2020 has been another good year for the homebrew retro computer community, but not such a good year for freedom and health!
In the RC2014 universe there have been quite a few new product releases, including kits and even some fully assembled products:
- RC2014 Mini CP/M Upgrade
- RC2014 Classic II
- Phillip Stevens RC2014 Arithmetic Processor
- Rotten Snow introduced improved CF card modules
- Quazar has entered the scene with sound and OLED modules
- Mr Gelée’s tech has four new module kits including speech
- J.B. Langston’s CPU/RAM/CTC module from Kamprath LEDs
- Rob Dobson’s 1MB RAM/ROM module kit
- … to name just a few.
The above list is just some of the products available to buy. Many in the community have created their own designs, so there is a lot more going on than can be seem from the commercially available products. Many of these designs are open source allowing anyone to recreate them or build upon them.
The Classic II is a very nice kit. The design is much improved over some of the earlier products. I see great potential in the nice new low profile module form factor and have started producing a range of add-ons and upgrades for the Classic II. The 40-pin bus will limit some applications but the simplicity makes this a good trade off in my book.
I don’t have the RC2014 Mini but I think the CP/M upgrade kit looks really nice.
Wayne Warthen has continued to enhance RomWBW. This is an amazing piece of software that brings a great CP/M (and more) environment to the masses.
I would like to take the opportunity to mention a few of the regular contributors to the community. The following is in no way an extensive list.
- Bill Shen designs a huge number of boards and creates software to work with them. He also helps others on the various forums. Bill has investigated the reliability and compatibility issues associated with connecting compact flash cards to the Z80 bus. His findings have led to Karl producing CF modules that are ‘better’ than earlier designs.
- Wayne Warthen, as noted above, continues his great work with RomWBW and provides excellent support to the community.
- Karl Albert Brokstad is a huge contributor on the forums, helps other a lot, and produces some great kits.
- Marco Maccaferri has some great kits and provides excellent support.
- Alan Cox has provided us with FUZIX and also provides masses of help and advice to others.
- Phillip Stevens continues to redefine the limits of hobby computing with his recent work on floating point arithmetic and his new “User Experience Module” project .
- J.B. Langston for z80ctrl and Rob Dobson for BusRaider. These two projects are far more than just typical modules. Look them up. They are clever designs with sophisticated software. Both have continued to be enhanced during 2020.
- Jim McGinnis. A personal thank you from me for designing add-ons for SC126, including some super 3D printed cases.
- And finally, we should never forget the name Grant Searle. He is a very active designer and is responsible for the design on which the RC2014 is based. Most RC2014 systems ship with Grant’s modified BASIC and many ship with Grant’s CP/M BIOS. Grant’s website is www.searle.wales
I’ve also made significant progress this year.
I produced my first cased design (SC131). This is a pocket-sized RomWBW computer. Having a system is a case has a totally different feel to exposed circuit boards. I’m very pleased with this project.
I moved house this year and didn’t design much as a result. However, towards the end of the year I started designing a range of new hardware for RC2014 and Z50Bus. Some are already complete but others should be finished soon.
I’ve now had a grand total of 1400 orders through Tindie (about 800 of those during 2020), so I’ve been spending quite a bit of time producing those and, along with moving house, had relatively little time for new designs. Of those orders the most successful products have been:
- Pick’n’Mix bare printed circuit boards – 625 orders
- SC126 Z180 Motherboard – 287 kits sold
- SC131 Z180 Pocket-sized Z180 Computer – 212 kits sold
- SC129 Digital I/O module – 177 kits sold
- SC113 Modular backplane – 132 kits sold
- SC130 RomWBW CP/M Computer (Z180) – 128 kits sold
- SC112 Modular backplane – 125 kits sold
- SC114 Z80 SBC / Motherboard – 74 kits sold
The RC2014 based community now includes many very talented, experienced, and active members. During the last few years, the sophistication of many community generated add-ons for RC2014 has increased significantly.
So what will 2021 have in store for our community?
As with last year, I fully expect the level activity to increase and for the limits to be pushed further. Personally, I’m not particularly focused on exotic designs and applications. I’ve always liked the idea that designs and products should improve the experience for the majority, rather than push the limits for the few.
I hope to design some more kits and I know some others are planning their own developments. I’m sure many in the community will be doing great things for their own satisfaction and not to design “products” for others. Some of these we will probably never hear about. Fortunately, there is room for all interests and motivations.
So 2021 is looking like another good year for our community.
Happy New Year,