One note on the SAMS: Mike Dudeck of Tex*in Treasures did a new run of them a few years ago, and I believe he still has them available. Just send a question to MDUDE on eBay to ask him to put one of them up for auction. I believe he sells them in both kit and complete form. For that matter, the necessary files to get your own made are up on the SWPB group's files section, IIRC. Dan Eicher and I did a short run of 8 of them before Mike made his. It is possible to get them, all of the parts are readily available, and it is a relatively straightforward build.
In truth, there are only a small number of truly valuable TI expansion peripherals (note I exclude a lot of routine, useful items from this list just because they are necessary to a standard expanded system, and not because I don't find them to be useful). The really short list would be GRAM devices (all types), the SAMS, 80-Column cards (only the 9938/9958 devices, as I have to exclude the Foundation 80 Column card (does anyone other than me even have one of these anymore?) due to rarity and the fact that it is monochrome), and the F18A. Hard disks and RAM disks are great too--but they are primarily for storage, and don't allow programmers to push the bleeding edge of the possible with our machines (but they do help to keep all of the data a programmer needs connected to the machine while they work). Note I also exclude the NANO PEB/CF7 devices from my short list--and I own several of them too. They are a great user device, but they don't wxpand the realm of the possible for the programmer. The same goes for adding a Lotharek CF drive--they are nice to use, but don't push the programming envelope.
The SAMS finally has enough utility support to make it very useful, so much so that it is now usable with the newest version of RXB (thanks, Rich) by anyone who wants to write truly humongous BASIC programs. This will actually let me port a program back to the TI from my Geneve once I have the free cycles (it lets me generate 1st Edition AD&D characters quickly and without error).
Cartridges are great too--and that's why I worked on the various extensions of the format with Jon and Tursi. Like the SAMS, cartridges having 512K (plus about 128K of GROM) to fill gives the programmers our community is blessed with a lot of possibility.
Bottom line, please don't knock it because you don't see a use for it yourself--I like ALL of the TI hardware I own (and I own more obscure items than most folks have EVER heard of). Everything built gives new capabilities and spurs programmers to do more with our systems--it is just that some of those hardware items are more equal than others when it comes to adding capabilities. The one thing that most folks forget is that new capabilities hardware-wise cost money, sometimes a lot of it. A good, 9938-based video card will cost upwards of $180 to build--and that is just the PARTS. Could it be built into an FPGA-type board? Maybe yes--maybe no. It depends on the device used and how much additional logic is required to put the necessary memory on the board (similar to what the TIM did, with an FPGA replacing the 9938). Postle assembled half a dozen of the IDE cards--and tried to sell them at his cost ($250) and met with much resistance because those who wanted them decided that the cards cost too much to buy. When the hardware IS available, our community balks at the price if it is more than about $75. Not many things can be built for less than that, so many good ideas wither on the vine. Marc Hull went to a lot of trouble to develop his SID Master card (I helped with the layout), but finds few buyers even when selling the cards at a LOSS. It is a wonderful thing that brings over 8,000 pieces of music from the Commodore 64 over to the TI and makes it possible to add some really interesting music to TI software too--but only a dozen or so have been sold (I doubt it is over 20 so far), and that is unfortunate. It is a nice, useful device, easily worth $75-$100, but which struggles to sell for $45-$55.
I'm working on a through-hole layout for the IDE board too--and I don't expect that more than 20 people will buy one, even as a bare board sold at cost. Will I still do it? Yes--because I am committed to furthering the TI community. There are others who have that kind of committment too. Rich can be a bit brusque and monomaniacal when it comes to showcasing RXB--but he's DOING something to further the community. I respect that. I really want to burn a copy of the newest RXB into one of my 512K boards, just to see that expansion of BASIC where it truly belongs--in a real cartridge. Tursi, Marc, Jon, Rasmus, Willsy, Ox, Walid, Postle, Kevan, Fred Kaal, Michael Zapf, Dan Eicher, Bob Carmany, Jaime Malilong, Ernie Pergrem, Hal Shanafield, Tim Tesch, Bill Gaskill, Tom Wills and many others are doing the same, all in different ways. That is community, and I love being part of that community. We end up destroying more ideas with infighting and pooh-poohing than I care to count--when the real goal is to encourage and refine the idea to make it even better than the originator thought it could be. Look at the interaction that went into the development of Scramble--that was a beautiful collaboration between programmer and user community. We need more of that. Lots more!
Edited by Ksarul, Sat Oct 19, 2013 10:08 AM.