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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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2 hours ago, BruceMcF said:

The software where everything fits comfortably into 64K RAM (well, 54K of RAM taking system RAM use into account) are the "very few things" that I was referring to.

How quickly people have forgotten how little room 64K of RAM really is.

I've not.. I've been working on porting a few games a friend of mine did on the Amstrad CPC to the Commodore 64. The text adventure was a breeze but the game created on the UK originated 3D Construction Kit was near impossible - compared to the Amstrad, the C64 has a lot less memory to use in that program so porting her game was impossible. 

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4 minutes ago, The 8-Bit Guy said:

So, I'm just going to answer a few more concerns about the X8.

One person said I was clearly in favor of this, or something to that effect.  Well, I made that clear at the beginning. I wanted to release it 6 months ago.  I haven't tried to cover that up.

Several people seemed concerned about how much money I was going to make from this project and how the X8 might reduce that.  I know I have said this before, but I'll say it again.  This project was NEVER about money for me.  In fact, I've made it clear many times that I never intended to profit from this project at all.  All profits made from the X16 would be split between Kevin, Frank, Michael, Perifractic, and a few other people.  I have told the entire time many times I didn't want anything.  I'd rather my "profit" be sacrificed to help reduce the cost of the system.  My main goal was to have my dream computer, and that other people would have it too.  Now, if it ends up selling millions of units, ok, we'll re-visit that conversation.  But that's not likely.

I haven't released the emulator for the obvious reason that if this product is to be buried and never see the light of day, I'd rather the emulator just not be out there.  So we'll release that if it is decided to go forward with it.

I suppose I could find some time next week to port Petscii Robots to the X8 for demonstration, since some people were asking about that.  It shouldn't take long. Petscii Robots doesn't use any banked RAM.  After all, it was originally designed for a computer with 32K.   However, I was going to be using banked RAM for the new soundtrack eventually.  But at the same time, having access to the SD card can compensate for that.  I could load each song in as needed, for example, rather than storing them all in RAM at once.

Some people seem confused on why I'm in favor of releasing this.  So I'm going to open up and totally lay it out here.  This is my honest opinion on that matter:  The X16 has taken much longer to bring to market that I thought.  There were many times where development was halted for 6 months or more because of unsolvable bugs.  And even though we are close to being able to release a kit fo the X16, it's going to still take more time to get this out the door and the people wanting fully assembled systems will be waiting extra time. The X16 is definitely happening.  The X8 is not meant as a replacement for it.  But, I felt like the X8 with it's super-low price-tag and easy manufacturing could help keep interest in the project much like "The C64 Mini" did, even though everyone was wanting a full-sized machine.  This would keep development on-going, and most anything made for the X8 could easily be ported to the X16 later.    I do not believe X8 sales will cannibalize X16p sales.   And sales of the X8 could even help to fund more development on the X16 surface-mount version and eventual X8-FPGA version.  And for those people that don't want an X8, it seems like the solution is simple.  Just don't buy one.  Buy the X16p instead.  Or wait for phase-2, or whatever.  

 

The way I see it, people can choose if they want the X8, X16 or both.

Personally, I'd love to buy both but funds won't allow it, but I'd gladly buy an X8, even if it's just a working populated board (I've recently got a mini 3D printer so I could print a case).. I don't see sales of an X8 dimishing sales of the X16.. But I agree, the X8 can keep interest in the project alive. I mentioned above that I'd gladly pay the mentioned $50 for an X8 and I'd add $10 or $20 extra to help development of the X16.

I've watched the videos you and Perifractic have done with great interest (I've always wanted to design my own computer) and I'd consider it a great sadness if nothing came of all the hard work everyone has put into it. 

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1 hour ago, The 8-Bit Guy said:

I have told the entire time many times I didn't want anything.  I'd rather my "profit" be sacrificed to help reduce the cost of the system.  My main goal was to have my dream computer, and that other people would have it too

Wow.  This is very noble of you, and I for one am grateful that this community has someone like you in it.  It's impressive that you can will projects like the Commander X16 into existence fueled on enthusiasm alone.

That said, I was also hoping you would be making a reasonable amount of profit for your efforts.  Frankly, you deserve it, but there's another reason as well.  Not to get into a macro-economical debate, but one of the benefits of capitalism is that it's supposed to put resources into the hands of those who have proven to best utilize them.  You, sir, are one of those people.  I feel the retro community would be better off with a wealthier 8-bit Guy who has more resources and more financial motivation to continue taking on inspiring projects.

Edited by Jestin
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Okay, having read and thought about this a lot more than I had when I answered the poll, I must admit I changed my mind.

I now think very few people here will lose interest in the X16 just because they can have an X8 now, and it will allow Dave to get some money to fund further X16 development while giving the people something to play with and pass the time in return. Regarding compatibility, I don't see why the X8 could not easily be modified to use the X16's Vera addressing scheme, at least optionally. The only thing that I have conflicting feelings about is the speed - it would feel "more right" to me if the X16 was not slower than its little brother. Slowing down the X8 to 8MHz by default might avoid the strange feeling of "not really upgrading" when switching to the X16 later. And it would certainly avoid some porting issues later on.

So, my revised opinion is:

  • Gimme the X8 now! (Maybe only 6 or 8 MHz though)
  • Phase 1 X16P Kit next
  • Phase 2 for the non-solderers that still want most of the retro experience and expandability
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I voted 1: No, 2: No, 3: Pre-assembled.

After having read all the comments so far I think I've changed my mind on all 3 to a certain extent.

Specifically the X8:

It seems that David maybe wants to release the X8. At under $50 it might be worth doing so.

The only big issues I have with it is the seemingly low amount of RAM and VRAM.

I know it’s something to do with the FPGA, but the VERA seems like it deserves more RAM.

Other than that, for $50 it seems like an interesting ‘mini’ X16.

What would be the feasibility of a bigger FPGA and adding a YM2151 as others have suggested plus more RAM? Could it be done, and what would be the likely cost?

But at $50 for the current, working, almost ready to ship X8, I say why not?

As a famous emperor once said “Dew it!”.

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2 hours ago, The 8-Bit Guy said:

I haven't released the emulator for the obvious reason that if this product is to be buried and never see the light of day, I'd rather the emulator just not be out there. 

I don't think the reason is obvious or makes sense, frankly, it being "out there" could drive demand for something you want to release.  And couldn't the emulator be presented just on the web like the X16 web emulator, so that it couldn't be downloaded, if that's really what you want?

And still, even just all the specs about how the X8 works could be released, a memory map at the very least.

But fine, perhaps my current feeling of weariness is much like your own.  Mostly because it will help X16 development, but party because it does sound like a cool product, and a little bit because it seems to be the only way to get any solid info on it, sell me an X8.
Please, even mark it up to $100 as I've said before, or how about this: $64.  Seems appropriate.

I should be done posting on this thread, I await the announcement on how to get one.

Edited by x16tial
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2 hours ago, The 8-Bit Guy said:

The X16 is definitely happening.  The X8 is not meant as a replacement for it.

Reassuring to see that said out loud.   I'm pretty sure that's the crux of what people are worried about.   The concern is that the X8 would come out, and the team would take their foot off the gas (perhaps due to community dev focus shifting to X8 architecture since they are different), and eventually the X16 -- which is what people have been salivating for these last couple years -- would die on the vine.    Its good to see that you specifically disavow that outcome.  

2 hours ago, The 8-Bit Guy said:

I haven't released the emulator for the obvious reason that if this product is to be buried and never see the light of day, I'd rather the emulator just not be out there.  So we'll release that if it is decided to go forward with it.

Um, I don't actually think that's the 'obvious' approach at all.   You just said you are in FAVOR of getting the X8 out there.   A lot of the concern comes from people not having any idea what that actually means.   To accumulate community support, it actually seems to me the obvious approach would be to get the X8 emulator out there.    Assuming it does turn out easy to tweak things to deal with the differences, that will go a long way in terms of 'winning hearts and minds' -- especially in view of your above commitment not to treat the X8 as a replacement for the X16. 

Just my two cents.  Oh and its not in the poll anywhere, but I'd like to go on record to say I would happily pay upwards of $80 for the X8 assuming I had a chance to fiddle with the emulator and was able to satisfy myself I can rock with the platform.   Cheers. 

Edited by Snickers11001001
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I would love to assemble it myself ( i em 62 of age and yeah a woman) ,it give's me back lots and lots of pleasure and brings back memories repair and assemble hardware ,

And on top of that we have to pay a lot of tax and costumer services declaration fees for electronics and so on keep up the good work 

 

 

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11 hours ago, James Anders Banks said:

I agree with that ... however, if the Vic 20 and the C64 had been released at the same time, would anyone have developed for the Vic 20?

Just quoting myself here...

I guess any potential devil is in the details. I think the problem that many of us have expressed concern about is a solving problem, because the whole point of releasing the X8 now is that the X16 can't be released for quote some time. Maybe a year or two would pass before it was ready, and by then the people would be ready to try something new.

I'd still be concerned about the X8 being in some obvious ways (even if not in every important way) more powerful - I'd rather see it being at least a LITTLE slower than the X16.

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5 hours ago, BruceMcF said:

The software where everything fits comfortably into 64K RAM (well, 54K of RAM taking system RAM use into account) are the "very few things" that I was referring to.

How quickly people have forgotten how little room 64K of RAM really is.

I’ve been feeling that lately since writing C for the X16.  Memory goes fast.

There are two solutions though:

1. More RAM; that is, the RAM banks, which are fun to use!

2. Fast I/O

if the SD card on the X16 is fast enough, then you don’t need RAM banks.... in fact even with RAM banks, if I/O is slow, loading up the RAM banks is painful in at least some circumstances.

Edited by rje
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I'm not sure.  I still get a bad feeling about releasing the X8 now.  I'm not so concerned about the team's support for the X16 as much as the community.  Let's say they release the X8 now, and a lot of people are excited about making something for X(anything), and so jump on writing software for the X8.  Then a couple years down the line the X16 finally comes out.  A LOT can happen in just a couple of years, software-wise, from what I've seen on these forums.  By then probably a lot of games will have come out, written for the X8.  And I can't help but feel that a lot of the hype may have gone down by then.  And with the X16 being slower, and the interface to the VERA being a bit more tedious to deal with, will all that many people really be excited to port their stuff to the X16?  Sure, people will start to develop things for the X16 at that point, but I feel like it will always be behind the X8.  Also, a lot of people may feel their games and whatnot should support both the X8 and X16, which means not being allowed to use too much RAM or VRAM, which means a lot of developers not taking full advantage of the X16's capabilities.

Again, this is just a worry, I could be totally wrong.  I hope I am.  But I feel like I have to put it out there.

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I'm glad to see so many responses here, hopefully this is representative of the larger community's desires as well.

I'll admit that I have real mixed feelings about the X8. I'd ultimately voted in favor of it (in addition to the phase-3), but it tears me. To me, the concept of a feature-stripped X16 is most appealing if the product is specifically targeted at handheld experiences. Instead, the X8 feels like it's trying to compete with the Raspberry Pi, something which I'm not sure it'll be good at without more exposed digital I/O for people to hack with. And with the 50% faster clock speed, the X8 is not strictly worse than the X16, which means there will inevitably be members of the community who will prefer the X8 over even the phase-3 X16. Not to mention the benefits of USB, which are hurdles (small hurdles, but nonetheless) to owning an X16.

So I worry that the X8 would ultimately bifurcate the community, and drag the quality of both X8 and X16 software down to run as much as possible on the minimal subset between the X8 and the X16.

I think I've talked myself into wanting to change my vote to say "No" to the X8.

Edited by StephenHorn
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2 minutes ago, rje said:

I’ve been feeling that lately since writing C for the X16.  Memory goes fast.

There are two solutions though:

1. More RAM; that is, the RAM banks, which are fun to use!

2. Fast I/O

if the SD card on the X16 is fast enough, then you don’t need RAM banks.... in fact even with RAM banks, if I/O is slow, loading up the RAM banks is painful in at least some circumstances.

It's not loading the RAM bank where you get the win, it's switching to the RAM bank to use it where otherwise you would have to reload the RAM bank where you get the win.

The SD card is 12.5MHz/bit, about 1.6MHz/byte plus overhead (not every SPI packet byte is a data byte, the bytes have to be put somewhere, etc.).  The difference between the C64 1541 disk drive is night and day. Load an 8K RAM segment faster than you can blink.

So the "get Bank25" process is saving the current X8 RAM Bank2 as "Bank13" and then loading "Bank25" into it. Each happening ... well, basically faster than you can blink.

And you do it, and have a "swap bank" routine, and use it ... and compared to the C64, man, you are cooking.

But then ... LDA $0000 : PHA : LDA lrublock : STA $0000 : ... : PLA : STA $0000 -- 20 clocks at 8MHz, 400kHz/8K bytes.

And the CX16 version of that leaves the X8 version in the dust.

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Since the beginning of this thread, my opinion on the X8 has changed.
In the beginning I was against it. Now I find the platform interesting and
the possibility of quick availability appeals to other people again.

Addendum: I got to the VIC20 / C64 through 8-bit Guys channel. Before that
I didn't want anything to do with assembler. I watched his videos, his series about
Planet X2 / X3 / Robots and finally the X16.
That's how I came across Matt Heffernan's, Shallan's, Oldskoolcoder's channels and
finally discovered a connection to assembler. It's a lot of fun, I don't want to stop! This is just an outline.

What I mean to say, Mr. David Murray has my complete confidence.
If he just sees the X8 (absolutely not a bad platform) as a means of the times, then there are reasons!
The whole team is investing so much time, money and brainpower in this project and
here in the forum there is currently a split. I do not like that.

My opinion: X8 Go! Extend your range and collect money for the X16.

Let the X16 mature and publish it as a solid, complete work of art.

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5 minutes ago, StephenHorn said:

Not to mention the benefits of USB and HDMI, which are hurdles (small hurdles, but nonetheless) to owning an X16.

Emphasis mine.

Wait, what?  HDMI?  For the love of god, please just release ALL the info about this blasted thing. I just don't understand why the holdback. Now I'm starting to get frustrated.

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Just now, x16tial said:

Emphasis mine.

Wait, what?  HDMI?  For the love of god, please just release ALL the info about this blasted thing. I just don't understand why the holdback. Now I'm starting to get frustrated.

My mistake, I'm not sure where I got that from. I'll edit the post.

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1 minute ago, x16tial said:

just release ALL the info about this blasted thing. I just don't understand why the holdback

Because then people would get excited and assume the decision had already been made to release the thing as a product. And if that didn't come to pass, those people would be more disappointed than if they hadn't learned all the nitty-gritty details.

There is sausage being made here, and everyone's trying to avoid getting their fingers clipped.

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7 minutes ago, StephenHorn said:

Because then people would get excited and assume the decision had already been made to release the thing as a product.

Judging off 8BITGUY's posts in totality, I sort of feel like the decision was made before the poll went up.   He wants to push out the X8 and is looking for community endorsement of that direction.     With his avowed commitment to X16 I guess I'm OK with it.   Its better than just pulling the damn plug on everything  and pulling the website and repos off the nets.    I get the sense his fatigue with the whole thing is all too real at this point.  

EDITED TO ADD:    I agree, of course, that having the X8 emulator and details of the specs (including the nuts and bolts about how VERA-JR or whatever we are to call the X8 version works in terms of memory accesses etc) would be a real plus at this point.      I want to grab that info, load the "balls.prg" demo from the official REPO and see what it takes to get that working. 

Edited by Snickers11001001
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6 minutes ago, Snickers11001001 said:

Judging off 8BITGUY's posts in totality, I sort of feel like the decision was made before the poll went up.   He wants to push out the X8 and is looking for community endorsement of that direction.     With his avowed commitment to X16 I guess I'm OK with it.   Its better than just pulling the damn plug on everything  and pulling the website and repos off the nets.    I get the sense his fatigue with the whole thing is all to real at this point.  

Well, then to reiterate (without @'ing him), hold off. Commit to the X8, but get the CX16p beta out to beta testers ... if it's alpha, then get the CX16p alpha out to alpha testers ... and sort everything out for a simultaneous launch of the CX16p, CX16c and X8 crowdfunding campaigns.

Make the crowdfunding campaigns realistic. CX16p's altogether have a floor, CX16c's have a floor, X8's have a floor, but pre-built CX16p's also have a ceiling.

Set aside the CX16e. Don't get married to last year's product path ... no battle plan survives contact with the enemy intact, and no business plan survives contact with the market intact. Set up the crowdfund campaigns, and let the market say what is what.

Oh, and also, as a professional economist, something about Economies of Scale ... and I guess I better @The 8-Bit Guy after all: build cost recovery for yourself into the crowdfunding floors, along with a modest return on time and money invested for other project members ... and if you want to share any surplus from an oversubscribed crowdfund as a windfall with the other team members, go ahead ... but for post-release pricing of the CX16c and X8, also build a modest per unit profit in for yourself. If either or both earn out into ongoing repeated batch production, then your original dream had market value and the majority of your market would prefer if you at least get some extra vacation money as a result.

Edited by BruceMcF
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16 minutes ago, Snickers11001001 said:

Judging off 8BITGUY's posts in totality, I sort of feel like the decision was made before the poll went up.   He wants to push out the X8 and is looking for community endorsement of that direction.     

I suppose that's where the ambiguity of text comes into play, because I read it as almost the opposite -- he's open to releasing the X8, and it meets many of his programming/experience goals, but he's hesitant because it still falls short of the full X16e he had envisioned and wants to ship.

Edited to add: If bifurcating the community between the two platforms is not a concern, then I think Bruce probably has the right idea. Get crowdfunding going with what can be shipped now (or imminently), and let the market sort itself out.

Edited by StephenHorn
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4 hours ago, The 8-Bit Guy said:

My main goal was to have my dream computer, and that other people would have it too.

I felt like the X8 with it's super-low price-tag and easy manufacturing could help keep interest in the project much like "The C64 Mini" did, even though everyone was wanting a full-sized machine.

Two points:

1) Is the X8 that dream computer?   If it's "close enough" what you should probably do, is go with X8, full bore.  Scrap the X16 and have Kevin "work backward" and create a surface mount version of it, and perhaps a through-hole version.  Releasing two competing platforms, I think I've come to realize, is foolish.

2) The C64 Mini isn't different other than being smaller, and thus not having a keyboard.
AND, The "maxi" still isn't available in the US.

 

I'm really going to try to step away now, and check back in a few days or more and see what's up.

Cheers.

 

Edited by x16tial
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