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Commander X8 Disussion


Mtemal
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Commander X8 Interest POll  

19 members have voted

  1. 1. Would you buy the Commander X8 if it were made available to purchase next month?

    • Yes
      11
    • No
      8

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  • Poll closed on 10/19/21 at 02:24 AM

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On 10/15/2021 at 10:42 AM, EMwhite said:

Such as shame, those pics above were "right-perty*" and had 8 out of 12 people sold.  Now what?

It's a moot point for the original X8 prototype, but if they ended up deciding to launch first with a similar board that is more X16 software compatible, they could likely source a quantity of an appropriate FPGA from somewhere and set that quantity as the cap on the initial crowdfund.

From the brief comment by David (referred to above), Frank is first working on an X16e prototype (one might speculate about that process leading to a new version of the X8 that is more compatible with the X16, but it would be pure speculation), and on past history, if something comes from that which leads the project team to settle on a new release path, it will be announced when it is settled, and not when it is still under consideration ...

... and the last we heard, Micheal Steil has another project that is taking his time at present, after which he will return to working on the Kernel development, which it seems likely they are going to get finished before considering a crowdfund or pre-orders for the X16p ...

... so until one or the other of those get to an update milestone{+}, speculating on FPGA availability would be premature.

_____________
{+ Bearing in mind that ASKING the team about how close they are to an update milestone is asking for an update, and nagging for updates is against the T&C of the site.}

Edited by BruceMcF
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You just said a lot of 'things', but good things where good = this -> that and since -> therefore.  So, barring an October surprise it's probably safe to check back in 3 months which seems fair.

As prolific as 8BG's YouTube career is (the backyard shack that YouTube built), an update "Here's where we are..." and an official announcement / update each quarter would probably go a long way but that's just me talking.

Thanks for that reply.

 

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

My overall thoughts on the X8 (now that the Megathread which started to metastasize into Yet Another Why This Project Should Be A Different Project argument in its last few pages has been locked):

  • I did not worry about "Osborne effects", but thought there was was a risk that if released before the X16 comes out in some physical form, there was a risk it would set the broader concept of what the X16 system is.
  • If the team wanted to release the X8, I favored releasing it alongside the X16p DIY and a capped number of X16p built boards
  • I also thought that the X8 design needed whatever tweaking was workable to open it up to making extension "hats" for it ... with an SPI bus already used for loading the Basic/Kernel binary on "reboot" and for micro-SD card access, only one pin and a register bit somewhere in the address space would be required to make one external SPI device available, and with a single external glue logic chip, 2 external select lines could be readily selected. (Two is as many as you need, since one can be used to define a set of extended selects in a GPIO extender or serial shift register, and the other to select output of the currently defined select).
  • In any event, I'd get an X8 kit including keyboard if I could, but I'd be more likely to use it for tinkering with things on a breadboard if it had the option for a hat that let me add more GPIO.

 

The X8 wouldn't have been a through-hole kit, it would have been a small board made with surface mount parts and produced in batches by a producer equipped to produce boards like that efficiently.

The FPGA they are using seems to be a fairly popular part, but it's not in stock at Mouser ... they have 27,000+ on order, with two September 2022 delivery dates.

 

Newark had the ICE40UP5k in stock a couple of days ago in their UK store. Now it looks like its backordered until February 2022:

https://www.newark.com/lattice-semiconductor/ice40up5k-sg48i/fpga-ice40-ultraplus-39-i-o-qfn/dp/50AJ3298?st=ICE40UP5K-SG48I

 

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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.

@Scott Robison

I hope this is a suitable thread to answer in, coming from the X8 poll thread. Moving onwards from any of that debate, I guess my question/point is how/what do you perceive the unique sales proposition being for an FPGA-only X8 or X16? There are certainly FPGA-only computers already out, but usually they have some other USP such as a case/compatibility/legacy with ZX Spectrum Next or the MEGA65, or they are lean-mean FPGA monsters like the MiSTer family, the ZX-Uno family or training boards such as Nexys. Others, like the Foenix computers, have the unique proposition of offering several discrete chips such as "real" processors and several hardware sound chips in addition to FPGAs.

What would be the unique sales proposition of a simple FPGA board like X8/16 that could easily run on any existing FPGA platform that are already being produced? I am genuinely curious about your answer and I hope my question also illustrates the area where I think it would be beneficial for the X16 project to continue having a clear message and a clear point.

Edited by Janne Sirén
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On 10/15/2021 at 8:42 AM, EMwhite said:

(Also, what happened in the mega-thread?  did somebody drop an F-bomb?  I see the mod-squad shut down the show)

I can only hypothesize as I have no inside knowledge, but as an active participant in the thread: off topic posts that were more off topic than most, and possibly me trying to rail against it by insisting there were better places for such replies and perhaps too snide comments on my part in relation to said posts. While I will feel bad if it is *my* post that locked the thread instead of the other posts that managed to lock it, it is hard for me to view locking of that thread at this point as a bad thing given the state of commentary.

But I don't want to derail this thread, just answering the question. Start another thread or message me if I can answer more questions.

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On 10/15/2021 at 10:51 AM, Janne Sirén said:

@Scott Robison

I hope this is a suitable thread to answer in, coming from the X8 poll thread. Moving onwards from any of that debate, I guess my question/point is how/what do you perceive the unique sales proposition being for an FPGA-only X8 or X16? There are certainly FPGA-only computers already out, but usually they have some other USP such as a case/compability/legacy with ZX Spectrum Next or the MEGA65, or they are lean-mean FPGA monsters like the MiSTer family, the ZX-One family or training boards such as Nexys. Others, like the Foenix computers, have the unique proposition of offering several discrete chips such as "real" processors and several hardware sound chips in addition to FPGAs.

What would be the unique sales proposition of a simple FPGA board like X8/16 that could easily run on any existing FPGA platform that are already being produced? I am genuinely curious about your answer and I hope my question also illustrates the area where I think it would be beneficial for the X16 project to continue having a clear message and a clear point.

I'm going to start a new thread to address my thoughts on this to avoid doing more thread derailing than I recently may have contributed to. 🙂

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My potential purchase of an X8 would not be based on when it was available. I'm happy if it is released, more so if it helps get the X16 project further along. If it delays the X16 that would be disappointing, but still acceptable to me.

For me the attraction of the X16 is the DIP kit, the use of modern/sourcable accessories (Kb, mouse, monitor, SD card) and the hardware expandability. The X8 doesn't meet my wants. 

Others have stated they would buy an X8 and I hope it is made available for them.  

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On 10/15/2021 at 12:51 PM, Janne Sirén said:

I hope this is a suitable thread to answer in, coming from the X8 poll thread. Moving onwards from any of that debate, I guess my question/point is how/what do you perceive the unique sales proposition being for an FPGA-only X8 or X16? ...

The thing is, the "unique value proposition" of the two are different.

The "unique value proposition" of the X16e is that it is hardware that lets you run X16 software out of the box, if you like, with a complete system costing somewhere on the order of half as much as the X16c. SBCs that can run the X16 emulator are already available in the $50-$100 price range, but if people really press the limits of the hardware, there could well still be some cool demos or games that don't run correctly or at full 60fps frame rate on the emulator.

The "unique value proposition" of the X8 is a small, inexpensive board that a single person can understand down "to the hardware specification", a la the C64 or Atari 800, of particular interest to those who already understand 6502 Assembly Language (and optionally also Forth) programming.

Relative to the FPGA Speccy+, the X8 is substantially cheaper, the X16e is a 6502 core while the Speccy is a Z80 core. So the X16e vs the Speccy+ (watchamacallit) is more like horizontal product differentiation, the X8 vs the Speccy+ is more like vertical differentiation.

As far as what you can DO with the X8 ... well, I spilled likely over 1,000 words on the simple proposition that if it had a spare select line for using the existing SPI interface to access a "hat", and brought select, SCLK, MOSI and MISO out to the existing debug interface pinout, to my mind it would be able to do a lot more interesting things.

Also, the value proposition of the X16e depends much more directly on following up the X16p and X16c, which are the anchors for the development of the "interesting X16 software" that drives the X16e value proposition.

Edited by BruceMcF
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Most people have shrugged it off, but I still worry about having two incompatible systems out there, competing for software development resources, especially if the X8 comes out first.  I'd much rather have a X16 FPGA solution come out first instead.  It would be fine if the X8 were to release eventually (although once the X16 comes out I don't really see the point), once the X16 software ecosystem has matured a bit.

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On 10/15/2021 at 2:44 PM, Ender said:

Most people have shrugged it off, but I still worry about having two incompatible systems out there, competing for software development resources, especially if the X8 comes out first.  I'd much rather have a X16 FPGA solution come out first instead.  It would be fine if the X8 were to release eventually (although once the X16 comes out I don't really see the point), once the X16 software ecosystem has matured a bit.

David has said that the X8 is not a plan going forward as it turned out to be too different, and that Frank was looking at something that could be more like the X16. So I think you need not worry about fragmenting the ecosystem in that way. Maybe some other new and improved way, but not that way. 🙂

Edited by Scott Robison
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On 10/15/2021 at 5:38 PM, Scott Robison said:

David has said that the X8 is not a plan going forward as it turned out to be too different, and that Frank was looking at something that could be more like the X16. So I think you need not worry about fragmenting the ecosystem in that way. Maybe some other new and improved way, but not that way. 🙂

Yup, I was relieved to see that.  I was about to say I'm still a little skeptical that that's actually what he meant based on the wording in the screenshot that's been circulating, but I did some searching on the Facebook group just now, and apparently they've come to the same conclusion, and I'm sure they would have been corrected by David or Frank there if it wasn't true (since they both seem to regularly post there).

Don't get me wrong, the X8 does sound cool, and I would probably buy one at some point, but I'd just feel better if the X16 came out first.

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On 10/15/2021 at 5:44 PM, EMwhite said:

So what else can we talk about that is not this topic and not off-topic?  {crickets}

tl;dr: "Huh, yeah, the X8 was an interesting proof of concept, even if they decided not to release it to the market."

 

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On 10/15/2021 at 5:38 PM, Scott Robison said:

David has said that the X8 is not a plan going forward as it turned out to be too different, and that Frank was looking at something that could be more like the X16. So I think you need not worry about fragmenting the ecosystem in that way. Maybe some other new and improved way, but not that way. 🙂

I dunno if they have actually abandoned the X8 and dedicated fully to the X16 FPGA. Assuming you are referring to this screenshot from Facebook:

 

88180226_ScreenShot2021-10-03at7_10_39PM.png.fe534ac3fc38d4a3fbd47a40334bc5ee.png?fbclid=IwAR2enxkGfJ7fNP8QqiWT-90KKQRJP4hfhVlDJNv9abWrzZDJ3XALPAVmF_E

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On 10/15/2021 at 6:27 PM, BruceMcF said:

tl;dr: "Huh, yeah, the X8 was an interesting proof of concept, even if they decided not to release it to the market."

 

I even made a conceptual PCB Front for the X8 hoping it would be released. just to be clear, I did this in MSPAINT. 

 

 

Front Panel Designs 3.png

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On 10/15/2021 at 5:55 PM, Ender said:

Yup, I was relieved to see that.  I was about to say I'm still a little skeptical that that's actually what he meant based on the wording in the screenshot that's been circulating, but I did some searching on the Facebook group just now, and apparently they've come to the same conclusion, and I'm sure they would have been corrected by David or Frank there if it wasn't true (since they both seem to regularly post there).

Don't get me wrong, the X8 does sound cool, and I would probably buy one at some point, but I'd just feel better if the X16 came out first.

Same. Whatever hardware they can get out the sooner the better.

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On 10/15/2021 at 5:44 PM, EMwhite said:

So what else can we talk about that is not this topic and not off-topic?  {crickets}

 

I think its really cool that Frank used STM32F7 MCU in the design to act as a programmer for the ICE40UP5k FPGA. Really clever design. I used STM32F7 MCU's in my racing drones but it is still really cool seeing it used this way. 

Major Components from BOM:

U1 FPGA: ICE40UP5K-SG48ITR50
U2 Flash - NOR Memory IC (16MB): W25Q16JVSNIQ 
U3 LDO Voltage Regulator (1.2A): LDL1117S33R
U4 LDO Voltage Regulator (250mA)
U5 Microcontroller: STM32F070C6Tx
U6 Wireless Module (802.11 b/g/n): ESP32-SOLO-1
X1 Standard Clock Oscillators: SG-5032CAN
Y1 SMD GLASS CRYSTAL: 7A-8.000MAAE-T
 

 

 

SCH2.png

Edited by Mtemal
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On 10/15/2021 at 6:27 PM, BruceMcF said:

tl;dr: "Huh, yeah, the X8 was an interesting proof of concept, even if they decided not to release it to the market."

 

Exactly. You have to recognize genius when you see it. The VERA / X8 FPGA is an incredible work of art by @Frank van den Hoef. What an excellent gift to the community.

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On 10/15/2021 at 8:01 PM, Mtemal said:

I dunno if they have actually abandoned the X8 and dedicated fully to the X16 FPGA. Assuming you are referring to this screenshot from Facebook:

 

88180226_ScreenShot2021-10-03at7_10_39PM.png.fe534ac3fc38d4a3fbd47a40334bc5ee.png?fbclid=IwAR2enxkGfJ7fNP8QqiWT-90KKQRJP4hfhVlDJNv9abWrzZDJ3XALPAVmF_E

Yes, there is nothing there that pins down what will be done, just saying what isn't going to be done and what the next step is going to be as they work out what to do.

So, nothing there suggests are implies looking at a "more compatible" "X8 style" design later ... but nothing specifically excludes it, either. It's just one piece of the puzzle in place ... not going ahead with the X8 prototype as designed ... and a mention of what the next step of work may be as they sort out how they are going to proceed.

 

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On 10/15/2021 at 9:16 PM, BruceMcF said:

Yes, there is nothing there that pins down what will be done, just saying what isn't going to be done and what the next step is going to be as they work out what to do.

So, nothing there suggests are implies looking at a "more compatible" "X8 style" design later ... but nothing specifically excludes it, either. It's just one piece of the puzzle in place ... not going ahead with the X8 prototype as designed ... and a mention of what the next step of work may be as they sort out how they are going to proceed.

 

And that's the frustrating bit when i comes to deciphering what's next. We don't know if they decided to completely abandon the X8 but it seems like the end goal is the X16 FPGA. Regardless it seems clear that we can expect an FPGA solution before the chip & dip

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On 10/15/2021 at 9:33 PM, Mtemal said:

And that's the frustrating bit when i comes to deciphering what's next. We don't know if they decided to completely abandon the X8 but it seems like the end goal is the X16 FPGA. Regardless it seems clear that we can expect an FPGA solution before the chip & dip

What I am saying: just take the actual piece of information. Don't go spinning off into speculation not supported by available facts. There are no facts that warrant supposing that we can expect a "new X8" or an X16e before an X16p.

Now, if they had a definite plan, they'd announce it. So development work without a definite plan is quite plausibly going ahead in order to find something out which is not necessarily clear until an actual working prototype is available.

Proceeding with the (long planned) X16e design could be to sort out hesitation on scrapping it just as much as it is to settle hesitation on going ahead with it. Barring word from the development team, supposing it is one or the other is just guesswork.

Indeed, it's just as plausible to have a joint X16e / X16p DIY crowdfund or pre-order campaign, since that would make it easier for the first campaign to hit a target of 1,000+ keyboards in the first keyboard order.

 

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On 10/15/2021 at 8:49 PM, BruceMcF said:

What I am saying: just take the actual piece of information. Don't go spinning off into speculation not supported by available facts. There are no facts that warrant supposing that we can expect a "new X8" or an X16e before an X16p.

Now, if they had a definite plan, they'd announce it. So development work without a definite plan is quite plausibly going ahead in order to find something out which is not necessarily clear until an actual working prototype is available.

Proceeding with the (long planned) X16e design could be to sort out hesitation on scrapping it just as much as it is to settle hesitation on going ahead with it. Barring word from the development team, supposing it is one or the other is just guesswork.

Indeed, it's just as plausible to have a joint X16e / X16p DIY crowdfund or pre-order campaign, since that would make it easier for the first campaign to hit a target of 1,000+ keyboards in the first keyboard order.

 

Bruce, with the different tiers “P,E,C” I honestly don’t know what’s what anymore. I dunno which X16 variant ties to the Chip & Dip but it’s pretty clear what the Chip & Dip is vs the FPGA.

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On 10/15/2021 at 10:14 PM, Mtemal said:

Bruce, with the different tiers “P,E,C” I honestly don’t know what’s what anymore. I dunno which X16 variant ties to the Chip & Dip but it’s pretty clear what the Chip & Dip is vs the FPGA.

They haven't changed. X16p, "pro", aka "Plenty of chips", is the one you have been calling chiP and diP, X16c is the Cost reduced one, the X16e is the one with the processor core Embedded in the FPGA.

Mostly FPGA first, Mostly FPGA alongside the X16p, and Mostly FPGA after the X16p ... aka X16e, first, alongside and after ... are all quite plausible at this point.

Just "the FPGA" is a bit confusing since all three will have Vera in an FPGA, it's just the X16e will have more stuff in there alongside.

 

Edited by BruceMcF
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