Author Topic: System card dreams....  (Read 465 times)

spenoza

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Re: System card dreams....
« Reply #60 on: October 19, 2015, 05:22:08 AM »
So, how does your system card project differ from TailChao's CD Stupid Card?

Is there a risk, at this point, of fragmenting system card advances, or do you think it's likely that after some development work, a singular "optimal" design will emerge from the various projects and become the defacto future of the system?

I ask because, speaking selfishly, I don't want to have to purchase a new system card every time I want to play a homebrew release, unless it's a card-format title and the system card is built-in. I would hate to have to buy a separate system card for every new CD release. They tried something a little like that on the Saturn and, while it was effective, it didn't help sales one bit.

elmer

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Re: System card dreams....
« Reply #61 on: October 20, 2015, 05:45:51 AM »
So, how does your system card project differ from TailChao's CD Stupid Card?

I'm curious, too.  :-k

But also in how your card differs from a TurboEverDrive v2 (now up to revision 2.4).

That's got 4MB RAM, AFAIK it can boot a customized CD BIOS, and it has a USB connection to a PC for game developers (so no messing about with the joypad port).

And it's available for anyone to buy now.

[EDIT]

Just tested a couple of SYSCARD versions on the TED 2, and "yes" they work fine booting Gate of Thunder, i.e. it works with a SYSCARD 3 image, and the CD displays an error message when booted with a SYSCARD 2 image, as expected.
« Last Edit: October 20, 2015, 07:26:44 AM by elmer »

TheOldMan

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Re: System card dreams....
« Reply #62 on: October 20, 2015, 08:33:57 AM »
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So, how does your system card project differ from TailChao's CD Stupid Card?
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But also in how your card differs from a TurboEverDrive v2 (now up to revision 2.4).

It's a lot simpler (and cheaper to make). I'm not out to take anything away from those cards.
It's basically a system card with more memory. That's all.

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And it's available for anyone to buy now.
Well, anyone with the $$.

Most homebrew/translation people would like to have just a little more RAM. (see the xanadu thread. There are others, too, if you search around.) They do it for fun, and want the games played.
A cheap card would allow those of us who can't afford a StupidCard/Everdrive to play them.

Oh, yeah, let's not forget: Both those cards can do a lot more than this one. But you have to plan for which card to use (iirc, they use different schemes for accessing extra RAM).  In theory, a homebrew dev could produce these cards without having to figure out how to do anything else (though I think Tailchao changed his card so it defaults to a relatively stock setup. )

And if you (as a developer) know anything about circuit design, it might me possible to add battery-backup to it...

elmer

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Re: System card dreams....
« Reply #63 on: October 20, 2015, 10:21:18 AM »
It's a lot simpler (and cheaper to make). I'm not out to take anything away from those cards.
It's basically a system card with more memory. That's all.

So something like 512KB flash and 512KB SRAM ... or something different?

In-system flashable for upgrades?

Are you willing to share more details, yet?


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Well, anyone with the $$. ...
A cheap card would allow those of us who can't afford a StupidCard/Everdrive to play them.

Hmmm ... well TailChao's CD StupidCard was $35, so you're definitely expecting to beat that, but the $20 margin isn't a huge deal in the grand scheme of things.

IMHO ... if you can't afford a $35 card, then I'm not sure how you can afford to buy any PCE games or other peripherals, but there's no denying that it's good to save money if you're still getting something that can do the job.


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Oh, yeah, let's not forget: Both those cards can do a lot more than this one. But you have to plan for which card to use (iirc, they use different schemes for accessing extra RAM).

"Yes", that's the "fragmentation" that spenoza was worried about.

The CD Stupid Card gives you 512KB ROM & 512KB RAM out-of-the-box without running any card-specific code to flip banks.

If you do that, too, then you're not introducing any more fragmentation for developers/translators that just want a little bit of extra RAM.

I'm not sure what the TED 2 defaults to, as I've litterally just shipped off my v2.2 cards to be replaced with the new version. But even if it doesn't support it by-default, it should be able to be switched to 512KB ROM & 512KB RAM with a simple customized System Card image.

If translators can just rely on a simple 512KB RAM without having to do any card-specific checks (i.e. just by doing a general scan for RAM banks), then I think that you'll probably make everyone happy, and people can just buy whichever card they like, and all 3 would run an "expanded" translation.


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Most homebrew/translation people would like to have just a little more RAM. (see the xanadu thread. There are others, too, if you search around.) They do it for fun, and want the games played.

I should be fine with Xanadu 1 & 2, but it could easily have worked out differently if Falcom had used a better compressor back in 1994/1995.

I can totally understand that giving translators that bit of extra memory to make their lives easier could well be a major benefit to the whole fanbase.

Most sane folks don't going to want to go through the programming gyrations that I'm going to be doing on the Xanadu games.

I think that my concern is that things remain "easy" for both translation programmers and end-users.

That means a simple ROM/RAM layout that doesn't need any card-specific detection, i.e. presumably the 512KB/512KB that the other 2 cards can already do, and that TailChao has already released a Mednafen image for.


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In theory, a homebrew dev could produce these cards without having to figure out how to do anything else.

And if you (as a developer) know anything about circuit design, it might me possible to add battery-backup to it...

The idea of this scares me more than anything else!

If I'm writing a homebrew game, then the last thing that I want to do is to have to invest in manufacturing and stocking a generic add-on card just so that people can run my game.

Neither will any of us benefit if every developer produces their own customized version with a slightly different BIOS, or with/without a battery-backup, just to make sure that you buy their version of the card.

I'd rather point people towards KRIKKzz and let him deal with the hassle of "retail" hardware sales.


**************

Now, from my own personal POV of wanting to do some homebrew ...

If I'm going to write something that requires expanded memory, it's going to be requiring at least 2MB (i.e. CD Stupid Card or Turbo EverDrive 2 or Arcade Card). I can't see the point in programming anything new for 512KB RAM when the Arcade Card already set the "standard" at 2MB 20 years ago.

IMHO, if wanted to "go wild", it would be with the TED2's 4MB, because the card isn't that expensive, it provides one heck of a lot of functionality for it's price, and it's manufacturer actively supports it.

Bonknuts

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Re: System card dreams....
« Reply #64 on: October 20, 2015, 12:54:13 PM »
Interesting. So while these cards technically offer more, maybe they can all adhere to a new but lowest level standard? Something like SCD 3.2 with 512k rom and 512k ram. The ram part is easy, but what's that extra 256k rom going to be defined as? A few different fonts would be nice (6x12,8x8,8x12,8x16). Maybe a sets of small-ish common English dictionary tables (2byte, 3byte, 4bytes, etc). Sin, cos, tan, arcsin, arccos, arctan. Whatever - faster math/f(x) routines. Definitely wouldn't mind some non-linear ramps (look up tables).

 Edit: maybe it doesn't have to be rom, but I still have the newer/faster CD_READ routines that I ripped from Seiya Monogatari. Who doesn't like a 27% increase in read speed? It's only 8k.
« Last Edit: October 20, 2015, 01:14:37 PM by Bonknuts »

elmer

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Re: System card dreams....
« Reply #65 on: October 20, 2015, 01:49:00 PM »
The ram part is easy, but what's that extra 256k rom going to be defined as? A few different fonts would be nice (6x12,8x8,8x12,8x16). Maybe a sets of small-ish common English dictionary tables (2byte, 3byte, 4bytes, etc). Sin, cos, tan, arcsin, arccos, arctan. Whatever - faster math/f(x) routines. Definitely wouldn't mind some non-linear ramps (look up tables).

Haha ... that's where we all start getting into trouble!  :wink:

There's very little in that list of things that I wouldn't rather have available as source/libraries.

There aren't enough active developers to form a "standards committee", and gawd knows if anyone would want to ... and anyway, it's The Old Man's project, so he gets to do as he pleases.

From what he said a couple of messages ago, I think that he'd like to put Chris Covell's PCEMON into that extra 256KB, and that sounds like a great idea to me.

Put some extra tool functionality in there that's useful for a developer and that a curious end-user can play with, and that seems like it would be enough, to me.

If you've got 512KB of RAM on the card, then you've just gained 320KB more than a System Card 3.

That seems like plenty of memory to add a few new "library" functions into your own code.

I think that TailChao was 100% correct when he decided to make absolutely no new library functions available in the CD Stupid Card.

And that's the other thing ... that card is already out there, and so is the TED 2 (with its Street Fighter 2 mapper).

We've already got 2 cards with a 512KB/512KB split, and it's the one that makes the most sense from a hardware chip-select POV.

That doesn't mean that anyone has to suddenly use all the extra ROM space to add library calls that only serve to fragment the landscape for developers/users.


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Edit: maybe it doesn't have to be rom, but I still have the newer/faster CD_READ routines that I ripped from Seiya Monogatari. Who doesn't like a 27% increase in read speed? It's only 8k.

IMHO, the best thing to do would just be to make the source to those routines available, and then anyone can use them as they wish.

I just looked, and they don't seem to be downloadable from your blog.

Have you disassembled them to source yet?

Actually ... off-topic, but what are you using to disassemble things?

TheOldMan

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Re: System card dreams....
« Reply #66 on: October 20, 2015, 04:07:32 PM »
Had a nice little point-by-point reply, but apparently I took to long to write it and got logged off.
Here's the simple version:

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with 512k rom and 512k ram.
Yeah, that seems the natural split. Though you can replace the 512k RAM with ROM if you're using to produce your own cards. (that's why cost is a big factor)

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I think that he'd like to put Chris Covell's PCEMON into that extra 256KB....
That seems like plenty of memory to add a few new "library" functions into your own code....

I would, for my own use.
I think developers have different needs for different games; since the card is re-flashable, you could set it up however you like. Or make a few, with different setups for different needs.

No, it's not in-system flashable:( The programming timing on the chip is too fast for the pce to handle, and if a block isn't programmed in that time-frame, the chip times out.
Yes, I'd love to have a faster cd read routine. I think I'm going to need it....

Mu goal isn't to mass produce and sell these. It's to build a card that -anyone- can make cheaply, and use for developement and/or hombrew productions.

TheOldMan

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Re: System card dreams....
« Reply #67 on: October 20, 2015, 04:15:51 PM »
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IMHO ... if you can't afford a $35 card, then I'm not sure how you can afford to buy any PCE games or other peripherals, but there's no denying that it's good to save money if you're still getting something that can do the job.

Elmer: I can afford a $35 card. I can afford an everdrive. Can everyone?
Would you rather have people play your translation, or complain that it required a $35 card (that's not available anymore. Better check e-bay..) or a $100 card to play through?

(Not that Xanadu will. But then you run into the whole tobias reproduction problem....Which is another part of the cheap card idea.)

elmer

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Re: System card dreams....
« Reply #68 on: October 21, 2015, 09:28:52 AM »
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with 512k rom and 512k ram.

Yeah, that seems the natural split. Though you can replace the 512k RAM with ROM if you're using to produce your own cards. (that's why cost is a big factor)

Excellent!  :)

It looks like your for competition ROM-only cards is getting tougher (http://www.pcenginefx.com/forums/index.php?topic=19848.0), but AFAIK, you'll be the only-game-in-town with affordable ROM+RAM cards ... if you guys at Aetherbyte decide to stock and sell them.  :-k


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No, it's not in-system flashable:( The programming timing on the chip is too fast for the pce to handle, and if a block isn't programmed in that time-frame, the chip times out.

That makes sense, thanks!


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My goal isn't to mass produce and sell these. It's to build a card that -anyone- can make cheaply, and use for development and/or homebrew productions.

This is where I question the plan, but I've certainly been horribly wrong before. Are you sure that's going to make sense for small homebrew developers?

I think that ichigobankai has found out in the other thread that most people really don't want to solder surface-mount components onto boards.

Does your $20-per-card-in-a-batch-of-50 estimate include contract-production of the boards in China, all the plastic/spacers needed to make it fit properly, and shipping to the USA?

If so, then I'm going to have to drop $1000 (minimum) to get them, and I'd probably have to charge at least $30 or maybe even $40 per card in order to cover returns, interest, and my time in order for it to be worthwhile. Does that sound right?


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I think developers have different needs for different games; since the card is re-flashable, you could set it up however you like. Or make a few, with different setups for different needs.

That's absolutely great for development use (but still not as good as a TED2-with-USB), but if I were to think about requiring one of these to play a homebrew CD game, then you're giving me a lot of extra trouble for that 320KB of extra RAM.

Are you perhaps thinking of these cards as acting as a sort of copy-protection method for homebrew CD games?  :-k


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Yes, I'd love to have a faster cd read routine. I think I'm going to need it....

Me, too! But for me, I suspect that I'd put it in a bank in the regular SCD RAM.


I can afford a $35 card. I can afford an everdrive. Can everyone?
Would you rather have people play your translation, or complain that it required a $35 card (that's not available anymore. Better check e-bay..) or a $100 card to play through?

I think that the idea would be to use the minimum of extra hardware that's necessary to make the translation run.

If someone can't afford the required hardware, then they can play the translation on an emulator for free.

Remember ... translations aren't like homebrew, they're basically "grey-area" from the start, and they're given away for free.

Do you really think that any translator is going to want to pay money to stock ROM/RAM cards just so that they can give away their translation for free???

I suspect that most translators don't have a burning desire to become shop-keepers ... and I certainly don't!

Also, if some translator started requiring people to buy a "custom" my-translations-only ROM/RAM card, then they'd get crucified by the rest of the translation community!

So "yes", if I needed to use extra RAM in a translation, then I'd make it compatible with emulators, and also with whatever ROM/RAM HuCard people can go out there and easily buy ... which at this point means the $80 TED2.

If Aetherbyte wants to make a generic 512KB/512KB "System Card 4" available for $20, then I'd try to make it compatible with those and point people in your direction.

If those cards become popular, then you may see people making homebrew for them.


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(Not that Xanadu will. But then you run into the whole tobias reproduction problem....Which is another part of the cheap card idea.)

The possibility of Tobias doing a reproduction is definitely something that SamIAm and I have already talked about, many times.

Now that he's giving away the translations for "free", I'm not sure just how pissed that I can be.

Yes, it's really annoying that such an unscrupulous ass would be basically making a profit out of my work, but I'm certainly not going to start making my own illegal reproductions!

IMHO, requiring a new ROM/RAM card is counter-productive.

Most of Tobias's customers want shelf-candy, and it's not going to matter that they're going to have to come here to buy a ROM/RAM card (or just play it on an emulator).

In fact, if there's money-to-be-made, then Tobias will just clone the card and charge $60 for the "official" PCEWorks "Translation Card".
« Last Edit: October 21, 2015, 10:26:04 AM by elmer »

Necromancer

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Re: System card dreams....
« Reply #69 on: October 21, 2015, 09:49:12 AM »
In fact, if there's money-to-be-made, then Tobias will just clone the card and charge $60 for the "official" PCEWorks "Translation Card".

Bundled with a Captain Midnight Decoder Ring?  :lol:
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TailChao

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Re: System card dreams....
« Reply #70 on: October 21, 2015, 10:07:09 AM »
If Aetherbyte wants to make a generic 512KB/512KB "System Card 4" available for $20, then I'd try to make it compatible with those and point people in your direction.
Designing cartridges with extra memory or capabilities is not very difficult, and great for new software.
CD System cards are an issue, as mass producing one without completely reimplementing Hudson's original software is... a very poor choice legally.

The Turbo Everdrive 2 is actually the only available card which is grey enough to be exempt from this, since you're loading the software on your own.

elmer

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Re: System card dreams....
« Reply #71 on: October 21, 2015, 11:12:08 AM »
Bundled with a Captain Midnight Decoder Ring?  :lol:

And a special gen-u-ine Certificate of Authenticity!


CD System cards are an issue, as mass producing one without completely reimplementing Hudson's original software is... a very poor choice legally.

Hahaha ... you sunk my BattleShip!  :wink:

Yep, this is the other Elephant in the Room.

Again, it's not one of those lines that I'd like to cross, but everyone gets to make their own choices.

If AetherByte or any other homebrew developer wants to flaunt copyright laws and start selling a "System Card 4", then it's up to them to take the risk.

Given that Konami couldn't even bother to stop Tobias from pirating one of their signature-properties, then I'd say that the actual risk is pretty low ... but it puts you over a line that you can never step back from.

It's one of those things that would stop me from wanting to personally advertise/sell/ship a "System Card 4" like that.

TheOldMan

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Re: System card dreams....
« Reply #72 on: October 21, 2015, 02:31:43 PM »
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It looks like your competition for ROM-only cards is getting tougher....
...if you guys at Aetherbyte decide to stock and sell them. 
Understood, but I'm not sure I want to have to glue the cards together.
And the open chip on the bottom bothers me, too.
We're not planning on selling them; I'd like to see the plans/files
freely available (under a non-profit license), so anyone could make them.

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I think that ichigobankai has found out in the other thread that most
people really don't want to solder surface-mount components onto boards.
It's really not that hard, people. But I wouldn't suggest it, when you can
build a re-flow setup from an old toaster oven for cheap. :)

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Does your $20-per-card-in-a-batch-of-50 estimate include contract-production
of the boards in China, all the plastic/spacers needed to make it fit properly,
and shipping to the USA?
Nope. Parts/materials cost only. And slightly over-priced at that. I'll have to
dig out my invoices to get an actual price.

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Do you really think that any translator is going to want to pay money to
stock ROM/RAM cards just so that they can give away their translation for free???
Nope. But some folks really don't like emulators. A note that says it will play
on real hardware with these cards (and list them all) could generate a lot
of downloads.

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Also, if some translator started requiring people to buy a "custom"
my-translations-only ROM/RAM card, then they'd get crucified by the rest of
the translation community!
And rightly so.

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If Aetherbyte wants to make a generic 512KB/512KB "System Card 4" available for $20...
NOT an Aetherbyte project. Something for the community to play with. Strictly
non-commercial.

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In fact, if there's money-to-be-made, then Tobias will just clone the card
and charge $60 for the "official" PCEWorks "Translation Card".
My lawyer would love that :)

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CD System cards are an issue, as mass producing one without completely
reimplementing Hudson's original software is... a very poor choice legally.
The Turbo Everdrive 2 is actually the only available card which is grey
enough to be exempt from this, since you're loading the software on your own.

Which is one thing we won't do. Somebody trying to make money at it, maybe. But we
wouldn't include an unmodified Bios, which in itself is a grey area....
(In fact, in most cases, we wouldn't supply a bios anyway. We're not mass-producing them)


Edit: Missed a / on the quote tag :(
« Last Edit: October 21, 2015, 02:34:13 PM by TheOldMan »

elmer

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Re: System card dreams....
« Reply #73 on: October 21, 2015, 04:24:20 PM »
We're not planning on selling them; I'd like to see the plans/files
freely available (under a non-profit license), so anyone could make them.

That's very generous  :D ... and also just what TailChao has done with the CD StupidCard.

It'll be great to have a choice for small-scale production ... but I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for it to happen.  :(


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It's really not that hard, people. But I wouldn't suggest it, when you can
build a re-flow setup from an old toaster oven for cheap. :)

Hahaha!  :wink:

I so wish that I hadn't lost my interest in electronics after a bad semester, and had kept up-to-date!

But for "normal" folks, including me, it's going to be contract-production-in-China-or-nothing.

It's just like how I find programming "easy", but most folks with real lives have different skills instead, a lot of which make me horrified by my pathetic ignorance.  :oops:

It's a complex world!


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Nope. Parts/materials cost only. And slightly over-priced at that. I'll have to
dig out my invoices to get an actual price.

Thanks!


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Nope. But some folks really don't like emulators. A note that says it will play
on real hardware with these cards (and list them all) could generate a lot
of downloads.

I agree, being able to play on real hardware should always be the goal. But that hardware has to be reasonably "available".

For instance ... I'm really tempted to write something that uses the PC-FXGA's 3D chip, because the lack of that on the PC-FX is one of the biggest mysteries of the machine.

But if I do so ... then what? There are probably only a handful of active PC-FXGA setups on the entire planet!


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NOT an Aetherbyte project. Something for the community to play with. Strictly
non-commercial.

Thanks for the clarification. That helps put the whole thing in context.


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In fact, if there's money-to-be-made, then Tobias will just clone the card
and charge $60 for the "official" PCEWorks "Translation Card".
My lawyer would love that :)

Even ignoring the likelihood that it wouldn't take Tobias more than a few minutes to find a Chinese engineer to make a compatible-but-different design, let's say that he just took your exact design.

Let's also say that he couldn't just find a way to "sell" it that wouldn't violate your license (i.e. include it "at-cost" with a "deluxe" $200 game-package).

Then would you really throw away thousands of dollars to sue him? In Germany?

That's a question that I had to ask myself when I put my "copyright" on the code that I included in the Zeroigar translation.


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(In fact, in most cases, we wouldn't supply a bios anyway. We're not mass-producing them)

Well, IMHO that makes it pretty much like the CD StupidCard.

Absolutely amazingly wonderful for the few of us developers that have it, but unlikely to ever get manufactured/used in serious volume.  :(

TailChao

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Re: System card dreams....
« Reply #74 on: October 21, 2015, 04:41:31 PM »
But for "normal" folks, including me, it's going to be contract-production-in-China-or-nothing.

Something important to point out about this -

Most of the larger "new-game-for-that-old-thing" releases are manufactured overseas. That's fine, but I very very very much recommend that you design the cards here, and carefully so.

I've seen 3.3V parts on 5V consoles without proper level shifting and ghetto ass diode regulators to drop the supply voltage for them. This is not cool for the parts, the console, or you. But it's done again and again because it's cheap.

This came up recently on spritesmind if you want more reading material. Taking advantage of the greater availability of 3.3V components is wonderful, but it needs to be done properly.