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Product requests - MbeeTech - 07-04-2022

Hey everyone.

Would you like to see Microbee Technology stock something that we don't currently?
A new product to be designed, or something to be bought in - whatever the idea, we'd be interested in
hearing the things that you think would be a good fit as part of the Microbee Technology Product range.

Let us know your thoughts!


RE: Product requests - greg221b - 16-04-2022

Hi Ewan,

I have a few of ideas - they're probably wildly impractical, thought I'd mention them anyway. Smile

1) Microbee mods, eg:
a) Bits with a switch you could solder in giving you a choice of Microbee versions.
    I think it would be interesting to switch my premium plus unit to a 16 or 32K system with the flick of a switch.
b) When I had my first Microbee (a 32K I think) I remember being really interested in using the expansion port at the back of the machine - never did, and the premium plus doesn't seem to have this - but some sort of similar interface would be really interesting - perhaps having the ability to connect the microbee to a Raspberry Pi too? Smile

2) Floppy drive
Why not put a floppy drive kit together, complete with drive, instructions etc.

3) Printer interface
I had a dot-matrix printer when I was kid - would love to again.
I know this one would be tricky given the availability (if any) of dot-matrix (or line-) printers around/being produced, but I really do miss that printer.

4) FPGA recreation
I know this is probably way too huge... An FPGA based Microbee would be superb (much like the Spectrum Next or MEGA65).
You could do a kickstarter campaign, there looks to be a number of very skilled technical types on this forum that I'm sure would love to help! Smile

Gregoire


RE: Product requests - Ernest - 17-04-2022

Hi Gregoire,

The expansion port is available on your Premium Plus. Provision for it is situated on the Main board instead of the Coreboard in close to the same location it was on the 16 & 32K systems, just need to solder in a connector.

There was a floppy drive kit for the Premium Plus, I have fitted one of these kits to my Premium Plus some time back.
Possibly a GOTEK kit with everything need for the not so technical customers to get one up and running without all the fuss of getting all the individual bits together. 

Parallel port printers are still available but very expensive and require the old MX80/FX80 protocols to function on the Microbee.

There are several enthusiasts who have done FPGA Microbee emulations over the years. Check out HACKADAY for one of these.

If you want an experience where you can easily switch between such significantly different models, have a look at an emulator such as the uBee512 which can be easily set to emulate just about every Microbee model there was.

The ability to connect the Microbee to a Raspberry Pi, well your wish may soon come to reality. Check out this new model in development https://www.microbeetechnology.com.au/classic-plus-kit-computer.htm. The interface is meant to be Arduino compatible but I'm sure it would not be too difficult to interface with a Pi instead.

Ernest


RE: Product requests - MbeeTech - 18-04-2022

(16-04-2022, 10:14 PM)greg221b Wrote: Hi Ewan,

I have a few of ideas - they're probably wildly impractical, thought I'd mention them anyway. Smile
1) Microbee mods, eg:
a) Bits with a switch you could solder in giving you a choice of Microbee versions.
    I think it would be interesting to switch my premium plus unit to a 16 or 32K system with the flick of a switch.
This would actually be reasonably easy to implement with a simple loader to put ROM basic in place in memory from the SDcard and jump to it.
I'll look into this for you.  No hardware mod needed.

b) When I had my first Microbee (a 32K I think) I remember being really interested in using the expansion port at the back of the 
machine - never did, and the premium plus doesn't seem to have this - but some sort of similar interface would be really interesting
Ernest has answered this (thanks Ernest), however, there is one sticky point in that the 50Way expansion connector on the 
Premium Baseboard in the Premium Plus is not actually vacant for population of the connector.
In the Premium Plus there is a 2 pin connection used at this location (within the 50way connector pinout) used to make
BUSREQn & BUSACKn signals available to the Premium Plus coreboard.   These signals are needed for 2 reasons :
1) For Floppy disk emulation to take place, Reads & Writes to the Floppy disk controller IO ports are sensed by the FPGA and certain
cycles are trapped for the coldfire processor to process.  While these functions are being processed, the Z80 processor needs to be 
stopped from processing any more instructions and BUSREQn / BUSACKn are used to take control of the Z80 buss for this reason.
2) So that the Coldfire can use the normal Microbee hardware (screen / PIO / Keyboard etc..) the Z80 needs to relinquish control.
The Coldfire processor can then read / write any area of memory or IO that the Z80 normally has access to.  This is used so that the
Coldfire processor can run its own software and have a user interface as in the Boot Manager Screen / Firmware update utility / uClinux.

If you wanted to add a 50 way expansion port to the baseboard, it is still possible, but you would have to find another method of ensuring
that the BUSREQn & BUSACKn signals are still connected to the coreboard from the baseboard.

>perhaps having the ability to connect the microbee to a Raspberry Pi too? Smile
You might have to expand on that to let me know what the purpose might be.
As Ernest said though, the Classic-Plus will have an Arduino like interface as an option with Digital and Analogue IO available.
Note that the Microbee takes the place of the Arduino in this case, rather than plugging an Arduino into the Microbee.
This is supposed to give the Microbee the same usable IO as the standard Arduino Uno board so that you can plug in 
Arduino expansion boards.

2) Floppy drive
Why not put a floppy drive kit together, complete with drive, instructions etc.
This would be great, however, no-one makes floppy drives any more.  The only second hand drives readily
available are 3.5" High Density drives and while these work, using a HD drive on Microbee Double Density disks
has it's drawbacks.  
Firstly, reading has no problem, and writing fresh disks also is o.k.
However, writing to disks previously formatted on a Double Density drive with a High Density drive is problematic.
The reason is that the track width (ie the width of the disk taken up by flux transitions per track) is typically wider by far 
on double density drives than on high density drives.  This means that if you write to a double density track with a high density
drive, the smaller flux width 'slices' the original data up (plows down the middle of it, so to speak).
When reading this fresh data back again, the read/write head sees not only the transitions of the flux from the required data
but also transitions that may exist between the edge of the old 'FAT' data track and the 'thinner' new track data.

3) Printer interface
I had a dot-matrix printer when I was kid - would love to again.
I know this one would be tricky given the availability (if any) of dot-matrix (or line-) printers around/being produced, but I really do miss that printer.
As Ernest mentioned, there are new printers that are available but they are expensive.  eBay is probably your friend here if you are looking out for a 
particular model.  If you are after one that is not necessarily a Microbee one, but will work I have a BMC-80 that I'd be happy to sell.
There may be an interesting project in a parallel port plug-in device that will convert dot matrix commands to postscript data for printing on a modern printer.   


4) FPGA recreation
I know this is probably way too huge... An FPGA based Microbee would be superb (much like the Spectrum Next or MEGA65).
You could do a kickstarter campaign, there looks to be a number of very skilled technical types on this forum that I'm sure would love to help! Smile
This is something I've been tossing around.  Most of the work will actually have been done with the work being done for the Classic-Plus / 256TC-Plus.
No need for a Kickstarter campaign on this one, save an except for the promotional aspect of it.
I've been looking at 2 alternatives (including a full FPGA Bee) because I know that a certain percentage of the Classic-Plus / 256TC-Plus customers will
want their machines built & tested.  I can't offer that for through-hole products as the assembly time is too great, so I've been looking at either
a full FPGA implementation, or a surface mount version of the Classic-Plus that would be much easier to run through our Pick & Place machine.

Thanks for your thoughts.  Appreciate the time you've taken to put them down.


RE: Product requests - greg221b - 19-04-2022

Thanks Ewan and Ernest for your replies. Smile

Your solution to 1a) sound great Ewan, would love to see it!

Re: Raspberry Pi - I don't have anything specific in mind at the moment - I'll need to think about this a bit more. I've just finished building the Obsolescence Guaranteed PiDP-8i (have finally learned to solder Ewan) and feel there's a lot of potential there for something...

Re: floppy drives - yes, that sounds quite problematic, hmm, might need to not worry about that one.

Re: Printer - yes Ewan, I'd definitly be interested in the printer you mentioned, I do miss not having one - no problems that it's not a Microbee one. One thing, I can't find any info on it though - I don't know the model name and google doesn't give me anything - who made it?
And re: your idea about a parallel port plugin converting to postscript - that sounds excellent. I remember doing work converting different file formats to postscript years ago and would love to help with the programming side of this. Smile

Ernest, thanks for your reply - I've looked on hackaday and seen the article I think you're referring to - will have to read into this more.

And ubee512 looks very interesting - that's a command-line program with lots of options - I'm tempted to write something like a launcher in C# with all the options easily accessible (unless there already is one! Smile.

Greg


RE: Product requests - Ernest - 19-04-2022

Hi Greg,
No launcher that I’m aware of.
Most people just use batch files and launch the desired configuration by running the appropriate batch file.
Initial setup is tedious but flexible if you want to change your bootdisk or three.

Ernest.


RE: Product requests - MbeeTech - 20-04-2022

(19-04-2022, 04:12 PM)greg221b Wrote: And ubee512 looks very interesting - that's a command-line program with lots of options - I'm tempted to write something like a launcher in C#
with all the options easily accessible (unless there already is one! Smile.

Hi Greg.
uBee512 could well do with a launcher.  I was thinking of doing that myself years ago, but way too many projects to get nailed before that got any of my time.
Command line options are great (for Linux users... lol ) but it would be much nicer to be able to choose which model you want to to run, specify which disk images easily
and press go.  I do have a couple of batch files for common setups, but if I want to specify a different disk image for another drive, I have to go back to the command line
or modify the batch file.


RE: Product requests - greg221b - 05-05-2022

Hi Ewan,

I had some other ideas about products, thought I'd share:

- A soft (or hard?) Microbee cover?
I bought a nice-looking Amiga 500 cover a while ago, looks great and keeps the unit clean. I'd love something similar for my Premium+. Smile

- Music/Speech-synthesis cards:
I know you had these in stock a while ago - could you create more of them?

- Badges, T-shirts? That sort of thing.
I'd definitely love to wear a Microbee t-shirt out and about. You have one don't you? Wink

Greg


RE: Product requests - mjelic - 05-05-2022

Not sure if this was covered in Points 1 and 2 above, but take a look at this video of a device designed locally for the VZ300, which is another Z80 machine designed in Aus for Dick Smith.
The little device is basically a Gotek but without all the hassle of having a full floppy disk controller etc etc.

https://youtu.be/3EvRcHnhG9k?t=630

This of course would not be for the Premium models (since they have disks and you can change them out to Goteks), but the ROM based ones to enable people to save to "disk" rather than mucking around with tapes.

There is something similarly designed for the Amstrad.

https://www.sellmyretro.com/offer/details/ddi3-usb-floppy-emulator-for-amstrad-cpc-464-11223


RE: Product requests - MbeeTech - 05-05-2022

(05-05-2022, 12:01 AM)greg221b Wrote: Hi Ewan,

I had some other ideas about products, thought I'd share:

- A soft (or hard?) Microbee cover?
I bought a nice-looking Amiga 500 cover a while ago, looks great and keeps the unit clean. I'd love something similar for my Premium+. Smile

- Badges, T-shirts? That sort of thing.
I'd definitely love to wear a Microbee t-shirt out and about. You have one don't you? Wink

Greg

Hi Greg,
Thanks for your thoughts.
I'll keep the dust covers in mind. Because of the specific shape of the standard / premium case I'd have to
get something made specifically, so that might be a challenge.

Regarding the Badges & T-Shirts etc.,
I can look into other merch (you've seen the coffee mugs? ).
Yes, I do have a number of Microbee T-Shirts. I had them made a while ago and they've been good
quality. The supplier I had them made with would not really be an option though as I would have to order them
in a range of sizes and hold them in stock. I am looking around for another supplier / website that I could point
people to so that they can order directly in their size etc. without Microbee Technology having to hold stock.

(05-05-2022, 12:01 AM)greg221b Wrote: - Music/Speech-synthesis cards:
I know you had these in stock a while ago - could you create more of them?
Yes, absolutely. In fact I received a batch of the Sound Synth chips just recently so that I
can do just that. They've yet to go through verification (sources of these parts are getting
hard to find) but that's on the to-do list.