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EclaireXL annual update


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#1 foft ONLINE  

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Posted Thu Jan 25, 2018 2:30 PM

After another year of working on this project where did we get to?

 

In short not as far as I hoped, though there is slow and steady progress!

 

For the 2nd run of 10 prototype boards the progress can be summarized as:

  • PBI implemented, active only when CPU turbo off.
  • Svideo/composite reimplemented using a method closer to GTIA rather than conversion from RGB.
  • High resolution (2x and 4x colour clock) modes working, though several alignment and PMG issues remain.
  • Experiments at switching to a new CPU (VexRiscV) for running the firmware, I made a good start but still a lot to do before I can switch this!
  • OS in block RAM (as ROM) which means turbo is no longer limited to SDRAM access time.
  • Steve (917k) made a really cool case and added basic US keyboard support. 

Of these I'm most pleased with finally having PBI. Having the faster colour clocks running is also pretty exciting, though would be more interesting with some software.

 

Much testing was also carried out and bugs captured. I need to find time to work through these.

 

Panos and I are considering a 3rd run of prototype boards. These will be very close to the run from last year with only these changes:

  • Remove video DAC and audio ADC power supplies, these did not work anyway so needed a patch wire.
  • Verify footprint of main board IO area vs standard, the power supply was outside the IO area by some mm.
  • Adjust paddle voltage level potential divider, if the power supply is <5V (many USB chargers are) the paddles did not work. This allows the level to be adjusted.
  • Fix black 'éclaireXL' (cosmetic)
  • Widen cutout next to pbi from 3.7 to 4.75mm (or more), some devices could not be connected easily.
  • Change REF_N pull up from 4k7 to about 2k. Improves PBI stability.
  • Header to connect SIO LED to case. 
  • Power on switch invert up/down on/off to match 800XL!
  • Attempt to reduce cross talk on audio ADC

So nothing major. Additionally a few parts are now obselete so we've updated these. The video DAC CDK3405 has been replaced with an ADV7125 and I'm currently trying to find a compatible for for the 128Mbit EPCS configuration flash.

 

Is anyone interested in buying a board and helping out? They were ~240USD + shipping last time, though I haven't priced it up yet to see if anything changed!

 

I'm ideally looking for help with (one of!) these tasks:

  1. Write an OS patch to support 2x and 4x modes (via E:/S: ideally).
  2. Debug software and explain why it isn't working. For example Wizard of Wor behaves strangely but it needs someone to dig into the 6502 code to understand what is going on.
  3. Improve the firmware (OSD, config, USB support, drive emulation etc). This is written in C.
  4. Help porting the firmware to the new CPU when I get the hardware working.
  5. Help deciding on new hardware registers.
  6. Someone who will be interested in the project, chat/discuss aspects of it and generally chivvy me to work on it! 
  7. Someone to write a demo using the high-res modes and turbo!
  8. Any VHDL help.
  9. Misc testing

Some videos of the boards in action: https://www.youtube....omputer eclaire


Edited by foft, Thu Jan 25, 2018 2:39 PM.


#2 917k OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Jan 26, 2018 8:00 PM

I'd like to say thanks to Mark and Panos for this exceptional Project. In my eyes, this is the Atari version of the Spectrum Next and is a wonderful and amazing evolution of the Atari 8-bit platform. I have found this to be literally the last Atari 8-bit computer, upgrade, or peripheral that I will ever need... of course that will not stop me from buying stuff I do not need but I digress... do your self a huge favor and get one while you can. Sign me up for another one!  



#3 Larry OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Jan 27, 2018 2:43 AM

Current pictures of the board? Does it come ready to plug in a keyboard/display and power supply -- and then ready to use? Will the s-video be equivalent to stock? Other than the hw changes, are most of your other changes to be accomplished in the firmware? Sorry for all the questions, but I'd like to know what I would be signing up to buy.
Larry

 

Edit:  The S-video question is about signal compatibility, since I use a capture device for my display.



#4 VladR OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Jan 27, 2018 3:28 AM

 

  • High resolution (2x and 4x colour clock) modes working, though several alignment and PMG issues remain.

Is anyone interested in buying a board and helping out? They were ~240USD + shipping last time, though I haven't priced it up yet to see if anything changed!

 

I'm ideally looking for help with (one of!) these tasks:

  1.  
  2.  
  3. Improve the firmware (OSD, config, USB support, drive emulation etc). This is written in C.
  4. Help porting the firmware to the new CPU when I get the hardware working.
  5.  
  6. Someone who will be interested in the project, chat/discuss aspects of it and generally chivvy me to work on it! 
  7. Someone to write a demo using the high-res modes and turbo!
  8.  
  9. Misc testing

No 7 - I'm absolutely in, along with No 3-4.

 

6&9 go with the territory, obviously.

 

Can you post more info on the HiRes modes ? Their actual resolution&color depth ?

 

Edit: I suspect the color depth is same, it's just 2x or 4x horizontal res (with vertical staying the same) ? Does 160x192x4 then become 320x192x4, or 640x192x4 ?


Edited by VladR, Sat Jan 27, 2018 3:33 AM.


#5 foft ONLINE  

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Posted Sat Jan 27, 2018 1:24 PM

Current pictures of the board? Does it come ready to plug in a keyboard/display and power supply -- and then ready to use? Will the s-video be equivalent to stock? Other than the hw changes, are most of your other changes to be accomplished in the firmware? Sorry for all the questions, but I'd like to know what I would be signing up to buy.
Larry

 

Edit:  The S-video question is about signal compatibility, since I use a capture device for my display.

 

I can post pictures, but first did you look at the linked videos from Nir? I also made some videos on setup recently that give a bit of an overview.

 

Yes, it will come with the latest core flashed. You will need to prepare an SD card with the OS and BASIC roms (1-2GB suggested) in the right folders.

edit: Also there are two ribbon cables to connect and some boards to screw together.

 

The primary video output is RGB (15KHz or 31Khz) via an 8-bit DAC (ADV7125) then VGA connector. It also has a HDMI socket with DVI output (directly output from FPGA, seems to work fine but probably not really compliant). The svideo and composite are done using the RGB DAC, to me it looks fine (if a little dim - TV can be adjusted or a resistor changed to make it brighter if needed) but I wouldn't count on it matching stock. They need a custom cable since composite is output over G on the VGA connector. Similarly svideo is output via 2 pins on the VGA connector (G+B iirc). 

 

There is lots of room for changes in the firmware and fpga core. It is however a hobby and I am not going to guarantee to add anything! At present it works pretty well, so count future improvements as a bonus rather than an expectation. That said I have lots of plans and do not anticipate stopping in the next year or so. Development will be slow though, full time job and family.

 

I just saw your comment, I've never tried a capture device with it but it _should_ work fine... To owners of existing boards: Have you ever tried this?


Edited by foft, Sat Jan 27, 2018 1:26 PM.


#6 foft ONLINE  

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Posted Sat Jan 27, 2018 1:34 PM

No 7 - I'm absolutely in, along with No 3-4.

 

6&9 go with the territory, obviously.

 

Can you post more info on the HiRes modes ? Their actual resolution&color depth ?

 

Edit: I suspect the color depth is same, it's just 2x or 4x horizontal res (with vertical staying the same) ? Does 160x192x4 then become 320x192x4, or 640x192x4 ?

 

The hires modes are a work in progress. I've not yet 'released' a core with support. That said I've been using one day to day recently! I added some bits fo DMACTL to enable 2x or 4x colour clock.

 

So gr.0 is 640x192x1.5 in 2x, gr.0 is 1280x192x1.5 in 4x (note 1280 is higher than the HDMI resolution used and is sampled...). So GTIA modes at 4x are 320x192x10/16. Of couse the bitmap modes eat RAM...  gr.8 GITA mode at 320x192x16 is 30KB! Of course all other modes work + its possible to change the clock during the scanline etc.

 

So far I have Antic working properly, but I need to finish off the gtia side. I have AN0-2 outputting perfectly aligned between the modes, but imagine you then sample this at 2x or 4x the speed in gtia... leads to some misalignment. + it samples sprite data the wrong point. I'll have this fixed probably by the time these boards ship, touch wood! 



#7 VladR OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Jan 27, 2018 2:02 PM

So gr.0 is 640x192x1.5 in 2x, gr.0 is 1280x192x1.5 in 4x (note 1280 is higher than the HDMI resolution used and is sampled...). So GTIA modes at 4x are 320x192x10/16. Of couse the bitmap modes eat RAM...  gr.8 GITA mode at 320x192x16 is 30KB! Of course all other modes work + its possible to change the clock during the scanline etc.

That's a killer feature right there! GTIA modes in 320x200 :)

 

 

Of couse the bitmap modes eat RAM...  gr.8 GITA mode at 320x192x16 is 30KB!

RAM wasn't a problem 2 decades ago, so I wouldn't really worry about this one, considering 4 MB extensions are out there.

 

 

its possible to change the clock during the scanline etc.

You mean like during beam racing ? Crazy :) !

 

 

I just realized, this thing has enough power to drive the Widescreen modes and have a ~roughly square aspect ratio on 16:9. Even if the pixel aspect ratio wouldn't be totally square (haven't computed it, yet), you can totally design a demo/game in the widescreen mode.

Widescreen of the 160x192 would be 192x192, correct ? So, the 2x mode would 384x192 and and 4x mode would be 768x192 ?

 

That means I could totally use the 3D techniques I developed for Jaguar when creating the 3D engine that runs there in 768x200. Porting RISC -> 6502 shouldn't prove too difficult (maybe the signed fixedpoint math).

Awesome  :- ))))))

 

EDIT: Now I'm real glad I didn't start with using Blitter for my 3D engine on jaguar, but initially started nice and slowly with generic software rasterizing, as that's totally platform independent.

Also, no stupid limitation of 4 KB cache for code (like on jag's GPU). On this thing, code will run as fast as possible regardless where in memory it is and how much space it takes!


Edited by VladR, Sat Jan 27, 2018 2:07 PM.


#8 foft ONLINE  

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Posted Sat Jan 27, 2018 3:33 PM

EDIT: Now I'm real glad I didn't start with using Blitter for my 3D engine on jaguar, but initially started nice and slowly with generic software rasterizing, as that's totally platform independent.

Also, no stupid limitation of 4 KB cache for code (like on jag's GPU). On this thing, code will run as fast as possible regardless where in memory it is and how much space it takes!

At present there is no cache. The system runs at 56MHz (approx) however ram reads take 2 cycles (1 cycle latency clocked output) so that means effectively 28MHz. I am tempted to add a cache to avoid that, though I'm hoping I can get the CPU and antic to tell me their next address on the previous cycle.


Edited by foft, Sat Jan 27, 2018 3:34 PM.


#9 VladR OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Jan 27, 2018 3:47 PM

Not sure about the cache. I feel the cache would make it very 32-bit-esque and cross the 8-bit boundary (but we all have that boundary elsewhere).

 

This is still very Atari, just higher clocked with natural extensions (e.g. higher color clock for nice highres GTIA modes) :)



#10 foft ONLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 6, 2018 12:45 PM

Just to let you know the 2nd run of the v2 boards (with fixes) is cancelled due to lack of interest. 



#11 foft ONLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 6, 2018 12:48 PM

@VladR: Are you still interested in helping with firmware? If so, does anyone want to sell their v1 or v2 board?



#12 Almerian OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 6, 2018 1:07 PM

That's too bad.

Hopefully some development will take place and with enough interest a run can happen next year.



#13 VladR OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 6, 2018 1:36 PM

@VladR: Are you still interested in helping with firmware? If so, does anyone want to sell their v1 or v2 board?

Yes. both with firmware and some 3D demos in the 4x Antic modes (320x192x16).

For me, this is the ultimate 8-bit Atari.

 

I suspect, the interest will be higher, once folks will see what kind of next-gen stuff this puppy can do.

 

I was supposed to buy the dev board from second run, but now that it's not happening, what are the options ? You got some spare ones ?



#14 Dub OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 6, 2018 1:48 PM

Just been reading up on this project. Really love the mix of new FPGA hardware and the ability to use existing peripherals. Such a shame it's not getting much interest, I'd love to help out. Hardware is mostly my area but also some software. Also can help with testing.

 

Happy to cover the cost of purchasing hardware and could assemble if needed, building up SMT boards isn't a problem. 

 

Drop me a PM if any of this would be of help :)



#15 Lord Thag OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 6, 2018 2:33 PM

I'm very interested in this as well. Having a modern 8-bit replacement would be amazing. 



#16 Firedawg OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 6, 2018 3:22 PM

I've been following this for a while with hopes that it would continue in its development.  I know time and money is not always in great supply and predicate sometimes how far and fast a project moves forward.

 

@foft - How many interested folks did you have towards obtaining enough for another run of boards?

 

Mike



#17 Farb OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 6, 2018 3:23 PM

Just to let you know the 2nd run of the v2 boards (with fixes) is cancelled due to lack of interest. 


Darn, I was looking forward to picking one of these up!

#18 Almerian OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 6, 2018 3:29 PM

Any others willing to buy and help out with developing this? I had already asked to be put on the list.
It's a quite special project with good enhancements as well as compatibility with existing peripherals.

 

It would be a shame if development would slow down.

 



#19 Alfred OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 6, 2018 3:31 PM

Agreed, it would be a shame to see this fail. PM me about the kind of funding you need to continue. I paid for Dataque to develop an 80 column board (which he did, and I have, and it actually works) so am not averse to contributing to keeping this going.



#20 P1r OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 6, 2018 3:34 PM

Is it too soon in the development process to try something like a Kickstarter project to gauge interest and raise funds?



#21 VladR OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 6, 2018 4:14 PM

Is it too soon in the development process to try something like a Kickstarter project to gauge interest and raise funds?

If we can't get 20 people here on AA, which is the most hardcore target group, how could KS help get more ?

 

Besides, there's a strong anti-upgrade sentiment in the Atari community, even though almost every other Atari later down the road was upgradeable...



#22 P1r OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 6, 2018 5:09 PM

If we can't get 20 people here on AA, which is the most hardcore target group, how could KS help get more ?

 

Besides, there's a strong anti-upgrade sentiment in the Atari community, even though almost every other Atari later down the road was upgradeable...

 

 

I think there could be a target group that just doesn't hang around these parts of the web... Remember the Spectrum Next? They had more than 3000 supporters. Granted, that project was on a different scale but still.

 

And maybe I'm not the only one being very interested in an ÉclairXL but lack the skills to contribute anything this early in the project.



#23 VladR OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 6, 2018 5:46 PM

 

 

I think there could be a target group that just doesn't hang around these parts of the web... Remember the Spectrum Next? They had more than 3000 supporters. Granted, that project was on a different scale but still.

 

And maybe I'm not the only one being very interested in an ÉclairXL but lack the skills to contribute anything this early in the project.

- Spectrum Next ran by me completely, so I wouldn't actually know. 3,000 you say ? But, I don't have a reference point on how strong Spectrum retro community is compared to, say, Atari one. They were very strong in UK, no ?

- Still, on KS, you need some WoW factor.

- You know what ? You actually are onto something here. You just made me realize -this very moment- that we could use my 3D demos for exactly that. I already talked to foft that we might generate more interest here on AA, once those demos are up&running.

 

That's of course, assuming he would actually be OK with KS (it's solely his project, of course, I would only deliver the SW) - and I would totally understand why someone would have reservations against KS (given the current KS reputation) - we could then use those demos for the KS campaign.

 

Just to give you a rough idea what I'm actually talking about - in terms of 3D demos:

- I've modified my personal 6502 dev emulator (written in Visual Studio, C++, DirectX) to support Eclaire's Antic 4x modes (e.g. 320x192x16 and 640x192x4)

- Given the current working Eclaire's frequency, the cycle budget per frame is astounding for an 8-bit : you get over 400,000 cycles per frame at 60fps, and over 1 Mil at 20 fps

- I spent 2 weeks doing research and working on various 2D&3D routines, porting from my jaguar library (mostly road rendering (scanline, textured RoadRash proto) and flatshading but also some 2D bitmap throughput), seeing what we can expect to extract from that, using my 6502 flatshader and using Atari's 128-color palette

- this thing is very powerful and capable of more than respectable feeding of Antic at those resolutions



#24 Stephen OFFLINE  

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Posted Tue Mar 6, 2018 7:10 PM

Bummer to hear about the lack of interest.  When I demoed by beta board at VCFMW last year, it was very well received.



#25 P1r OFFLINE  

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Posted Wed Mar 7, 2018 12:32 AM

- Spectrum Next ran by me completely, so I wouldn't actually know. 3,000 you say ? But, I don't have a reference point on how strong Spectrum retro community is compared to, say, Atari one. They were very strong in UK, no ?

- Still, on KS, you need some WoW factor.

- You know what ? You actually are onto something here. You just made me realize -this very moment- that we could use my 3D demos for exactly that. I already talked to foft that we might generate more interest here on AA, once those demos are up&running.

 

 

 

I'm glad you were inspired! =)

Yes, the Spectrum Next is probably a very unique case, with the original's inexplicably large UK following. Plus the fact that they managed to get the original industrial designer to design a great looking new case. I also think they managed to hit a good price point and looked very trustworthy in their campaign: https://www.kickstar...x-spectrum-next

 

BUT: they certainly didn't have any cool new 3D demos AND it wasn't a Fuji logo on the case. Considering the evidently failed Ataribox, that's probably something people would go for. Now, securing the rights for that might be a very different task of course ...






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