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Larry

The 8bit Guy "Dream Computer"

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Probably a lot of you know of the "8bit Guy" (David Murray) who has a well-known Youtube channel.  Although primarily a C64/VIC20 guy, he does all sorts of retro things that are fun and entertaining.  Here is a link to his first video about his dream and work toward a modern 8-bit.  There is a second video that he recently released detailing progress.  There are things discussed that could be applicable to the Atari. The second installment shows how things have morphed a bit since beginning.

 

 

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I’ve been following this since the outset, including the (very busy) Facebook group. To be honest, the whole thing strikes me as a more than a bit a of a directionless ship. So many things have changed since David’s initial video, and they’ve backed off so many of the initial plans and goals. It seems to me that some of Mytek’s projects make a lot more sense: redesign of an existing hardware platform to easily incorporate a bunch of modern upgrades and fit a modern case design, use a modern keyboard and mouse, and connect to modern storage devices, all while still keeping full software compatibility with the entire A8 library.

 

I guess I just don’t get what the point of this thing is supposed to be. At the end of the day, it’s a brand new platform with no in-built support of any classic software, so everything will have to be written from scratch. And it’s going to be tremendously expensive if it ever does come to market as a finished product, which drastically limits both the customer base for new software and the population of people out there to write for it. 

 

I’m glad David and his team are having fun designing it but I can’t see this as a product that would appeal to that many folks. 

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At first glance, I don't see the point of  the David’s project: you can't play nostalgia with a modern 8-bit....

If I had some money, I would rather invest in the project MEGA65...

 

ManyPreseriesMachines-1.JPEG

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Part of David's dream is for it to be an easy to program, inexpensive, educational computer.
The feature creep had turned it into something way beyond that, and it he wasn't certain they could make the multiplexed buss of the 65816 work at the higher speed.  You have to latch the upper address lines in the first part of the buss cycle.  That makes you run the parts on the buss faster than the CPU, and you start having to worry about how fast the parts are.  Instead of 8 MHz, you are now worrying about parts that might function at 16 MHz, or at least settle times on things like RAM have to be fast enough.  At the very least, it may make the machine more expensive than the intended goal.
 

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5 hours ago, JamesD said:

Part of David's dream is for it to be an easy to program, inexpensive, educational computer.
The feature creep had turned it into something way beyond that, and it he wasn't certain they could make the multiplexed buss of the 65816 work at the higher speed.  You have to latch the upper address lines in the first part of the buss cycle.  That makes you run the parts on the buss faster than the CPU, and you start having to worry about how fast the parts are.  Instead of 8 MHz, you are now worrying about parts that might function at 16 MHz, or at least settle times on things like RAM have to be fast enough.  At the very least, it may make the machine more expensive than the intended goal.
 

That fear seems irrational.  The address latch circuit is shown near the end of the data sheet and requires only a couple of extra chips.  HC components should easily handle the faster speed.  Modern FPGAs and such certainly can.  Even modern SRAM can keep up with that speed.  The only thing left is to make sure that the lines have about the same length as you run them.

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Would you say 8MHZ would be a good stable speed for the 64's (forgive me, I don't know how to phrase this, as I barely have a grasp of understanding ) main stock system bus, unmodified, if theoretically one could drop in a 8MHZ version of the CPU? I think I remember reading that some early variants of the 6502, had that as a theorized upper-limit. Just curios as to what was technically possible on these machines, back in the day, in a what-if fashion, if price isn't taken into account. Ideally, one could take all the things we've learned over the years and create a hypothetical "best-case scenario", for what might have been possible, under a fictitious name - maybe Impossible Insight Computing.  ;)

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26 minutes ago, AtariNerd said:

Would you say 8MHZ would be a good stable speed for the 64's (forgive me, I don't know how to phrase this, as I barely have a grasp of understanding ) main stock system bus, unmodified, if theoretically one could drop in a 8MHZ version of the CPU? I think I remember reading that some early variants of the 6502, had that as a theorized upper-limit. Just curios as to what was technically possible on these machines, back in the day, in a what-if fashion, if price isn't taken into account. Ideally, one could take all the things we've learned over the years and create a hypothetical "best-case scenario", for what might have been possible, under a fictitious name - maybe Impossible Insight Computing.  ;)

The system bus speed probably tops out at 2 Mhz max on a C-64, with the limitation being the VIC-II, SID, DRAM, and the PIAs. Pretty much the same problem our A8's have as well. Yes you can get faster variants of the 6502 processor, and clock it faster, but the other chips on the bus can't keep up. Also even if they could, the video would be pretty screwed up, since it's designed to be locked into the existing crystal frequency.

 

Edit: The 8-bit Guy's dream system is using an entirely new collection of devices for all of the above, and they will be picked to run at the higher frequency.

 

 

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7 hours ago, fantômas said:

At first glance, I don't see the point of  the David’s project: you can't play nostalgia with a modern 8-bit....

If I had some money, I would rather invest in the project MEGA65...

 

ManyPreseriesMachines-1.JPEG

David machine does sound interesting for sure - hope it continue to build towards a release. I'm definitely waiting for the Mega65 myself - something about how it looks and feels just like an original machine is pulling me in (the unreleased c65 of course).

 

The final step will the the key for both these projects - how to initially fund them. Paul raised this issue with the Mega65 just the other day - boards, cases, keyboards etc in bulk cost up-front money.

 

Anyway finger crossed for both as the Commodore community will be licking it's lips in anticipation 😊

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Sat next to him for 2 days at VCFMW14.  I asked him to please cover more Atari stuff.  He liked my 1088XLD and enjoyed the Harmony/2600.  Nice guy and holy shit, was he ever popular at that show.

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i think he's running out of 8bit teardowns. he seems to be doing more and more 16bit and also early PCs..

although still interesting, the 8bit ones are the best 🤔

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On his project, I certainly can see why things have changed (but I always thought the $50-$100 was pretty unrealistic).  I do wish for everyone's sake that it would be upwardly compatible with something.  He did say compatible with C64 Basic, so that's a start.  Of the features, I'm very interested in the video solution.  Perhaps something like that could be ginned up as a better Antic or Antic/GTIA?  Always wished we had the easily used color text and of course, 80-columns.  I used to write some MS-Basic business apps, and that color text made it easy to make nice looking screens and menus. And the Mega65 is a really great project -- hope it does get released and maybe less than $500.

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The Pico-8 is an imaginary 8-bit computer, implemented in software, with no compatibility with anything else but a thriving developer and user base.

 

He's trying to make a real 8-bit computer like that? Nice!

 

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4 hours ago, Larry said:

Of the features, I'm very interested in the video solution.  Perhaps something like that could be ginned up as a better Antic or Antic/GTIA?  Always wished we had the easily used color text and of course, 80-columns.  I used to write some MS-Basic business apps, and that color text made it easy to make nice looking screens and menus.

Yes I totally agree that would be so cool to have as an alternative to the very expensive VBXE. I especially liked the ease at switching between 40 and 80 column mode, and 2nd the color text ability on top of that 👍 .

 

I also found it interesting that he was able to solicit so much support for not one, but two new video solutions as well as some audio ones too. Be nice to see the same occur in our A8 arena.

 

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IDK. I have grandchildren and the funny thing is, they literally don't know what FM radio is and could care less about what is available on it. Me on the other hand, I constantly listen to the radio at home and in my car. 

 

I have become a parody of myself.

 

Bought a new 3 in 1 workstation [hot air, power supply, solder]. Promptly turned several boards to charcoal: DOH! Solder composition has gone through several iterations to low melting stuff that flows when you look at it. All the old junk I have i.e. Atari, boards catch on fire before the solder melts. Setting up a home brew Bluetooth amplifier sent the power supply into shock, taking out the adjustable power supply which sent full current to the soldering iron which failed shortly after turning red hot. DOH! Preset volume at full 50 Watts/channel will do that to your power supply.  I am now on my second 3 in 1 workstation. hehe

 

Trying hard to get up to speed on modern techniques and methods. I've bought a number of practice boards for surface mount and a couple of tubes of solder paste. Seems hopeless in that even if I do get going with something that uses current technology, my grand kids will still prefer YouTube. That is the problem with anything we can do or conceive. About the only project they seem to think has merit is me building a ridiculous electric guitar + amplifier that uses the old spring type reverb. It's hard to stay relevant. I am satisfied winning small battles. After taking over my tablet a couple of months ago my girlfriend told me yesterday she wanted an upgrade and is interested in a Bluetooth amplifier for her home entertainment center: Small wins. :)

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It all kind of reminds me of another failed 8-bit vaporware dream that the jokers who made Centron 3D for the Amiga were planning; the RetroPC1010.

 

http://www.rpcgames.com.au

 

Of course the actual site with full description of the computer is gone...the link through the site above is broken.

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Pete was still posting of his intentions to continue with his development computer, as of May, on his FaceBook page, so who knows. Still seems like an exhaustive amount of work, with little to show, so far and not much outside interest. 

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22 hours ago, Mr Robot said:

The Pico-8 is an imaginary 8-bit computer, implemented in software, with no compatibility with anything else but a thriving developer and user base.

 

He's trying to make a real 8-bit computer like that? Nice!

 

The Pico-8 is a pretty amazing virtual console. My only complaint is the low resolution and color choices. Give me 160x160, 16 colors from a 256 color palette, and a 40 column editor mode and it would be aamzing!

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On 9/15/2019 at 1:23 PM, ChildOfCv said:

That fear seems irrational.  The address latch circuit is shown near the end of the data sheet and requires only a couple of extra chips.  HC components should easily handle the faster speed.  Modern FPGAs and such certainly can.  Even modern SRAM can keep up with that speed.  The only thing left is to make sure that the lines have about the same length as you run them.

I know he was trying to avoid using FPGAs except for the video chip.
Not sure I'd call it irrational, probably just playing it safe.  Get something working, then upgrade it.

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Of the myriad of retro modern machine projects out there right now, he's got by far the biggest following, and the best chance of success. The idea is to build a computer using off-the-shelf parts that works like a retro machine, but faster, and with great BASIC and Assembler built in. There are a lot of enthusiastic people behind the project, and I sure hope it comes to fruition. This isn't a "let's play old games" machine - there are a million of those. It's a hacker/programmer/tinkerer machine. Not for everyone of course, but judging by the Facebook group, and his popularity in Commodore/Retro PC circles, it has a lot of momentum.

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2 minutes ago, Mrarkus said:

Of the myriad of retro modern machine projects out there right now, he's got by far the biggest following, and the best chance of success. The idea is to build a computer using off-the-shelf parts that works like a retro machine, but faster, and with great BASIC and Assembler built in. There are a lot of enthusiastic people behind the project, and I sure hope it comes to fruition. This isn't a "let's play old games" machine - there are a million of those. It's a hacker/programmer/tinkerer machine. Not for everyone of course, but judging by the Facebook group, and his popularity in Commodore/Retro PC circles, it has a lot of momentum.

Until they see the sticker price of a finished design. 

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8 minutes ago, DrVenkman said:

Until they see the sticker price of a finished design. 

Well, his last video went into more detail about planned pricing, and at $200-300 for fully-socketed boards and $100-200 SMD boards, I think the price is well below what other machines of this type are selling or planning on being sold for, like Mega65 or Foenix C256. Not to mention 1088 variations :)
 

I'm excited for it, it's an Amiga-level machine without all the complexity, if it comes to fruition, and the best part is that the entire project isn't taken up by FPGA coding which seems to be the norm these days, and which is never complete...

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3 minutes ago, Mrarkus said:

Well, his last video went into more detail about planned pricing, and at $200-300 for fully-socketed boards and $100-200 SMD boards, I think the price is well below what other machines of this type are selling or planning on being sold for, like Mega65 or Foenix C256. Not to mention 1088 variations :)

But remember his first video - he went into this hoping for a $50 price point initially, and certainly under $100. Then take a look at that design - there are a LOT of big DIP chips on it as-is, and that's before his FPGA-based video board and as-yet-still-undecided audio solution.

 

I hope he makes that price point - hell, if it's under $300 for a complete and working kit that I build myself from components, I might actually buy one myself! But knowing how much effort, time and money it takes to build the 1088 machines (*), I seriously doubt he can do it. I hope that I am wrong, however. 

 

(*) I've built both a 1088XEL and a 1088XLD so I know a little bit about this.

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3 minutes ago, DrVenkman said:

But remember his first video - he went into this hoping for a $50 price point initially, and certainly under $100. Then take a look at that design - there are a LOT of big DIP chips on it as-is, and that's before his FPGA-based video board and as-yet-still-undecided audio solution.

 

I hope he makes that price point - hell, if it's under $300 for a complete and working kit that I build myself from components, I might actually buy one myself! But knowing how much effort, time and money it takes to build the 1088 machines (*), I seriously doubt he can do it. I hope that I am wrong, however. 

 

(*) I've built both a 1088XEL and a 1088XLD so I know a little bit about this.

 

Fair enough, and time will tell :) 

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4 hours ago, JamesD said:

I know he was trying to avoid using FPGAs except for the video chip.
Not sure I'd call it irrational, probably just playing it safe.  Get something working, then upgrade it.

HC components are standard logic.  All part of the 74xx family.  And the sample schematic in the 65816 datasheet only call for 2 chips, both of which are common and cheap.

 

2 hours ago, Mrarkus said:

I hope he makes that price point - hell, if it's under $300 for a complete and working kit that I build myself from components, I might actually buy one myself! But knowing how much effort, time and money it takes to build the 1088 machines (*), I seriously doubt he can do it. I hope that I am wrong, however.

Just curious:  What parts cost the most?  I would expect the PCB to be the biggest cost.  CPU next.  Standard logic chips are typically half a buck each.  Using NOS parts can jack up the price though, since they tend to increase in price with dwindling supply.  The solution there is, use modern parts as much as possible.  Like, use a 512MB SRAM chip instead of 64K chips or whatever.  Even if you can't provide for all of the data lines (at least not without bank switching--run the unused lines to an expansion header or something), you can still get the memory you need at a decent price.

Edited by ChildOfCv

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