Faster/wider CPU...

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Brane2
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Re: Faster/wider CPU...

Postby Brane2 » Thu Feb 16, 2012 10:45 am

Fine with me.


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vanpeebles
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Re: Faster/wider CPU...

Postby vanpeebles » Thu Feb 16, 2012 10:53 am

No problem 8-)


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Re: Faster/wider CPU...

Postby RWAP » Thu Feb 16, 2012 12:21 pm

I would not want to put a downer on what has been a lively discussion (even though most of it has been beyond me).

Please correct me if I am wrong.

I guess the issue boils down to Dave wanting to get the maximum out of the existing QL hardware and software - it has to be remembered that a lot of QL users have invested a lot of time and money into their QLs, learning the intricacies of the operating system and its software/hardware and there remains a fondness for the original machines.

On the other hand, Brane appears to want to keep the spirit of the QL, but design a single chip computer to replace much of the hardware. His comments may sometimes be seen as off-hand and curt, but to some extent that probably reflects 'lost in translation' and his nature, without him meaning any harm. Re-designing the QL from scratch could well be a good thing, but if we take out the QL software and operating system, we then have a new computer entirely and QL users would be left with a machine that is largely incompatible with their existing hardware and software.

Personally, I would prefer Dave's solution as an upgrade path for existing QLs.

That said, I would also support a new QL replacement which could be based on entirely new hardware, provided that a QDOS or SMSQ/e operating system were available - I continue to like the simplicity of programming in SuperBASIC, coupled with the ability to program easily in machine code (to get the maximum speed and flexibility) and the half-way house of them compiling the finished program.

That is certainly what I used to bring QWord to the market.

Yes, QWord could have been written in Visual BASIC to run on PCs without needing machine code, but then where is the challenge in that and how does that further my knowledge of the QL and SMSQ/e.

So, yes, I would like to support both Brane and Dave in what they can do and achieve - as new hardware and different approaches are needed to help keep the QL scene alive and remain attractive to a whole range of users


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Re: Faster/wider CPU...

Postby twellys » Thu Feb 16, 2012 1:49 pm

Hmm, Dave's idea is, I think, like a modern version of the GC, just his version. I like his idea.

As for me, I'd take Dave's/GC/SGC, mix it with ethernet, and put a great dirty FPGA on top for the CPU (Hey, I'm a FPGA Engineer - don't spoil my dream!). Unfortunately, my gantt chart is showing 2040 for completion...



ho hum.

:geek:


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Dave
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Re: Faster/wider CPU...

Postby Dave » Thu Feb 16, 2012 4:31 pm

I'd just like to go back a few posts and reply to one point by Brane2 then move on.

"You don't want to use CPLDs because of price."

I do not want to use CPLDs because of cost, not price. The cost of learning, acquiring the infrastructure to create, program, test and use CPLDs, the time involved (in years)... Instead, I would far prefer someone with wide experience to say, "Hey, I have that down already, and I have some ideas. I could do a video/serial CPLD that could implement video and serial in a way that is transparently compatible to existing QDOS/SMSQ *without changes* and, hey, I can maybe, if time permits, do a FDD and IDE/Compact Flash unit for the design too.

This way, the cost of that work has largely already been spent by someone who already hads that infrastructure and skill in place.

As soon as two or three people come together with that kind of constructive attitude, the thing can be built and tested quickly and cheaply.

What's more, we end up with logic schematics that can move forward towards implementing the 68k core and both sections of external logic in a single CPLD and voila! A single-chip QL.

I have mostly worked with SMD boards using smaller or pre-defined components, and any time I have brushed against the dark arts of CPLDS, beyond PAL/GAL it has been with the strong guidance/support of someone else...

The thing that strikes me is that when you delete the microdrives, net and joystick ports, the QL simplifies greatly. Also, a larger part of the complexity of the design comes from the late adoption of the 68008 over the 68000.

In the event that for this project I can find one or two people willing to donate time and skills, I plan to take a long winded route - next post!


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The long and winding road...

Postby Dave » Thu Feb 16, 2012 5:29 pm

I had many formative experiences that have shaped my idea of "the ideal computer" - and with the QL it was the device independence as expressed by the OS. Once I knew how to read from or write to a device, I knew how to read from or write to any device.

My take-home from my Risc PC was a hardware one. The chipset was broken down by function, with four chips involved: ARM chip (processing), VIDC (video generation), IOMD, (input/output) and MEMC (memory controller) and each could be revised and substituted without affecting the rest.

Combine these two items of personal discovery with a deep affection for my old QL, set against the problem of getting it to work reliably, or even at all.

Now, one of my greatest mistakes was to inadvertently reveal details of Peter Graf's single chip design. I didn't know how much of the info was in the public domain and over-shared on the ql-user list. I wish their was a way to apologize and put the worms back in the can, but now Peter has to field a lot of unnecessary commentary/requests. The chances he would work with me in future (I would love to help him complete/produce some projects) are remote. I sorely regret this, as I would have loved to have respun the PCB and licensed the chip from him, using Minerva.

Like the Raspberry Pi, I see the need for a Model A and a Model B. The Model A serves the purpose of re-implementing the hardware in a 16-bit way, with no changes to the core OS that in any way affect any functionality of anything in userspace. The Model B being the next iteration - re-implementing that defined hardware base in a simple, cheaper, faster way, whilst retaining the expandability to add things like ethernet, etc.

Some people can do A in their heads and jump to B. However, it is a huge task that requires huge resources and involves a horrible catch-22 - bringing up a modified OS for the first time on modified hardware. If there's a problem and it falls over, what fell over? How do you test a non-running system?

To be clear, the market for QL hardware is so small, there is no or little money to be made in it. As PG and Nasta have indirectly said, there's a world market for maybe 200 QLs. However, there is a market for a small, embeddable, real time OS multi-tasking computer with an easy OS and programmability that ISN'T run on Linux or Windows. What I am saying here is that we can make something happen, but it would be smart of us to design not just for the majority's existing needs, but to invite sales of the board into other markets, or as some of my friends call it, "Arduino-space!" Have those markets subsidize the board for the QL users, to keep costs down.

So, how about some specifications for this machine?

68000 16MHz, 4MB static RAM, 32k video RAM with VGA or DVI output, GD2 compatible (in future?)
2xIDE, 2xCF (basically IDE), 2xFD, 10/100 Ethernet, ATX power, PS2 keyboard, option for keyboard membrane. It would be nice to have some form of expansion/prototyping port and parallel/GPIO.

For the IDE/CF, an issue is limitations of the FS making large storage unwieldy. I would like to see a sister project develop a block filing system for large devices that doesn't sink large amounts of QL memory, and get slower as it gets bigger.

I'd like to have a small bootloader, and load the selected OS into SRAM, so people could quickly select/change OS/environment. I realize this is the hardest aspect of the entire project from my POV, and that OS/SW are the hardest elements.

Now, I can see people twitching to reply with how these decisions are wrong. These decisions aren't designed to create the ULTIMATE QL, but to create a QL clone that can actually be designed and built within the lifetimes of the remaining pool of skills and resources available for such a financially demanding venture.

Someone recently expressed the opinion that open-sourcing projects harms them in cases like this, because the project gets diluted to where nobody can make a profit. I agree and disagree wholeheartedly. For this reason, I'd like to see the project develop behind closed doors, out of view of the peanut gallery, and then when people buy a board, they also buy a disk containing the schematics, gerbers, all necessary files, and so forth. Once the supply of boards was exhausted, the disk contents would be published on the net. At any time, anyone can get access to the information by simply contributing ;)

Obviously, a few key players would need to have functioning prototypes for driver/OS development.

Related goals include discussions with relevant parties to secure rights to use/modify Minerva or SMSQ/E on the boards (and QDOS in the US) and TK2 of course.


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Re: Faster/wider CPU...

Postby Brane2 » Thu Feb 16, 2012 10:10 pm

I do not want to use CPLDs because of cost, not price. The cost of learning, acquiring the infrastructure to create, program, test and use CPLDs, the time involved (in years)... Instead, I would far prefer someone with wide experience to say, "Hey, I have that down already, and I have some ideas. I could do a video/serial CPLD that could implement video and serial in a way that is transparently compatible to existing QDOS/SMSQ *without changes* and, hey, I can maybe, if time permits, do a FDD and IDE/Compact Flash unit for the design too.


One remark to QL crowd- excessive politeness and political correctness is killing you. If you have something to say, say it without obfuscations. They might make you feel good, but they are killing the signal/ noise ratio of your debates.

Moreover, additonal damage comes from mis-anticipating obfuscation move from one's correspondent- ie if one is mixing polite and political crap with useful info, receiver of the post must somehow be able to clean that crap out. But since that is not really always possible, some of it will always stay sticking on the cogs and gears of reason, causing excessive computational damage.

If all this dancing around is due to your troubles with keeping long-term memories, then say so.

If not, then I don't see your argument.

Try this:

1. DOwnload latest free webpack from http://www.xilinx.com ( you'll have to register)
2. Install it.
3. Start new project just for test/fun When asked about particulars, select some nice chip from XC9500XL line, like aforementioned XC95144XL in TQ144. And select "Schematic" as "Top Level Source type"

4. After concluding previous point, click "Add new document" and select "Shematic" as a type and choose some name for it.

5. Nice, empty schematic sheet opens and on the left side you have the tool for choosing "elements from libraries. Click on it and everything you ever wanted ( and MORE!) within any 74.. series suddenly becomes available at your fingertips. Check for what's available under counters for example.
You'll find that ONE 16-bit counter with preset and OE solves most of what you need for picture generation.


Free program. Totally standard schematic. No need or gritty stuff like element definitions as they are already defined. Also ONE chip as a universal solution for many problems. You can have basically just XC95144XL in the drawer instead of bazillion of different chips. And you can look at it basically as the black box. Your design either fits within it or not.

Deploying it is also a simple matter. Solder in a chip and next to it small 6-pin header with maybe small cap and a resistor or something like that. Plug in your programming tool and click "Program the f**ing chip".

So, what "cost of infrastructure" are you talking about ?
Last edited by Brane2 on Fri Feb 17, 2012 5:29 am, edited 1 time in total.


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Re: Faster/wider CPU...

Postby Dave » Fri Feb 17, 2012 12:44 am

I'll just go out and buy a PC and totally get right on that.


Brane2
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Re: Faster/wider CPU...

Postby Brane2 » Fri Feb 17, 2012 12:48 am

:?

So, from which type of equipment did you send that post ?

abakus ?


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Brane2
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Re: Faster/wider CPU...

Postby Brane2 » Fri Feb 17, 2012 12:50 am

And if having a PC is a problem ( BTW, how likely is that in Texas,USA ?), why didn't you mention it before ?


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