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Old 11 November 2012, 00:38   #1
TheRogue
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New project for the benefit of all classic computing!

Hey guys,

So, here's the news. I'm currently tooling up for PCB and enclosure production. I have decided to give back to the community by offering a different sort of service. I am going to be offering on demand production of a variety of classic computing hardware. Production will start with boards, and enclosures will follow shortly. I am going to offer many different open source pieces of hardware to start with, and I may attempt recreation or cloning of certain devices as time goes on.

Products that will be available initially and as time goes on include things like IEC2SD, SIO2SD, IDE interfaces for various machines, C64/VIC RS-232 interfaces, NetUSBee, UltraSatan, MSX slot expanders, BBC SD adapters and sideways ROM expansions, Thylacine USB (redesigned to eliminate the vast amount of wasted space!), clones of out-of-production cards (will have some delaminated and mapped for cloning), high-spec power supplies for a variety of systems including discounts for sending in old enclosures, ATX adapters for various older machines including regulators for any voltages not available from an ATX2.x supply, blank prototyping cards in various form factors (Zorro half and full length, A500 bus, Apple ][, Commodore 64 cart/userport, VIC-20 cart, Atari 8-bit cart, etc), various ROMs, GALs, and the like, repair services for certain hardware, full upgrade services for certain hardware (such as a CPU, ROM, Oscillator, GAL, and Cache upgrade for a TransWarpGS), affordable IDE/SATA/CF/SD to SCSI boards, STF RAM expansions, custom cabling, full service one off boards (send a schematic or layout and a parts list, get a finished board back) and much much more. For now, I'd like to hear from you what devices you guys would like me to offer initially so I know what components to stock up on.

The inspiration for this project when ReactiveMicro (formerly GSE-Reactive) shut down a while back. I saw how stranded the Apple II community was, and I thought, why not pick up where Henry left off, but since I'm a proud user of many classic platforms I figured it should be for every classic platform what ReactiveMicro was for the Apple II.

Also, just to be clear, this is not wishful thinking, a pipe dream, or vapour. I recently lost my day job, and I have already started purchasing equipment for this venture. The ROM/PLD programmer arrived today, the EPROM eraser is on its way, the PCD equipment will be here by the end of November, the electroplating gear (for through-hole plating) is being constructed, the box break and sheetmetal equipment will be purchased in short order, the vacuum pump desoldering station is in the shop, the rework station is on its way, and so on...

Let me know what you think. Questions, comments, and suggestions requested! Let's hear what you have to say! Also, if anyone wants to help me name this venture, I'd be glad to hear your suggestions!
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Old 11 November 2012, 02:32   #2
vulture
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Good luck, sounds good!
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Old 11 November 2012, 02:39   #3
Galahad/FLT
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A list of stuff you can do for Amiga would be an interesting start.
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Old 11 November 2012, 10:05   #4
TheRogue
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This. Is exactly what I'm trying to figure out. What do you guys want to see? What hardware do you need most. What do you want clones? What about redesigns? Anything you'd like to see a repair service for? Tell me what you want and I'll tell you 'Yes, sir!' I'm looking at providing what people need and want for as many lines of classic systems as I can. I am going to have cards mapped (multi-layer ones will probably have to be purchased and delaminated to map them), PLDs bruteforced or decapped to determine their contents, and so forth until a product is made available. I will start out offering designs that are already available and as time goes on original products and clones will be developed and added to the list of available products. So, to you now. What do you need the most? Let's here some suggestions!
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Old 11 November 2012, 11:20   #5
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an 68060 +CF-IDE +64MB Ram +USB Accelerator Board for the a500 would be really nice.

Last edited by dJOS; 11 November 2012 at 23:27.
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Old 11 November 2012, 11:44   #6
fgh
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New thylacine and CF/SD to SCSI sounds great!

I'd love to see something for the CD32:
A simple internal 8MB RAM + IDE/SD + clockport expansion would be nice.
A full expansion with 68030, 64MB RAM, IDE/SD, USB, a1200 clock port, and a back plate with RGB video/floppy/USB connectors would be awesome (Like a modern SX32)
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Old 11 November 2012, 12:04   #7
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Originally Posted by TheRogue View Post
the electroplating gear (for through-hole plating) is being constructed,
You're wasting your money. Use a PCB service for prototypes and mass-production. Their quality is way better than what you can achieve at home, their service is cheap enough for you to buy at least the first 50 prototype-boards for the kind of money you need to spend on a CNC driller, chemical stuff, raw material and stuff.

If you really have the expertise to operate a good CAD system, you should spend all the time that you have available on that thing. Don't waste your time on free or cheap CAD systems - they waste your time. I make a sharp difference between CAD programs and paint programs. Eagle is a paint program. Pulsonix comes close to a CAD system, and my recommendation is Altium Designer. It's worth every dime.

If you have cash left over, hold it back, don't spend it all in the first few months of your new business. Trust me, you'll need *lots* of money for prototyping, components and external services. Yes, external services, because they have all the equipment that you're about to buy, but you won't ever have the time and the need to make full use of the stuff. It'll sit there collecting dust and binding your cash that you may need for buying components. If you use an external service, you keep your risk low. Do an online search for "PCB service" or "PCB pooling" - you'll probably find that there's more services locally than you thought.

Keep away from banks. They will most probably tell you things like "you need to buy equipment", just to sell you an overpriced credit. And they might even tell you that you must make a business plan that probably keeps spending over a certain limit for "tax optimizing". That's pure BS. Don't trust anyone who is telling you that spending money can save taxes. I've heard that over and over again from banks, tax advisers and more people who wanted to sell me things. There's only one truth: Before you can spend a dollar, you have to earn it. Your current cash situation might allow spending money on equipment, but it'll take a year or more until your business picks up. Save the money for bad times, only spend it for an immediate return possibility.

In my opinion, the most-needed thing in the retro-market is a trustworthy repair place. If someone has soldering or diagnosis work to do on his/her beloved retro system, he/she is left with good advice in forums, but most of the time the soldering skills of the average user aren't good enough to exchange even 2-pin components.

Jens
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Old 11 November 2012, 12:29   #8
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Thank you very much for the advice Jens. The system I am using right now is Multisim/Ultiboard, but I have considered Altium. I am fully aware of the PCB services out there and I plan to make full use of them, but I am also planning to do some of the small scale two layer stuff on my own equipment partly because for smaller things it can be affordable but also because I really love doing it.

The equipment has been gifted to me by someone who wants to see this venture succeed but who doesn't have the expertise or time to make it happen themselves. I came up with it and they loved it, so they decided to make it happen, but they are not running the show, I am. They didn't make an investment with expected returns or controlling interest, it literally was a gift. I don't have to worry about banks, and I don't have to worry about tax advisers, at least not yet.

Repair service is something I am going to be offering right from the beginning. I have the skill to get it done, as well as the tools. I have a real professional grade vacuum desoldering station. Now, it's very late here and I need to sleep, but the wisdom has been heard and heeded!
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Old 11 November 2012, 12:39   #9
Arnie
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Motherboard repair for the Amiga would be a good start. Often the boards fail to boot or show distorted graphics with little or no reason to the average user. Some people offer a 'Caps' replacement service but very few offer a multi pin smd replacement or missing solder pad/broken track repair. (if anyone does, apologies, I have never found you).

Would you be able to offer 'one off' add on boards like an internal speaker board for the Amiga 600?
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Old 11 November 2012, 16:03   #10
Lord Aga
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I really cannot determine the level which can be reached with this announced production setup. But say... RTG card for A2000 ?
Replacement MoBo ?
USB solution for wedge Amigas ?

Last edited by Lord Aga; 11 November 2012 at 16:28.
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Old 11 November 2012, 19:55   #11
lole
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060 and/or PPC!

More opinions here: http://www.tonesoftales.com/amigappcpoll/
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Old 11 November 2012, 23:44   #12
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@Arnie: Repair operations like trace repair and replacement of SMD components will absolutely be offered. One off boards like you're talking about will absolutely be done. That's one of the core ideas of this project, in addition to big fancy new projects, people will be able to order simple single or double layer boards on a one-off basis for an affordable price.

@Lord Aga: Bigger projects involving things like ultra-fine traces and multi-layer boards will have their boards fabricated elsewhere, the simpler stuff will be done in house on demand. This assures that there is no limitations on what can be made available, but that for smaller things I can do them on demand without driving the price up. Everything you suggested will be taken into consideration. For an RTG card I may initially look at cloning an existing Zorro II/III autosensing card like the Merlin just to have something available quickly, and as the months go on put together a new RTG card. Replacement motherboards are being discussed, probably FPGA based. I am going to get in touch with some of the creators of certain projects to see if we can make their technology available as a drop-in replacement for classic motherboards. No need to reinvent the wheel, if someone is already designing an Amiga compatible system there's no reason to go and do it all over again here. I will try and get in touch with some people and let you all know!

@lole: 060 is definitely planned! PPC is much less certain but is a personal favourite of mine, so we'll call that one a wait and see for now!
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Old 11 November 2012, 23:53   #13
dJOS
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@lole: 060 is definitely planned!
Oi, that was my idea!

http://eab.abime.net/showpost.php?p=849962&postcount=5
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Old 12 November 2012, 01:33   #14
Kitty
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make an msx1/2 fgpa clone (sdcard slot, joystick ports, cart slot etc), I would definitely buy a board as they are very hard to get hold of now.

Last edited by Kitty; 12 November 2012 at 01:58.
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Old 12 November 2012, 09:49   #15
TheRogue
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make an msx1/2 fgpa clone (sdcard slot, joystick ports, cart slot etc), I would definitely buy a board as they are very hard to get hold of now.
I love it! The 1CMSX is so overpriced and unavailable! I would love to make an FPGA MSX available. Perhaps one that is reconfigurable between MSX1/2/2+/TurboR would be best? What do you think of that?

Also, let me be clear again for anyone who is mistaken, because if people get the wrong idea this project will lose all credibility in exactly 1 second. I have said it before but I will say it again now:

I AM NOT GOING TO PRODUCE COMPLEX MULTILAYER BOARDS WITH SUPERFINE TRACES IN HOUSE. SIMPLE SINGLE OR DOUBLE SIDED BOARDS WILL BE DONE ON DEMAND IN HOUSE, COMPLEX MULTILAYER STUFF WILL BE DONE BY A PCB MANUFACTURER.

I just wanted to be clear about that because anyone who knows anything about PCB manufacture will know that this would require a huge investment, and anyone who said they were doing this in their basement on a production scale would probably be blowing a lot of hot air. I know it's theoretically possible to make multilayer boards yourself through lamination, but I shiver at the thought of trying.

So that being said, please keep your comments and questions coming, I love hearing what you have to say!
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Old 12 November 2012, 12:07   #16
Akira
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Some Fast RAM+IDE interface board for CD32 is long needed! But it has a connector problem...
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Old 12 November 2012, 22:38   #17
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1.Turbo board with MC68060/90-100MHz, + USB + LAN + IDE with DMA + low latency and fast RAM for A4000 and A1200 would we outstanding,

2.Maybe enhanced motherboards replacement, but with USB, LAN, fast FlashROM for kickstart and MC68030, or MC68060.

Problems with Custom Chips could be omitted by placing only sockets for it.
In that case customer need to get chips on his own or just take chips from old motherboard. Problem could be also to get DB23 connectors.
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Old 12 November 2012, 23:47   #18
Kitty
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I would love to make an FPGA MSX available. Perhaps one that is reconfigurable between MSX1/2/2+/TurboR would be best? What do you think of that?
Sounds like perfection
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Old 12 November 2012, 23:54   #19
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2.Maybe enhanced motherboards replacement, but with USB, LAN, fast FlashROM for kickstart and MC68030, or MC68060.

Problems with Custom Chips could be omitted by placing only sockets for it.
In that case customer need to get chips on his own or just take chips from old motherboard. Problem could be also to get DB23 connectors.
If enhanced, replacement motherboards of the kind you're talking about were to become available, then DB25 connectors would have to be used instead, and video cables and external floppy drives would have to be adapted to use them by replacing their DB23 connectors. That would be a relatively small concession to make in order to use such hi-spec motherboards.
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Old 13 November 2012, 00:24   #20
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If only there was a way to get brand new, original AGA chips (NOT FPGA). That would be awesome.
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