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Is the X16 Dead?


Jaan
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Follow David's channel regularly and like most I'm guessing, experienced the C64 era with a lot of joy. So I was excited to see the episodes on the 'Dream Computer' and the flow on project appealed to me for sure. But it seems like this thing would take a full time effort with significant funding to ever be realised. I've been involved with 'umteen' projects over many years that are great in concept but just never viable in reality. 

To clarify so as not to appear to be too negative: the ancillaries like the SNES adapter from Kevin or the VERA or various game related things that are already being developed seem to have 'legs'. Would it not be better to build an X16 system and package it like a SiDi (or whatever) so at least you would get a ROI on the effort and leverage the 8-Bit fanbase to sell games, etc. Otherwise just leave it as a kit as per the official post. 

Again, trying not to be too negative but sometimes the idea and the practicality just don't work out. 

Edited by Jaan
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I wouldn't be surprised if this gets nipped by admins for coming too close to "asking for updates". But I, for one, appreciate that it can be discouraging when there are long periods without new information.

The X16's development has been much longer and fraught with unexpected setbacks than anyone had anticipated, not least of all because of the pandemic and subsequent logistics shortage. But to the best of our knowledge, the X16 is not dead. Dave still wants to see this platform released, and he or another member of the team will post when there is something of value to post about.

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Predominately my idea around the topic was to have an economical discussion around project vs. product and why they aren't necessarily aligned. 

If, for example, I'm wanting to build my dream whatever, I'm working largely without factoring costs like my time, parts, tools, etc. It's MY project. It has intrinsic value in that sense. Maybe some folks will be interested and I can share the process and I get a kick out of that too. Then someone says: "Hey, you could sell these"..... 

This brings me to the X16. There seems to be a disconnect between the project vision and what is realistically a saleable product that can give a return (or at least breakeven). This product format seemed to be promoted often by Veryfrantic (case, manual, keyboard, etc.) leading one to believe the result would be akin to unboxing a C64. Clearly, when measured agaist the limited amount of resources available, this cannot happen without additional funding, people and time. 

There has obviously been a heck of a lot of work done by everyone involved. It would be a shame for it not to be realised in any format by rigidly sticking to 'it must have thus or that'. 

Finally, the ideal X16's success would still depend upon David as its ambassador and the leverage of the subscriber base. Let's face it, I'm guessing most people landed here because of the YouTube channel and degrading that content because you were too dogmatic (and plain worn out), would not be something even the staunchest X16 supporter would advise. 

 

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On 10/23/2021 at 8:32 AM, Jaan said:

Predominately my idea around the topic was to have an economical discussion around project vs. product and why they aren't necessarily aligned. 

If, for example, I'm wanting to build my dream whatever, I'm working largely without factoring costs like my time, parts, tools, etc. It's MY project. It has intrinsic value in that sense. Maybe some folks will be interested and I can share the process and I get a kick out of that too. Then someone says: "Hey, you could sell these"..... 

This brings me to the X16. There seems to be a disconnect between the project vision and what is realistically a saleable product that can give a return (or at least breakeven). This product format seemed to be promoted often by Veryfrantic (case, manual, keyboard, etc.) leading one to believe the result would be akin to unboxing a C64. Clearly, when measured agaist the limited amount of resources available, this cannot happen without additional funding, people and time.

Note that we don't have any back-and-forth on the discussions of the design team, so throwing all the blame for some aspect of the project on the shoulders of any one current or previous team member would be unwarranted. And we generally don't make up unflattering nicknames to apply to fellow forum members.

The way that crowdfunding works, if you get the right budget, is that if you don't hit break-even, you don't go ahead. That doesn't eliminate the "chicken and the egg" situation that you need a product that can hit the volume it needs to get the scale economies it needs for the price point that lets it sell at that volume ... but it does allow you to test whether you can do that without the big financial risk of doing it with traditional entrepreneurial finance.

However, Dave has clearly opted against an "early" crowdfund. In the event, between the hangups of a project with a handful of people volunteering spare time, and the post Covid-19 logistical crisis, that cautious approach seems like it avoided what would have been a major amount of negative controversy.

At this point, the plan for an X16p case (the Micro-ATX one) has been scratched. This is the one where hitting the required scale economies are the most dubious, since built versions would have to be hand built/soldered, limiting the size of the built tier that a crowdfund could offer, and the people who would like to build their own "DIY" board likely include a lot of people who would also like to put it in their own case.

So while the "unboxing C64" experience system plausibly might go ahead, it won't be the X16p. So if it is done, it would be with a crowdfund campaign for the X16c, the "cost reduced" version to be designed with primarily surface mount parts which could be produced in larger batches with automated part placement & solder ovens. The success or failure of the X16 project as a whole wouldn't hinge on that crowdfund campaign, as it presumes that the X16p has successfully launched in one form or another.

 

On 10/23/2021 at 8:32 AM, Jaan said:

There has obviously been a heck of a lot of work done by everyone involved. It would be a shame for it not to be realised in any format by rigidly sticking to 'it must have thus or that'. 

Finally, the ideal X16's success would still depend upon David as its ambassador and the leverage of the subscriber base. Let's face it, I'm guessing most people landed here because of the YouTube channel and degrading that content because you were too dogmatic (and plain worn out), would not be something even the staunchest X16 supporter would advise.

If they had stuck rigidly to the original vision statement, the project would have stalled years ago on the lack of a new ASIC video chip with the desired properties. They've changed processors, they've changed memory map, they've changed the power-up circuit to bring it up to spec for Micro-ATX power supplies, they dropped the 65xx family UART when they found out it had a hardware bug, then put the serial on Vera, then dropped the serial from Vera again when they decided the original eight-byte register control space was too much of a bottleneck and they needed two more pins to have a 32-byte register control space. They had the windowing controlled by VIA ports, then shifted to blind latches memory mapped to $0000/$0001. A case was designed for the Micro-ATX version of the X16 system, and then dropped (possibly for the reasons given above, but that is just speculation).

Since they clearly haven't been "rigidly sticking" to any "dogma", there doesn't seem to be any basis for this concern.

Edited by BruceMcF
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Hi, forum newbie here.
I actually found the x16 by searching for a way to get back into 16 bit programming without going dumpster diving.

I am also a big fan of the 8-Bit Guy channel, but it was a happy surprise to me to learn he is attached to the project.

I registered to pop in and say hi, because I know these efforts can feel lonely when most people are lurking rather than participating.

I will certainly  buy a copy of the X16 when it becomes available, and I understand that could take decades. 

In the meantime I hugely appreciate the excellent emulator.

- Ed

 

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On 10/24/2021 at 8:36 AM, EdTheDev said:

... the X16 when it becomes available, and I understand that could take decades.

too....

terrible....

to....

imagine!

I think this will eventually find its way into reality, and sooner than that. The communitys' activity levels have died down in recent months - I think precisely due to lack of hype from the source, but there are still some of us out there doing things with the emulator(s) and making Commander X16-related content. I suspect that excitement will build again whenever Kevin makes a new video showing that Proto3 works, whenever M. Steil presses the "R39 GO!" button on Github, or if Dave were to make some more content spotlighting the system.

I still think Dave would keep hype rolling and encourage more programs for the system if he were to have a weekly or monthly mini-feature where he spotlights a "cool app of the {week|month} video" - It sure would make someone's day to see "the creator" give them kudos before an audience of hundreds of thousands. (not all 1M subs watch everything, you know). That would be fairly low-effort content on his part, with high return in hype / community enthusiasm.

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I think it's a valid question from the perspective of the average human being, because from a casual perspective it really does seem like a dead project. One must dig pretty deep into the "who does what and where they're at" details to understand that a handful of people are indeed "doing stuff" at the pace in which it can be done (by them). As @ZeroByte says, a consistent and more frequent status and content update would go a long way towards demystifying the progress, but like the rest of us, David is likely quite busy as it is.

I do personally wonder if David et al. have lost their enthusiasm for the project. This has definitely happened to me - I had planned on finishing RocketTux four years ago, but I just cant seem to bring myself to work on it for some reason. When I do sit down, most times my eyes glaze over and I just don't care. No idea why! It's a project entirely of my own design, made entirely for my own amusement, and I like the tools and workflow, so you'd think I would be excited to work on it, but I'm not... Anyway, stuff happens. I get that. It's so strange being a being.

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I can't speak for them but in my own experience, I find that the second half of projects feel much more tedious than the beginning does.

This is probably because early progress is exciting. Hey, look, It WORKS! Then it FEELS like you're on the home stretch (90%) when you're REALLY only half way there. Debugging, troubleshooting, testing, etc, to say nothing of generating more data (in the case of adding stages / enemies / items / moves to a game).

No more HEY IT'S WORKING moments. Lots of effort is spent that definitely improves things, but it may look no different on the surface. It starts to become more like completing a task list than doing something exciting.

 

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There is a saying that the first 90% of a project takes 10% of the time, and the last 10% takes 90% of the time.

Others say the first 90% takes 90% of the time, and the last 10% also takes 90% of the time. I think that is more true during a pandemic when the supply chain has been interrupted to the extent it has been. That is further exacerbated by the fact that the people working on the project are doing it in their spare time, donating what time they can in anticipation of either being reimbursed later or just because they want to be involved with a cool project.

Our families need food, clothing, and shelter, so sometimes that means that progress is not as fast as we'd like. Commander is not Commodore: They do not have the resources of full time personnel, a dedicated chip fab, and so on.

Everyone has to determine for themselves if they want to keep waiting, of course, or move on. I think it'll be released eventually. In the meantime, my family isn't suffering from my inability to get an X16, so in the grand scheme of problems, it's a good problem to have.

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There are only two issues preventing the product from being released right now.  One is the keyboard problem, which is being worked on.  Even the official X16 keyboard doesn't work with the system.  Lots of PS/2 keyboards just don't work, or only work at certain CPU speeds.  We have decided to move the keyboard to a microcontroller. It's not a new part to the computer, we already had a microcontroller handling the power management of the system.  So we're just giving it one extra function to handle, which is the PS/2 input.   The data can then be read by the CPU through I2C.

The second problem is the lack of components.  For example, the FPGA that we were using for the video chip is now unavailable due to chip shortages.  The soonest any distributer has said they can get any supply is March of 2022.   Most are saying November 2022.  And it's not just that chip, there are 3 others with similar problems.

Crowdfunding is also a problem because at this point it is almost impossible to estimate what the parts will cost when they are available.  So it's really hard to set a price for a product when you can't get pricing info for the parts.  

So the short of the story is, the project isn't dead.  But it also isn't going to be released any time soon.  

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Great to see some insightful input. Obviously the title was provocative for a reason so please excuse my forum skills as I'm out of practice.

I work in R&D and NPD (New Product Development) - have done for 28 years mainly in the UK , India and Australia. I started my own company 7 years ago and consult to my previous clients but also to many everyday people just trying to realise an idea. I'm stating this only to give some context as I am not a software or hardware developer (had to look up what FPGA actually was). I am however a supporter of David's channel and this project.

This kind of timeline is very common, even without supply chain hiccups. Again, all the best to the team and fingers crossed they get a break in the near future.

 

 

 

 

 

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Glad to hear it is full speed ahead. Luckily the project I'm working on has no supply shortages except PCB companies who will make a PCB from an image file. The Z80 CPU, latches, and generic memory chips and counters are pretty much the only things used. If there was a PCB company who'd come to the party, we could prototype the SVGA output from this wizardry. The X16 is as good for games, but when the coming zombie apocalypse disrupts supply chains, look out ! Real chips like the Z80 will be the only thing to power the 150 foot high Mobile suit Gundams required to repel the raging hordes, if my calculations prove correct.

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