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MEGA65 Release


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I'm one of the brave / foolish people (depending on your point of view) who decided to "pre-order" the MEGA65 (at $847.02 incl s/h; the website lists a higher price, but that's what I was charged). The pre-order window opened on 30 Sep for an estimated ship date of 28 Dec for the first batch. That means that shipping is one month away as of this writing.

Note that you can create your own MEGA65 style system for less using the same FPGA board they used for development. Nexys A7 is available for $265 through DigiKey, and there is an optional extra "widget board" that can be purchased (I don't know the details) to make more of the actual ports available. I've configured a compatible board and it works like a MEGA65, just with less beefy FPGA. The most difficult part will be the keyboard. Some USB keyboards won't work depending on how advanced they are, you'll want a relatively simple USB keyboard, though my Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 works with it. Regardless, you'll have the same problem with these keyboards as emulators do: keys aren't labelled / in the right place, so you'll have to spend time figuring that out).

In any case, I've been following along on their Discord server for a month or two now. The hardware is "done" by every indication, but the team is still busy working out the release FPGA, ROM, and included software. Given the deadlines necessary to make sure the hardware can ship on time (as it will take time to flash the hardware and copy SD cards) I strongly strongly suspect that the "final final" release of bitstreams and ROMs and software (oh my) will not be for a while yet, but that the hardware is all field upgradable based on the FPGA architecture so that's not as bad as it might sound.

They shipped 100 devkits last year, I think it was. This first release will include 400 machines to be shipped around 28 Dec. That batch has sold out. There are 1000 more that are planned to be shipped in 2022, and ordering is still open for that batch.

I've copied and pasted the key features below in case you don't know / don't want to go find it yourself.

From https://shop.trenz-electronic.de/en/TE0765-03-S001-MEGA65-highly-advanced-C64-and-C65-compatible-8-bit-computer?c=564 ...

Key Features

General

  • Extremely fast and feature complete 8-bit home computer
  • 3-FPGA-design with no closed-source ARM™ cores inside
  • Completely Open Source and under continuous development
  • Under development by dozens of ingenious nerds and M-E-G-A e.V. (non-profit organisation) since 2014
  • Commodore™ 65-based architecture, highly Commodore™ 64 (wip) and 65 compatible
  • AMIGA™, ATARI™ ST and other cores being developed or ported, or make your own core
  • Use internal 3.5” floppy disk drive, SDHC™ cards und external disk drives, all at the same time
  • Use many Commodore™ 64 cartridges with internal expansion slot
  • Commodore™ 64 compatibility enhanced compared to original Commodore™ 65

Hardware

  • Powerful Xilinx™ Artix A7 200T FPGA for main integrated circuit, additional MAX™ 10 FPGA for recovery
  • Incredibly high quality cherryMX™ based retro keyboard with metal frame
  • Double shot keycaps that will last forever
  • Professional moulded C65-style plastic case with support for additional ports and other modifications
  • Modern features like 100 MBit fast LAN, dual SDHC™ card slots, digital video and more
  • Awesome chiptune potential: 4 SIDs, OPL2™ (wip), 4-channel 16-bit DMA-based Audio in FPGA
  • Keyboard FPGA allows for easy control and reconfiguration to individual needs
  • 40 MHz 8-bit CPU, 384 KB fast RAM, 8 MB serial RAM (wip)
  • VIC-IV video controller with VGA™ and digital video connectors
  • Digital and analog video output usable at the same time
  • 3.5 mm 4-pin stereo audio socket. Audio is also sent on the digital video connector
  • Internal Pmod™ connectors for additional expansions like Tape, Userport, extra memory or real SIDs
  • JTAG™/FTDI™ programmer port for quick testing + flashing of bitstreams, debugging and coding
  • Supports real 1541, 1571, 1581 Commodore™ drives via IEC Port
  • Battery-backed real-time-clock (battery CR1220 not included)
  • Keyboard fits original Commodore™ 65 case

Software

  • Several great classic games pre-installed
  • Bundled with highly specialized and enhanced GEOS™ version (wip)
  • Built-in freezer menu with countless save slots (depending on SDHC™ card size)
  • Win, Mac and Linux tool chains and emulators for coding and sending files (PRG, SID, …)
  • Multiple D81 disk image support also supporting AutoBoot
  • Includes licensed Commodore™ 65 ROM
  • Community ported Gameboy Color and ZX Uno Core are available.
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On 11/28/2021 at 10:38 AM, Yazwho said:

I missed the first round, so mine is arrived in March I think. Looking forward to playing with it!

I got lucky. I'd gone to bed the night it kicked off. Couldn't sleep, got up, checked my email and received the notice it was open. The part about 0 available was confusing to me but I pushed through and ordered anyway and got in on the first 400.

I don't know if there will ever be more than these 1500 (100 dev kits, 400 first batch, 1000 second batch).

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I pulled the trigger too but was also late so will be in the next year's batch. I am just starting to look into it more deeply though and haven't had much time with emulator so far but looking forward to it and hopefully have it side by side with Commander X16 and write some software for both platforms.

 

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I think the logical thing to do, perhaps, is to produce a cheap version. Apart from labour , which is technically mostly free, most of the cost is the extra stuff to make it look like a CBM machine (which some people want, which is fine). This has a counterpart in the X16 ; there are some people who want the full kit/case experience and some who just want hardware that does what it says on the tin and aren't particlarly bothered whether it's a real 65C02 or an equivalent FPGA.

But if you just want the hardware you can do it for a quarter of the price (it runs on a standard Digilent board). You don't have the keyboard, floppy, case and those sort of things, but it's the same hardware save for the floppy drive. I think most of the development work was done on it. I even have a little 3D printed box for mine.

You could produce a cheap Mega65 as just a board, FPGA, Memory and a few other odds and sods quite cheaply I would think.

Edited by paulscottrobson
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On 11/30/2021 at 1:15 AM, paulscottrobson said:

I think the logical thing to do, perhaps, is to produce a cheap version. Apart from labour , which is technically mostly free, most of the cost is the extra stuff to make it look like a CBM machine (which some people want, which is fine). This has a counterpart in the X16 ; there are some people who want the full kit/case experience and some who just want hardware that does what it says on the tin and aren't particlarly bothered whether it's a real 65C02 or an equivalent FPGA.

But if you just want the hardware you can do it for a quarter of the price (it runs on a standard Digilent board). You don't have the keyboard, floppy, case and those sort of things, but it's the same hardware save for the floppy drive. I think most of the development work was done on it. I even have a little 3D printed box for mine.

You could produce a cheap Mega65 as just a board, FPGA, Memory and a few other odds and sods quite cheaply I would think.

Yes. The keyboard handling would need to be different, I think, or people would need stickers to put on their keyboard to know what keys are where. And you wouldn't have the same collection of ports on the side / back in addition to lacking the physical drive. There is other hardware missing too, but probably not anything most people would miss (extra FPGA / CPLD).

It would be nice for there to be an official MEGA65 Jr, and I appreciate why the price of the C65 recreation is off-putting.

 

Edited by Scott Robison
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  • 2 weeks later...

I really like the MEGA65, both for it's recreation of the C65 and as an open FPGA platform, but I do question some design decisions, such as:

 

Why include a floppy drive in 202x?

Why have the joystick ports at the side and not at the back?

Why no USB or PS/2 ports for a mouse or cheap gamepad?

 

I still want one though!

Edited by Ffin72
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On 12/13/2021 at 4:31 PM, Ffin72 said:

I really like the MEGA65, both for it's recreation of the C65 and as an open FPGA platform, but I do question some design decisions, such as:

 

Why include a floppy drive in 202x?

Why have the joystick ports at the side and not at the back?

Why no USB or PS/2 ports for a mouse or cheap gamepad?

 

I still want one though!

I think the answers to questions 1 & 2 (and probably 3) are "because the C65 did it that way". They have allowed for ethernet, "IMDH", and VGA connectors, though.

Edit; Oh, and sdcards.

Edited by Scott Robison
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On 12/11/2021 at 2:48 PM, paulscottrobson said:

Surprised. I could understand parts - there are general problems, but cardboard ? Why not send the box later 🙂

Probably the fancy and perfectly die cut printed box; creased to fit whatever foam inserts (also custom) will help the device survive the rigors of Kris Kringle.

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On 12/13/2021 at 11:31 PM, Ffin72 said:

Why include a floppy drive in 202x?

Why have the joystick ports at the side and not at the back?

Why no USB or PS/2 ports for a mouse or cheap gamepad?

That's how they wanted it. The Mega65 is meant to actually be an extended Commodore 65 in all areas. So you have the built in keyboard, floppy and ports round the back and joystick ports on the side, which I think is how other CBM machines are.

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Personally, I have no problem with including a 3.5" floppy drive on a project that is meant to be a speculative recreation of an unreleased piece of computer hardware from the mid 1990s.

 

That said, In my Hibana Series I concept, I would have also included a Sabrent All-in-one flash card reader, assuming there was a way I could hack an OS interface to it.

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... also, some amount of retro is the 'nostalgia' of sights, sounds, and occasionally, burnt/blown electrolytic capacitors.  And there is nothing more nostalgic (with the possible exception of a 300 or 1200 baud Hayes Smartmodem connection sounds) than the tick/tocking of a floppy drive.  As an Apple II person, I've contemplated buying this.  @ $18, worth every penny.

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On 12/14/2021 at 10:54 AM, Kalvan said:

Personally, I have no problem with including a 3.5" floppy drive on a project that is meant to be a speculative recreation of an unreleased piece of computer hardware from the mid 1990s.

And in the case of the C65 in particular, the floppy drive was a major part of the computer's physical identity; The 3.5" drive was so front and (off-)center that it may have been strange leave it out of the Mega65's design. I think it's nifty that they sourced refurbished drives - may as well put them to use.

Being more of a 90s computer user, I am partial to the tactile and audible experience of using the 3.5" floppy disk and drive... My old Core2 Quad and Pentium MMX desktops have them (and 100MB internal Zip drives) for that very reason. Sometimes I just like clunking one in and giving a read...

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On 11/28/2021 at 6:20 PM, Scott Robison said:

Note that you can create your own MEGA65 style system for less using the same FPGA board they used for development. Nexys A7 is available for $265 through DigiKey, and there is an optional extra "widget board" that can be purchased (I don't know the details) to make more of the actual ports available.

Hardware

  • Powerful Xilinx™ Artix A7 200T FPGA for main integrated circuit, additional MAX™ 10 FPGA for recovery

I understand that Artix A7 is much more powerful than the MiSTer Intel/Terasic DE10-Nano, but how many times? 5x more?

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On 12/19/2021 at 6:48 AM, martinot said:

I understand that Artix A7 is much more powerful than the MiSTer Intel/Terasic DE10-Nano, but how many times? 5x more?

I am not an expert, but in many ways it is difficult to quantify. The DE10-Nano includes an ARM CPU and supporting components that can be used to host an operating system such as Linux, plus the FPGA. Looking at just the FPGA part:

Cyclone® V SE 5CSEBA6U23I7 (FPGA specs)
110K Logic Elements
6151K bits memory (768KB)

Xilinx Artix A7 A200T
215K Logic Elements
13455K bits memory (1681KB)

Based on that, it seems that it would be fair to say that the A200T in MEGA65 is twice as powerful as the FPGA in the DE10-Nano. Other aspects of the DE10-Nano are "better" such as the ARM cores built in.

It's a lot like comparing CPUs. One can probably cherry pick some features to demonstrate that CPU A is better than CPU B, but other features might show the opposite to be true. Or comparing anything, really.

The one thing I think it is safe to say is that the A200T can be used for more complicated designs that require more resources, but both FPGA are adequate for many tasks.

It seems clear to me that MiSTer will not be able to implement the MEGA65.

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On 12/14/2021 at 3:54 PM, Kalvan said:

Personally, I have no problem with including a 3.5" floppy drive on a project that is meant to be a speculative recreation of an unreleased piece of computer hardware from the mid 1990s.

I don't think it's speculative, a few do actually exist. All the serials are less than 200 I think, so this is probably a lower and upper bound on the numbers released. Maybe they were development kits ?

Obviously the M65 is way more powerful, but it is (I think) backwards compatible.

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On 12/20/2021 at 5:41 AM, paulscottrobson said:

I don't think it's speculative, a few do actually exist. All the serials are less than 200 I think, so this is probably a lower and upper bound on the numbers released. Maybe they were development kits ?

Obviously the M65 is way more powerful, but it is (I think) backwards compatible.

Yes, there were never more than a handful of them made, and they never got past the prototype stage.

There's also a "Classroom" design that had a DB25 and DA15 port on the back, rather than the usual edge connector ports. It's hard to say if this was intended to be a final design or maybe just a mockup.. Looking at the inside of the rear of the case, you can see marks where the usual array of ports was planned (suggesting to me that this was a "fit and finish" prototype, and the DB-25 and DA-15 are simply passthrough ports for the keyboard matrix and joystick connectors.)

Either way, I'd love to have seen this become a thing, since I'll likely never use a floppy drive again. 

http://6502.org/users/sjgray/computer/c65cc/

 

 

 

 

Edited by TomXP411
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On 12/20/2021 at 12:10 PM, TomXP411 said:

There's also a "Classroom" design that had a DB25 and DA15 port on the back, rather than the usual edge connector ports. It's hard to say if this was intended to be a final design or maybe just a mockup.. Looking at the inside of the rear of the case, you can see marks where the usual array of ports was planned (suggesting to me that this was a "fit and finish" prototype, and the DB-25 and DA-15 are simply passthrough ports for the keyboard matrix and joystick connectors.)

Either way, I'd love to have seen this become a thing, since I'll likely never use a floppy drive again. 

http://6502.org/users/sjgray/computer/c65cc/

We have them now ... sort of. Raspberry Pi. 🙂

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On 12/20/2021 at 1:56 PM, Scott Robison said:

We have them now ... sort of. Raspberry Pi. 🙂

I was talking more about the physical design.. My point was I'd rather the MEGA 65 team had gone with the floppy-less Classroom design than the version with the huge lump on the right side. 

Either way, the MEGA 65 is still out of the picture for a while longer, for me. I need to get my bills paid down, first. 

 

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On 12/20/2021 at 3:39 PM, TomXP411 said:

I was talking more about the physical design.. My point was I'd rather the MEGA 65 team had gone with the floppy-less Classroom design than the version with the huge lump on the right side. 

Either way, the MEGA 65 is still out of the picture for a while longer, for me. I need to get my bills paid down, first. 

Raspberry Pi 400?

I understand. I arguably shouldn't have splurged on the MEGA65. But I did, and I'm not sorry! 🙂

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On 12/20/2021 at 3:02 PM, Scott Robison said:

Raspberry Pi 400?

I understand. I arguably shouldn't have splurged on the MEGA65. But I did, and I'm not sorry! 🙂

I have a 400... it's a poor substitute. For starters, it chokes even on the VICE C64 core, let alone trying to do something like a 20MHz accelerator. There's noticeable tearing running FS-AUI (Amiga emulator) full screen, and the keyboard itself is... well, it's maybe slightly better than my laptop's keyboard, but that's not saying much. I hate my laptop's keyboard enough that I keep a spare compact mechanical keyboard in my laptop bag. 

Maybe I've gotten spoiled, but at this point, I only bother running emulators on a gaming PC or using my MiSTer. 

Edited by TomXP411
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