get some sort of demo.

Though I seem to recall 8BD saying he'd already invested a fair amount of cash in CX16 ?

Kickstarter is a non-starter : ) when your product is not yet viable aka, show-stopping issues left to be dealt with and/or cost undetermined, etc.  To be successful, some amount of mastery of capabilities, cost-of-goods to manufacture, and unit price must be 'knowns'.  A good guess at demand is the only variable.  I'm not convinced that the crew here is at that point, but I speculate.

When kickstarts blows up, people walk away, far away, disappointed.  And at this point, it's not just a "let's make something cool and recoup our costs", it's "we've got so much invested AND want to deliver something awesome that we've been talking about for 2 yrs" so that makes it tricky.

Robots was a one-man show and I'll guess that 8BG knows what his capabilities are since he had already published a few games..., had boxes and labels produced in the past, sure had some people kick-in music and whatnot but otherwise... different animal.

I honestly thought we would see something 'official' in print by now, pictures, list of features, etc.  Maybe we will all be surprised on Monday or maybe some other Monday months from now?  Every month, I end up spending money on other distractions and I'm enjoying all of them.  Hoping for greatness here, not just something that I play with for a month then set aside.

 

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On 9/2/2021 at 9:59 PM, EMwhite said:

Kickstarter is a non-starter : ) when your product is not yet viable aka, show-stopping issues left to be dealt with and/or cost undetermined, etc.  To be successful, some amount of mastery of capabilities, cost-of-goods to manufacture, and unit price must be 'knowns'.  A good guess at demand is the only variable.  I'm not convinced that the crew here is at that point, but I speculate.

I honestly thought we would see something 'official' in print by now, pictures, list of features, etc.  Maybe we will all be surprised on Monday or maybe some other Monday months from now?  Every month, I end up spending money on other distractions and I'm enjoying all of them.  Hoping for greatness here, not just something that I play with for a month then set aside.

 

I rather got the impression they were fairly close to this. David is starting to talk about kits becoming available, and more importantly giving actual prices, something they didn't do before (sensibly, if they only had a good guess !)

I think (again, sensibly) they are very careful about confirming specs and the design. You can over promise or under promise. For example, we have, apparently, an 8Mhz 6502 but if the timing makes that impossible it could go back to being a 2Mhz or 4Mhz CPU. So we have a "pretty good idea" what both the X8 and the X16 would be like in behaviour, if not necessarily in physical form perhaps.

In the end it's really down to David, and he's just testing the water, which is a difficult thing to do, because it creates fragmentation by default. If you ask do you want A or B, then some people will want A, and some will want B, but people who would have been happy enough just given A or B may be unhappy about the loss of the alternative.

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Perhaps they should release the DIY kits soon, at a price to accommodate "50% increases" in some parts -- and just be transparent about how much they're charging is due to said increase.

Also, would it be possible to put most of the "profit margin" into the motherboard/keyboard itself, and sell that separately as an option? Some people might own some of the chips involved already, and might prefer NOT re-buying various ICs and other components. Each person's lab and parts collection is unique.

I understand that just giving out the Gerber files and Bill of Materials would bring in 0 revenue for David and his team, who have already invested 5 figures in this project. I'm not asking for that. I'd say make whatever profit you intend to make off the MOTHERBOARD ALONE, and charge near cost for the components. That seems reasonable. After all, their product is the X16 (the motherboard/system they designed), not to be a competitor for Mouser or Digikey.

 

It's possible that the component price increases (mentioned by David) will be permanent, or semi-permanent -- no one knows. But at least we can each do our own personal calculus. Some budgets might demand waiting/hoping for a return to 2019 component prices, while other budgets couldn't care less.

Some people actually pay for restaurant (McD, Starbucks, etc.) coffee. Others are more frugal, and dining out isn't in their budget. 😉

 

Edited by maktos
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2 hours ago, maktos said:

It's possible that the component price increases (mentioned by David) will be permanent, or semi-permanent -- no one knows. But at least we can each do our own personal calculus. Some budgets might demand waiting/hoping for a return to 2019 component prices, while other budgets couldn't care less.

The only problem I see with this (because you're right, we all have to figure it out for ourselves) is pricing boards properly, and the proper pricing is heavily dependent on volume. If you can only sell 10 motherboards the per board price will be much higher than for 1000. And that's part of the problem for quoting any price is knowing how many boards are really needed.

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The uncertainty of eventual sale quantities of the x16 (and given that each stage needs to be successful to fund development the next, more affordable/mass appeal version) is the main reason that launching the x8 as an interim release makes such good sense to me - its practically no economic risk to Dave and the team to launch it. Right now the appeal of an expensive, kit form X16 has got to be very limited (and needs more work before it's ready for prime time). Given the increase in component prices, need to bundle the keyboard (to claw back the 50% down sunk cost and I presume, minimum order placed there) then making a decent enough mark-up to fund further development without going so high as to drive off too many of the already limited pool of buyers, there needs to be something to sell to keep the lights on.

Worst case the X8 doesn't sell well and so makes them no money for the X16 development, but as its already a completed, known good device ready to launch at a very low per unit manufacturing price point, then even with a few hundred sales it is likely to provide funds for the finalisation of the X16 device prototypes and also cover some of the teams existing sunk costs - making the eventual X16 kits that much cheaper to get out of the door (and so selling more, and snowballing up to developing the refined versions which can reach a wider audience, meaning more interest all round).

I don't see there being any way they will sell 4 figures of units of the X16 kit (given the price/hassle narrowing the market significantly), and without some money to work with, a splash kit release and pile of unsold keyboards might be all there is to show for it.

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4 minutes ago, Wonderdog said:

The uncertainty of eventual sale quantities of the x16 (and given that each stage needs to be successful to fund development the next, more affordable/mass appeal version) is the main reason that launching the x8 as an interim release makes such good sense to me - its practically no economic risk to Dave and the team to launch it. Right now the appeal of an expensive, kit form X16 has got to be very limited (and needs more work before it's ready for prime time). Given the increase in component prices, need to bundle the keyboard (to claw back the 50% down sunk cost and I presume, minimum order placed there) then making a decent enough mark-up to fund further development without going so high as to drive off too many of the already limited pool of buyers, there needs to be something to sell to keep the lights on.

Worst case the X8 doesn't sell well and so makes them no money for the X16 development, but as its already a completed, known good device ready to launch at a very low per unit manufacturing price point, then even with a few hundred sales it is likely to provide funds for the finalisation of the X16 device prototypes and also cover some of the teams existing sunk costs - making the eventual X16 kits that much cheaper to get out of the door (and so selling more, and snowballing up to developing the refined versions which can reach a wider audience, meaning more interest all round).

I don't see there being any way they will sell 4 figures of units of the X16 kit (given the price/hassle narrowing the market significantly), and without some money to work with, a splash kit release and pile of unsold keyboards might be all there is to show for it.

Agreed. The one good thing about the keyboards is even if they aren't all sold as part of X16 packages due to insufficient demand, I think there are enough Commodore fans out there that might like picking up a keyboard to go with their emulation or for general nostalgia. The audience of people who love Commodore is bigger than the audience that would go for X16.

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2 hours ago, Scott Robison said:

The only problem I see with this (because you're right, we all have to figure it out for ourselves) is pricing boards properly, and the proper pricing is heavily dependent on volume. If you can only sell 10 motherboards the per board price will be much higher than for 1000. And that's part of the problem for quoting any price is knowing how many boards are really needed.

Yes, that is one of the principle differences between pre-orders and crowdfunding ... with a crowdfunding campaign, you set a minimum volume required to breakeven at the crowdfund price, and that minimum volume determines the crowdfunding target required to launch.

 

Edited by BruceMcF
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40 minutes ago, BruceMcF said:

Yes, that is one of the principle differences between pre-orders and crowdfunding ... with a crowdfunding campaign, you set a minimum volume required to breakeven at the crowdfund price, and that minimum volume determines the crowdfunding target required to launch.

And of course it's even worse than I alluded to (you're an economist I think, so I'm not trying to teach you anything, and I am likely simplifying this too much still, but I thought I'd write it out). Let's just say for the sake of argument David has invested $10,000, the smallest five figure number. I know nothing about cost of a board, so I went to PCBWAY and used their instant quote and picked some reasonable looking default values for an appropriately sized board.

WARNING! DISCLAIMER! THESE ARE NOT THE X16 PRICES! THESE ARE NUMBERS FOR A DEFAULT MICRO ATX SIZED BOARD FROM PCBWAY USED TO ILLUSTRATE ECONOMIES OF SCALE!

Cost to manufacture some numbers of board:

Qty 1: $147 + $20 shipping = $167 / board
Qty 10: $246 + $46 = $30 / board (interestingly close to the $27 / board price someone observed in a picture posted by Kevin Williams, I think)
Qty 100: $1,496 + $266 = $18 / board
Qty 1000: $9,995 + $1,824 = $12 / board

Cost per board to break even after the $10,000 investment:

Qty 1: $10,167 / board
Qty 10: $1,030 / board
Qty 100: $118 / board
Qty 1000: $22 / board

Multiple people have talked about the price of a board with appropriate or reasonable markup, but the markup above the bare cost to manufacture a board cannot be computed without factoring in the original amount invested to design said board.

Generally speaking, I know many people look at the price of something, think about how much it would cost them to buy the components, and feel like they're getting ripped off. "Why are you charging me $40 for software when it only costs a few bucks for a diskette, box, and manual if I do it myself?" They don't think about the huge up front cost to buy materials, labor to assemble, time spent designing and implementing the program.

In the case of an assembled board vs DIY kit vs bare board, the incremental costs per board are constant. A bare board costs $X depending on the quantity produced. The price of individual components will drop as the quantity ordered increases, which is one reason not to give people the "bare board without parts" option; it will drive up the price for everyone else, not to mention the support issues of people picking the wrong parts because they don't know better, and even a disclaimer of "no support" won't prevent there being some cost. An assembled board is the cost of labor.

Anyway, all the ideas of "how about just doing X to reduce the cost" really have no prayer of reducing cost in any meaningful way. The biggest volume of boards will be sold to people who will only buy a completed system. A kit vs completed build can save you labor cost, which is not inconsequential (unless you value your time), but there are overhead costs that have to be accounted for even if there isn't labor involved in manufacture. Just putting the kits or boards together in appropriate packaging will be a labor intensive task. All you have to do to prove that to yourself is to watch some of David's videos showing his days after the release of new software.

AGAIN: THESE ARE NOT THE ACTUAL PRICES! THEY ARE USED FOR ILLUSTRATION PURPOSES ONLY!

Edited by Scott Robison
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5 hours ago, Scott Robison said:

Qty 1: $10,167 / board
Qty 10: $1,030 / board
Qty 100: $118 / board
Qty 1000: $22 / board

And this is why the only people making a $100 computer are the Raspberry Pi Foundation. 

It's also why I've been telling people to expect the first gen Commander X16 to cost $400 or thereabouts.

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4 hours ago, Scott Robison said:

And of course it's even worse than I alluded to (you're an economist I think, so I'm not trying to teach you anything, and I am likely simplifying this too much still, but I thought I'd write it out). Let's just say for the sake of argument David has invested $10,000, the smallest five figure number. I know nothing about cost of a board, so I went to PCBWAY and used their instant quote and picked some reasonable looking default values for an appropriately sized board.

WARNING! DISCLAIMER! THESE ARE NOT THE X16 PRICES! THESE ARE NUMBERS FOR A DEFAULT MICRO ATX SIZED BOARD FROM PCBWAY USED TO ILLUSTRATE ECONOMIES OF SCALE!

Cost to manufacture some numbers of board:

Qty 1: $147 + $20 shipping = $167 / board
Qty 10: $246 + $46 = $30 / board (interestingly close to the $27 / board price someone observed in a picture posted by Kevin Williams, I think)
Qty 100: $1,496 + $266 = $18 / board
Qty 1000: $9,995 + $1,824 = $12 / board

Cost per board to break even after the $10,000 investment:

Qty 1: $10,167 / board
Qty 10: $1,030 / board
Qty 100: $118 / board
Qty 1000: $22 / board

Multiple people have talked about the price of a board with appropriate or reasonable markup, but the markup above the bare cost to manufacture a board cannot be computed without factoring in the original amount invested to design said board. ...

Yes.  The thing is, if the X16c would fund, at the minimum volume required for the customization of the Mini-ITX case or the Keyboard (whichever is higher), a normal mark-up will cover most development costs, and the sunk cost into the keyboards will be automatically recouped.

That is the challenge with the phase 1, phase 2, phase 3 process ... it had the pyramid upside down, with the lowest volume, highest price phase trying to kickstart the middle volume, middle price phase, which in turn is trying to kickstart the potentially highest volume, lowest price phase.

The way that the X8 + X16p DIY crowdfund launch would work would be by setting a funding target that can recoup the sunk cost in the keyboards.

Something like the following:

Support Tier: $10. A customized pdf of the docs with a signed thank you letter personalized to you, and unless you select anonymity your name in the supporter list in the prelude section of the docs, X16 and X8 emulators of your choice of system (Windows, MAC, the two largest Linux distros) and a year email notification of updates to the emulator/documentation.

  • Emulation Station Tier: $10+ project pre-order price of kbd. The above and the multi-mode PS2/USB project keyboard.
  • Premier Emulation Station Tier: Emulation Station tier plus printed X8 and X16 documentation, USB key with X16 project branding, install files for emulators plus install files for portable installations on the USB key
  • X8 bare board: Pre-order price of bare X8 board, drop-in SD card with included and demo programs & utilities.
  • X8 kit: Above and power supply, keyboard, printed X8 documentation
  • X16p DIY: Minimum 200, Maximum (a reasonable cap on kits that can be fulfilled), + keyboard + printed X16 documentation

And be sure to budget the crowdfund target so that the cost of the keyboard minimum order is covered, which necessarily recoups the 50% deposit. Pre-order Price the keyboard so that at 80% of the minimum order the purchase price plus a reasonable handling cost is covered.

So the first crowdfund bails out most of the buckets of red ink from the bilge of the Great Ship Project X16.

Now, if the first wave funds, there is going to be pent up demand for built systems. The X16p design was always much riskier than the X16c one, so while fulfilling the first campaign (never have the fulfillment and launch of the next campaign overlap) finalize the X16c design, and put together a new campaign.

  • Same three support tiers
  • X16c system, with keyboard and case, budget the minimum required based on minimum order required for case customization tweeks and minimum keyboard order.
  • X16p built boards + keyboard, with a narrow range between the budgeted required support for the tier to and the maximum order allowed.

Add up the X16c and X16p minimum budgets for the project to fund.

If the second campaign funds, the project is now in the black, including opportunity costs.

If the second campaign fails to fund, look at which tier let you down and see if you can restructure.

 

 

 

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9 hours ago, Wonderdog said:

Worst case the X8 doesn't sell well and so makes them no money for the X16 development, but as its already a completed, known good device ready to launch at a very low per unit manufacturing price point, then even with a few hundred sales it is likely to provide funds for the finalisation of the X16 device prototypes and also cover some of the teams existing sunk costs - making the eventual X16 kits that much cheaper to get out of the door (and so selling more, and snowballing up to developing the refined versions which can reach a wider audience, meaning more interest all round).
 

If the X8 can be produced at the sort of cost mentioned, which I can certainly think it might be, given the cost of similar devices, then it's almost beer money (well, a good night anyway ...). I think most people who wanted an X16 may well buy an X8 as well. I'm not sure it works the other way round.

I think code is fairly portable between the two designs, especially if you design it with that in mind. The problem is the window design is capable of doing things that the pipe design isn't, if you wanted to do a vector game the frame rate would go up significantly.

But then the X8 could be the game machine version and the X16 the experimenters machine version, you could make the Kernel calls compatible and even provide alternate kernal versions to load VRAM, position Sprites and so on. (Though if you add SPI then you can pretty much connect anything you like anyway)

I think cost is important, always have. Some of the designs out there ; the Mega65 and the various Foenixes (?)  -ii (?) look excellent machines but it's an awful lot of money for a machine without a software base.  Even if X# never gets a significant software base (and I think both would get a reasonable one, though it's never going to match C64 levels obviously ...) it's not a big loss. WCS scenario for me for an X8 is that I can repurpose it as something else 🙂

 

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1 hour ago, paulscottrobson said:

The problem is the window design is capable of doing things that the pipe design isn't, if you wanted to do a vector game the frame rate would go up significantly

This is the single most important technical differentiation for Dave and the team to consider I think.

In fact, I'd go so far as to suggest deliberately crippling the X8 and forcing it to use the same 4 byte register loading process of the x16 design rather than using the 256bit  window to maintain documentation and code consistency between the two. After that, the capability differences are largely related to how much RAM and VRAM is available, and how many channels of sound - so backward compat with X8 software could be much more easily maintained on the x16.

This isn't as crazy as it might sound - as I'd assume a similiar intentional nerfing would need to occur with the eventual FPGA based x16e (which would also be capable of using the window as everything is in the FPGA), as otherwise it would require/offer software capabilities equally different to the kit/surface mounted x16's.

Seems wierd to suggest reducing the theoretical capabilities of a device to maintain forward compatibility - but lets be honest here, nobody is interested in the x8/x16 for their absoloute power - not when you can buy a quad core RPi with 4gb of ram for $30, so a minor performance loss is worth it to simplify the development process for software across the two, and minimise any refactoring or different tutorials/documentation needed.     

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1 hour ago, paulscottrobson said:

If the X8 can be produced at the sort of cost mentioned, which I can certainly think it might be, given the cost of similar devices, then it's almost beer money (well, a good night anyway ...). I think most people who wanted an X16 may well buy an X8 as well. I'm not sure it works the other way round.

I think code is fairly portable between the two designs, especially if you design it with that in mind. The problem is the window design is capable of doing things that the pipe design isn't, if you wanted to do a vector game the frame rate would go up significantly.

But then the X8 could be the game machine version and the X16 the experimenters machine version, you could make the Kernel calls compatible and even provide alternate kernal versions to load VRAM, position Sprites and so on. (Though if you add SPI then you can pretty much connect anything you like anyway)

I think cost is important, always have. Some of the designs out there ; the Mega65 and the various Foenixes (?)  -ii (?) look excellent machines but it's an awful lot of money for a machine without a software base.  Even if X# never gets a significant software base (and I think both would get a reasonable one, though it's never going to match C64 levels obviously ...) it's not a big loss. WCS scenario for me for an X8 is that I can repurpose it as something else 🙂

Actually, I don't think the window design is that much of a difference, performance wise. I did the math a while back and demonstrated that a pipe approach is actually faster for most approaches than direct writes.

Yes, even for vector graphics.

That's because you still have to store the address being written to somewhere, and that somewhere can be the VERA address register just as easily as it can be a memory cell. Also, as the window approach only works for 256 bytes at a time, it's actually still going to require relocating the window for writes to different lines, which isn't really any faster than writing a new address to the VERA address register. 

And yes, cost is important... the $100-ish option will absolutely outsell a $400-500 option - especially if the more expensive system requires extensive soldering.

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