Commander X16 Developer Board
It’s been 4 years in the making, but the Commander X16 pre-release “Developer” boards will be coming soon! We are producing the boards in Texas and have been working hard to learn to use our recently acquired dip-solder station and streamline our production process.
When will it be ready, and how do I buy one?
Currently, we are working through some production issues, but are getting very close to having a process down. We plan to manufacture around 20-50 a week depending on how much time we have remaining from our normal store orders. We expect to begin shipping on or around May 1st, 2023.
We will announce the sale when we have fulfilled the remaining commitments. Thereafter, we plan to have about 80 Commander X16s available to the public. We will begin shipping them as we get them built and tested after they go on sale. If you order one, it could be 4 to 6 weeks before it ships, although we hope to get them out more quickly. We considered many approaches to selling them, but I think the only fair way is to announce when they’re ready and give everyone an equal shot. We will be limiting the sale to one per person to make sure we are able to get them out to as many different people as possible. We will make an announcement via social media on our Blog, Twitter, and Facebook when it happens, so keep an eye out. We may also make announcements leading up to the release to show some updates on our progress.
What is The Commander X16?
If you’re unaware of this machine, The Commander X16 is also known as David Murray’s, aka The 8-Bit Guy’s, “Dream Computer”. David first made a video around four years ago discussing his idea for an advanced Commodore-like computer with modern features. A faster processor, better video & sound as well as other modern conveniences like an SD card for data storage. However, it would still support composite & S-Video outputs and support for original Commodore floppy drives! It also uses the same V2 BASIC as the C64, so learning to write programs will be a simple task for those already familiar with Commodore BASIC. You won’t be limited to BASIC however, there are already compilers for C++, Pascal, Rust, Assembly and more!
The X16 is based on the 65C02 CPU running at 8MHz. The base system will support up to 2MB of banked RAM + up to 4MB of banked ROM. In addition it has 40k of base memory and has a full expansion bus to allow upgrades in the future. The sound is based on the Yamaha YM2151 and the expansion bus also has audio inputs for future sound card addons. We designed a custom FPGA-based video solution known as the VERA or the Versatile Embedded Retro Adapter, which supports not only 2 layers of video with 128 sprites from a palette of 4096 colors, but it is also a fully programmable sound generator (PSG) as well as PCM sample playback device! It has 128k of its own RAM which allows a lot of flexibility.
There is a lot of detail about the hardware on our official FAQ. If you’d like to know more about the system, you can find it here: https://cx16forum.github.io/faq.html
What does pre-release mean?
The current Commander X16 hardware, while working, is still under development itself. The idea behind this release is to get them into the hands of early software and hardware developers. Some machines are already out there now, and many issues have been isolated and resolved. This is the focus of the pre-release; we really want to fix bugs, and get some great software written and hardware developed.
It is very important to note, it is possible that by the time we are ready to release the production system, there could be some changes to the hardware which may either make the pre-release boards unusable, or at the very least, require modification. While we are striving to make no changes or only minor changes to the hardware, but we cannot guarantee it won’t happen if it becomes necessary. We also have made several updates to the VERA and system ROM in the last few weeks. They are both upgradable on-system, but you will have to stay on top of the updates as they come out to ensure software compatibility. This isn’t a turn-key system yet, but meant for those who want to either develop or can keep up with the changes as they come and be on the bleeding edge.
Who made the Commander X16?
The Commander X16 has had many contributors over the past several years. I was initially tasked to develop the sound hardware for the system, but later became the primary designer of the motherboard. Frank Van Den Hoef designed the VERA and Michael Steil was the primary developer of the Kernal for our system. We also had help during the earlier phases from several folks to help isolate timing and logic issues. We had been stuck for some time trying to get the PS/2 mouse and keyboard to work at 8MHz, but then a dedicated group of folks formed a community on Discord and very quickly helped to get us over the hump. One last motherboard revision was spun and after a few months of testing, we feel like we have most of the pieces in place and here we are today.
Thanks so much to the donators and supporters for helping us to make it this far. It has been a lot of sweat and tears, but the skies are parting and we’re on the verge of creating a true 8-bit dream computer. It has surpassed our expectations in so many ways, and while I am clearly biased, I really do think this is going to be one of the most compelling homebrew systems ever made. From its fantastic video and sound to its extreme flexibility, it will truly be a system which continues to surprise everyone as more of its capabilities are unlocked. We are in the earliest stages of development and the games are already looking very promising. You only need to look at the earliest Commodore 64 titles, and then compare them to the latest homebrew games to understand the potential for the Commander X16 as development continues. And we couldn’t have done it without all the help and support of an excellent community of dedicated folks! I cannot tell you how humbled we are to have so many people willing to part with their time and resources to help get us to where we are today. It is an honor to be part of this project, and what a great learning process it has been. I can’t wait to share it with you all and I hope you enjoy it as much as we have!
Official Commander X16 Page: Commander X16™ Home – Commander X16™ Community
X16 Documentation: commanderx16/x16-docs: Commander X16 Documentation (CC BY-SA) (github.com)
Commander X16 Emulator: Release x16-emulator-r42 (“Cambridge”) · X16Community/x16-emulator (github.com)