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(new title): Hard decision, but the answer is pretty clear.


x16tial
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  • X16 runs at 8Mhz -- 12 Mhz is better
  • X16 has a TON more RAM -- this doesn't matter with fast SD speeds, that same 8k can be swapped from SDCard rather than switching banks
  • X16 has twice the video RAM -- this might be the worst part, it means only 1bpp for 640x480, but tricks with sprites, charsets, etc would probably compensate
  • X16 has 4 expansion slots - provide an i/o bus on the X8?
  • X16 has a Yamaha sound chip - add on expansion with said i/o bus?
  • X16 has an IEC disk drive port - this is really kinda silly.  nice nostalgia, but let's be real, who is going to use this?
  • X16 is infinitely more "hackable" - make the X8 more hackable, provide that i/o bus.  and how about tools to make reprogramming the fpga easy?
  • X16 has SNES ports - not needed with the usb port
  • X16 has PS/2 - usb is better

As attached as we all are to the X16, the X8 is just the better idea.  Even the name X16 is a holdover from when the 65C816 was going to be its processor, I believe.

In my opinion we should all bite the bullet, and go with the X8 as the platform.
Releasing both I think is a mistake.  @The 8-Bit Guy, you do this full time, so developing for multiple platforms seems like no big deal.  Most of the rest of us don't have that luxury.
 

Edited by x16tial
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I think what you say sounds logical, but the X16 is the better system. Maybe. Not sure.

If an expansion port was added to the X8, would it be possible to connect it to one of the expansion slots on the X16?

It might then be possible to use both together. I don’t know how or what could be done with that.

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What about the discrete chips ?

Do the X8 have the ability to be built this way ?

Is the bank swapping through SD card that easy ? What is the impact on performances ?

Have you seen the poll on the thread called "Clarity of purpose: why do YOU want the X16?"

I'm not into buying a credit-card-sized board with all the system on a single chip, I have RPi at home and that's enough.

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Posted (edited)

I asked multiple times on that other thread for the specs, which don't seem to be forthcoming.  Sometimes you have to operate on incomplete information, so yeah, assumptions are being made, but to some extent, they're being forced, because the information is being withheld. 

David will ultimately make the decision of course.  Above all, I think 2 platforms is a mistake.  If it wasn't a mistake, why doesn't every 8 bit enthusiast develop for the Apple II, and the Atari 2600, and the Vic 20, and the C64 all together, and the others?  If you have to code something more than once, that means you're going to code less individual things.  I want more Titles, not more versions of the same Title.  If it's decided to do the X16, so be it.  But both is a mistake, in my opinion, and the X8 sounds like the better idea, but we're not being allowed access, unfortunately.

Edited by x16tial
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1 minute ago, x16tial said:

I asked multiple times on that other thread for the specs, which don't seem to be forthcoming.  Sometimes you have to operate on incomplete information, so yeah, assumptions are being made, but to some extent, they're being forced, because the information is being withheld. 

David will ultimately make the decision of course.  Above all, I think 2 platforms is a mistake.  If it wasn't a mistake, why doesn't every 8 bit enthusiast develop for the Apple II, and the Atari 2600, and the Vic 20, and the C64 all together, and the others?  If you have to code something more than once, that means you're going to code less individual things.  I want more Titles, not more versions of the same Title.  If it's decided to do the X16, so be it.  But both is a mistake, in my opinion, the and X8 sounds like the better idea, but we're not being allowed access, unofortunately.

I doubt it is a matter of anyone is trying to hide the specs. I think it is a matter of they just haven't been provided yet. It's been a couple days, give it time.

59 minutes ago, x16tial said:
  • X16 runs at 8Mhz -- 12 Mhz is better
  • X16 has a TON more RAM -- this doesn't matter with fast SD speeds, that same 8k can be swapped from SDCard rather than switching banks
  • X16 has twice the video RAM -- this might be the worst part, it means only 1bpp for 640x480, but tricks with sprites, charsets, etc would probably compensate
  • X16 has 4 expansion slots - provide an i/o bus on the X8?
  • X16 has a Yamaha sound chip - add on expansion with said i/o bus?
  • X16 has an IEC disk drive port - this is really kinda silly.  nice nostalgia, but let's be real, who is going to use this?
  • X16 is infinitely more "hackable" - make the X8 more hackable, provide that i/o bus.  and how about tools to make reprogramming the fpga easy?
  • X16 has SNES ports - not needed with the usb port
  • X16 has PS/2 - usb is better

I agree 12 MHz is better. More RAM would be better than fast SD based swapping, but it's much less of an issue than trying to load overlays from a 1541 for sure.

Having an IO bus on the X8 is going to be an issue of cost. Almost every line on the edge connector has to map to an IO pin. More IO costs more money. The reason the price of the X8 is able to be as low as estimated is because it can be built with a certain FPGA with a certain level of IO, logic elements, block RAM, etc. Increasing any of those will result in a more expensive bit of hardware.

Agreed on IEC. It is nice from a nostalgia perspective, but it's not like the fast loaders that depend on 1541 are going to work on X16. The best reason I can see for IEC is not disk drives, but perhaps printers if anyone has those they want to use.

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25 minutes ago, VincentF said:

What about the discrete chips ?

Do the X8 have the ability to be built this way ?

Is the bank swapping through SD card that easy ? What is the impact on performances ?

Have you seen the poll on the thread called "Clarity of purpose: why do YOU want the X16?"

I'm not into buying a credit-card-sized board with all the system on a single chip, I have RPi at home and that's enough.

We don't know enough about the X8 design to say for sure, but generally no. If for no other reason, the 256 byte window into VERA isn't possible with discrete chips using the current VERA hardware. It would be possible if VERA were put on a larger board with more IO, but that would increase the cost.

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1 hour ago, x16tial said:
  • X16 runs at 8Mhz -- 12 Mhz is better
  • X16 has a TON more RAM -- this doesn't matter with fast SD speeds, that same 8k can be swapped from SDCard rather than switching banks
  • X16 has twice the video RAM -- this might be the worst part, it means only 1bpp for 640x480, but tricks with sprites, charsets, etc would probably compensate
  • X16 has 4 expansion slots - provide an i/o bus on the X8?
  • X16 has a Yamaha sound chip - add on expansion with said i/o bus?
  • X16 has an IEC disk drive port - this is really kinda silly.  nice nostalgia, but let's be real, who is going to use this?
  • X16 is infinitely more "hackable" - make the X8 more hackable, provide that i/o bus.  and how about tools to make reprogramming the fpga easy?
  • X16 has SNES ports - not needed with the usb port
  • X16 has PS/2 - usb is better

As attached as we all are to the X16, the X8 is just the better idea.  Even the name X16 is a holdover from when the 65C816 was going to be its processor, I believe.

In my opinion we should all bite the bullet, and go with the X8 as the platform.
Releasing both I think is a mistake.  @The 8-Bit Guy, you do this full time, so developing for multiple platforms seems like no big deal.  Most of the rest of us don't have that luxury.
 

If it was about the best spec, people would just go with a PC, Pi etc. This is about chasing a dream. What if, suddenly and magically, the C64 were again available in stores, and was in a percentage of schools? Or even a more basic computer like the Vic 20 or the Dragon 32? Ooh, I could write a game for that, and there's an audience out there for it OUTSIDE OF US NOSTALGIA GEEKS!!!

I'm in favor of the X8, but ultimately this should be about the X16. I certainly don't think it's likely that the US Government would say LET'S PUT AN X16 IN EVERY SCHOOL twelve months from now! But it's possible. It happened with the BBC in the UK. Yes, that was the 8bit era, but bear in mind there are schools teaching Pico8, and anyone knows there's no point teaching 13 year olds on a modern box. It could happen. If not this administration then perhaps the next? Or the next? Fifteen years from now? But it won't happen if someone like David doesn't put it out there first.

Looking at the big picture is essential here, unless you're really happy for another machine for a limited audience of adult enthusiasts.

Horribly patronizing, I know, but let's not forget how quick the modern world changes. This could be an incredible opportunity for change the world. Critical mass!

 

 

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When David reviewed the Mini-PET (I think it was that) he said something to the effect of if it had been out before the dream computer video, he might not have done the dream computer video, instead just looking for ways to expand Mini PET to have video and sound. Thus the X8 does check a lot of the boxes.

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I'm not sure what all the trepidation is all about. Frank released the entire design files for the X8 under a 2-Clause BSD License at the end of last year. The Cloanto IP makes it a bit problematic to build and ship as a finished product though. It could be done as a "dev kit" and you get to flash the firmware. The board comes with an integrated Cortex-M0 host processor, so it's already setup for this.

x8.jpg

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4 minutes ago, SolidState said:

I'm not sure what all the trepidation is all about. Frank released the entire design files for the X8 under a 2-Clause BSD License at the end of last year. The Cloanto IP makes it a bit problematic to build and ship as a finished product though. It could be done as a "dev kit" and you get to flash the firmware. The board comes with an integrated Cortex-M0 host processor, so it's already setup for this.

x8.jpg

Do you have a link for the design files? A web search and reverse image search are coming up empty.

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37 minutes ago, Wavicle said:

Do you have a link for the design files? A web search and reverse image search are coming up empty.

There was a discussion about the X8 files on this thread. It looks like the repos were made private, but I think there are some forks out there (the image was a render I did just now from KiCAD). 

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33 minutes ago, x16tial said:

Wifi too...  smh

The board has a Wifi UART. It provides a basic AP that you connect to and then telnet to the board to establish a serial connection. You could also do TFTP to transfer files to/from the memory.

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7 hours ago, x16tial said:
  • X16 runs at 8Mhz -- 12 Mhz is better
  • X16 has a TON more RAM -- this doesn't matter with fast SD speeds, that same 8k can be swapped from SDCard rather than switching banks
  • X16 has twice the video RAM -- this might be the worst part, it means only 1bpp for 640x480, but tricks with sprites, charsets, etc would probably compensate
  • X16 has 4 expansion slots - provide an i/o bus on the X8?
  • X16 has a Yamaha sound chip - add on expansion with said i/o bus?
  • X16 has an IEC disk drive port - this is really kinda silly.  nice nostalgia, but let's be real, who is going to use this?
  • X16 is infinitely more "hackable" - make the X8 more hackable, provide that i/o bus.  and how about tools to make reprogramming the fpga easy?
  • X16 has SNES ports - not needed with the usb port
  • X16 has PS/2 - usb is better

As attached as we all are to the X16, the X8 is just the better idea.  Even the name X16 is a holdover from when the 65C816 was going to be its processor, I believe.

In my opinion we should all bite the bullet, and go with the X8 as the platform.
Releasing both I think is a mistake.  @The 8-Bit Guy, you do this full time, so developing for multiple platforms seems like no big deal.  Most of the rest of us don't have that luxury.
 

If there was an adult in the room, she would tell you that you are assuming that is is possible to get something for nothing.

Remember, the X8 is the "proof of concept" answer to the question, how MUCH of the CX16 design could you fit into the same FPGA that the CX16 uses for its Vera Video/Audio/SPI chip.

The answer was useful for giving an idea whether the CX16e could work with only one SRAM chip ... and also to give an idea how much more powerful of an FPGA would be needed for the CX16e.

But above, what you are talking about IS the X16e, not the LX8, and there is a reason David estimates the CX16e would cost twice as much to bring to market as the LX8.

The LX8 is a proof of concept of putting as much as possible into an FPGA-only system, and only using the internal RAM works for the LX8 precisely because it allows it to avoid bringing out the system bus.

So "provide an io bus to the X8" means, "build a CX16e rather than an LX8"

So "add on expansion with said I/O bus" means "build a CX16e rather than an LX8"

So "make the X8 more hackable, provide that I/O bus" means "build a CX16e rather than an LX8"

We know that the Vera FPGA is pin constrained, because lack of pins was cited as the reason for dropping the serial port function when the register addressing was increased from 8 addressable registers to 32 addressable registers ... which is, after all, exactly two more pins.

So there is no way they can add USB and add 16-18 pins for the I/O bus (16 if an external decoder is used for the five slot selects, 18 is each slot select gets its own pin).

The two reasons a CX16e would be about twice the cost of an LX8 are that it would involve a surface mount RAM, because you can't GET that much RAM as an embedded FPGA module, and that it would involve a more powerful FPGA, with more logic cores and more pins, because the FPGA they are using for the Vera just doesn't have either the logic cores or the pins to handle full simulation of the CX16p ... and that more powerful FPGA would cost more money.

So the LX8 as you are imagining it is not the same LX8 that is basically available to bring to market now, unless they decide to do a few tweaks to it.

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3 hours ago, SolidState said:

There was a discussion about the X8 files on this thread. It looks like the repos were made private, but I think there are some forks out there (the image was a render I did just now from KiCAD). 

Ah, okay. Those were only the board design files as far as I know. I was hoping the RTL for VERA had been published since it is the only bespoke "ASIC" in the X16.

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4 hours ago, SolidState said:

I'm not sure what all the trepidation is all about. Frank released the entire design files for the X8 under a 2-Clause BSD License at the end of last year. The Cloanto IP makes it a bit problematic to build and ship as a finished product though. It could be done as a "dev kit" and you get to flash the firmware. The board comes with an integrated Cortex-M0 host processor, so it's already setup for this.

x8.jpg

Yes, the Cloanto IP is what makes it something the CX16 team could "just do now".

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43 minutes ago, BruceMcF said:

ISo the LX8 as you are imagining it is not the same LX8 that is basically available to bring to market now, unless they decide to do a few tweaks to it.

Didn't think it was.  And as I doubt there's 1000 sitting in a garage, why couldn't the design be changed before a production run was initiated?

And by the way, where did the L come from?

I hope nobody mistakes my passion for anything but that. (And incidentally, the title of this thread is a play on a theme from the 1st Clinton campaign in the 90's, I'm not calling anyone here stupid, far from it)

My expectation is not that the Commander Xwhatever takes the world by storm, but my hope is that it takes hold enough that there would be a respectable audience/ecosystem/following/what have you, that would make developing for the platform interesting, and a pleasure, and that those creations could be shared in as friction-free way as possible.

After all, a stated goal (the main goal?), is a system where it could all be understood by just 1 person.

That implies development for the platform will largely be 1 person endeavors.

People who, generally speaking, are going to be older, with appreciable limits on their free time.

2 platforms puts a strain on that free time (small/large?  that will depend) , and is going to create some areas of friction in sharing of one's work, it'll just make it harder, how much harder can be argued about.

Will it be the end of the world if both are released?  No. But it's just added complication, and for what benefit?

If the size of the market isn't at all a consideration, that the system is designed for the single user to just sit in their dim basement and hack around on and "learn about computing" then frankly, I'm not interested.  I'll buy Ben Eater's kit for that.

I'm really going to try to make this my last post on the subject, I'm sure I've annoyed many already.

Best wishes!

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2 minutes ago, x16tial said:

And by the way, where did the L come from?

Someone in the other thread suggested Lieutenant as the name for the X8, since it is subordinate to a Commander. If it is to be abbreviated as anything, it should be LCX16, since Lieutenant Commander comes immediately before Commander. 🙂

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2 hours ago, x16tial said:

Didn't think it was.  And as I doubt there's 1000 sitting in a garage, why couldn't the design be changed before a production run was initiated?

And by the way, where did the L come from?

As far as the one that "could be done now", that means the design that has already been designed, the prototype created, and it has been tested and it works.

If you take a look at the design, you would see that "Adding an I/O bus" is not tweaking that design, it would be tossing it out and doing a new one. But that is the description of the CX16e development path ... why do something that is not fully compatible with the CX16p if your are going to toss out the LX8 design and do a completely new one, especially if you are going to do a new one with an external SRAM chip.

What the "L" is a reference to? Hint: "If the C in CX16 stands for 'Commander', then a lower power system in the same family might be called a L..."

 

2 hours ago, x16tial said:

My expectation is not that the Commander Xwhatever takes the world by storm, but my hope is that it takes hold enough that there would be a respectable audience/ecosystem/following/what have you, that would make developing for the platform interesting, and a pleasure, and that those creations could be shared in as friction-free way as possible.

After all, a stated goal (the main goal?), is a system where it could all be understood by just 1 person.

That implies development for the platform will largely be 1 person endeavors.

People who, generally speaking, are going to be older, with appreciable limits on their free time.

2 platforms puts a strain on that free time (small/large?  that will depend) , and is going to create some areas of friction in sharing of one's work, it'll just make it harder, how much harder can be argued about.  ...

Of course, to understand the LX8 system all the way down to the bare metal, you have to understand FPGAs, USB device trees, and a range of other things that are not necessary to understand the more capable CX16p down to the bare metal.

Indeed, you are ignoring that another stated goal was to do it as far as possible with off the shelf ASIC components.

When it turned out that the desired price point and the desire to do it with off the shelf ASIC components were a contradiction, they came up with the approach of the CX16p/c real boards, and the CX16e simulation board.

And then Frank did the LX8 as a proof of concept of the CX16e approach.

 

 

Edited by BruceMcF
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14 minutes ago, Scott Robison said:

Someone in the other thread suggested Lieutenant as the name for the X8, since it is subordinate to a Commander. If it is to be abbreviated as anything, it should be LCX16, since Lieutenant Commander comes immediately before Commander. 🙂

The LX8 is far more than just one step below the CX16, hence "Lieutenant".

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