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Change of product direction, good and bad news!


What should we do?  

359 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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Hi, David,

Sorry to hear of the changes you and the rest of the project team have been going through.  It sounds like you are all handling it well, but things change - they always do.  It's never easy getting a project like this off the ground.

 I'm in favor of a "Phase 1+" X16 kit (with all components and sockets) as opposed to a fully assembled product.  That's because I have the skills to assemble such a kit.  I quite realize others may favor a kit.  Board assembly and testing can be sold separately.

It sounds like Phase 2 would be more amenable to manufacture/mass production, but I'd be lost trying to assemble SMDs with my old tired eyes.  There are options for manufacture other than China (which seems so nightmarish from what I'm told).   FineLine PCB out of Philadelphia might be a way to go. 

X8 sounds like the same mistake others have made, just on the face of it.  Stick with the X16 and see it through, and you'll come out better, I would think.

As for the case, it looks like the original case is going to be fun to find.  Any microATX case will support the Phase 1 board, am I correct?

I hope the project continues to progress in one form or another.  It would be so very cool to see one of these on sale one fine day.

 

 

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Just also want to give my opinion on this.

As some said before: For me real thing can only be the x16. Like I was hooked when I saw the front page of the web site: Inexpensive, relatable, educational.. a real CPU, not emulation. Im just a hobby programmer and I dont know much about FPGA and those things so dont take my opinion as too important, but as far as I understand,  the x8 is exactly not that, its more like a raspberry. So wouldnt be too interested in this. I want the real old skool stuff, with factory new parts, thats why Im here. I can totally understand that one would fill up the cash stack but this is not what got me excited in the "Building my dream computer..." Youtube video.

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On 10/6/2021 at 12:42 PM, Ju+Te said:

@sundownAt least for the VERA an FPGA seems to be necessary, unfortunately. So having an FPGA-free X16 based solely on standard "factory new parts" seems not to be an option.

Even then, VERA is not out of line with Commodore's chip fab capabilities circa 40 years ago. They did produce their own custom chips for video/audio like the VIC chip, and something like VERA was well within their capabilities. The chief difference between the X16 and something like a C64 or VIC-20 is that RAM is much cheaper today, and we have solid state storage devices now.

Edited by Ed Minchau
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I was wondering if you were going to go down the FPGA route with no expansion, why not just have a small ARM board and run an emulator? I understand that FPGA is hardware but from the end users perspective it is just a chip on a board doing a thing, it is almost irrelevant if it is fpga hardware or software emulation. Have a custom Linux install for say a Raspberry Pi which can boot straight to the emulator and thats it, a Commander X16/X8 without custom hardware.

Not trying to be controversial but the question is what is more important, the hardware, the software or both? If hardware go Phase 1, if software Phase 3/Arm emulation, if both then Phase 2.

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On 10/7/2021 at 5:47 AM, smartroad said:

I was wondering if you were going to go down the FPGA route with no expansion, why not just have a small ARM board and run an emulator?

1. If you want, you can already do that. BMC64 is an ARM "bare metal" version of VICE for the Pi products. The PET even runs on the $5 Pi Zero, even software upgraded to be a SuperPET.

2. Even the best software emulation has problems, such as input lag and incompatibility, where FPGA implementations do not.

FPGA = the physical circuit schematic built into a single integrated circuit (IC)

IC = a bunch of transistors in a single package rather than having fifty bajillion of them individually soldered to the board (plus other linear circuit components.

Bottom line here folks is that an FPGA implementation is functionally identical to an IC + discreet component implementation, because the FPGA is literally the same circuity built into a different package.

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On 10/7/2021 at 2:47 AM, smartroad said:

I was wondering if you were going to go down the FPGA route with no expansion, why not just have a small ARM board and run an emulator? I understand that FPGA is hardware but from the end users perspective it is just a chip on a board doing a thing, it is almost irrelevant if it is fpga hardware or software emulation. Have a custom Linux install for say a Raspberry Pi which can boot straight to the emulator and thats it, a Commander X16/X8 without custom hardware.

Not trying to be controversial but the question is what is more important, the hardware, the software or both? If hardware go Phase 1, if software Phase 3/Arm emulation, if both then Phase 2.

It’s really not quite the same. David did a review of the TheC64 where he shows the audio and video lag of using software emulators. It’s one reason I prefer my Ultimate 64 or my MiSTer over VICE when playing Commodore games. 

And that’s aside from the fact that a small ARM SOC just can’t run the Commander emulation at full speed. It struggles to do 4MHz on a Raspberry Pi 4, and that’s more powerful than most of these little ARM SOCs.

 

Edited by TomXP411
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I think my post got buried -- I don't know if David noticed it or not.

But I want to repeat again: as the leader of this project -- the moral leader, even if he has passed on much of the work to others -- he has represented the leadership in ASKING FOR OUR ADVICE and demonstrating uncertainty as to how to proceed.

That *should* cause any supporters to worry. What leader wavers like that publicly? And then lets it "dangle" for almost 2 months in that state? That's not good for the project.

I understand he wanted to take a reading, get the pulse of his supporters. I understand. But he's got it. He needs to now JUST AS PUBLICLY make a decision, and try to pick up the pieces so he can BEGIN the process of RESTORING OUR CONFIDENCE in this project.

We trust him, yes. But it would seem that our trusted leader is having problems -- problems which could sink the whole project. He is uncertain. He has himself listed POSSIBLY INSURMOUNTABLE obstacles. He needs to reassure us now that he has a NEW, MODIFIED PLAN, that things are back under control, that we should sit tight now and have confidence in him once again.

I repeat: it wasn't us who lost trust or confidence in him. He HIMSELF basically said that the old plan was no longer viable. He paraded the old game-plan around as a corpse. And then he left us in that limbo state, where we've been for the last 49 days! He NEEDS to come on here with his NEW, MODIFIED PLAN so we have the OPTION of having confidence in it or not!

I was/am as excited about this project as any of us. But even I will admit that this silence basically equals "I can't figure out a way to make this dream happen now" and he can't figure out how to tell us this bad news. Or he can't bring himself to give us the bad news. That's the default meaning of silence in this case. ANY OTHER REALITY needs to be explicitly stated by him at this point.

It doesn't matter WHAT killed his dream computer: covid, shortages, economic realities, market dynamics, technical issues, time management conflicts/personal issues among those working on the project, etc. It's not about placing blame. But it sure seems like he wants to say, "I don't know when/how we're ever going to bring this thing to market, guys."

But this extremely public wavering/loss of confidence/listing of GRAVE problems with the project, the facts strongly suggesting the possibility of a complete cancelling of the project, followed by 49 days of silence -- not the best recipe for confidence in a project!

 

P.S. I appreciate my fellow retro nerds discussing technical details, but frankly you're arguing about where the deck chairs should be on the Titanic ("port side!" "starboard side!") It doesn't matter! I'm talking about the viability of this project, and you're all arguing about the fine details of a hypothetical product which will likely never see the light of day at this point, according to what I've read from David himself (the original post in this thread). Especially in light of what came afterward: deafening silence.

 

TL;DR 

ANY OF YOU, PLEASE, tell me what the new gameplan is. And I will respond, "Then why hasn't David, or another representative of this project, come on here and told us that plan yet?" Check and mate.

Because any "plan" up till now got shredded publicly, paraded about as a corpse, by David on August 19, 2021. So we can't go by ANY OF THAT. Any information, videos, or posts before that date are basically obsolete.

 

Edited by maktos
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On 10/7/2021 at 1:30 PM, maktos said:

...

I understand he wanted to take a reading, get the pulse of his supporters. I understand. But he's got it. He needs to now JUST AS PUBLICLY make a decision, and try to pick up the pieces so he can BEGIN the process of RESTORING OUR CONFIDENCE in this project.

We trust him, yes. But it would seem that our trusted leader is having problems ...

Or, just possibly, they are doing something to sort out the new development timeline that takes time. He has already mentioned in discussion on FB that the Vera designer is working on a more compatible FPGA system ... which might, bear in mind, be implemented on a larger FPGA that he may have on hand or that he might have had to obtain.

Freaking out over two months without a new development timeline is certainly an option, but it is by no means mandatory.

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On 10/7/2021 at 12:51 PM, BruceMcF said:

Or, just possibly, they are doing something to sort out the new development timeline that takes time. He has already mentioned in discussion on FB that the Vera designer is working on a more compatible FPGA system ... which might, bear in mind, be implemented on a larger FPGA that he may have on hand or that he might have had to obtain.

Not everyone is on FB. If he has given updates, he should post those updates here. That is my point. 

"Then why hasn't David, or another representative of this project, come on here and told us that plan yet?" (on this highly visible forum -- the central location for all news about the project).

Some people left FB, Twitter, Youtube, etc. after those platforms became extremely political a few years ago. 

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On 10/7/2021 at 6:05 AM, Tatwi said:

1. If you want, you can already do that. BMC64 is an ARM "bare metal" version of VICE for the Pi products. The PET even runs on the $5 Pi Zero, even software upgraded to be a SuperPET.

2. Even the best software emulation has problems, such as input lag and incompatibility, where FPGA implementations do not.

FPGA = the physical circuit schematic built into a single integrated circuit (IC)

IC = a bunch of transistors in a single package rather than having fifty bajillion of them individually soldered to the board (plus other linear circuit components.

Bottom line here folks is that an FPGA implementation is functionally identical to an IC + discreet component implementation, because the FPGA is literally the same circuity built into a different package.

I like FPGA and think it is a great solution to the shortcomings of software emulation. Just one little nitpick: An FPGA implementation can be functionally identical, but it all depends on the skill of the person or team. I've seen lousy FPGA implementations, but agreed, the best of FPGA should be better than the best of software emulation.

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On 10/7/2021 at 11:30 AM, maktos said:

ANY OF YOU, PLEASE, tell me what the new gameplan is. And I will respond, "Then why hasn't David, or another representative of this project, come on here and told us that plan yet?" Check and mate.

About 20 years ago I lost a job when the .com bubble burst. I was effectively unemployed or severely under employed for about 5 years. Debt that was easily serviced at my old income was impossible to handle with my new normal. Creditors called all the time demanding I tell them when I would be paying them, and while I could have lied to them just to get them off the phone, I didn't do that. Until I knew what my circumstances were telling them anything was just a fairy tale at best or a lie at worst.

I think x16 is in a similar situation. As David has said (perhaps not here, but the information is available here because it has been copied to these forums) x8 wound up not being close enough to x16. I think it would be fair to say that he regrets discussing x8 now when it didn't pan out, and the last thing he wants to do is compound past disappointment with potential future disappointment if something new doesn't work out.

I'm not David, I can't speak for David, and I'm not speaking for David. I just know from my own past life experiences how I would feel at the moment based on what is known. If I have been put in a position where I couldn't follow through due to circumstances beyond my control, I certainly am going to avoid complicating it with more things that might not happen.

I do know directly that David has many irons in the fire. He and I are working on 128 Robots. He is working with at least 4 other people who are working on other ports of Robots. He went to VCFMW. He has videos to produce as part of his livelihood. He has merchandise orders to fulfill on a daily basis. He has a family.

x16 is going to happen in one form or another. The project up to now has had a policy of giving updates when info was available. David thought info was available, he shared it, it didn't pan out. I have no problem understanding why he might be a bit shy to release even more information until he knows for a certainty that it is 100%. Getting one thing wrong (x8) is not the end of the world, but if he complicates it by sharing every fragment of information, he will develop a reputation as the boy who cries wolf, and I doubt he wants that. I know I wouldn't.

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Oh, so you're comparing the X16 project to a man who lost his job during the dotcom bubble, deep in debt, and besieged by creditors? My confidence level in the X16 project is improving already. 😉

You're basically proving my point.

If I were one of those creditors, and I saw you make a super visible post (on your main channel of communication) talking about EVERYTHING being on the table: declaring bankruptcy, leaving the country, becoming a nomad, etc. and then I heard nothing for months, I would be quite worried. My confidence level in ever seeing my money again would be close to zero.

That is what David did in the OP, BTW. Just re-read it if you don't believe me. Any illusions of "I have this under control" or "I have a plan, just be patient" were brutally shattered.

He didn't outright say the project is dead, just that "people don't live forever" and "Grandma is very sick, Johnny." Just put two and two together. The substance of his next announcement isn't too hard to guess!

Again, you're proving my point here. We (supporters of the X16) should all be worried. Not just because we're impatient and this project has been years in-the-making -- but since August 19, 2021 in particular. WE didn't lose confidence in "the plan all along" -- David himself shredded that plan very publicly and dramatically, and we haven't heard anything official from him since. Not the way to inspire confidence. That's all I'm saying.

And I'm the biggest fan of this project. Well, tied for first with a bunch of other people, but I digress.

 

Edited by maktos
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On 10/7/2021 at 12:42 PM, maktos said:

Oh, so you're comparing the X16 project to a man who lost his job during the dotcom bubble, deep in debt, and besieged by creditors? My confidence level in the X16 project is improving already. 😉

You make a supposition that I was trying to disprove a point. I was trying to explain why more information wasn't forthcoming. If you want to take that as a "win" you can, but the point was not "comparing to bankruptcy" it was "if you don't have solid knowledge to share, you don't share, because if you do, people start making suppositions on how bad things are".

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On 10/7/2021 at 12:56 PM, Scott Robison said:

You make a supposition that I was trying to disprove a point. I was trying to explain why more information wasn't forthcoming. If you want to take that as a "win" you can, but the point was not "comparing to bankruptcy" it was "if you don't have solid knowledge to share, you don't share, because if you do, people start making suppositions on how bad things are".

I might event point out that this is an excellent example of why someone in David's position might not post every thought: People who, for whatever reason, do not understand the point and read more into it than intended.

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On 10/7/2021 at 2:42 PM, maktos said:

...

He didn't outright say the project is dead, just that "people don't live forever" and "Grandma is very sick, Johnny." Just put two and two together. The substance of his next announcement isn't too hard to guess! ...

 

He did outright say in this very thread that the X16p will be coming out in some form, so the strong suggestion you are making that the next announcement is analogous to "Grandma has gone to heaven and we are going to be saying goodbye to her this coming Saturday" seems to be unwarranted.

That in itself really ought to be taken into account when engaging in the most panicky reading of the original post in this thread. Not only did it say or suggest nothing about cancelling the X16p, but anyone who might be tempted to jumping to a conclusion should realize it didn't allude or imply that in any way whatsoever.

Edited by BruceMcF
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Quote

 

"people start making suppositions on how bad things are".


 

I would make one correction to your above quote: RIGHTFULLY making suppositions.

Considering that in 100 out of 100 cases, no update after a DOWNER or BAD NEWS post means "I can't honestly say anything that will rule out your worst fears, at this time".

Again: it wasn't my idea to post a major public announcement calling into question the whole project, the plan thus far, the feasibility of this project, and its future existence. David really seemed to put all options on the table. Even cancelling the project -- he didn't say outright that was the case (in fact he said the opposite), but everything he said in his post tends to support the idea that "this project is cancelled" or at least "I can't see a solution at this time, to bring this product to market as originally promised". Do you understand what I'm saying? He has admitted publicly HE HAS NO PLAN and he hasn't added anything over the weeks to say, "Ok, we've worked out a plan, guys..." even if that plan is to take 5 more years. We have NOTHING. I'm just stating a fact here.

If David knew what the heck he was going to do, to bring this thing to market he would have posted an update. That's not just one or two people jumping to such a conclusion, but that is the NATURAL, NORMAL conclusion based on logic and the facts as they are known publicly.

Considering that it doesn't cost anything to post an update. A simple "We are looking into a new source of components so we can start selling kits", "We dropped the idea of the Commander X8", or "We are currently developing an FPGA version of the Commander X16" doesn't time time OR money to post. If he has not posted such, there is a REASON he has not posted it. It is not by accident.

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On 10/7/2021 at 1:43 PM, maktos said:

I would make one correction to your above quote: RIGHTFULLY making suppositions.

Considering that in 100 out of 100 cases, no update after a DOWNER or BAD NEWS post means "I can't honestly say anything that will rule out your worst fears, at this time".

Again: it wasn't my idea to post a major public announcement calling into question the whole project, the plan thus far, the feasibility of this project, and its future existence. David really seemed to put all options on the table. Even cancelling the project -- he didn't say outright that was the case (in fact he said the opposite), but everything he said in his post tends to support the idea that "this project is cancelled" or at least "I can't see a solution at this time, to bring this product to market as originally promised". Do you understand what I'm saying? He has admitted publicly HE HAS NO PLAN and he hasn't added anything over the weeks to say, "Ok, we've worked out a plan, guys..." even if that plan is to take 5 more years. We have NOTHING. I'm just stating a fact here.

If David knew what the heck he was going to do, to bring this thing to market he would have posted an update. That's not just one or two people jumping to such a conclusion, but that is the NATURAL, NORMAL conclusion based on logic and the facts as they are known publicly.

Considering that it doesn't cost anything to post an update. A simple "We are looking into a new source of components so we can start selling kits", "We dropped the idea of the Commander X8", or "We are currently developing an FPGA version of the Commander X16" doesn't time time OR money to post. If he has not posted such, there is a REASON he has not posted it. It is not by accident.

You can't say that you are rightfully making a supposition unless you have 100% knowledge. I certainly don't have 100% knowledge. I suspect I know more about it than you do (I don't have 100% knowledge on that, just a guess), but I'm not a member of the team or a spokesperson for the team. And whatever I *do* know is a drop in the bucket.

Would having more information be nice? Yes. Would some people twist that information? Yes. Is it worth it to the person who would provide that information? Only that person can say. I know for myself, it might not be worth it when I didn't have anything concrete to provide yet because the last public information I provided was that the VERA designer was looking at making something closer to the x16, and that has been less than two months.

The MEGA65 project has been in progress for what, 5 or 6 years? Maybe 7? And they are only just getting their first "released" version out at the end of this year (I hope). They've also not shared info as often as many would like. Didn't keep them from finishing.

As for the cost to post an update: If you only look at the incremental amount that must be paid to make a post, then I guess you are technically correct. The opportunity cost of "do I spend several hours trying to craft a post that cannot be misconstrued or misunderstood when I don't have all the facts yet, given the number of people who are already misconstruing or misunderstanding previous posts" or "do I work on videos and merchandise and games while other people who have expertise work to solve problems" seems like a easy choice from some points of view.

You go ahead and think whatever you want. If you want to believe the sky is falling, that's fine. I'm excited for the x16 whenever it happens.

As for the reason why no new posts from David here I think it's simple: He is a busy guy who has a lot of irons in the fire. When he has info to share, he will gladly share it. Until then he focuses his time and energy on productive tasks.

Edited by Scott Robison
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On 10/7/2021 at 2:43 PM, maktos said:

If David knew what the heck he was going to do, 

 

I don't know. 

 

If you've watched his videos, you know how he works, and this seems to be the way he does it.

Seems like a hill-climbing algorithm to me.  Certainly is not a top-down style.  If you know what I mean.

 

Has 8BG ever given you the impression that he works in the manner you suggest? 

Edited by rje
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On 10/7/2021 at 1:43 PM, maktos said:

conclusion based on logic and the facts as they are known publicly

I missed that part before. I think you may be confusing "logic" and "intuition". Until David reveals a reason why he hasn't provided more information here, in a thread with going on 700 responses, you can only suppose why. Anything else is guesswork.

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Allow me to put on my Vulcan ears and channel Spock:

"Given that many serious, possibly insurmountable problems were brought up by David in his August 19th announcement, and he himself was seeking advice on how to proceed,

as if he himself no longer knew how to proceed (!), even mentioning alternative products that hadn't been brought up publicly before,

and the fact that some will interpret this announcement with the most negative outlook,

If the reality is, in fact, better than that worst-case outlook, it would be logical to dispel those worst fears, especially given the zero cost of making such an update."

If David wishes to inspire confidence in this project, it is not logical to do everything in your power to create an environment of uncertainty, speculation, confusion, and limbo. Adding updates would only help: every bit information from the very source would only serve to clear up a myriad of speculations. It would be like shedding light on different areas in a dark room. 

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On 10/7/2021 at 2:34 PM, maktos said:

"Given that many serious, possibly insurmountable problems were brought up by David in his August 19th announcement, and he himself was seeking advice on how to proceed,

as if he himself no longer knew how to proceed (!), even mentioning alternative products that hadn't been brought up publicly before,

and the fact that some will interpret this announcement with the most negative outlook,

If the reality is, in fact, better than that worst-case outlook, it would be logical to dispel those worst fears, especially given the zero cost of making such an update."

If David wishes to inspire confidence in this project, it is not logical to do everything in your power to create an environment of uncertainty, speculation, confusion, and limbo. Adding updates would only help: every bit information from the very source would only serve to clear up a myriad of speculations. It would be like shedding light on different areas in a dark room. 

I guess the way one reads the Aug 19 announcement depends on one's philosophy: It the glass half full or half empty?

Certainly you are correct, for some people, news is necessary to have confidence. Other people have different ways of viewing a lack of updated information. "No news is bad news" or "no news is good news" or "no news is simply no news".

If one can't satisfy everyone, that's another good reason to wait until you have concrete information to share.

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On 10/7/2021 at 3:39 PM, Scott Robison said:

Certainly you are correct, for some people, news is necessary to have confidence. Other people have different ways of viewing a lack of updated information. "No news is bad news" or "no news is good news" or "no news is simply no news".

If the August 19th announcement hadn't been made, I would have 100% agreed with you.

But that is NOT the same situation we are in today. The situation totally changed when he made that announcement. Something fundamental.

When the last news was 100% uncertainty and BAD NEWS, any future lack of news is not good or neutral, but bad. I'm sorry, that's just the way it works.

I'd like you to give me another real-life example where someone dishes out some serious, wet-blanket, party-killing bad news, then others are supposed to interpret "no news" as either "good news" or "no news". I'll be waiting.

 

 

If I were running a business, developing a hardware product that took years, I would expect investors/supporters/early adopting customers to be patient, trust the process, have faith, etc. and I wouldn't be unreasonable.

But if I put on the company homepage one day, "I don't know, guys. We have shortages. This whole idea really isn't feasible. It would take too much space for storage, and I'm not looking to start a warehouse. Maybe I should develop this other product over here instead? Do you guys REALLY want this product? I don't know how I'm going to bring this product to market. What do you think I should do? (Give them a few options)" and basically throw everything up in the air, then give NO UPDATES for 49 days, what do you suppose MOST investors would say/do?

There might be a couple sanguine temperaments saying "Oh I'm sure everything will work out! 🙂"

But for every one of those sanguine types, there would be at least 20-30 saying "OH CRAP. I hope we don't lose everything we've invested in this thing."

Edited by maktos
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