Commander X16 FAQ (From David Murray on Facebook)

May 22, 2019
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From the Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/notes/commander-x16-prototype/frequently-asked-questions/402529397164827/

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Frequently Asked Questions

If you haven’t already, please watch the Commander X16 project video(s): https://youtu.be/ayh0qebfD2g
What CPU/sound/video chip will you be using?
Please see the Features & Specifications doc.
Why BASIC? Why Commodore BASIC?
Well, I just want it to have some sort of BASIC in ROM, as well as an assembler/monitor. There’s no reason you couldn’t program it in C or any other language, though. Since we cannot license the ROMs from Commodore I want it to be possible for the end user to load BASIC 2.0 into flash or into RAM to use. However, it may end up having some other form of BASIC as default.
What about other languages?
There’s no reason you couldn’t program in C++ or whatever on this computer if somebody wants to port over a compiler. Alternatively, you can use a cross-compiler.
Why PS/2 Keyboard and not USB?
USB is tremendously more difficult to implement than PS/2. A good analogy is like the difference between implementing RS-232 or Ethernet. PS/2 keyboards are still manufactured, easy to find, and inexpensive. And, since the kernel is going to handle keyboard input, there’s no reason we can’t upgrade to USB later when we have the resources for that and it shouldn’t break compatibility.
Why VGA instead of Composite or HDMI?
I would love for it to have composite as a secondary option. But it can’t be the only option. I’d prefer something that could handle more than 40 columns clearly. VGA is fairly easy to implement as compared to HDMI. And worst case, there are low-cost chips that can convert VGA to HDMI. And if you have to convert to HDMI, far better to convert from VGA than from composite.
Why don’t you shoot for a 100% compatibility with the C64?
There are already plenty of products and emulators that do this. And while it would be nice, it would make this project considerably more complicated, expensive, and most likely would never get finished.
What sort of expansions would be possible?
We plan to have compatibility with Arduino shields. So, this will make a lot of hardware physically compatible and easy to snap on. However, the entire bus will also be available for anyone who wants to add custom hardware like SID chips, or whatever.
What sort of joysticks will you use?
At the moment, the plan is to go with NES style game controllers. There are numerous reasons for this:
  • The controllers, or at least clones are still manufactured.
  • They offer more buttons, allowing more complex games.
  • They require fewer I/O lines to operate them.
  • Joysticks have sort of fallen out of favor and most people these days prefer controllers.
What do you need help with the most?
At the moment we need help with kernel design. Even if the board were finished today, it would be a doorstop without having any software. So kernel development is the priority. We’re using modified C64s as test-mules.
Will it be sold as a kit or pre-assembled?
I’m sort of hoping to do both. Ironically, the kit would probably end up costing the same or more because of the DIP style packing. But I can see why a hobbyist would prefer that style of board. The pre-assembled unit would probably be a lot of surface mount.
Will there be a case, keyboard, controllers?
The current plan is to offer a case and separate PS/2 keyboard as either a Kickstarter stretch goal or perk option. We are undecided as to a mouse and/or gamepad’s inclusion, though they may be additional options. We already have mock-up artwork completed and will share when the time is right. The design will be an ideal balance of retro & modern visuals, with equal emphasis on functionality.
Why not use the Parallax Propeller chip?
We will not be using the Propeller for these reasons:
  • Most of its capabilities are on par with or inferior to our custom FPGA.
  • There are issues when putting it on the system bus related to CPU read attempt speed call and answer
  • The Propeller costs the same as if not more than the faster FPGA
Please see here for a more detailed answer: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CommanderX16/permalink/413315816086185/
Will there be a GUI?
This is not planned to be built-in, although we anticipate the community may produce one. The ideal GUI would use the text character set, rather than graphics - see http://www.c64os.com/c64os as a reference.
Will there be an emulator?
Hopefully. But there isn’t one right now.
When will the computer be released?
There is no release date set. ‘It’ll be ready when it’s ready’
:) Once we have a viable prototype, we will announce a Kickstarter campaign.
Will there be a software library webpage?
Yes, this will become part of www.CommanderX16.com
Who is involved at the moment?
At the moment it is somewhat disorganized. And this may change over time as we figure out what aspects people want to do. But the main people on board right now are:
  • David Murray aka The 8-Bit Guy - Ringleader and Kernal Design
  • Kevin Willams - Board Design/Prototyping/Manufacturing
  • Christian Simpson aka Perifractic - Visual/Exterior Design
 
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BattleTech64

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Sep 16, 2019
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  • David Murray aka The 8-Bit Guy - Ringleader and Kernal Design
Wrong spelled. It's called: "KernEl". Everywhere on the Internet they spell and write it wrong, because it's a bug in the VIC20 Manual.
And every human body on the Internet takes this crap ^^
 

vii

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Sep 13, 2019
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  • David Murray aka The 8-Bit Guy - Ringleader and Kernal Design
Wrong spelled. It's called: "KernEl". Everywhere on the Internet they spell and write it wrong, because it's a bug in the VIC20 Manual.
And every human body on the Internet takes this crap ^^
It's a tradition to spell it Kernal in the Commodore world. The C64 manuals called it Kernal too.
 

BattleTech64

New Member
Sep 16, 2019
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That's what I've said: "...because it's a bug in the VIC20 Manual."

It makes no sense to keep up false traditions. Because it's the wrong way to teach kids.
If something is misspelled in math books, it will be corrected in the next edition. And not that a tradition made of faulty mathematics books.

It would be better if people thought about it instead of dragging it into the next Generation ... next Generation, next Generation ... ;-)
But I think, they think that they would lost something... whether it is wrong or not. Sad, very sad.

But ok, thats the reason why the world is so crazy sometimes ... do not think, just live, no matter how.

It's a Kernel... nothing else. Also at 8 bit :)
 

vii

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Sep 13, 2019
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All traditions are false, bruh. All of them. It's just kind of an internal joke. We live in a society. Sorry that makes you sad.
 
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May 22, 2019
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Some people say that one should not complain about a speck of sawdust in one's eye when one has a plank sticking out of their own.

This was not a spelling error, or a "bug", in the VIC-20 manual. The writers of the manual spelled it that way intentionally. There was even an acronym made up for the name: Keyboard Entry Read Network And Link

In fact, Robert Russell (the programmer and system architect for the VIC-20) spelled it that way in one of his notebooks, and then Neil Harris and Andy Finkel propagated that spelling down the line. Since then, all of Commodore's 8-bit kernels have been called "KERNAL."


Let's just accept that KERNAL is the proper noun (a name, like Dave or Gary) for the generic kernel, and move on.
 
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BattleTech64

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Sep 16, 2019
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"KERNAL is the proper noun" ^^

You can show us 1000 Books, Wikipedia or other sources where somebody write this false word down. It is still false.
It makes no sense to still write a math formula false, just because somebody misspelled it somewhere. To create new false words is stupid, and it's even stupider to insist. Traditions also, it is simply stupid to want to maintain a false nonsensical tradition. That is the reason why the barbaric church rituals were forbidden.

For me, closed.
 
May 22, 2019
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"KERNAL is the proper noun" ^^

You can show us 1000 Books, Wikipedia or other sources where somebody write this false word down. It is still false.
It makes no sense to still write a math formula false, just because somebody misspelled it somewhere. To create new false words is stupid, and it's even stupider to insist. Traditions also, it is simply stupid to want to maintain a false nonsensical tradition. That is the reason why the barbaric church rituals were forbidden.

For me, closed.
It is a name. Like Steve or Studebaker.

That's what a proper noun is, it's a unique name.

Do you understand what a "proper noun" is? That's the unique name of a person, place, company, brand, etc.

KERNAL is the unique name for Commodore's operating system, like DOS, CP/M, GEOS, or UNIX. Those are all initialisms or acronyms, like KERNAL.

And, as has been said but bears repeating, English has a descriptive syntax. This means that we define words by how they are used. We don't force people to use words by how we define them. So complain all you want - but don't expect everyone to agree with you, or to even want to hear it.

This conversation has been had thousands of times, and derailing a conversation to argue about the name of KERNAL is unproductive and annoying. If you want to have a conversation about the name of KERNAL, start a new thread. Any further complaints on the topic in this thread will be deleted as off-topic. (And, for the record, I really wish this forum software had a way to split threads.)
 
Last edited:

Fullauto556

New Member
Sep 12, 2019
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Jackson, TN
It is a name. Like Steve or Studebaker.

That's what a proper noun is, it's a unique name.

Do you understand what a "proper noun" is? That's the unique name of a person, place, company, brand, etc.

KERNAL is the unique name for Commodore's operating system, like DOS, CP/M, GEOS, or UNIX. Those are all initialisms or acronyms, like KERNAL.

And, as has been said but bears repeating, English has a descriptive syntax. This means that we define words by how they are used. We don't force people to use words by how we define them. So complain all you want - but don't expect everyone to agree with you, or to even want to hear it.

This conversation has been had thousands of times, and derailing a conversation to argue about the name of KERNAL is unproductive and annoying. If you want to have a conversation about the name of KERNAL, start a new thread. Any further complaints on the topic in this thread will be deleted as off-topic. (And, for the record, I really wish this forum software had a way to split threads.)
With the high caliber of talent working on this project, I'm sure it's going to look and feel great regardless of spelling. Staying true to the original has merit. Any clue at all when the kick-starter might drop?
 
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May 22, 2019
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With the high caliber of talent working on this project, I'm sure it's going to look and feel great regardless of spelling. Staying true to the original has merit. Any clue at all when the kick-starter might drop?
I’m only an interested observer, like you, but if I was to guess based on progress, we’d probably see a fully functional prototype in a few months.

If I was to put a number on it, I’d guess the second half of next year. June? July? Something like that.

That’s just a guess, though, based on what they have already done and what they seemingly have planned.
 
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RLH

New Member
Sep 18, 2019
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Sorry if this has been asked and answered, but I swear the video mentioned there was an emulator available for this. The FAQ above is old and says "coming soon". I don't use Facebook, so is there a way to emulate/run this in it's current state? If so, where can I get further information, and download all pertinent files?
 

Funnybones

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Sep 12, 2019
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Sorry if this has been asked and answered, but I swear the video mentioned there was an emulator available for this. The FAQ above is old and says "coming soon". I don't use Facebook, so is there a way to emulate/run this in it's current state? If so, where can I get further information, and download all pertinent files?
the emulator is here :


Look in the "Releases" section if you just want a binary and don't want to build it yourself
 

RLH

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Sep 18, 2019
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the emulator is here :


Look in the "Releases" section if you just want a binary and don't want to build it yourself
Thank you so much! I was hoping it was on github. Following!
 
May 22, 2019
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And don't for the documentation...


the "commanderx16" user has some other stuff, too - the ROMs, examples, etc. Check all his repositories.
 

Gwyllym

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Sep 28, 2019
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From the Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/notes/commander-x16-prototype/frequently-asked-questions/402529397164827/

---

Frequently Asked Questions

If you haven’t already, please watch the Commander X16 project video(s): https://youtu.be/ayh0qebfD2g
What CPU/sound/video chip will you be using?
Please see the Features & Specifications doc.
Why BASIC? Why Commodore BASIC?
Well, I just want it to have some sort of BASIC in ROM, as well as an assembler/monitor. There’s no reason you couldn’t program it in C or any other language, though. Since we cannot license the ROMs from Commodore I want it to be possible for the end user to load BASIC 2.0 into flash or into RAM to use. However, it may end up having some other form of BASIC as default.
What about other languages?
There’s no reason you couldn’t program in C++ or whatever on this computer if somebody wants to port over a compiler. Alternatively, you can use a cross-compiler.
Why PS/2 Keyboard and not USB?
USB is tremendously more difficult to implement than PS/2. A good analogy is like the difference between implementing RS-232 or Ethernet. PS/2 keyboards are still manufactured, easy to find, and inexpensive. And, since the kernel is going to handle keyboard input, there’s no reason we can’t upgrade to USB later when we have the resources for that and it shouldn’t break compatibility.
Why VGA instead of Composite or HDMI?
I would love for it to have composite as a secondary option. But it can’t be the only option. I’d prefer something that could handle more than 40 columns clearly. VGA is fairly easy to implement as compared to HDMI. And worst case, there are low-cost chips that can convert VGA to HDMI. And if you have to convert to HDMI, far better to convert from VGA than from composite.
Why don’t you shoot for a 100% compatibility with the C64?
There are already plenty of products and emulators that do this. And while it would be nice, it would make this project considerably more complicated, expensive, and most likely would never get finished.
What sort of expansions would be possible?
We plan to have compatibility with Arduino shields. So, this will make a lot of hardware physically compatible and easy to snap on. However, the entire bus will also be available for anyone who wants to add custom hardware like SID chips, or whatever.
What sort of joysticks will you use?
At the moment, the plan is to go with NES style game controllers. There are numerous reasons for this:
  • The controllers, or at least clones are still manufactured.
  • They offer more buttons, allowing more complex games.
  • They require fewer I/O lines to operate them.
  • Joysticks have sort of fallen out of favor and most people these days prefer controllers.
What do you need help with the most?
At the moment we need help with kernel design. Even if the board were finished today, it would be a doorstop without having any software. So kernel development is the priority. We’re using modified C64s as test-mules.
Will it be sold as a kit or pre-assembled?
I’m sort of hoping to do both. Ironically, the kit would probably end up costing the same or more because of the DIP style packing. But I can see why a hobbyist would prefer that style of board. The pre-assembled unit would probably be a lot of surface mount.
Will there be a case, keyboard, controllers?
The current plan is to offer a case and separate PS/2 keyboard as either a Kickstarter stretch goal or perk option. We are undecided as to a mouse and/or gamepad’s inclusion, though they may be additional options. We already have mock-up artwork completed and will share when the time is right. The design will be an ideal balance of retro & modern visuals, with equal emphasis on functionality.
Why not use the Parallax Propeller chip?
We will not be using the Propeller for these reasons:
  • Most of its capabilities are on par with or inferior to our custom FPGA.
  • There are issues when putting it on the system bus related to CPU read attempt speed call and answer
  • The Propeller costs the same as if not more than the faster FPGA
Please see here for a more detailed answer: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CommanderX16/permalink/413315816086185/
Will there be a GUI?
This is not planned to be built-in, although we anticipate the community may produce one. The ideal GUI would use the text character set, rather than graphics - see http://www.c64os.com/c64os as a reference.
Will there be an emulator?
Hopefully. But there isn’t one right now.
When will the computer be released?
There is no release date set. ‘It’ll be ready when it’s ready’
:) Once we have a viable prototype, we will announce a Kickstarter campaign.
Will there be a software library webpage?
Yes, this will become part of www.CommanderX16.com
Who is involved at the moment?
At the moment it is somewhat disorganized. And this may change over time as we figure out what aspects people want to do. But the main people on board right now are:
  • David Murray aka The 8-Bit Guy - Ringleader and Kernal Design
  • Kevin Willams - Board Design/Prototyping/Manufacturing
  • Christian Simpson aka Perifractic - Visual/Exterior Design
Attached is a clock frequency controller for the AY sound chips.
When CE goes low it slows the CPU clock down to 2mHz and during normal execute cycle it can run at full tilt.
 

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friendofmegaman

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Sep 28, 2019
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Hey folks!
Unfortunately, I don't have Facebook (and not planning to get one), could someone please copy paste the full answer to the Parallax question?

Cheers!
 
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picosecond

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Sep 27, 2019
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Attached is a clock frequency controller for the AY sound chips.
When CE goes low it slows the CPU clock down to 2mHz and during normal execute cycle it can run at full tilt.
This circuit will not work.

When using a simple mux like this, the only way to get the desired slowdown is to switch from fast clock to slow clock when the slow clock is in a specific state. There is no way to do that when using the raw chip enable as the switch control. In fact there is no simple way to safely hop between two free-running clocks.

Here is a nice reference point for a clock stretching circuit that works, courtesy of the folks at 6502.org: http://forum.6502.org/viewtopic.php?f=4&p=66907#p66907

There are some other problems here also. The audio chip enable is labeled as both active-high and active-low. The logic treats it as active-high. The mux is inverting, which I suspect is unintentional. Remove the '02 to get a non-inverting mux.