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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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2 hours ago, Snickers11001001 said:

Do you have any links to the source of those addresses/pages on the X8? 

Is the memory at page $0600 affected?     What 'part' of page $0700 is also spoken for?  

 

See the general chat thread at:

That also explains more clearly what I mean by "from unofficial sources". This is tentative until/unless there is a specification from official sources, but it makes sense based on the simplest way to give access to the part of the internal FPGA RAM dedicated to the Vera functions.

 

 

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Thanks to the x16 team for giving the community this option.

The reality is your bringing out a system 40 years after the cpu inside it was cutting edge, and this will be a system that will have possibly a few thousand owners, why dilute that pool by having different levels of system ability, that is X8 vs X16 this makes no sense to me.

I understand you wish for a low entry point to fit the original intent to allow cheap entry point due to the rising costs of a c64 or apple 2e etc, but isn't that what emulation attempts to replace anyway?

On another note, just wanted to take this opportunity to thank David and the team for not giving up on this project i've been looking forward to it since falling over over it earlier this year.

Great idea and really look forward to building one.

 

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2 hours ago, MarkV said:

The reality is your bringing out a system 40 years after the cpu inside it was cutting edge, and this will be a system that will have possibly a few thousand owners, why dilute that pool by having different levels of system ability, that is X8 vs X16 this makes no sense to me.

I think the harsh reality of economics are at play. Supply issues and cost increases related to chip fab constraints aren't going away anytime soon, which along with the logistics, practical and cost overheads of buying/storing/shipping the intial X16p mean the likely price of the kit is rocketing, which will weaken sales overall (and the device needs some economies of scale to break even).

My guess is that without the safe, low risk income from sales of the X8 the X16 might never become a reality - (certainly not the surface mounted or embedded versions need to reach a price point and critical mass of sales). There is a very, very niche market for a totally DIY solder it yourself product costing $500+ (once the bundled custom keyboard, cost of a case and PSU, shipping and taxes etc are taken into account). Even less for one if you need to spend another $150+ to have it hand assembled for you. 

Releasing the X8 would incur almost zero financial risk (its already developed, works, and the parts aren't nearly as constrained as the X16 BOM, it can be produced locally etc), could likely be sold for comfortably sub $100 (including a load of margin to pump in to the big boy X16 development and de-risk the jump to a surface mounted version), would demonstrate that the X16 line-up isn't vaporware (in terms of a physical product seeing release), and would get a near identical (if constrained) version of the VERA platform out there in v1.0 form to encourage developer and tutorial writer efforts.

And that's before considering that the X8 (with its constraints) might be a device a lot of people might actually want.

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8 hours ago, BruceMcF said:

See the general chat thread at:

That also explains more clearly what I mean by "from unofficial sources". This is tentative until/unless there is a specification from official sources, but it makes sense based on the simplest way to give access to the part of the internal FPGA RAM dedicated to the Vera functions.

 

 

Sheesh.   So on the X8, we would lose the ability to put ML code BASIC helpers/wedges at $0400 to $04FF, $0500 to $05ff, and part of page at $700. 

Additionally, since there's no longer banked ram, the 8K at $A000 to $BFFF that on the X16 is 'page 0' of the banked ram and reserved 'for KERNAL/CBDOS variables and buffers" is the only RAM in that range.  

So, uh, if you want to include a machine code routine as a BASIC helper (such as sound effects like the simplest sound library, or a little routine to handle collision detection, or your own interrupt handler for music, or a wedge to implement some currently unavailable bitmap stuff from BASIC (e.g., circle, flood fill)),  etc., where do we put it?    Sounds like it has to go in the 39K of actual BASIC memory now. 

Anyone know the 'pokes' for the X16/X8 in terms of the pointer to move down the top of BASIC memory like addresses $37 and $38 on the C64?!  

Edited by Snickers11001001
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40 minutes ago, Snickers11001001 said:

Sheesh.   So on the X8, we would lose the ability to put ML code BASIC helpers/wedges at $0400 to $04FF, $0500 to $05ff, and part of page at $700. 

Additionally, since there's no longer banked ram, the 8K at $A000 to $BFFF that on the X16 is 'page 0' of the banked ram and reserved 'for KERNAL/CBDOS variables and buffers" is the only RAM in that range.  

Indeed - you are right, thanks for pointing this out. It would also mean we actually have much less memory available as there seems to be no way to access the other 8k (bank 1)?

That makes me even less enthusiastic for the X8 now. I'd really prefer it to have the same memory layout and banking mechanism as the X16 and also it's same access mechanism to VERA.

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Unsurprising that hardware assembly and distribution takes a bit more resources and effort than software distribution (stick label on diskette, fold box, add instruction manual, print label, tape box, run to meet mailman).

Some of us are disappointed with the reality of this teenage-fantasy gone awry.  Expectations of a $99 'computer' was a non-starter.  Add the irresistible desire to build a rocket-ship, injected feature-creep, adding a set of spiral-bound manuals, branded/fancy-logo Pantone matched cuff links, tie clip, divot fixer, and an unforeseen time element and here we are.

I just received a pile of circuit boards from PCBway for < $2 a piece, Z34 cases from Poland, and a pile of resistors, switches, displays and misc. components and now I will solder them together and give them away to friends.  But it's a labor of love and one that is philanthropic intended for educational purposes, not for commercial gain or even to try to break-even.  Adding up the time/shipping, real estate on my dining room table (my wife isn't happy with the last part) equates to a fair amount of effort and coordination;  All I'm doing is building a bunch of Kim Uno units which is about 1/1,000th of what this project is trying to achieve.

Of course (!!!) you need a place to house a thousand of anything or worse, supply chain management and coordination of 100,000 parts.  ("oh crap, we ran out of #6 washers to attach the power supply IEC connector")

If X16 was never a thing, and somebody did a kickstarter for something called the X8 which appeared Commodore'ish with more video and sound capabilities, they'd probably be able to sell 500-1000 units for $99 assuming it included a power supply, some amount of printed material and a simple case (add your own keyboard).  But this is not that and there is too much distance between.

If we could just take the 'blue pill' and wait for release, maybe the outcome would be satisfying but too many of us took the 'red pill' and it's hard to go back.

Maybe I'll be wrong after all and this is an #APRILFOOLS gag but 6 months late.  I'm still onboard to buy whatever they put in front of us and really don't think that there is a major difference between spending $400 and $500 (assuming a 25% uplift on some components).  As always, "the technology is 'easy', delivering it is the difficulty".

 

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1 hour ago, AndyMt said:

as there seems to be no way to access the other 8k (bank 1)

I don't think there would 'be' any other 8K. 

As I understand it  (and I should emphasize that as Bruce mentioned, its all unofficially as a result of surmises and speculations given we don't have formal docs of X8 functionality),  there's no "ram under rom" under the BASIC and KERNAL on X8, so I don't see how there'd be an alternative 'page 1' of RAM at $A000 to $BFFF.     There's only 128K of RAM for the entire FPGA, 64K of it is VERA vid mem and the other 64K is mapped to the 65c02 address space.    If the stuff at $A000 to $BFFF is 'kernal buffers and cbdos' stuff then that is what exists at that location.   There's no where else that could hold 8K of what the X16 maps in as 'bank 1' ram for that range.

Its really only a headache for those who utilize BASIC and want to use helpers / wedges etc.   I would presume if you don't need kernal or basic, you can use their address space as ram (and absent kernal's need for $A000 to $BFFF you could use that too) ... but I must be clear  that's just a presumption on my part.   The X8 FPGA could be set up so its logic simply does not permit writes to those ranges.   I have no idea how to read verilog and the sources are 6 months old anyhow. 

 And don't forget that even though VERA is reduced to 64K video ram on the X8, if you're not using all of it for display, some of it can be a convenient place to park 'pure data' -- sounds, gfx, music data, etc., especially with what should be fairly easy access through that 256 byte window.   

In the end, I'll buy the X8 if its all that comes out,  but I'm personally cheering for and wanting to hold out for the X16 as it was spec'd -- whether in through-hole or FPGA only -- for many reasons.   

Edited by Snickers11001001
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58 minutes ago, AndyMt said:

Indeed - you are right, thanks for pointing this out. It would also mean we actually have much less memory available as there seems to be no way to access the other 8k (bank 1)?

That makes me even less enthusiastic for the X8 now. I'd really prefer it to have the same memory layout and banking mechanism as the X16 and also it's same access mechanism to VERA.

I didn't see that as well, right now I'd largely prefer to buy a X16e over a X8.

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13 minutes ago, Snickers11001001 said:

I don't think there would 'be' any other 8K. 

As I understand it  (and I should emphasize that as Bruce mentioned, its all unofficially as a result of surmises and speculations given we don't have formal docs of X8 functionality),  there's no "ram under rom" under the BASIC and KERNAL on X8, so I don't see how there'd be an alternative 'page 1' of RAM at $A000 to $BFFF.     There's only 128K of RAM for the entire FPGA, 64K of it is VERA vid mem and the other 64K is mapped to the 65c02 address space.    If the stuff at $A000 to $BFFF is 'kernal buffers and cbdos' stuff then that is what exists at that location.   There's no where else that could hold 8K of what the X16 maps in as 'bank 1' ram for that range.

Its really only a headache for those who utilize BASIC and want to use helpers / wedges etc.   I would presume if you don't need kernal or basic, you can use their address space as ram... but that's just a presumption.   The X8 FPGA could be set up so its logic simply does not permit writes to those ranges.   I have no idea how to read verilog and the sources are 6 months old anyhow.  ...

That last wouldn't seem the most direct approach, since the boot up seems to be two pages at $FE00-$FFFF, so it seems likely it just reads a chunk of data from the serial flashRAM and writes it straight to where it goes. There might be a write protect bit, but it seems more likely that Basic just happens to be the default code sitting in RAM that happens to lie below the Kernel and if you don't need Basic, you can just take over all of the space it normally uses.

Except for routines writing to VRam, the obvious places to put little widget routines is in VRam, so it can be executed by switching $0400 to the page holding the widget routine and executing it.

Which, similar to the use of VRam for data buffers, would discourage heavy use of higher color depth and resolution bitmap modes.

IF it was possible to make an IO hat for it, it could be a fun little board, but it would be very much its own thing when programmed in Assembly.

 

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6 minutes ago, BruceMcF said:

the obvious places to put little widget routines is in VRam, so it can be executed by switching $0400 to the page holding the widget routine and executing it

As long as it fits in 256 bytes! 

Now you're triggering the dark underbelly of nostalgia, LOL!    I remember a buddy gnashing his teeth for days trying to fit a sprite animator thing he was making/adapting into the tape buffer on his C64.    I think he wound up throwing away the custom character set for his game and using the C64 ram at $C000 since it was 4K of space.  

 

 

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16 minutes ago, Snickers11001001 said:

As long as it fits in 256 bytes! 

Now you're triggering the dark underbelly of nostalgia, LOL!    I remember a buddy gnashing his teeth for days trying to fit a sprite animator thing he was making/adapting into the tape buffer on his C64.    I think he wound up throwing away the custom character set for his game and using the C64 ram at $C000 since it was 4K of space.  

Someone needs to cut the fat out of SWEET16 so it can be wedged into a page. 🙂

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19 hours ago, Scott Robison said:

Someone needs to cut the fat out of SWEET16 so it can be wedged into a page. 🙂

Just need the last six  bytes of each page to be "STY VRBANK : JMP ($0400,X) and to call to a " far page",

LDY #hibyte : LDX #lobyte : JMP $04FA

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Release the Commander X8 now, and the Commander X16 when possible.

The two projects are wellcome.

I don't care about case, I can do one myself using pizza case like as Dr. Cockroach Ph.D. from Monster Vs Aliens if I want. Joke, I know how to do things with plastic.

I'm owner of a Ultimate 64 motherboard, I like FPGA implementations.

Edited by Darth Florus
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2 hours ago, BruceMcF said:

Just need the last six  bytes of each page to be "STY VRBANK : JMP ($0400,X) and to call to a " far page",

LDY #hibyte : LDX #lobyte : JMP $04FA

I've actually never used or looked at SWEET16, I just knew that it over a page (though not by much; I had to look it up to confirm that much). But elegant solution. Now I want to write a DOS text mode emulator entirely in VRAM. 😄

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On 9/11/2021 at 1:11 AM, Scott Robison said:

I've actually never used or looked at SWEET16, I just knew that it over a page (though not by much; I had to look it up to confirm that much). But elegant solution. Now I want to write a DOS text mode emulator entirely in VRAM. 😄

Yeah, and it's massively tangly spaghetti code. My Swift16 65c02 uses a faster JMP (a,X) execution loop and  no spaghetti code it's around 3 pages. I am pretty sure it can be ported to the X8 VRAM bank.

https://github.com/BruceMcF/Sweeter16

Edited by BruceMcF
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The question has always been a matter of feature creep and not building a perfect machine.  People still write programs for the Atari 2600, Commodore 64, and other vintage machines because of the limitations they have and working around them.  A better basic and faster basic helps get programmers started.  Perfect hardware does not lead to innovations and tricks.  It will never stop you in your tracks as your try to figure out how something was done.   

Some expansion capability (IC2?) is needed to interface lights, motors, and sensors that are so cheaply available.  People are sometimes more impressed with a servo, sensor, and leds than a high resolution photorealistic display.  Not sure what the solution is. 

cabiv

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20 hours ago, cabiv said:

The question has always been a matter of feature creep and not building a perfect machine.  People still write programs for the Atari 2600, Commodore 64, and other vintage machines because of the limitations they have and working around them.  A better basic and faster basic helps get programmers started.  Perfect hardware does not lead to innovations and tricks.  It will never stop you in your tracks as your try to figure out how something was done.  

I keep hearing about feature creep, but I rarely hear about what features were supposed to have crept. The most recent change in the Vera reduced the bottleneck of the two data ports while cutting, not adding, a feature. That was a feature replacing the 65xx family serial interface chip, which was in turn replaced by a decision to bit bang the serial on the User port. That is, if anything, the opposite of feature creep ... feature pruning.

Maybe because the design team has a wise policy of not discussing some features at the "we'd like it but it's not clear if it's feasible" stage, and then when it's described some people imagine it the feature had never been on any internal feature target list?

 

20 hours ago, cabiv said:

Some expansion capability (IC2?) is needed to interface lights, motors, and sensors that are so cheaply available.  People are sometimes more impressed with a servo, sensor, and leds than a high resolution photorealistic display.  Not sure what the solution is.

There is already an SPI interface, for the SD card, and an SPI interface can be bussed. There are SPI to GPIO chips, SPI to serial chips, SPI to I2C bus master chips, SPI serial RAM chips, etc., so reusing the existing SPI bus seems like the likeliest to fit if the X8 doesn't have many unused logic resources to spare.

 

 

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It seams to me you have an architecture at this point. A slightly bloated one, but feature rich as a result. So the question now is production. With so much behind it, I think the best focus for now it releasing the system in Kit form first and just starting to make a profit, along with getting kits in people's hands. You can use a part of those profits to help get pre-built units made if enough are sold. But really, it's kind of important to turn all this effort into an end result.

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On 9/19/2021 at 2:57 PM, Luckarusky said:

It seams to me you have an architecture at this point. A slightly bloated one, but feature rich as a result. So the question now is production. With so much behind it, I think the best focus for now it releasing the system in Kit form first and just starting to make a profit, along with getting kits in people's hands. You can use a part of those profits to help get pre-built units made if enough are sold. But really, it's kind of important to turn all this effort into an end result.

That's the point of crowdfunding ... if the crowdfund hits its target, you have your orders and can go into production without the risk of the units that you order failing to sell, because they are pre-sold. If the crowdfund is far enough over its target, you may have enough profit to shift from crowdfunding to the traditional entrepreneurial production that Dave is used to.

One challenge in this particular case is that the scale for the keyboard and the scale for a minimum successful DIY launch may be out of sync ... "support" tiers with the emulator and a ladder of bonuses plus the keyboard could bridge that gap ... add that K8 tiers including a keyboard option, that could well bridge the gap completely.

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What keyboard?  Have they (or you) cobbled together different packaging options and costs?

I know Halloween is coming to the U.S., but it’s been eerily quiet, if not spooky 🎃 around here.

Edited by EMwhite
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10 minutes ago, EMwhite said:

What keyboard?  Have they (or you) cobbled together different packaging options and costs?

I know Halloween is coming to the U.S., but it’s been eerily quiet, if not spooky 🎃 around here.

The youtube from former member of the team Perifractic is down, but the picture from May shows what the base keyboard was supposed to look like:

 

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40 minutes ago, EMwhite said:

Ah yes, I remember that kbd. but figured it left the building when then case did (and apparently, the video??).

I think a large amount was spent on the keyboards in advance so it is worth keeping them. The cases hadn't required any up front money to this point in time and thus they are not a sunk cost.

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5 hours ago, Scott Robison said:

I think a large amount was spent on the keyboards in advance so it is worth keeping them. The cases hadn't required any up front money to this point in time and thus they are not a sunk cost.

I wondered how much of the deficit went into keyboards. I never could fathom out the compulsory keyboard, I mean what about non US people ? I find US keyboards (@/" swapped round compared to the UK the main difference) irritating, so a French person with their AZERTY layout would probably end up throwing it out of the window.

And personally, if I was going to use the thing rather than look at it, I'd swap the keyboard anyway, just so it didn't get damaged, I'm fairly rough on keyboards and I also like the split arced ones that I think Microsoft did first.

I do wonder about how that affects the price. If the price of the kit is $250-$300ish a custom case and keyboard would probably do a large chunk of that on its own, and at the X8 price you are probably bare board level. Which is fine, screw it to a bit of perspex or something.

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