Sometimes, a product gets lost on the way to final production. Our QuadPortIEC 4 port IEC bus hub is one such product. After announcing the design here and showing off completed boards here, we focused our attention on the recently introduced ZoomFloppy and then the EasyFlash 3. Finally, we sent the boards off for assembly, but still felt a bare board with wires would simply not work as a product. Finally, about a year or so ago, Commodore enthusiast Jim Peters in Iowa requested some bare PCBs and assembled units for personal use, which we supplied. He took it upon himself to machine finished cases for the units, with fabulous results. Thus, we hired him to supply finished cases for the remaining stock, and now can offer them in the store.
The design has not changed; QuadPortIEC is nothing more than a “dumb” IEC hub. ATN switches on the front for each port allow “silencing” of each bus segment, but that’s the only functionality exposed.
Still, we are glad to finally put the units in the store, where they will sell for USD$30.00. Since the units fill out a small flat rate box, we may need to adjust shipping charges for buyers.
As announced this afternoon at World of Commodore 2012, RETRO Innovations has acquired the rights to offer Click Here Software’s port of JiffyDOS for the Commodore VIC-20, C16, and +4 machines, thus completing the set of JiffyDOS KERNAL replacement offerings. Within the next few days, the KERNAL replacements and image files will be available in the online store for sale. Many thanks for those customers who kept asking for the versions, as that helped show that demand still exists for these versions of JiffyDOS.
The difference between a project and a product often boils down to looks. Along with a professionally designed and manufactured circuit board, a proper enclosure completes the package.
Thought we have long offered a un-machined cartridge case with 64NIC+ Ethernet cartridges, we had resisted the thought of milling cartridge cases. In the case of the 64NIC+, the Ethernet jack machining is tough and prone to error. A proper CNC milling machine is required to efficiently handle such a design. However, the EasyFlash 3 did not require so complex a solution to correctly machine a suitable cartridge enclosure. Some simple jigs on the drill press and creative use of drill bits ably substituted for a CNC mill. As a result, EasyFlash 3 arrives in an optional fully machined enclosure.
The red color choice was somewhat arbitrary, as we have clear enclosures. Still, translucent red and the red LED on the unit seemed to fit well together. I hope you agree.
The wait is almost over for VIC Expansion enthusiasts. After a significant delay, X-Pander 3 VIC units are nearing the end of assembly. As the photo shows, only the IO2/IO3 SWAP jumpers are left to assemble. We hope to add this to the store by the end of the week.
Given the width of VIC-20 cartridges, the finished units will have the switches located underneath the board, but will otherwise look identical.
As the picture suggests, the unit shares the same basic layout and operation as the X-Pander 64, but adds additional switches to control BLK and RAM lines.
It’s taken a while, but EasyFlash 3 units are nearing completion. All SMT components are installed, and the LED, switches, and jumper pins are all that remain. I am hoping the assembly house can ship this week so I can deliver units starting next week.
I’ve asked that the first 100 units be shipped before the second 100 are completed.
Since many people have ordered cases, it looks like I have some holes to drill before shipping 🙂
It’s taken longer than anticipated, but EasyFlash 3 production is finally underway. The first 200 boards are in production, with delivery scheduled for late March. The storefront is open for pre-orders, with pricing set at:
EF3 without enclosure: $59.99
EF3 with enclosure: $64.99
I delayed production slightly to lengthen the prototype PCB so that switches could be placed at the rear of the cartridge, and the delay allowed the design to incorporate last minute design enhancements. However, I will admit I treaded lightly on this production, as it’s a reasonably complex unit and RETRO Innovations is not the principal designer.
I realize late March is still significantly far in the future. If you want a unit now, please check out Retro Donald’s storefront, which has uncased units in stock.
By popular demand, we’re now offering both kit and assembled versions of our C=Key Commodore Keyboard Dual Mode Interface. This unit supports using a PS/2 keyboard to a VIC-20,C64,C64C,C128,C128D,C128DCR, or SX64 machine in one configuration. It can also interface keyboards for those same machines to a PS/2-based PC (or USB PC via a PS/2 to USB adapter). We’ve held off for years in offering this product, because PS/2 keyboards are getting scarce and we are redesigning the unit to work with USB keyboards. That said, numerous enthusiasts convinced us there is enough interest to offer the product in the store. Unlike our other offerings, we’re still considering this a “project” rather than a complete product offering. If you are a tinkerer who doesn’t mind getting his/her hands dirty with microcontrollers, this might be of interest. However, if you’re a fan of plug and play and easy upgrades, we encourage you to wait until a USB version is available.
In late 2010, a group of folks suggested the need for a KERNAL replacement cartridge. This cartridge would allow those with socketed KERNAL ROMs to enjoy KERNAL upgrades like JiffyDOS and would also help KERNAL developers try out new ideas before committing them to EPROM. Due to the complexity of “replacing” a ROM inside a machine without physically removing it, a Commodore Bounty was created to encourage someone to develop the solution. Thomas Giesel took up the challenge, finding a novel solution to the complexity, and developing an economically viable solution. Along the way, Thomas merged in some additional features, and the result is EasyFlash 3.
EasyFlash 3 offers a number of features:
8 8kB slots for alternative KERNAL ROM images,
7 EasyFlash I cartridge image slots.
Support for the following cartridge formats
Ocean Type 1
USB support (for transfer of data to/from PC/Mac/Linux
Field upgradeable firmware and hardware configuration
Ability to replace/add/remove images from the C64
EasyFlash will soon be available from RETRO Innovations and can be used on the C64, C64C, and SX64. C128/C128D use is not currently supported.
In hardware design, as with any endeavor, one strives to minimize errors. However, as with anything, some errors are more important to prevent or eliminate than others. When dealing with microcontroller-based projects, I concentrate on the printed circuit board and components. Software errors can be fixed after production, but once the hardware and PCB are produced, there are few opportunities for change.
Still, even with doublechecking the design and prototyping, an error crops up every so often. When that happens, I can’t bear to pitch the boards immediately, so I usually stuff them somewhere in the shop. You never know, they might have some use at some point.
I recently ran a tiny PCB with “gold immersion” plating, with black soldermask. Though it contained an error, the board proved visually striking. I showed them to my daughter, who enjoys pretty items, the smaller the better. She loves adding castoffs and “trash” items to her collection, and was understandably impressed by the “baby” circuit board. I told her she might find a use for them, at some point.
Less than a day later, she and her mother had determined the tiny PCBs might make unique jewelry items. After purchasing some earring hoops from a local shop, she and I created hoop earrings from the small circuit boards. We then created small storage cards for the jewelry, setting a price for the product, and dreaming up a name for her “business”. We informed her that once she meets expenses (the boards are free, since I’ve written them off as useless, but the hoops were purchased), the remaining sales income will be hers. I offered to promote them at the upcoming “World of Commodore” show and then list them in the online store for sale.
If you or someone you care for wants a unique single or set of earrings from “The Belle Rings”, look for them in the store shortly and enjoy!