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SOC ideas for retro laptop


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With 3D computers with memory stacked on top of chips and SOCs it should be reasonable to make a small form factor micro computer with graphics, sound and memory management and microprocessor all on one chip with support for ssd,, ram expansion, and external device inputs and out puts. USBs, and SD card readers are standard in most devices. I wonder if a SOC will be used for portable computers that are easy to program while being versatile and multipurpose with long battery life. Though this may exist in cell phones but tends to be ARM. Sorry for editing this as I think I posted something like it before. But an soc with a 65C02, 128Kb cashe, have both: a mappable window into REU RAM, as well as a DMA controller to quickly move data around the system, with video output, 40 sprites, blitter, 8 voices sound, support for USB mouse, keyboard, controllers and usb drives and sd card management and ect may be asking too much from a system on a chip with added dynamic composite color for 512 colors at 80 lines. And add NTSC and PAL support. Add a dynamic rom system for a quick boot into a small os or GEOS bread box with expansion with all apps for office apps, web and ect. All in a net book format with floppy, SD card slow and usb 3 or usb C and 10 hour battery with back lit lCD using high efficiency white leds. Supporting up to 720p and sub graphic modes. Refresh rate at 60hz. One idea may be to use a color management system  that works like a mmu for colors to display all 512 colors at once on screen on a full page display.  Yes I am being insane sorry I have not been felling well and I get like this sometimes.

Edited by Travis Bryant moore
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Well, my idea might not be retro enough, but it would basically be a DE-10 Nano FPGA Board, with a few other boards (SDRAM or QDR SRAM, various retro port headers, possibly an onboard scan multiplier with options for letterboxing, as the monitor resolution is 2256x1504) attached via ribbon cables, stuffed into a Framework laptop chassis, with a whole bunch of interface cards (and dongles, for ports and jacks too wide to fit onto a Framework interface card).  That way, the computer can be as retro as you're willing to make the FPGA softcore for it, or you can look to the MISTer FPGA project to ask yourself what if a specific company could (and did) develop a fully software compatible laptop version of the machine of your youth.

But that's just my idea.  YMMV.

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I would love to see a portable version of retro computers. We *sort of* have it with emulation on laptops / tablets, but obviously that's not the best. I don't even really care if it fit into a nice tiny notebook package. I think something between a laptop/notebook form factor and the SX64 luggable form factor could be done. Much lighter and smaller than the SX64, but not quite as small as a laptop.

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On 3/18/2022 at 9:42 PM, Scott Robison said:

I would love to see a portable version of retro computers. We *sort of* have it with emulation on laptops / tablets, but obviously that's not the best. I don't even really care if it fit into a nice tiny notebook package. I think something between a laptop/notebook form factor and the SX64 luggable form factor could be done. Much lighter and smaller than the SX64, but not quite as small as a laptop.

Yes, the original "clamshell" laptop form factor would be allow a lot more elbow room than a modern thin laptop. The Grid Compass from 1982 gives a notion of what might be done.

 

GRiD_Compass_1101.jpg

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There really is no 32 bit version of 6502. The ARM chip was inspired by the 6502 so that is probably the closest thing we have to a 32 bit (or greater) 6502 today.

There were a couple of preliminary / proposed datasheets for a 65C832, which would have further evolved the 65C816 from 16 bits internally to 32 bits, but it was never manufactured.

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On 3/19/2022 at 10:27 PM, Scott Robison said:

There really is no 32 bit version of 6502. The ARM chip was inspired by the 6502 so that is probably the closest thing we have to a 32 bit (or greater) 6502 today.

There were a couple of preliminary / proposed datasheets for a 65C832, which would have further evolved the 65C816 from 16 bits internally to 32 bits, but it was never manufactured.

Link was bogus huh?

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On 3/19/2022 at 8:36 PM, Travis Bryant moore said:

Link was bogus huh?

It looks like some unofficial 32 bit 6502. I have never seen it used so I have no idea how it would work, and I can't find any freely available information about it beyond "it exists". It looks like a commercial product, so I suspect they'd want a hefty up front payment plus per copy royalties if one were to try to use it, but without confirming that with them it is just guess work.

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On 3/19/2022 at 10:22 PM, Travis Bryant moore said:

What if there was a retro laptop that used a 32 bit version of the improved 65C02 with flash memory, more ram, 64k cashe?? Though this may have already been made for some palm computers. http://vlsi-concepts.com/v65C32.html

A retro laptop based on the on-the-market W65816 seems more like it. 16MB address space is plenty of space for flash memory, more RAM, etc. The 14MHz rating is a bit conservative ... while the C64 accelerator cartridge running at 20MHz was a bit bleeding edge of the clock range of the chip, 16MHz seems like it would be a comfortable speed.

And if 16MHz is just not fast enough, they have a soft core as well, and while I am not a hardware hand, I wouldn't be surprised if you could push that up to 50MHz on an FPGA with enough logic to support it ... and be able to add an on-chip 64KB or higher "cache" able to run at the 50MHz speed as part of the bargain.

Seems a bit more straightforward than buying a not-wide-used VHDL design

Edited by BruceMcF
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On 3/20/2022 at 7:02 AM, BruceMcF said:

I wouldn't be surprised if you could push that up to 50MHz on an FPGA with enough logic to support it ... and be able to add an on-chip 64KB or higher "cache" able to run at the 50MHz speed as part of the bargain.

Gideon managed to get the Ultimate 64 to run at 48MHz. So that's the bar right now. 😃

I'm not sure exactly how he interfaces the 48MHz CPU with the 1MHz I/O bus (since the CIAs and cartridge port have to run at 1MHz), but I suspect he slows the clock down to 1MHz whenever the CPU is accessing the I/O space and then punches it back up to 48MHz after it's done.

 

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Posted (edited)

I Kind of wish the 65816(W65C265S )? that could address 16mb ram was made into a laptop. A modern 16 bit GEOS and dos 3.1. Though would something like a 486GX be needed for dos and add the amiga aga? And do do commodore and amiga things as well maybe. Duel processors maybe working for different task and io and peripherals, monitor out, usb, and or serial, keyboard mouse and floppy and SD card for hd.  And maybe maximite 2 basic programming Sizes, C and petscii or ascii and all the programming stuff from both? Though making an soc with AGA all on one chip could that even be done with dma? 3.6864mhz 65816 16mb 45mhz max sram 486gx 33mhz a color lcd screen? Integrated speakers key board track pad. sd usb hdmi, other? https://www.amazon.com/Qahesnv-Controller-HJ080IA-01E-EJ080NA-04C-HE080IDW1/dp/B09TNWMYCX/ref=sr_1_74?crid=YG3FM4NMGJ06&keywords=lcd+13"+driver+board&qid=1648246287&s=electronics&sprefix=lcd+13+driver+board%2Celectronics%2C101&sr=1-74

Edited by Travis Bryant moore
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Personally, I would like an SoC for an DOS/Win 3.1 era 80486 machine. The ability to run a full 90's era DOS PC in nice tiny package.

  • CPU: Maybe a DX chip, 66MHz or better.
  • Audio: Sound Blaster or Awe 64 sound, or something 100% compatible.
  • Video: 3DFX Voodoo, ATI Rage, or Nvidia Riva, they were all good IMHO.

The 90's era DOS years don't seem to get a lot of love, and while the 80's 8-bit era is my favorite, I truly loved my 90's era systems. Computers got to the point they could be easily upgraded by the end user. I really enjoyed using DOS and Windows 3.1. To have a small laptop or Maximite sized full 80486 machine sitting on my desk would be awesome.

🙂

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On 3/31/2022 at 2:01 PM, Cyber said:

I have seriously looked at that many times, and once things "calm down", I very well may look into putting one together. It's, by far, the closest thing to what I would want currently available. Heck, I was highly impressed by his original Wee86. 😁

@BruceMcF I would love to put that in a custom clamshell, would be pretty easy. Considering I now own an Ender 3, if I go down  that road, it's a real possibility.

Edited by Strider
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On 3/25/2022 at 1:33 PM, Strider said:

Personally, I would like an SoC for an DOS/Win 3.1 era 80486 machine. The ability to run a full 90's era DOS PC in nice tiny package.

  • CPU: Maybe a DX chip, 66MHz or better.
  • Audio: Sound Blaster or Awe 64 sound, or something 100% compatible.
  • Video: 3DFX Voodoo, ATI Rage, or Nvidia Riva, they were all good IMHO.

The 90's era DOS years don't seem to get a lot of love, and while the 80's 8-bit era is my favorite, I truly loved my 90's era systems. Computers got to the point they could be easily upgraded by the end user. I really enjoyed using DOS and Windows 3.1. To have a small laptop or Maximite sized full 80486 machine sitting on my desk would be awesome.

🙂

I'm right there with ya man! Ideally I'd like a 386DX at 40MHz (AMD variant), but a 486SX 25MHz or 486DX 33MHz would do - Intentionally not too fast. 4MB RAM, VGA video, sound card, DOS/Windows 3.11. I'd use it for QBasic 1.1 / QuickBasic 4.5 (DOS) and Visual Basic 6.0 programming for poops and giggles.

That said, I already do QBasic stuff on a small laptop (Lenovo Ideapad 100e 81CY Educational "Winbook", Intel Celeron N3450) using DOSBox running in Windows 10. When full screen it's actually really convincing. My wife's work issued her the next generation in the Thinkpad educational chassis, which has the real Thinkpad keyboard, but is otherwise exactly the same as the other Intel Celeron N4100 based Chromebooks/Winbooks. Here's a visual comparison, 

laptops.thumb.jpg.05f6b8335be9e160055b905e09830874.jpg

Neither look very 1990's, but they do have the early 2000's vibe. They're definitely thin and very light compared to even mid 2000's laptops! Fortunately, the keyboards are full sized.

For DOS, these are probably as close to ideal as we're going to get. Obviously it would be better to run DOS software on real hardware, but I don't think it's really feasible to design and build a custom 486 without OEM support. Maybe something could be done using a PC/104 board, but it would be thick and would require a custom graphics solution to work with a modern LCD.

For a custom 8 bit laptop, your best bet would be to use a Raspberry Pi Zero with a compatible 10" LCD as a video card and keyboard interface, and use its GPIO pins or other connectivity to communicate with a custom 8 bit computer board. You could source new replacement keyboards for an older laptop, such as a Dell Inspiron, and reverse engineer its keyboard matrix to connect it to a Teensy style microcontroller which would then be connected to the Pi0 via USB and the 8 bit computer via serial connection. A joystick could be connected directly the 8 bit computer. Some OEM laptop battery could be used with an off the shelf lithium battery charging circuit (it doesn't need to be those giant 18650 cells). And a chassis to fit that exact stuff could be made out of whatever is handy. This would be a lot of work, but I think it's within the bounds of reason to accomplish, especially if you use one of the many existing 8 or 16 hobby computer designs.

That said, the retail cost of a single prototype would be around $500-700 in parts, materials, shipping, and taxes. By comparison, the Lenovo Ideapad 100e cost me $260 CAD and I've seen their equivalent on sale in the USA for $180 USD. As such, it makes a lot more financial and practical sense to use one of these cheap, small, brand spanking new, computers with Windows to emulate older machines. Sure the specs of these laptops are terrible by modern standards, but they can emulate every 8 and 16 bit computer and game console, while also being able to play Minecraft, browse the web, watch YouTube, and do your taxes - on battery for 8+ hours no less.

As a retail product, I would spend $150 USD ($200ish CAD) on a custom 8 bit laptop that was designed for programming games and applications on the machine, for the machine. That would be a fun toy and a neat hobby to share with like minded people (akin to the Pico-8 fantasy console). Any more than that and I'd rather carry on using what I already have, from a Pi0W, Arduino UNO, and Pentium 233MMX desktop to my modern PC/laptop running emulators, because they're fun too! 🙂

Any of the laptop OEMs could knock this out of the park for a retail price $50 USD, using a real 8 bit CPU, etc. and a cheap LCD/keyboard/chassis/battery. Sadly, the five of us aren't really a viable market. 😄

Edited by Tatwi
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On a similar, but different note...

What I REALLY WANT is an 8 bit handheld in the (+ [__] - -) form factor that can plug into a PS/2 keyboard and an SVGA screen (using a custom dongle with a small plug). This way the handheld is both the computer that makes the games and the portable console which plays the games. Again, something akin to the Pico-8 fantasy console, but as a handheld device. That would be epic and something kids might actually enjoy, especially if there was an official website where they download/upload games (either by micro SD or a built in Wifi browser).

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 4/3/2022 at 1:35 AM, Tatwi said:

What I REALLY WANT is an 8 bit handheld in the (+ [__] - -) form factor that can plug into a PS/2 keyboard and an SVGA screen (using a custom dongle with a small plug). This way the handheld is both the computer that makes the games and the portable console which plays the games.

Oh, yes.  I really like the 3DS form factor, and I often wish there were good ways to do more with it than play games.  Having a 3DS-form factor device that is also a viable productivity tool is a kind of pipe dream for me.  I don't even know how you'd accomplish that.

I got into SmileBASIC for a while - a BASIC you and code and run directly on the 3DS - but in the end, typing away with the stylus on that tiny on-screen keyboard was just a drag.  (There's a version for Switch now; I wonder how that is.)

Alas, no USB-to-3DS adapter ever materialized (not even sure what port such a thing would plug into).  There was a peripheral keyboard for the DS that went into slot 2 (the legacy game cart slot), but it only worked with the typing tutor game it came with, and of course slot 2 was removed on DSi models and later, long before SmileBASIC was released.  You were so close, Nintendo!

@Tatwi's idea to have the handheld hook right up to a keyboard and screen for development is great.  I'd settle even for just a keyboard.

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