Jump to content

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?



Recommended Posts

On 10/14/2021 at 10:28 AM, EMwhite said:

Replying to @Scott Robison ... Prob only 5% of the fanbase here will be interested but if you look at Day 1 of VCF east (YouTube link), you'll see just that...  Ben Eater's worlds worst video card implemented in FPGA by Stefany of C256 Foenix.  The hour went by quickly but if you start with the basic of what Ben did in hardware and know what an FPGA is and is not, you can see her walk via verilog, and provide a start into what is required in order to make this wonderful fungible hardware behave in any way one desires.

She gets nowhere near what she did with VICKY II (sprites, tiles, various video modes, Gideon SID, and everything else) but it's still interesting.  Probably could have used an 8 hour workshop or a week of training/hands on.  But in the absence of nothing, it was something.

Thanks for pointing that out. I'm a big proponent of FPGA for implementing things like this. It's bespoke artisan ASIC creation. Sure, if you're planning to sell a million of something, or even tens of thousands of something, it *can* be worth it to go the route of ASIC. Especially if you are willing to call all bugs "features" at some point. That's how the VIC II as we know it today came to be, really. There are things the demo scene has discovered about the chip that were not deliberate features, they're just artifacts of the implementation.

The idea though that it is "simply a matter of optimization" to get what Ben Eater created (a cool educational project, to be sure) and transform it into something that checks all the boxes of what David wanted for his dream computer out of nothing but discrete parts seems like a stretch to me. Certainly on anything we'd consider reasonable for a given amount of time or money. The word "simply" seems like a gross understatement in that context.

But I'd love to be wrong! It wouldn't be the first time, and probably wouldn't be the last. I'd love to see it, just like I'd love to see a complete C64 made out of all 7400 series chips as the C74 project is trying to do. But it won't be inexpensive or practical, and both those are at the very least unstated goals of the X16.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I wouldn't say 'simply' either — the Hi-Toro Amiga/Lorraine dev team made the early Daphne video output unit out of wire-wrapped TTL logic, but there were several boards, and it was prone to failure, as were the Agnus and Portia units that were similarly built. The Lorraine prototype

And that Daphne had — let's say, "comparable" video output to VERA.

So yes, it can be done. But it definitely isn't as simple as throwing together a few discrete components, unless all you want is the equivalent of a PET display.

And that is not what our gracious host wants.

If he did, he'd be satisfied to leave things to The Future Was 8-Bit and their Mini PET kit.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 10/14/2021 at 12:06 PM, kelli217 said:

So yes, it can be done. But it definitely isn't as simple as throwing together a few discrete components, unless all you want is the equivalent of a PET display.

Exactly. "Possible" and "practical" are very different. MOnSter 6502 would be awesome to have, but it isn't practical from a "doing things" perspective. And the more parts exist in a design, the more things there are to go wrong and to troubleshoot. You can bet that if Amiga team would have used FPGA to do their design work had it been an option at the time. They used discrete wire wrapped components because they had to, not because they wanted to.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When X16 is an FPGA or better said, when all of the capabilities of the virtual X16 is squeezed into something that used to be called VERA, what will it be called relative to the original roadmap?  Was there an X16e or something like that was to originally sell for $99?

If the original X16 is not viable because of unsolvable technical, supply chain, or economics issues and X8 is similarly not happening, is the elephant-in-the-room that the project is going to fast-fwd to what was originally the mass-market, low-cost consumer product but bundled with an inexpensive* keyboard and a robot game? (no snark intended, just being direct)
 

*ref 8BG’s $6,000 kbd video

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 10/14/2021 at 12:58 PM, EMwhite said:

When X16 is an FPGA or better said, when all of the capabilities of the virtual X16 is squeezed into something that used to be called VERA, what will it be called relative to the original roadmap?  Was there an X16e or something like that was to originally sell for $99?

If the original X16 is not viable because of unsolvable technical, supply chain, or economics issues and X8 is similarly not happening, is the elephant-in-the-room that the project is going to fast-fwd to what was originally the mass-market, low-cost consumer product but bundled with an inexpensive* keyboard and a robot game? (no snark intended, just being direct)
 

*ref 8BG’s $6,000 kbd video

I think that seems likely at this point, though we've not been told for a certainty. All in one FPGA solves a number of problems potentially. I think there will still be a less FPGA driven option at some point as well, just that decisions on how and when are still being evaluated.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

After thinking to have understood the FPGA thing, I would not mind getting an X16 in FPGA only. I don't have to solder it. IMHO the success of such a project depends on the amount of the community. Getting the price down seems for me the most important part in the equation (having a physical thing instead of just an ARM based emulation).

Could an FPGA for the early adopters have the option to "change the wiring" if it seems necessary to fix something later?

Edited by Ju+Te
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 10/14/2021 at 1:09 PM, Ju+Te said:

Could an FPGA for the early adopters have the option to "change the wiring" if it seems necessary to fix something later?

Almost definitely. It depends on the exact FPGA part and provisions provided by the team implementing it, but I would be surprised if there wasn't a way to update the FPGA to address potential defects or enhancements after the fact.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 10/14/2021 at 12:09 PM, Ju+Te said:

After thinking to have understood the FPGA thing, I would not mind getting an X16 in FPGA only. I don't have to solder it. IMHO the success of such a project depends on the amount of the community. Getting the price down seems for me the most important part in the equation (having a physical thing instead of just an ARM based emulation).

Could an FPGA for the early adopters have the option to "change the wiring" if it seems necessary to fix something later?

Yes, there would be no reason the FPGA version can't be upgraded down the road. It would also be possible to run this on other multi-system FPGA computers. There are several popular ones out there, including MiST, MiSTer, and Turbo Chameleon, I believe the ZX Next and MEGA 65 hardware will also be able to load alternate cores, so it's possible that the Commander X16 could be widely distributed as a software core, in addition to being hardware only.

I'd happily contribute to a Patreon to develop FPGA cores for these systems, especially if the chip shortage is going to make it difficult or impossible to get the kit version out in 2022.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 10/14/2021 at 6:26 PM, Scott Robison said:

Indeed. The proof is in the pudding. If it's easy, go do it and show us the better more enlightened way. I know it is hard for some people to find time to do such things when writing, derailing thread topics, and fighting to keep foreign governments from making us appear foolish take so much otherwise productive time...

It seems it would be a great investment for the world if one could take the Ben Eater world's worst video card and turn it into something comparable to VERA.

In fairness, it was the start of the X16 dream computer that did set the expectations of the project using discrete chips and that being one of the things that set it apart from the rest. I don't think it is unreasonable that people who follow this project might have some preference towards that and did buy the rationale for such a project at inception. The Foenix family of products for example does all this and a lot more already, if FPGA is your thing, yet it also uses discrete chips for CPUs and sound (several options in fact, including the 65816 which X16 was also supposed to have originally), and of course for FPGA-only there a lot of other projects with existing hardware. The idea of a small retro computer with only "real" chips was enticing as an alternative IMO and since then the competition has grown quite a bit too.

I am perfectly fine with VERA (especially as part of a whole that is somehow unique), mind, but just pointing out this history. The potential quite generic X8 path I am bit less interested in, because there are already many boards like that out there. It is certainly a bit less exciting to talk about one more full-FPGA computer, like the existing MISTers, ZX-Unos and the dozens of variants, Next/N-Go, MEGA65 DevKit/Nexys, Ultimate-64, Turbo Chameleon and so forth which have been with us for quite some time. I think it would be beneficial for the X16 to have some unique selling point other than merely the core loaded into an FPGA. Just my two cents of course.

On 10/13/2021 at 6:58 AM, Scott Robison said:

I think this thread has jumped the shark. Perhaps it needs to be locked, too.

Or perhaps it really needs some insider input to put new life into the parts that matter. 🙂

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 10/14/2021 at 9:06 PM, kelli217 said:

If he did, he'd be satisfied to leave things to The Future Was 8-Bit and their Mini PET kit.

Small correction: The Mini PET kits are by Tynemouth Software from the UK. TFW8b is just a retailer.

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 10/15/2021 at 3:28 AM, EMwhite said:

Prob only 5% of the fanbase here will be interested but if you look at Day 1 of VCF east (YouTube link), you'll see just that...  Ben Eater's worlds worst video card implemented in FPGA by Stefany of C256 Foenix.

fixed link... 8-)

 

On 10/15/2021 at 3:33 AM, BruceMcF said:

and then the word was passed through from the team that the features were considered locked down, so people could stop posting "how about adding this to Vera!" threads.

arhh, the first signs of death for a project, well, that's too dramatic, but it's that restriction, where you have to stop the freedom, stop taking things all apart and re-doing them completely, stop screwing up the whole page and throwing it into the trash, that moment you have to work towards walking away and leaving it as is, you don't ever call art finished if you're an artist, not always, not really. You just call it 'enough for now' perhaps.

You can hamstring the development with political means, 'word was passed' or you can stop the development by FPGA too, HA!, because you're putting it on the top shelf away from the children so they don't hurt themselves by licking the electrical outlets. Like, as you do. Now seeing the open design closed design perspective, the project I'm working on is awesomely open, and even when the designer walks away from it, to say, releases it to the public, development won't stop, it will start. Generations will build on the design. You just know as soon as people see the designers way of bringing out WXGA or SVGA or whatever from a 10Mhz or less Z-80 then people are going to meddle as meddlers should, 6502 zealots will spring to life with knives out for the Z-80 and produce their version for their language, and people who want an extra 512k will realize adding six times that amount is better because they have 6 chips right there in the chipbox. A nice Z8 system, an 8088 system, a 16bit transistor only CPU design, every single experimenter will copy and add and subtract and molest the design to their hearts content. Won't happen any other way. Thing is, there are many ways to produce SVGA or WXGA from the Z80 or 6502 using discreet parts, but I guess most people will be happy to just copy and maybe modify the first design that's put in front of them. All good. It was that way for me in school.

So I think the general public like complaining about FPGA because it's useless busywork learning to use it, much like the designers attitude towards Gerber, it's garbage which gets in your way. There will perhaps be no realization moment at all, no 'oh' 'F' moment when all these Gerber zealots apply for welfare long after it's hardly even announced on page 83 in the newspaper that A.I. is now designing a growing percentage of all P.C.B.s in the world. Didn't happen when A.I. got moving and now writes a huge portion of news stories, and won't happen when PCB designers are bulldozed into the trash. FPGA will last only as long as chip manufacturers want it to. Real pure logic in diodes and transistors is going to be with us for some time.

I see in this new design transistors being used to replace IC's for lots of reasons "a low IC count is attractive to builders" or "an IC takes up too much room, you can break it in three parts and put it here, here and here" transistors do a better job" and "transistors teach more". FPGA is a barrier to so much, learning, tinkering, repairs down the line. FPGA is the new custom chips you can't readily source dilemma in ten or twenty years time.

On 10/15/2021 at 1:47 AM, BruceMcF said:

But while I am less than a beginner in terms of using FPGAs, I have seen the FPGA used for Vera quoted at under $7 Q1 at Mouser, and I have seen other FPGA with far more pins at over $20 Q1, so I am always a bit skeptical about confident assurances that "so and so" can "easily" by done when the "ease" may well involve simply throwing three times as much money at the problem.

$7 ? $20, well, that's slicing into my leg, we'll continue to joust then, you do have formidable skills in FPGA shopping I'll give you that. You win this round Bruce. 8-)

On 10/15/2021 at 3:33 AM, BruceMcF said:

The original Gameduino C64 card used for early prototyping several years ago now was bit banged SPI (not SCI), and, yes, that would be too slow.

To add for lazy readers, or to scratch my compulsive itch for the first time rule, SPI serial peripheral (accessory) interface and SCI serial communications interface. I cannot care if useful people don't do it though, of course, because obviously the information is more than worth it.

Did you hear they've finally responded to public demands to have guns put on dogs ? it's way past time, what could possibly go wrong ?, I want the X-16 to control my robotised chicken, but no idea if the expansion interface has enough pins to control a slingshot mounted on the chicken's saddle.

Edited by Oldrooster
remove stray word
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 10/15/2021 at 7:33 AM, Janne Sirén said:

Or perhaps it really needs some insider input to put new life into the parts that matter. 🙂

Makes a person wonder that if you can't talk about the X16 on the website which exists for that sole purpose, what is the server space being saved up for ? is someone else's project  more important than the X16 ? and what is the purpose given the chance of product development or release.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 10/15/2021 at 7:33 AM, Janne Sirén said:

I am perfectly fine with VERA (especially as part of a whole that is somehow unique), mind, but just pointing out this history.

 

On 10/15/2021 at 7:33 AM, Janne Sirén said:

In fairness, it was the start of the X16 dream computer that did set the expectations of the project using discrete chips and that being one of the things that set it apart from the rest. I don't think it is unreasonable that people who follow this project might have some preference towards that and did buy the rationale for such a project at inception.

Precisely. The downside of pressure is compromise.

I foresee that the design of the project I am working on, which is purist discreet, will create a generation and pedigree of machines.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 10/14/2021 at 2:33 PM, Janne Sirén said:

In fairness, it was the start of the X16 dream computer that did set the expectations of the project using discrete chips and that being one of the things that set it apart from the rest. I don't think it is unreasonable that people who follow this project might have some preference towards that and did buy the rationale for such a project at inception.

Understood. At inception less information was available. People with new information make appropriate (for them) adjustments to their plans based on new information coming to light.

I'm all for people making whatever strikes their fancy. Claims that what David wants is simply a matter of optimizing a discrete alternative are taking liberties with the word simply. If it is simple, those who think it is should do it and show it to David. He is not unapproachable.

Note that I'm not saying you are clamoring for this. It is a general observation from recent posts. Ultimately some posts seem like they belong in a different thread.

Edited by Scott Robison
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 10/14/2021 at 2:33 PM, Janne Sirén said:

Or perhaps it really needs some insider input to put new life into the parts that matter. 🙂

That would be good. I was being pointedly snide in that comment. Though it does feel as though this has turned from a thread about X16 & X8 polling and opinions into an almost anything goes mailing list. The topic was effectively "do you think we should release X8 and in what forms should we release X16?" based on the subject and especially the poll. The team designed the systems and wanted input. Repeated admonitions from some to replace part of the established design as it exists today are out of place. Just my opinion of course, I am not a moderator or a member of the project. I don't get to dictate how the forum is used, but surely my opinion of certain topics being out of bounds and expressing such is no less valid than those who post critiques of the design choices made by the team.

There are other message boards and the ability to create topics in most or all of them. This thread seems to have served its purpose. I guess I could just walk away from it and ignore it, but I do enjoy tilting at windmills.

Edited by Scott Robison
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 10/14/2021 at 7:31 PM, Oldrooster said:

arhh, the first signs of death for a project, well, that's too dramatic, but it's that restriction, where you have to stop the freedom, stop taking things all apart and re-doing them completely, stop screwing up the whole page and throwing it into the trash, that moment you have to work towards walking away and leaving it as is, you don't ever call art finished if you're an artist, not always, not really. You just call it 'enough for now' perhaps.

In other words, you have a fundamental philosophical disagreement with this particular project, which is being pursued by people who appreciated the stable development platforms represented by the 8bit systems like the Vic20 or C64 or Atari 800 and wanted to create a new system that would offer a similar stable development platform.

The ongoing element in those systems was the ongoing exploration of what is possible within the constraints of that stable development platform.

As far as projects which are not stable development platforms, but are, instead, always temporary way-stations before "screwing the whole page up and throwing it into the trash" ... there really are quite a lot of those. It seems as if there will continue to be, even if the choice of building a stable development platform is not outlawed in the name of pursuing hobbyist hardware development as an ephemeral art form.

As far as the question in the OP in this thread, can we take it your view is you are against the X8 being released first, you are against the X16p being released first, and you are against them being released simultaneously, because you are fundamentally opposed to some of the goals of the project itself, and wish to edit those goals into goals more to your liking?

Edited by BruceMcF
  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 10/15/2021 at 12:43 PM, BruceMcF said:

In other words, you have a fundamental philosophical disagreement with this particular project,

The project has a disagreement with the project, I don't.

dreamlistsml001.png.37bdf7e12e3aa283b2473d443db731eb.png

I'm looking at this and seeing it has something against FGPA, in fact doesn't seem to want them.

No, I have a fundamental philosophical disagreement with the 6502 if you need a religious war I'm on the Z-80 side of the battle.

I came here after noticing that the project I was ALREADY working on was similar in some ways to the 'dream computer' 8BG was on about and thought he might be interested, so I'm like, hey why don't I leave a note about it somewhere he may see it, you know, you don't go rushing up to a famous or busy person and demand their time, it's RUDE. Unless it's Jim Carrey and you need to tell him that you're his biggest fan and he'll appreciate it I'm sure. Next to the people who point at you, the famous person and go 'Oh, Oh, oh I know you from somewhere, I remember you you were in,, in, uhm it'll come to me..." and your like " I am (and say your own famous name) " and they're like "No, no that's not it, you're, you're uhm it's on the tip of my tongue" like you have no idea who you are of course.

So I figured to put it up  a note here given that is not a private subject, the project I'm working on will 'go live' and that cannot be stopped except by the ill-health of the designer I guess, so it's perhaps something of interest to a few. Well, how wrong I was,.. it seems that someone got the thread locked, so that's the end of that.

Perhaps some juggling could squeeze the project I'm working on in under the $50 mark, such as a PS/2 keyboard socket instead of it's own keyboard which is used to program the totally blank memory rather than needing an EPROM programmer or micro-controller or so forth.It's a stand alone system, it's what a real computer looks like, rather than a patient at a computer hospital like so many other Z-80 projects that must be connected to the life-support serial terminal of a real computer to be able to gasp out text only and no GFX. What has the world of the once proud Z-80 come to ?

Hmm, maybe some fabulous plot by the 6502 community. We can imagine we have suspicions.

So the aims of the project I work on, if it were a bullet list on a video, would be a little different, but similar enough to warrant letting 8bg and others know about it, especially as it is ready to start prototyping some parts of it.

Easy to source parts, each part needs to be not just 'available' but it has to be available from many suppliers, you have to be able to run a search and find 10 or more suppliers or it's classed as a rare part and left out of the design. For example, a yamaha sound chip is something that would be supported as an accessory, it wouldn't be part of the main.

VGA minimum, however the target is SVGA or XGA / WXGA, yes, they do have clock-rates well above the Z80 and that appears to be no problem, the system clock won't even be 20Mhz, leaving room for overclockers who can source fast chips I guess. Yes, WXGA is a different aspect ratio to the others, and that is an issue, but one for programmers as you either have to choose an aspect ratio for the game (retro is 4:3) or program for selectable widescreen or just widescreen alone, up to the programmer. Yes, the pixels 'require a lot of writing' but there are innovative solutions in the display design that ease that burden considerably. The VHF section (not composite output, just talking speed here) is just that, VHF and we've been building such circuits longer than computers have been around and it's no massive insurmountable issue in any way. back to the bullet list..

Real parts. Easy to understand parts except the CPU which is not too intimidating. No added layer of abstraction in FGPA.

Can run multiple operating systems and use many languages including what I want, which is a native version of basic similar to AMOS Pro on the Amiga, So you want a box on the screen, you type box and the size, you want a circle, type circle and give co-ordinates and so on. Aiming for text languages is for other people who see it as an obvious platform for their work, cheap, capable and stand alone.

Affordable. The bill of materials (BOM) is looking at $70-90 at this time, with already $50 spent on the CPU and keyboard so far, but that eliminates the eprom programmer and the project eliminates a life support computer as well. It is looking to try to limit the need for test equipment too.

Quite frankly I cannot see any problem with any of these goals. In fact, I see no problem with the original dream computer list made up by the 8BG, because I saw no specification that an EPROM programmer was or was not needed, with the implication being the abbreviation of the keyboard ( which currently has about 300 parts ) down to a PS/2 socket and then people would use an adapter they can get at walmart for double the price they can get it online, and whatever keyboard they choose. However, the project has a native keyboard which eliminates the need for a programmed chip altogether. You'd type in perhaps 200 characters and the computer will then fill in the rest in by itself from a printed page or your computer or phone.

So you see, I'm not a skeptic of the X-16, everyone else is ! I believe the 8BG's original design goals are achievable.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 10/14/2021 at 8:13 PM, Oldrooster said:

I came here after noticing that the project I was ALREADY working on

So you're talking about your My Sharona computer in the first person, rather than third person now?

So let's see it, surely you could take a video of it working in some respect.  And no, I won't stop calling you Shirley.

If it's still in the design phase, or even if it isn't... why again would David be interested, when he's got a product almost ready to release?

But irrespective of David's interest, I'm sure folks here would be interested in what you've got, I'd suggest a post in the "non C16" area of the forum.

I'm even confused on what processor you're going with... 6502 or Z80?  Or were you going to do a discrete soldered version of a bespoke processor?

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I wanted to say, an FPGA as a first thing shipped to end-users might be a good idea so people get hands on the hardware quickly. If it turns out - based on the feedback of the early adopters, that the wiring needs to be changed, they don't have a board incompatible with future versions, but simply can reprogram it. Yes, such an early state FPGA would be more expensive than a later iteration, but I expect it to be cheaper than an initial generic parts kit.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 10/15/2021 at 6:14 PM, Ju+Te said:

 If it turns out [...] that the wiring needs to be changed, they [...] can reprogram it. Yes, such an early state FPGA would be more expensive than a later iteration, but I expect it to be cheaper than an initial generic parts kit.

ah, now there is a loaded point because do you mean wiring as in hardware or emulated wiring, which is by definition an emulation, or it's software on a chip which is software on a chip. I'm thinking you obviously mean emulated wiring because it can be reprogrammed. So it is the same with every computer, it just seems simpler, however, it is the same. Any computer, fast or slow, given enough time and memory can emulate any other computer. You know Conway's game of life simulation on computers ? the old one ? you can actually play game of life, on, game of life. As a simulation.

There is a video by Veritasium which mentions that you can simulate the game of life, on the game of life and has a short clip of it, it is a large video, worth watching all the way through but if you have a poor internet connection, it's at the 30 minute mark.

Logically, you can run a simulation of the X-16 on any computer, and you can run an accurate but slow emulation on a z80 system if that system has the resources available that it needs, and if you have enough patience for the painfully slow performance. Strange idea, nobody is going to do it, but it is possible therefore you can update that emulation with new software updates, which you'd never do because you'd never use it except for demonstration purposes. My first point is, software is software, hardware is hardware and an emulation of hardware is still software and killing people in GTA will not get you arrested for murder no matter how many you do, it's still simulation. I talk too much....

With a kit system you can either build out of discreet parts and you can update and mod it just as people update and mod a C64 or ZX81 or add memory or whatever they want if they are able or are able to copy other people's ideas and tutorials.

With the X16 you'd be able to mod that if you had the skills required. If you can buy it and load software then that's what you can do to install updates. On a kit system you can do that too. On a kit system you solder together in the first place you can mod the hardware as well as mod the software because you have the skills in soldering, buying kits or parts and loading software.

I would say that as it takes a lot more skill to solder and program a FPGA and that's somewhat of a barrier to all but software mods unless you can plug the mod in, or somehow assemble it. A discreet part kit requires more skill from the start than a ready made item, but in the end you can mod the hardware in it's entirety. So, it's back to the barrier really. The barrier called FPGA. Its not a barrier if you never intend to solder in the first place, but it in no way takes the place of or eliminates the larger range of mods available from soldering.

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

Please review our Terms of Use