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m00dawg

Beagle V (RISC-V Linux SBC)

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I saw this on Ars Technica this morning: https://beaglev.seeed.cc/

Looks pretty cool! I think in the Retro/Baremetal/Learning/Assembly computing space (ala X16), RISC-V could eventually be a really interesting solution given it was originally intended to be for educational use (and the assembly, though I haven't programmed in it directly, does seem easier to understand compared to x86 for sure). I'm not aware of a through hole DIP package for RISC-V yet but really excited to see how this thing matures. From uC's all the way up to servers, it could really shake up the market (and already is in some ways given both Seagate and WDC are making drive controllers using RISC-V)

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For a long time I was kinda "the guy" covering the Google Lunar XPrize (now defunct). The Part Time Scientists team (now Planetary Transportation Systems) first moon rover prototypes used the original BeagleBoard. They actually gifted one of those rovers to me and I still have it. The boards themselves by the Beagle project are excellent and have been sorta overshadowed by Raspberry Pi. 

Looks like a great development for sure. Looking forward to getting one.

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Wow that's awesome Yeah I really like RISC-V and likewise the BeagleBone itself was more "open" than, say, the Pi's. Ideally I want to see more standard form factors too (with PCIe and such) though that's already coming as well (just at a fairly high price currently).

For bare-metal direct hardware computing (we need another single word term than "Retro" methinks to encompass these types of computers...), RISC-V is maybe a bit over the top given it has no 8-bit support (and I'm not sure the ISA could really be modified to work in 8-bits anyway) though does have an embedded 16-bit ISA which might work well for a sort of 16-bit era style computer.

Lately I've really started to see the beauty in 8-bit for having elegant and compact code. Though I think RISC-V is approchable enough it's worth a look (maybe in a Commander X32? 😉 sometime a little further down the road)

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On 1/13/2021 at 10:18 AM, m00dawg said:

Lately I've really started to see the beauty in 8-bit for having elegant and compact code. Though I think RISC-V is approchable enough it's worth a look (maybe in a Commander X32? 😉 sometime a little further down the road)

To be honest, an 8-bit like the 6502 is not at all about compact code, perhaps not even elegant. You will get much nicer instruction set if you move to the MSP430 or 68000. Even something like the RISC-V may be considered elegant compared to the 6502.

An interesting approach would be to join something like Vera with a nice 16 or 32-bit based instruction set CPU. However, you would have to start from scratch with the "operating system" and the group of people interested in a 6502 computer would have to learn a new ISA, and somehow I think you would lose most of the audience along the road.

I am not saying it is a bad idea. If the X16 is successful, it may make sense to produce a follow up going to a more modern ISA. It could have the same chipset (more or less). If people avoid 6502 assembly as an implementation language (there are BASIC, C, Forth etc), some software may be possible to migrate with reasonable effort.

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I should perhaps say I find 6502 elegant in its simplicity and I really like the whole zero page thing. I'm not familiar with any other ISA that has that concept (though I'd imagine they are out there). I haven't tried 68k programming though (or MSP430 for that matter) so yep could be a good point. I do find 6502 really approachable though.

A "from scratch" CPU to mate with the VERA is a really interesting concept! Though given RISC-V is an open ISA, that does make that a compelling option as well perhaps.

Bigger scope I think there's a sort of gap in the market if you will, and is one reason why I don't like the "Retro" term to be overused. The Arduino ecosystem is great, but it's not like you have an OS or a display or any common components of a normal computer in front of you. So it's "bare bones" but not a desktop computer. By contrast, modern computers have a complicated and fully baked OS on them and tons of hardware abstraction (EFI and what have you).

Basically I don't see "Bare Metal Desktop" and "Retro" as inherently meaning the same things. To me X16 is a modern 8-bit bare metal desktop programming/learning/gaming computer thing. I'm not sure what markety term to give it other than "Retro" but I kinda think Retro is almost unfair to projects like the X16.

Point is, yep a 16-bit (or more?) barebone-baremetal desktop solution would be neat. I guess at some point the architectures get so complicated that it really crosses over into having a more modern OS, development environment, etc. But those don't as easily teach you fundamentals I think and tend to be always-on-Internet connected. And even if they aren't, I mean, Good Lord, Windows is the best operating system at breaking my concentration with it's useless popups. I feel like I can't ever get any work done on it 😛

Anyways it's a ramble here haha - I guess the takeaway is that RISC-V could be a nice fit for an X16-like computer down the road. Coupled with VERA, that could be really awesome! First things first though, I guess, and that's getting the X16 off the ground.

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