What have you in mind to do with OCM ?

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By Tanni

Hero (556)

Tanni's picture

11-12-2006, 14:35

wolf_, December 10 2006, 13:42:

I actually think a lot of people don't like that idea of really new MSX systems. I do tho. A lot of people who strongly disagree with the OCM do it because they compare the price of this OCM with the price of any ordinary MSX2 (with some extra extentions) on Ebay, or perhaps they compare it with their current MSX, which might be just a very enhanced set. Naturally the reprogrammability of the machine was communicated often enough. So, it might be that a number of people are left behind once the OCM really changes drastically. In a way you'll get discussions about "this is no MSX anymore" etc.

Sooner or later, all the classical MSX hardware will get defective. Then, if we don't want to just use emulators, we need new hardware, which, in the given situation, only can be realized on FPGA. There always will be a standard MSX configuration for the OCM, so nobody will be left behind, even if there will be an OCM configuration beyond the classical MSX standard. Would you say that MSX2 isn't an MSX anymore because MSX2 is an enhancement of MSX1?

Latok, December 10 2006, 14:38:

I feel MSX evolution NEEDS to be structured.

Evolution always is structured by the environment and the properties of the systems involved ...

wolf_, December 10 2006, 14:52:

Custom OCM code could be supplied with some demo or game, and then restored upon quit. Or: before some demo/game starts the current config is stored to some file, so in case of a sudden reset one can always manually restore the original state. But it's exactly this kinda customness that might scare off some people.

A dedicated MST could be an option, but *only* if this team knows what it's doing and not trying to artificially keep things low-profile or too hardwired. It's not a bad idea to look and think outside the box.

Yes wolf_, that's the way to go. But why might that scare off some people? Provided your software would have redefined some characters, wouldn't it be good style to restore the original character set -- or better: the character set found before starting the software -- before terminating the program? So, why should good style regconfigurable programming scare off some people? Why should one try to artificially keep things low-profile or too hardwired? These fears are kind of artificial now.

Latok, December 10 2006, 18:29:

Personally, I like computers such as classical 80s homecomputers and modern game consoles and handhelds because they have fixed hardware. I don't fancy the PC-dogma: 'Oh, it doesn't work smoothly? Just plug in some more memory or insert a faster GFX card....' That's the reason -in my view- why pc's don't have personality (computers with personality...Laaatok, shuuuut up ^_^). Thus I really hope the MSX scene will seriously start building an MSX3 standard, instead of customly adjusting the MSX hardware in benefit of a specific game of demo or utility. That won't lead to anything structural. And that will certainly spark fire to the view that the OCM actually is NOT an MSX.

The art in homecomputer coding is having it smooth without having more memory and clock frequency.

By going on to MSX2, MSX2+, MSX turbo R with acvancing VDPs, MSX standard did something similar -- but not the same, of course -- to inserting a faster GFX card. Here, a certain VDP belongs to a certain level of the standard. One might say that this makes up a certain kind of ''personality'', but also restricts the ability to easily upgrade the system. You must buy the next level of the standard if you want to have more performance. Besides of the issue of ''personality'', this was and still is a major drawback to the systems chances on the market: If you already spent much money for a computer, you weren't able to spend additional money on an only marginally improved system a few month later.

People always wanted and still want more performance. If someone bought an MSX in 1985, coded some games in BASIC and recogniced that it's to slow, he either left coding games, made an effort to code in MC, or bought another more powerful computer. This might have been
an MSX2, or ...

If there wouldn't be FPGAs, there most likely wouldn't be any homecomputer revival at all. It would be much to expensive to issue such kind of computer for a relatively small group of homecomputer enthousiasts.

So MSX revival is only possible because of FPGAs. If we talk about MSX3, we must take that into account. To my mind, it's still to early to seriously start building an MSX3 standard. We first must play around with the possibilities of the OCM, doing just that: customly adjusting (and extending) the MSX hardware in benefit of a specific game or demo or utility, because this would be one part of that new MSX standard. This is the great chance MSX got after the announcement of the OCM. This is what can be done relatively easy on an 80th homecomputer system, but is maybe more difficult to accomplish on a PC due to highter system complexity. But it will be also part of the PC system some day.

Developing an MSX3 standard means nescessarily to find a structure to incorporate runtime reconfigurability into the MSX standard. This also holds for the PC respectively.

Coming up with ideas can't be structured, this leads to administrative overhead dealing with nothing.

For reconfigurable hardware design, we need to do what we've already done for software design: Playing around with a (design) language, here VHDL, the BASIC or Pascal for hardware design, and constantly improving our designing skills.

FPGA is a design style as is standard cells or macro cells or sea of gates. A computer system can be implemented in either of them. FPGAs -- in most cases -- have the additional property to be reconfigurable, some of them at runtime. If you don't use this property, it doesn't matter for being a ''real'' MSX which design style is use for implementing it.

wolf_, December 10 2006, 19:30:

My point is: if a new standard is vast enough, ppl don't need to insert their own VHDL. The problem is: how sure can one be that one universal MSX3 design matches everyone's wishes?

That's one reason why we should adopt runtime reconfigurability to an MSX3 standard.

Latok, December 10 2006, 21:32:

Let's open the usual doors. For me, MSX is a system on which it is easy to create things yourself.

On the 'hardware' side, an important part of MSX3 should be an easier memory access.

Actually, mr. Wolf......If you ask me 'what is MSX', I should say: WE are MSX

I still DO like a fixed hardware setting, though. And I like your 'gates limitations'. Actually, in line with this limitation, I think MSX3 also should have some serious problems. Those problems are cool to find a work-around-solution. And that makes us feel good

MSX is said to make people create things by themselves. So why not system extensions, too?

We are the MSX community, so, in short: We are MSX! If we wouldn't have stuck to MSX all over the years, MSX as a still used homecomputer system wouldn't exist anymore. There wouldn't be no OCM, either.

If you don't use software reconfigurating the FPGA, the OCM will behave like ''fixed'' hardware. There will always be a limitation in the amount of gates in an FPGA. Yes, it would be cool to overcome the limitations by clever coding. But of course, a standard should be well designed. If there're problems to find a cool solution for, this problems should occure in the applications of the device, not in the standard.

dvik, December 10 2006, 21:47:

Although I think its a fun project and I'd like to dig into the VHDL code and do stuff, I think its a bit late to talk about an MSX3 computer. I really think the MSX ended with the Turbo-R when the real commercial production ended (I don't count hobby like project like Moonsound and GFX9000 here. They are great features but nothing that brings food to the table).

So talking about an MSX3 standard sounds like a fantasy of some projection of what may have happened in the early 90's if the MSX would have continued commercial development.

I think its better to take the OCM for what it is, a neat little piece of hardware that can emulate MSX, just like those joysticks you can buy that embeds namcot or c64 games. It is of course more substantial than that and is also a fun toy for people that wants to experiment with VHDL and like to try out hardware development. But imo talking about MSX3 is really just unrealistic fantasies. Its a fun toy that has its place in the MSX scene but I doubt it will have even close to as much impact on the scene as PC emulators, Wii, or woomb.

As long as there are people spending time and money for such kind of fun project, we can try to define and realize an MSX3 standard.

MSX is a technical standard. As long as it is possible to rebuild such a device, based on the documentation, it cannot be in the ''ended'' state. So MSX can be until the end of the universe, assumed the documentation is still available, maybe as copies. It can also be build according to the system's spezification by aliens. And if this univers terminates, maybe there'll be another one to continue.

You don't need OCM for try out hardware development. Having talked about the OCM e.g. ten years ago, it would have also sounded like an unrealistic fantasy. Also fun toys can have much impact, we should try to make that impact happen, at least.

Latok, December 10 2006, 21:52:

Well, I don't think the OCM was developed just to be a neat little piece of hardware that can emulate MSX. That would be pretty useless, as there are plenty of second hand MSX computers available for sale to everyone interested. Not to speak about ever improving MSX emulators such as blueMSX and openMSX.

Right, the OCM was also developed to get the peoples aquaited to hardware design.

dvik, December 10 2006, 22:44:

Then I think the OCM developers may get a bit disappointed. I don't think it will become a well defined MSX3 that is a mature successor of the TR (besides its 15 years too late). What makes people interested in MSX is that it is retro, simple and brings back memories from the good old 80's and early 90's. The OCM is not retro at all and for the same price you can get a Wii which is about the same size and a lot more capable.

Turbo R is a japanese gaming console, it's not that what I like to base MSX development on. I don't think that the OCM in it's current form do bring back the memories of the past. For the real feeling, it need to have a real casing with keyboard.

Latok, December 10 2006, 23:01:

If there is only going to be fragmented OCM VHDL coding, then the whole OCM will indeed slowly die, I agree completely, dvik. That's why there is a great need for a structured OCM development platform.

I practically see NO action on that part. And that makes me pessimistic about the long-term OCM success.

You can reuse the VHDL code, of course. How long did it take from the issuing of the ZX81 to international software development contests? It will take a while until enough people will have learnt designing in VHDL. Hardware design is somewhat more difficult and more specific than software development, so the amount of people interested in it will be smaller.

wolf_, December 10 2006, 23:58:

I think MSX3 also should have some serious problems.

NO! For once let the MSX3 be plain logical, so one could do things without too much trickery. Move yourself to the position of an artist. Wouldn't it be great if the artist can cook things using his own idiom without having to ask a programmer whether things are possible or not?

Those problems are cool to find a work-around-solution.

Do you ever read MRC at all? See the current poll, the last thing we need now is something that takes all our precious time in order to get somewhere.

Not nescessary plain logical, but useful, at least. Yes, you've got it: You can e.g. design a processor for a special purpose with only the instruction set needed for that special task, leaving space for further extensions. Yes, we should avoid to waste time on problems which could be solved by proper system design.

dvik, December 11 2006, 00:16:

@wolf_: If you want plain and logical, why don't you program PC games instead? They solved the problem 15 years ago and so did nintendo and others. To motivate the existence of an OCM MSX3 I think it needs to have MSX characteristics (whatever that is). Making a totally new gaming platform based on 15 year old technology for the price of a modern console doesn't really make sense, does it?

dvik, it's not just about gaming. An MSX3 based on FPGA would be a general purpose system with wide range of applications. The OCM could be the first step, e.g. for experiencing about how a system with reconfigurable hardware incorporated or totally based on reconfigurable hardware may be build up. It's clear that such a system itself is based on an existing system for saving time.

wolf_, December 11 2006, 00:18:

Anyway: let imagination be a limiting factor, not a machine..

Yes! FPGA and VHDL extends imagination to the machine ...

By Latok

msx guru (3841)

Latok's picture

11-12-2006, 15:34

Not nescessary plain logical, but useful, at least. Yes, you've got it: You can e.g. design a processor for a special purpose with only the insturction set needed for that special task, leaving space for further extensions Greatest risk of completely losing MSX identity. If we start programming the OCM with only some special purpose instruction set needed for a specific task, then the OCM is nothing more than a FPGA VHDL development tool with 2 odd space consuming 50 pins cartridge slots.

I understand your point, Tanni, I really do. Of course, it IS important to learn to work with VHDL and find out WHAT we actually want. But I think the OCM scene will be too small to follow that path. Small scenes need more structure to maken things happen. Large scenes can indeed follow your proposed chaos theory (hello Darwin Smile)

My 2 cents Smile

By ARTRAG

Enlighted (6567)

ARTRAG's picture

11-12-2006, 15:48

I will buy 1chip to have an accurate implementation of an MSX2, not to have an FPGA.

Develop games & applications for 1chip can be very interesting for VHDL fans, but I do not look for that.
All I need is a new MSX HW equivalent to the one I had, in all the minute details and VDP behaviours, in order to allow me to develop games that will work on the real computers.

This is my view on 1chip MSX.

By wolf_

Ambassador_ (9903)

wolf_'s picture

11-12-2006, 15:48

tanni = my bro!

Latok: There's a great enough distance and difference between a fully souped-up OCM and a PC, so, it's not like OCM becomes PC, MSX-scene becomes PC-scene.

Latok: describe to me what you think is 'MSX identity'!

By Tanni

Hero (556)

Tanni's picture

11-12-2006, 16:54

Not nescessary plain logical, but useful, at least. Yes, you've got it: You can e.g. design a processor for a special purpose with only the insturction set needed for that special task, leaving space for further extensions Greatest risk of completely losing MSX identity. If we start programming the OCM with only some special purpose instruction set needed for a specific task, then the OCM is nothing more than a FPGA VHDL development tool with 2 odd space consuming 50 pins cartridge slots.

I understand your point, Tanni, I really do. Of course, it IS important to learn to work with VHDL and find out WHAT we actually want. But I think the OCM scene will be too small to follow that path. Small scenes need more structure to maken things happen. Large scenes can indeed follow your proposed chaos theory (hello Darwin Smile)

My 2 cents Smile

My intention was a System On a Chip (SoC). Besides the normal MSX functionality, there could be further processors for special tasks, e. g. one for handling USB communikation. Some weeks ago, I searched for USB in the internet. The documentation is over 600 pages. I read a very few of this text, and -- tell me if I'm wrong -- it seemed to me that implementing USB could be difficult with only MSX1 speed resources. In this case, an optimized special purpose processor could do the job. Remember that VDP, PPI, and PSG also are special purpose processors. The MSX standard was updated three times: MSX2, MSX2+, and MSX turbo R, so why not update the standard once again? That's the task we are faced in the future: How to update the MSX standard to OCM features without loosing compatibility!

Latok, what do you mean by structure? Doesn't you mean organisation instead? Even a small scene can make things happen if there enough skilled people, even a large scene can fail if there aren't. The MSX community is a worldwide one, and things will be bought if there is an interesting product. This means that the product need not only be retro, but also go in future direction. Then, it would be possible to ask other homecomputer or retro scenes to work together. This was already mentioned here. So why not having a ZX81, spectrum based on the OCM, just by loading another configuration?

By cax

Prophet (3736)

cax's picture

11-12-2006, 18:37

Talking about organized improvement of OCM, what I'd like to know at the moment is
whether D4E is going to produce updates, which exactly and for how long they are going to produce new ones.

If we are going to start improving OCM ourselves, we should be in sync not only between ourselves, but also with D4E VHDL developer(s).

Developing the same or interfering features is a waste of scarce human resources, and potentially can lead to wars between developers. I vote for coordinated development.

By wolf_

Ambassador_ (9903)

wolf_'s picture

11-12-2006, 18:42

I can imagine that these wars could even be within a team of developers.. that's a bit of the problem I might see at the horizon. The war will not be based on the quality of ones code, but more on 'what makes an MSX'. As you see on this page, there are various opinions on the matter already.

This 'MST', as we call it, shouldn't be made just overnight I think. What about a name btw? What about GOD? "Group Onechip-Development" Tongue

By dvik

Prophet (2200)

dvik's picture

11-12-2006, 18:49

I will buy 1chip to have an accurate implementation of an MSX2, not to have an FPGA.

I have to disappoint you ARTRAG. The OCM is _not_ (and probably never will be) accurate enough to use as an MSX2 reference system. Its good for playing most existing games but not as a development platform.

By Tanni

Hero (556)

Tanni's picture

11-12-2006, 18:52

Talking about organized improvement of OCM, what I'd like to know at the moment is
whether D4E is going to produce updates, which exactly and for how long they are going to produce new ones.

If we are going to start improving OCM ourselves, we should be in sync not only between ourselves, but also with D4E VHDL developer(s).

Developing the same or interfering features is a waste of scarce human resources, and potentially can lead to wars between developers. I vote for coordinated development.

Very good, cax, coordinated development is a nice term. And it leaves open how the coordination is actually done. To my mind, it should be some kind of selforginisation. To impose a structure will surely not work on the long term.

By Tanni

Hero (556)

Tanni's picture

11-12-2006, 18:58

I will buy 1chip to have an accurate implementation of an MSX2, not to have an FPGA.

I have to disappoint you ARTRAG. The OCM is _not_ (and probably never will be) accurate enough to use as an MSX2 reference system. Its good for playing most existing games but not as a development platform.

Maybe it can be improved to reach accuracy.

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