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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 10/19/2021 at 2:41 AM, Oldrooster said:

BGA to DIP adapters are available, but expensive. ☹️   ( geared towards programming, so they are for repetitive use )

@oldrooster, bga or not anything physical at this point would be great. Perifractic’s case and keyboard design were great step in the right direction and I wish it were economically practical to pull that off. I think this is a very similar  example of Apple’s early days where they struggled to differentiate themselves from the masses. To me it’s cool seeing the emulation based advancements but it would be awesome to fire up a physical machine that’s dedicated to the task instead of a multipurpose general computing product. The X8 concept isn’t fully X-16 “compatible “ but until FPGA price points and availability line up with aspirations everything will still stay conceptual. I would love to have a raspberry pi pico 65c02 ROM that could run with a NON FPGA VERA  simply because of the difficulty in acquiring FPGAs at this point. 

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On 10/19/2021 at 3:31 AM, Oldrooster said:

Decoding the datasheets (they don't make datasheets like they used to) it has a 132 Ball pins on the IC. The pitch of (spacing between) the pins is half a millimeter.  Regular DIP chips that people love to solder are spaced 2.54 mm apart. Thing is, it's a square array, so the next row is half a millimeter away. There are solutions, but they are fiddly enough to stop 98 % people doing anything with it.

617821681_icevariantof132BGA.png.2a2a3cd6737c0e3d0373c2a9a418e95d.png

but not all bad news, there are big gaps in the ICE variant, so a designer could hack this at home, but it's beyond most hobbyists.

Yes, if it was part of a kit, it would be like the Vera assembly, a daughterboard with surface mount parts that have a pin header to plug into a pair of block headers that can be soldered into the board with DIP parts. If it was the X16e, it would be a built board with surface mount parts placed and soldered in a solder oven in the normal way.

But not having 1MBit SPRAM is a big hurdle to get over. Even if the external RAM can be accessed at 16MHz, you'd need to have to access 16bits at a time to hit the bandwidth of the Vera accessing SPRAM every second cycle at an internal 50MHz clock. So something like 2 64KB 8bit SRAM accessed in parallel and a 1MB SRAM accessed on a single 8bit data bus for Low RAM and 123 segments of High RAM.

I think two of the FPGA that are used for the Vera, one implementing Vera and the other implementing as much of the CX16 as possible is a less expensive approach ... with an external SRAM if it is trying to be an X16e, and if it is trying to be lower cost relying JUST on two FPGA's, then 40K Low RAM, 2x 16KB shadowROM, and 7x 8KB High RAM segments.

with a CX16 bit map using the second internal 1Mbit as 40KB of Low RAM, 32K of ROM, and 56 KB of High RAM (7 High RAM segments) would be less

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  • 3 weeks later...

It’s been over a month since I’ve kicked off this thread. Has anyone built the X8 at this point? Is there a Pi image that runs the X16/X8 to the point where it’s usable? I can run VICE or combian on a pi. Where is the support for this hypothetical computer at this state?

Edited by Mtemal
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On 11/22/2021 at 8:13 PM, Mtemal said:

It’s been over a month since I’ve kicked off this thread. Has anyone built the X8 at this point? Is there a Pi image that runs the X16/X8 to the point where it’s usable? I can run VICE or combian on a pi. Where is the support for this hypothetical computer at this state?

Built from what?

You're WAY ahead of the actual state of things.

The only X8 is in David and Frank's possession. The VHDL files and emulation code are not available in any publicly accessible repository.

David asked the community if they wanted the X8 released as a product, but the community voted against it.

That's a different question than yours. The premise of your question is set in a universe where the X8 is already available as a product, and then asks us if we would buy it. But we don't live in that universe.

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On 11/22/2021 at 6:13 PM, Mtemal said:

Is there a Pi image that runs the X16/X8 to the point where it’s usable?

No, and there never will be. 

While the Pi can run a bare 6502 emulation at a respectable pace, it can't cope with VERA at anything more than about 4MHz effective. So without some serious improvements to the code, the Pi will never be an effective emulation platform for the Commander.

 

Edited by TomXP411
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On 11/23/2021 at 5:06 PM, TomXP411 said:

No, and there never will be. 

While the Pi can run a bare 6502 emulation at a respectable pace, it can't cope with VERA at anything more than about 4MHz effective. So without some serious improvements to the code, the Pi will never be an effective emulation platform for the Commander.

Though as the Pi has gone, maybe the "Pi5" will be able to ... only time will tell.

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  • 1 month later...
On 10/15/2021 at 1:40 AM, EMwhite said:

I see you just got here from FaceBook.  Welcome, but have a look around.

I think a few hundred people have by now said “no” to X8 in the Mega-thread in the official announcements forum.

I would have loved to see the X8 released. I think it was a miss not to do so.

 

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On 12/26/2021 at 2:36 PM, martinot said:

I would have loved to see the X8 released. I think it was a miss not to do so.

 

I can't point you to the exact source any longer, but David posted at one time on FB about the X8 that it wound up being too different from X16. The original thought had been that it would be really close, but the constraints on the FPGA (which originally only did video and a couple other "small" tasks with 128 K of RAM) were very severe when building a 65C02 CPU, other virtual support chips, and video and etc into the single FPGA. His original estimate of how long it would take to adapt X16 robots was way off base upon further reflection when more info came to light.

Edit to add: The original thought was that X8 vs X16 would be a C64 vs a memory expanded C64 type of comparison. It wound up being more like VIC-20 to C64 (my words, not anyone else's). It would have been much more likely to fragment the ecosystem / community.

Edited by Scott Robison
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On 12/26/2021 at 1:36 PM, martinot said:

I would have loved to see the X8 released. I think it was a miss not to do so.

 

I think it was a mistake to even offer it up as a possibility. It has already created fragments in the community.

The early visions of how the X16 would get implemented should have been kept: start with expansions to a working 6502 design (C64 or the WDC reference design boards), get those working, then replace the C64. If they give up now and open the hardware design, thousands of dollars in R&D (I assume mostly in the cost of prototype PCBs) may never get recovered. That's a bitter sunk cost pill to swallow. As it stands now, the only thing protecting that investment is VERA. It's the only component whose design is closed and cannot be easily sourced.

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On 12/27/2021 at 11:24 PM, Wavicle said:

I think it was a mistake to even offer it up as a possibility. It has already created fragments in the community.

The early visions of how the X16 would get implemented should have been kept: start with expansions to a working 6502 design (C64 or the WDC reference design boards), get those working, then replace the C64. If they give up now and open the hardware design, thousands of dollars in R&D (I assume mostly in the cost of prototype PCBs) may never get recovered. That's a bitter sunk cost pill to swallow. As it stands now, the only thing protecting that investment is VERA. It's the only component whose design is closed and cannot be easily sourced.

I think a small computer board like the X8 would have been very cool to play with!  🙂

That said I love the concept with X16 and its expansion buses.

I think the X8 also could have helped fund both the VERA development, and the developmen of the X16. Win-win.

Talking about that, I think VERA should be sold just as a pure stand alone graphics chip. It is gold for us rero nerds to be able to build our own 8-bit computers with a 2D graphics chip like the VERA.

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On 12/28/2021 at 3:20 PM, martinot said:

I think the X8 also could have helped fund both the VERA development, and the developmen of the X16. Win-win.

Talking about that, I think VERA should be sold just as a pure stand alone graphics chip. It is gold for us rero nerds to be able to build our own 8-bit computers with a 2D graphics chip like the VERA.

According to Frank, VERA has been more or less complete since 2020.

The suggestion to sell VERA as a standalone component has been floated a few times, but never garnered a response from the appropriate devs. The X8 design was opened at one point; clones of the board and FPGA design are still available on GitHub. Don't get too excited about assembling your own though; sourcing the FPGA and STM32 microcontroller (necessary unless you have another way to program the SPI flash) are not so easy these days.

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On 12/28/2021 at 10:28 PM, Wavicle said:

According to Frank, VERA has been more or less complete since 2020.

The suggestion to sell VERA as a standalone component has been floated a few times, but never garnered a response from the appropriate devs. The X8 design was opened at one point; clones of the board and FPGA design are still available on GitHub. Don't get too excited about assembling your own though; sourcing the FPGA and STM32 microcontroller (necessary unless you have another way to program the SPI flash) are not so easy these days.

I’ve been saying for a while it would be nice to have a MiSTer core for the X16 or X8… that should be doable, since everything needed has already been done as part of another core, and it doesn’t require any new hardware. 

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On 12/29/2021 at 7:28 AM, Wavicle said:

According to Frank, VERA has been more or less complete since 2020.

The suggestion to sell VERA as a standalone component has been floated a few times, but never garnered a response from the appropriate devs. The X8 design was opened at one point; clones of the board and FPGA design are still available on GitHub. Don't get too excited about assembling your own though; sourcing the FPGA and STM32 microcontroller (necessary unless you have another way to program the SPI flash) are not so easy these days.

Is the VERA and X8 code open source and available for usage?

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On 12/29/2021 at 7:57 AM, TomXP411 said:

I’ve been saying for a while it would be nice to have a MiSTer core for the X16 or X8… that should be doable, since everything needed has already been done as part of another core, and it doesn’t require any new hardware. 

I love that idea! I think it actually could be the best way to ever get the product in our hands as real hardware, and not just as emulation software.

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On 12/29/2021 at 2:27 PM, martinot said:

Is the VERA and X8 code open source and available for usage?

The X8 repos were public about a year ago; it's unclear to me what the licenses were at the time. I cloned the hardware repos which seemed to contain all of VERA except for the 6502 bus interface. Frank has since either removed the repos or made them non-public.

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On 12/30/2021 at 9:18 AM, BruceMcF said:

Adafruit has "Programming SPI flash with an FT232H breakout", which is interesting on the point in parentheses.

Depending on what your time/money/hobbyist-enjoyment ratios are, one might consider grabbing a TL866-II+ programmer with SOIC adapters. I picked one up off of Amazon a few years ago for $80. There is a Chinese OEM clone manufacturer of these so they're being sold under a dozen (probably two dozen) different brand names, but they're all identical hardware. It has reasonable software support, optional open source tools, and can program many different devices.

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