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Europe (CE-Label, PAL,...)

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Glad to see that a highly desirable community computer is about to be born.
I would like to buy one (or a kit) once its finished.
The big problem is that I'm in Europe (Germany).

That means everything worth more about 25$ that comes from overseas must pass the customs.

Everything electrical must have a CE-label otherwise the customs will either send it back or destroy it.

Are there any thoughts on getting a CE-label?
Basically it is a self declaration of the manufacturer/seller that the item meets all rules that apply in the EU. There are no really ways to circumvent this, but one trick is to find an importer in a EU country. So the end user buys it from there, thus passes no customs.

The next thing is that the video out seems to be NTSC only.
A PAL version would be great, this would let the EU users use their old CRTs.

Are there thoughts on other character sets other than us?

I don't bother about the power supply, that is something one can buy here or DIY.

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I actually had similar thoughts - I'm from Switzerland where the situation sometimes is in other ways complicated. But - for Switzerland a CE label is not required for customs. So at least I could get it in here, although customs and taxes (VAT) will likely cost around 100€ in total. My brother is working at customs - he for sure can help to "optimize" the declaration.

So - if you live not too far from the border... you could pick it up here. Sending a parcel would not work - because of the missing CE label.

I briefly thought about being an importer to provide the CE label, but for this you need to be registered with a so-called "notified body". I'm working in the medical device industry - I know about this stuff. A quick check showed, that this would be impractical, we are talking thousands of € just to get started. Then there is the risk with the German "Fernabgabegesetz" (online purchases), "Produkthaftung" (product liability) and "Gewährleistung" (2 year warranty) one would take to establish a business.

No wonder very few do this...

A second option would be a kit version or a pre-assembled motherboard. I think CE labelling is not required for those as it would be components, not products.

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On 1/19/2021 at 4:11 AM, edrive said:

Are there thoughts on other character sets other than us?

I have heard there are no plans for keyboards other than the US, I would assume for economies of scale reasons.

However, it's a user definable character set with up to 1024 characters, so ISO-8859-1 (Latin1) would be straightforward to support. The legacy PETSCII character set isn't so much "US" as a "Norristown, Pennsylvania, US" character set, but it's not strictly limited to PETSCII.

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Just found this in the faq, what I have overlooked before:
"What we are doing here is highly customizing existing, high quality, already FCC & CE certified products, into a bespoke, unique case/keyboard/mouse package, ..."

Also in the faq is written:
"...aspects of the product that depend on China such as the keyboard, case, and more..."
This means that some if not most parts are coming from China and the Chinese are experts in CE labeling (sic).

Sounds good. That calms down my concerns and lets my excitement rise

@BruceMcF:
I highly understand that there won't be a keyboard layout for every European country.
For my self I can deal with an US layout (unlike with a French layout which drives you crazy). And it is nice to hear that it is at least possible to have user definable characters. On the other hand at least the Euro sign € is a must have.

 

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16 hours ago, edrive said:

@BruceMcF:

I highly understand that there won't be a keyboard layout for every European country.
For my self I can deal with an US layout (unlike with a French layout which drives you crazy). And it is nice to hear that it is at least possible to have user definable characters. On the other hand at least the Euro sign € is a must have.

Good point. ISO8859-15 replaces the general currency symbol at $A4 with the Euro symbol. With $ £ ¥ and € that covers most of the more critical currency symbols.

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On 1/18/2021 at 10:11 PM, edrive said:

 

The next thing is that the video out seems to be NTSC only.
A PAL version would be great, this would let the EU users use their old CRTs.

 

Most late 1980s-onwards PAL TVs have native support for NTSC. If you have one, no need to buy a seperate TV set  just for NTSC.

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On 1/18/2021 at 12:11 PM, edrive said:

The next thing is that the video out seems to be NTSC only.
A PAL version would be great, this would let the EU users use their old CRTs.

The video out is VGA (although there is an optional CVBS output.) VGA is neither PAL nor NTSC... it's just VGA. It's not even XVGA; it's just 640x480 at 60Hz. 

So you should have no problem using it with any VGA monitor. 

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4 hours ago, TomXP411 said:

The video out is VGA (although there is an optional CVBS output.) VGA is neither PAL nor NTSC... it's just VGA. It's not even XVGA; it's just 640x480 at 60Hz. 

So you should have no problem using it with any VGA monitor. 

I was guessing that the desire for PAL was "because retro", not "because the best display quality", which is where @xanthrou's interesting advice comes in (this was news to me, but I haven't lived in PAL land since the early 2000's and didn't have any NTSC video sources when I did - the only issue I ran across was my wife wanting to watch a PAL-SECAM video tape when Oz was a PAL-1 country).

But, yeah, if the idea was NTSC was the ONLY video out ... VGA does seem like the go unless the issue is scratching some particular retro itch.

Edited by BruceMcF

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6 minutes ago, BruceMcF said:

I was guessing that the desire for PAL was "because retro", not "because the best display quality", which is where @xanthrou's interesting advice comes in (this was news to me, but I haven't lived in PAL land since the early 2000's and didn't have any NTSC video sources when I did).

But, yeah, if the idea was NTSC was the ONLY video out ... VGA does seem like the go unless the issue is scratching some particular retro itch.

Some people will undoubtedly try to use the composite output, but it's not going to be readable on a color screen. Even if you turn off the colorburst, text will still be interlaced, and that's awful to look at for more than a few minutes. 

 

Edited by TomXP411

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1 hour ago, TomXP411 said:

Some people will undoubtedly try to use the composite output, but it's not going to be readable on a color screen. Even if you turn off the colorburst, text will still be interlaced, and that's awful to look at for more than a few minutes. 

Aha, the classic composite displays often avoided that with the "don't output the second frame" trick.

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1 hour ago, BruceMcF said:

/Aha, the classic composite displays often avoided that with the "don't output the second frame" trick.

Which is how PAL designed.

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Doesn't the VERA support NTSC?  It does with the current spec/emulator at least.

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1 hour ago, Ender said:

Doesn't the VERA support NTSC?  It does with the current spec/emulator at least.

It says it does. @TomXP411 is not talking about whether it exists, but how usable it will be. Since it's not something I'm keen on myself, I'm content to wait and see.

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1 hour ago, Ender said:

Doesn't the VERA support NTSC?  It does with the current spec/emulator at least.

The VERA daughter board appears to be stable, and it has composite and S-Video output, both using NTSC.

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1 hour ago, Ender said:

Doesn't the VERA support NTSC?  It does with the current spec/emulator at least.

VERA is supposed to support NTSC video, but you won't be able to get a readable 80x60 text screen on an NTSC monitor. The absolute best you can do with color composite video is 40x25, without interlace and color artifacts.

If you turn off the colorburst, the screen will show a black and white picture, which boosts the image quality some. That makes 80 column text readable.

However, there's no solution for interlace flicker on a CRT... so 60 row text modes are always going to flicker and be hard to read. 

The issue here is that the Commander boots up in 80x60 text mode, and many of the programs being written for the platform use that mode. So the OP will be losing out on a lot of functionality by trying to run the Commander on a composite monitor. It's better to stick with a VGA monitor, even if it's a CRT, so he can get the full experience. 

 

Edited by TomXP411

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I think best will be to let lotharek.pl or retronics.eu manifacture directly in EU "made in europe". So it will be easy to get in Europe. All modern televisions LCDs LEDs can do ntsc in EU too.

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1 hour ago, TomXP411 said:

VERA is supposed to support NTSC video, but you won't be able to get a readable 80x60 text screen on an NTSC monitor. The absolute best you can do with color composite video is 40x25, without interlace and color artifacts.

That follows pretty much directly from using composite video ... if it is full interlaced then you have the artifacts, and if its half interlaced you just don't have the vertical resolution. I know that S-video can do a touch better than composite, with better separation of the chrominance from the luminance, so perhaps 64x25 if S-video is available.

Someone who wants to run composite "for the retro feels" is going to have to set up the autostart to support that, and it also follows directly that many of the programs that run on the CX16 will not work correctly or ideally on a composite display.

So "supports composite" on a hardware level doesn't imply that composite is ideal. OTOH, the heart wants what it wants, so that is not likely to dissuade those who are really keen on it.

Edited by BruceMcF

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3 minutes ago, BruceMcF said:

That follows pretty much directly from using composite video ... if it is full interlaced then you have the artifacts, and if its half interlaced you just don't have the vertical resolution. I know that S-video can do a touch better than composite, with better separation of the chrominance from the luminance, so perhaps 64x25 if S-video is available.

Someone who wants to run composite "for the retro feels" is going to have to set up the autostart to support that, and it also follows directly that many of the programs that run on the CX16 will not work correctly or ideally on a composite display. xForth16 doesn't yet care how many columns display, but if I have a block editor, I am not going to make special arrangements for sub-64 wide displays.

So "supports composite" on a hardware level doesn't imply that composite is ideal. OTOH, the heart wants what it wants, so that is not likely to dissuade those who are really keen on it.

 

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On 1/18/2021 at 12:11 PM, edrive said:

Are there thoughts on other character sets other than us?

Depending on how you encode them, there are up to 256 characters available. The character set lives in RAM once the system starts, so you can easily alter the character glyphs. If there isn't already a character editor on the download section here, there will likely be one soon enough. Maybe I'll take that on as a quick weekend project...

Quote

I don't bother about the power supply, that is something one can buy here or DIY.

The system will actually come in a Micro-ATX case and will use a standard ATX power supply. As far as I know, all ATX power supplies are switchable between 120v and 250v, so you won't need to source an EU power supply. You will just need a cable.

This one should do: https://www.amazon.de/Premium-Cord-Stromkabel-für-230V/dp/B00AOAJAUC

 

 

Edited by TomXP411

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I myself am planning on finding a good old tube VGA monitor but I do wonder about S-Video. Composite not so much but S-Video should look pretty good on a broadcast monitor (e.g. Sony PVM). I think even then 640x480 might be a big ask but I think games might look really good - maybe arguably better than VGA who I guess we'll find out!

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