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Change of product direction, good and bad news!


What should we do?  

371 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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Why not make a recommendation of a couple of applicable mATX (or whichever form factor) case, let the customer order one of those cases, and the CX16 guys provide case badges, etc.?

I would buy an X8, but I also 100% understand the trepidation some have about it. I have thought about it a bit since reading this thread and still haven’t decided if it would dilute things too much. 
 

I would be glad to donate $$ for development. I’d even do it on an ongoing basis,  *if* there were  official status updates, and if things didn’t linger in perpetual development hell. Setup a separate Patreon for Commander X16 development and keep people apprised of the goings on. 
 

All that said, I really wish you had struck up a deal with Stefany. I am really looking forward to picking up a couple more machines from her soon.

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That is a great idea to ask for donations.
I would be more than happy to donate to the project; would love to see an X16 and get one.
Perhaps pre-orders could help too maybe?
Preorders are a really good Idea... Maybe some Numbers of Dev Boards to a slightly higher price Like the mega65 did it.
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8 minutes ago, Roughnight said:
14 minutes ago, Sid_Som said:
Perhaps pre-orders could help too maybe?

Preorders are a really good Idea... Maybe some Numbers of Dev Boards to a slightly higher price Like the mega65 did it.

Yeah, but with pre-orders, this problem remains:

5 hours ago, John Chow Seymour said:

With the uncertainty of the chip market these days [...] it's surely hard to get even a ballpark on what an X16 might cost.  Start a Kickstarter now [or start taking preorders], and you run the risk of locking backers in at a price that's too low (which hurts the dev team) or too high (which will anger some backers).

 

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I just mean, let's say they estimate the production cost at $275, so they set the sale price at $350 (because of course, there should be a profit margin).  Then, due to the unstable chip market, it turns out they cost $500 to produce.  The team loses money on every pre-order, ouch!

Or the opposite: sell pre-orders at $500 but then it turns out you can source them for $275 and so the general public is charged $350.  In this situation, the people who were nice enough to show their support and pre-order got punished for doing so. (Although, maybe some wouldn't mind, and would see it as a the cost of supporting the project...)

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20 hours ago, Tmp2k said:

I work with a bespoke SFF case manufacturer. There's no minimum order, the cases are manufactured ad-hoc. The case could be designed from scratch around the X16 and supplied in kit form or fully assembled. Right at the start, before you announced the official case, we were looking at offering our own product to go with the X16. 

I'd love to work with you and produce an official case, or if you don't want the hassle of managing a new case project maybe we could just produce our own complimentary product? 

Hope this post doesn't get lost in the noise, please drop me a PM. 

 

Just want to bump this. I mentioned above that it would be great if the CX16 team would make a couple of “official” case recommendations, and let the end user buy the case on their own, and David & company supply case badges with the kit (diy or preassembled). It is certainly understandable that David doesn’t want to invest the time, warehousing, or money in pallets of cases. 

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Personally, I think the team should stick with just phase-1. Get one flawless solid product out the door, in kit form or finished, then expand from there. Many things learned in going phase-1 will alter future branches.
The X8 sounds like a whole different product.  It'd be like asking the C=64 user base if they would be interested in a C=32.  Why?

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I just mean, let's say they estimate the production cost at $275, so they set the sale price at $350 (because of course, there should be a profit margin).  Then, due to the unstable chip market, it turns out they cost $500 to produce.  The team loses money on every pre-order, ouch!
Or the opposite: sell pre-orders at $500 but then it turns out you can source them for $275 and so the general public is charged $350.  In this situation, the people who were nice enough to show their support and pre-order got punished for doing so. (Although, maybe some wouldn't mind, and would see it as a the cost of supporting the project...)
OK, I totally understand this!

Is there a way to produce the X16 phase 3 as fast as the x8?
I still think you should give the developers something to develop software and games so that even more people can get excited about the X16. The Emulator is awesome, but real Hardware ist going to boost the motivation^^

And then, when the market has calmed down a bit, the X16 phase 1 as a diy kit :)
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47 minutes ago, Sid_Som said:

That is a great idea to ask for donations.
I would be more than happy to donate to the project; would love to see an X16 and get one.
Perhaps pre-orders could help too maybe?

I think if you go to 8BG's Patreon page and start donating, or increase your donation if already donating, with a quick note to him that you're doing it for X16 support, that might go a long way, and then he doesn't have to do anything but be thankful for all the people who want to help see this dream computer succeed.

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For me the interest of this projects, is to build it myself. A kit sounds perfect. Personally i have no interest for a fpga system, if i want that i can always buy a raspberry pi. I also am not interested on the x8, and i believe it would dilute the project by offering too many programming options. The case sounds like a lot of problems for little rewards, being an atx motherboard it would be easy to let the user buy a small case to fit the board.

If you plan on offering a fpga solution down the line i hope you will  still offer the kit solution as an option.

Wishing you the best for the succes of the commander x16 kit option! 🙂

 

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So, I just wanted to address some of the questions/concerns about the X8.

Just to reiterate, BASIC code should be compatible unless it uses a bunch of pokes and peeks.  You could literally take the SD card out of the X8, stick in in the X16 and the code should run.

For machine language programs, as for the differences in how the Vera is accessed, it's not nearly as many here are thinking.  I saw one person who seemed irate over the idea that we'd be throwing away all of the coding work people have done.  It's still the same features, the same registers, and same behaviors. The sprites, the layers, the PSG, it's all the same.  The primary difference is how you copy data to VRAM.  I suppose with some software this could be a major problem.  But in most cases, I suspect it would be less than an hour worth of work to convert a game from X16 to X8 or vice-versa.  I haven't actually ported Petscii Robots yet (since I don't know if this product will see the light of day) but I suspect I could have it running on the X8 in maybe an hour or two.  It's nowhere nearly as difficult as porting between something like the VIC-20 and C64 which have very different video/audio systems.

The reason it has USB, or more specifically, the reason it CAN have USB is because this is all handled by the FPGA.  There was no way we could handle USB on a 6502 system due to the enormous complexity of USB.  However, the USB support would be limited to keyboards and controllers.  

For the person that asked why on earth you would want this and compared it to a C64 and then saying a C32 instead.  Well, the main benefits are: half the price and immediate availability.  As i've mentioned before, the X16e might never see the light of day because it is going to be dependent on the X16p being a success before that gets developed.  But we could have this available now.  And it will be so darned cheap, there's no reason you couldn't have this along side the X16p, or use this to develop on and wait for the X16e or whatever.

For those asking where to donate.   I haven't set anything up yet.  I've already seen a few paypal donations come in. But I'd rather people wait until we have some official account for the X16 development.  

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So, I just wanted to address some of the questions/concerns about the X8.
Just to reiterate, BASIC code should be compatible unless it uses a bunch of pokes and peeks.  You could literally take the SD card out of the X8, stick in in the X16 and the code should run.
For machine language programs, as for the differences in how the Vera is accessed, it's not nearly as many here are thinking.  I saw one person who seemed irate over the idea that we'd be throwing away all of the coding work people have done.  It's still the same features, the same registers, and same behaviors. The sprites, the layers, the PSG, it's all the same.  The primary difference is how you copy data to VRAM.  I suppose with some software this could be a major problem.  But in most cases, I suspect it would be less than an hour worth of work to convert a game from X16 to X8 or vice-versa.  I haven't actually ported Petscii Robots yet (since I don't know if this product will see the light of day) but I suspect I could have it running on the X8 in maybe an hour or two.  It's nowhere nearly as difficult as porting between something like the VIC-20 and C64 which have very different video/audio systems.
The reason it has USB, or more specifically, the reason it CAN have USB is because this is all handled by the FPGA.  There was no way we could handle USB on a 6502 system due to the enormous complexity of USB.  However, the USB support would be limited to keyboards and controllers.  

For the person that asked why on earth you would want this and compared it to a C64 and then saying a C32 instead.  Well, the main benefits are: half the price and immediate availability.  As i've mentioned before, the X16e might never see the light of day because it is going to be dependent on the X16p being a success before that gets developed.  But we could have this available now.  And it will be so darned cheap, there's no reason you couldn't have this along side the X16p, or use this to develop on and wait for the X16e or whatever.

For those asking where to donate.   I haven't set anything up yet.  I've already seen a few paypal donations come in. But I'd rather people wait until we have some official account for the X16 development.  
OK, now I want a x8 and then later the x16...
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I hope you don't take the results of this poll too seriously, as there are missing options and many missing voters.
What I mean, for example, is that the best answer IMO to the second question "Should we still make a Phase-2 product?" was "No, skip and go straight to Phase-3" but that's not how I really feel. I would have voted for something like "No, and skip the phase-3 as well."

The results of the third question "For the X16 Phase-1, do you prefer a kit or a somewhat more expensive pre-assembled board?" are currently heavily favoring the DIY kit since the tech nerds are here voting. I don't think that the majority of the "thousands" of potentially interested buyers will want a kit.

Consider the general public's view of this/these product(s). What are the questions someone without much tech experience might ask when deciding if they want to buy one. Questions like:

  • "Why does the X8 have a faster CPU than the X16? That must mean it's better, right?"
  • "What's the difference between the big one and the small one? Do I need those extra features the big one provides?"
  • "If I buy an X8 now and like it, will all of my software work on an X16 if I decide to upgrade?"
  • "It's so small! Is this just an emulator, like the NES/SNES Classic?"
     

Of course, these are just some of the questions someone might ask, but you really need to be looking at this from their perspective. The more questions that a prospective buyer has, the more likely they are to be confused about which one to buy. The more confused they are, the more likely they are to just say "forget it" and not buy one at all.

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On 8/20/2021 at 6:32 AM, The 8-Bit Guy said:

VRAM access is fundamentally different.  There is a 256 byte window into the VRAM which is mapped to a section of base RAM.  You can move the window around. This is actually more efficient than what we do with the X16 and is only possible because it is all inside an FPGA.

Since it is all inside FPGA, is it possible to implement in X8 one more way to accces VRAM - the way it is in X16. Developer would be free to choose either use 256 byte window or 4 registers. I mean, if you already implemented 256 byte window, implementing 4 byte window along side should not be a problem. Thus way X16 programs would run on X8 without modifications.

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@The 8-Bit Guy There are a few fundraising channels which could fuel the X16 project well past a fundraiser

  • The Commander X16 store is not functional.  This seems like low hanging fruit for someone who knows how to put these kind of deals together with t-shirt and knick-knack companies that will slap logos and familiar catch phrases on products of hopefully good quality.
  • Raffles are a great fundraiser, and the better the prize the more money can be raised from increased interest.  For example, some of the early X16 hardware or other related vintage hardware as raffle prizes.
  • Live streaming something involving the X16 project from someone deeply involved.  For example, live coding a game such as PETscii Robots and offering programming Q&A to viewers.

This is what comes to mind to help with funding.  There's probably some better ideas, but this is what is popping into my head right now.

commanderx16-store.png

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33 minutes ago, The 8-Bit Guy said:

For the person that asked why on earth you would want this and compared it to a C64 and then saying a C32 instead.  Well, the main benefits are: half the price and immediate availability.  As i've mentioned before, the X16e might never see the light of day because it is going to be dependent on the X16p being a success before that gets developed.  But we could have this available now.  And it will be so darned cheap, there's no reason you couldn't have this along side the X16p, or use this to develop on and wait for the X16e or whatever.

If you do this, I think you might have the opposite of the Osbourne Effect happen. Most people who have shown interest in the X16 will see that you've released a computer and buy this one instead of waiting for the X16. Then, when the X16 does arrive, many will likely have a hard time justifying the cost of a (probably significantly) more expensive computer that has a few more features than what they already own.

You seem to see the X8 as a way to give people an introduction into the "World of X16" but I see this as a way to financially shoot yourself in the foot.

You need to stop thinking about this as a computer, and start thinking about this as an Educational Toy.

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6 minutes ago, Cyber said:

Since it is all inside FPGA, is it possible to implement in X8 one more way to accces VRAM - the way it is in X16. Developer would be free to choose either use 256 byte window or 4 registers. I mean, if you already implemented 256 byte window, implementing 4 byte window along side should not be a problem. Thus way X16 programs would run on X8 without modifications.

@Frank van den Hoef, I forgot to tag you in this post, since it's a technical question to you as designer.

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13 minutes ago, dbozan99 said:

If you do this, I think you might have the opposite of the Osbourne Effect happen. Most people who have shown interest in the X16 will see that you've released a computer and buy this one instead of waiting for the X16. Then, when the X16 does arrive, many will likely have a hard time justifying the cost of a (probably significantly) more expensive computer that has a few more features than what they already own.

You seem to see the X8 as a way to give people an introduction into the "World of X16" but I see this as a way to financially shoot yourself in the foot.

Yes, @The 8-Bit Guy this was the most important missing option in Question 1:

1. Option 4: Yes, release the X16 kit in beta to a limited number of selected developers willing to build or pay for a built board, then once the the X16 is ready for full release, release the X16p, X16c and X8 at the same time. No wait for the X16e, so no Osborne effects either way.

If that option had been available, that would have been my vote: use the X8 to avoid the x16e development phase altogether.

As a side benefit, this would also give time to contact Stefanie to see if she can help @Frank van den Hoef integrate a soft YM2151 core into the X8 design on an FPGA that can handle both. Then you have the same audio feature set, the X8 is a subset of the same video feature set, and you have much less "feature fracturing" between X16 and X8. Given the raft of FM chips and FPGA soft cores of FM chips on the Feonix256, having the YM2151 in the X8 would also narrow the porting gap between X16 software and the Feonix256.

Edited by BruceMcF
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43 minutes ago, The 8-Bit Guy said:

I haven't actually ported Petscii Robots yet (since I don't know if this product will see the light of day) but I suspect I could have it running on the X8 in maybe an hour or two.

Did you not use any of the X16's banked RAM, for resources that you now have to manage differently on the X8?

You're asking us to choose or not choose a product we know very little about.  We've had years now to familiarize with the X16, and what, a little over 24 hours, and 2 or 3 posts to find out about the X8, pretty lopsided...

Reading between the lines, you seem anxious to get the X8 out, what's the hurry?   Could we not have more time, more info, and access to the emulator?  And then get feedback?

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21 hours ago, x16tial said:

I'll start my answer with a question:  Why is the Phase 3 X16 even needed?  Or Even Phase 2?

...The X16 is your Model 3, the workaday, every man's model.  The more comfortable, and more attainable version, with a lot more practicality.

Keep it open (as possible), and hackable, and available.  Let people figure out how to case it, customize it, do whatever with it.
Oh, and ship it with 2megs RAM, do your best to make sure everyone has the same platform.  RAM "Upgradeability" for this system isn't a good idea, in my strong opinion.

What's your Model S?  Do you need a Model S?  I don't really think you do.

The X16p is the model S. All of that open hackability with kit buildable through pin chips, paying a premium price for either a kit or even more premium price for a professionally built kit computer is not the Model 3. The X16c is the Model 3, the workaday, every man's model.

The CX16e and the X8 are alternatives. One or the other, not both. And since the X8 can be available when the release X16p and X16c are available, with all three having distinct support tiers and minimum support levels to launch those tiers, then the crowdfunding can decide which ones get released, and there is no Osborne effect.

_______________

I'm kinda bummed people are voting to have no phase 2.  It's honestly what I would probably get, since it's still customizable (you can add RAM, etc.) but it will be smaller and cheaper than phase 1 (if I'm understanding correctly).  I'm not all that interested in soldering a phase 1 myself, or spending a lot of money to have it soldered, and the phase 3 seems kind of boring to me, like others said, you might as well just use an emulator with a RPi.

I don't think the no votes ought to be taken too seriously ... leaving it without a "I don't care either way" option means it's strongly biased to give mostly option 2 responses from those who don't want to buy the CX16c, even if people were instructed to leave if blank if they didn't care. The only real important information there is what share are in the CX16c market, and whether the other responses say "no, DON'T give those people what THEY want!!!" or "I don't care" is not the basis for a sensible market decision. You design products and introduce them into the market because they appeal to the prospective buyers, and if that is enough to support the product, that's all that matters, no matter how much they fail to appeal to those who are not in the market for them.

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13 hours ago, VincentF said:

As of reading your comment, @Scott Robison, I'm thinking a bit more objectively on the problem of X8 vs X16 🤔

So, we have two platforms with some differences in hardware. It would be effectively ideal to have those two having the same interface so the work to convert software is not that complicated.
Everybody's talking about having the X8 but with the X16's VERA interface, but why not doing the inverse of that, making the X16 actually using the X8's VERA interface ? Or a mix of the two, to lift a bit of constraints on the final hardware.

First and foremost, because the Vera FPGA literally does not have enough pins to handle that kind of interface from an external system bus. When they went from the 8 register to 32 register bus interface, that requires two more address pins, and they literally had to take out the Vera serial interface because there were not enough pins to support both, so they opted to make the video/audio access more functional and the built-in serial port option is bit banging on a VIA.

Secondly, because it complicates the logic of the chip select circuitry on the board, and they might not have enough TIME to complete more complicated chip select logic and also run at 8MHz.

With the all-FPGA design, neither is an issue, since for the first, it's already inside the FPGA so doesn't use up any pins, and for the second, there really isn't any chip select circuitry when there aren't any distinct chips to select. It's just a matter of whether there is one cycle in each four in the 50MHz VGA generation process that the Vera is not accessing the embedded 128K RAM so that the circuitry simulating the 6502 side can access it ... if so, it can run the 6502 core side at 12.5MHz.

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5 minutes ago, The 8-Bit Guy said:

  It's still the same features, the same registers, and same behaviors. The sprites, the layers, the PSG, it's all the same.  The primary difference is how you copy data to VRAM

Maybe you're right that it would only take a couple/few hours to retool those programs to the X8.   

I don't know,  and WE (this community) CAN'T know since the X8's detailed specs are simply not available AT ALL.   

(Compare that with all the ample tech details we've had on the X16).   

As  a result, I find its very difficult to have a meaningful discussion about it.     But just from what you said describing the X8 so far, it looks to me like probably none of the top downloads on the X16 site would work without retooling them, and how difficult that would be certainly depends on those non-public technical details.   

Because its not necessarily JUST the VERA, is it?    A lot of people are using banked RAM in their programs, for example.   

So why not put those details out.   Just the technical description of how the X8 works.   What's the memory map.    What are the specific details of reading writing VERA?   Etc.       

Reading between the lines, and from your last few posts in particular, it seems obvious that you personally are strongly leaning toward the decision to push the X8 and its what you want to do.   But since you do seem genuinely interested in securing community sentiment in that direction, I would think it might help to get the tech details for the modified VERA addressing and maybe, perhaps, get the emulator out there!   It would let people get some empirical experience with the process of converting something that relies on X16 VERA etc. into working with X8 VERA etc.     I'd love to tackle all the 'offical' BASIC programs in the DEMOs directory of the official repo and see how they go.  

One more question which I hope I haven't missed in prior posts (this thread has moved fast):    Current docs on the official X16 repo indicate that $A000 to $BFFF (the 8K banked ram area) is initialized to BANK1 as the default for the User, with the X16 reserving BANK0 for Kernal Variables and Buffers. 

If the X8 has no banking, what happens with range $A000 to $BFFF?   

 

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43 minutes ago, x16tial said:

You're asking us to choose or not choose a product we know very little about.  We've had years now to familiarize with the X16, and what, a little over 24 hours, and 2 or 3 posts to find out about the X8, pretty lopsided...

BINGO!

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