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General Category => Other retro => Topic started by: Cheveron on 14:03, 28 September 20

Title: Chloe 280SE
Post by: Cheveron on 14:03, 28 September 20
Rather than just another shameless plug for a different retro system, I wanted to start by saying thank you to the CPC community. You guys are awesome! More on that later, now onto the shameless plug.


I've been tinkering away on my own retrocomputer project for something like 20 years now. It started out as a next generation ZX Spectrum combining the functionality of the Spectrum 128 and the Timex 2068 without an FPGA in sight. But only one prototype was built and people said they weren't prepared to pay 400 quid for a new Spectrum (turns out they were fibbing). About a decade after it was dreamt up, some associates and I created the defacto standard for enhanced Spectrum color (ULAplus). And shortly afterwards the ZX Uno FPGA board incorporated both designs in its ZX core. Besides the hardware I was also working on a new BASIC interpreter, trying to make the machine more professional (like the CPC) adding things like an 80 column mode (in 2011). But it became fairly obvious that what Spectrum users want is a retro looking device with an HDMI connector. So I dropped Spectrum compatibility and decided to make the best firmware I could for the ZX FPGA core in the Uno with the eventual aim of replacing that core with a dedicated (and much more powerful) core that could still use the same firmware. It has also become apparent that retro projects that don't invoke nostalgia, don't get a lot of financial support. But that's ok. I'm doing it to make money.


So here are some details if you're still reading:


https://vintageisthenewold.com/introducing-the-chloe-280se-a-new-z80-microcomputer/
https://vintageisthenewold.com/se-basic-iv-updated/
https://vintageisthenewold.com/chloe-announces-ten-keyless-unix-keyboard/


Now, where does the CPC community fit into all of this? Well, the process of building the firmware for the Chloe 280SE is somewhat tortuous given the various hardware constraints imposed by the ZX core in the Uno. Until recently I was using the command line version of Simon Brattel's Zeus assembler for Windows. It's brilliant, but it's closed source, you have to run it on WINE under Linux, and it's virtually impossible to run it on the latest version of macOS. So I switched to RASM. Roudoudou has been awesome at responding to feature requests for things that were in Zeus but not RASM such as XOR and SUM checksum generation, Microsoft Extended Binary Format floating point support, timestamps, splitting file output and more. I've been able to build RASM on Windows using Visual Studio, on Mac using xcode, and on Linux using gcc. One of the features of the Uno's ZX core is that it has two AY chips (known as TurboSound). Historically, the most common way to create tracker music for this format was to create two three-channel tracks in Vortex Tracker II and then play them at the same time. But it's not super convenient and Vortex Tracker assumes playback will be at 50Hz (PAL). Since I dropped backwards compatibility with the Spectrum, the Chloe now runs on a 60Hz interrupt so that it can generate 60 frames per second. So a better tracker option was needed. Enter Arkos Tracker 2 with MIDI import, easy management of as many tracks as you want, a great editor and multi-platform support. Targhan has been fantastic with support requests.

So thanks again to the CPC community for your openness, enthusiasm and encouragement!
Title: Re: Chloe 280SE
Post by: Gryzor on 14:31, 28 September 20
Ah I had read the posts over at VitNO, glad to have you here!

I don't think you're making the project justice by not including more info like the pictures etc here though :)

Also, regarding "where does the CPC community fir into all of this" - what about the CPC core? :D :D
Title: Re: Chloe 280SE
Post by: Sykobee (Briggsy) on 14:43, 28 September 20
Good luck! Nice to see rasm in use. Nice keyboard.
Title: Re: Chloe 280SE
Post by: Cheveron on 15:24, 28 September 20
Ah I had read the posts over at VitNO, glad to have you here!


Thanks. I've been lurking for a while using private messages to discuss RASM and Arkos Tracker 2.

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I don't think you're making the project justice by not including more info like the pictures etc here though :)


Ok. Here's the keyboard. It was at least partly inspired by the CPC6128.


(https://vintageisthenewold.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/ChloeA.jpg)

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Also, regarding "where does the CPC community fir into all of this" - what about the CPC core? :D :D


If the project is finished you'll be able to use Uno cores like the CPC core on it, but it would probably be better to port CPC programs to run natively. The as yet unimplemented VDP has a 160x200 mode that could make that easier to do.
Title: Re: Chloe 280SE
Post by: Gryzor on 15:54, 28 September 20
That'll be really interesting, if people take it up...

Where's the keyboard tho :D
Title: Re: Chloe 280SE
Post by: Cheveron on 01:14, 29 September 20
That'll be really interesting, if people take it up...

Where's the keyboard tho :D


It's a big if. WASDkeyboards are supposed to be selling the keyboard, but if they decide not to put it in the maker store people can still order using the design file.
Title: Re: Chloe 280SE
Post by: Gryzor on 10:21, 29 September 20
No I meant, where's the pic. You said "here's the keyboard" but didn't show anything.

Doesn't matter really I saw it in the articles...
Title: Re: Chloe 280SE
Post by: Sykobee (Briggsy) on 11:08, 29 September 20
I see the image - might be a work block or similar?
Title: Re: Chloe 280SE
Post by: Gryzor on 11:25, 29 September 20
Ah indeed, VitNO is blocked here and the image is hosted there...

Anyhow, that's a nice keyboard :)
Title: Re: Chloe 280SE
Post by: TotO on 11:40, 29 September 20
Around 5 years ago, this WASD PC 87-KEYS keyboard was sold 99$, so it was already expensive but interesting to build his own custom CPC using it with keys layout adjustments and changes (like LEFT/RIGHT SHIFT). Today, the price as risen 170$ without any reason (except they are famous) making this choice a luxury as it is more expensive than the computer itself.
Title: Re: Chloe 280SE
Post by: Gryzor on 11:43, 29 September 20
Wow that's expensive. That's how much my aluminium DasKeyboard 4 Pro costs!
Title: Re: Chloe 280SE
Post by: TotO on 11:45, 29 September 20
Wow that's expensive. That's how much my aluminium DasKeyboard 4 Pro costs!
Add around 30$ shipping fees and VAT/Customs tax over that to Europe.  :-\
Title: Re: Chloe 280SE
Post by: Gryzor on 11:48, 29 September 20
Eek. Way too expensive and you're right, perhaps not suitable at this price for such a project... sadly.
Title: Re: Chloe 280SE
Post by: TotO on 11:53, 29 September 20
Eek. Way too expensive and you're right, perhaps not suitable at this price for such a project... sadly.
Yes, I gave up this keyboard choice for my X-CPC project when I have computed the cost for the final user. I have expected to see the price dropped and it was the invert... 99$, 129$, 149$, now 170$... :(
Title: Re: Chloe 280SE
Post by: Cheveron on 13:22, 29 September 20
Yes, I gave up this keyboard choice for my X-CPC project when I have computed the cost for the final user. I have expected to see the price dropped and it was the invert... 99$, 129$, 149$, now 170$... :(


I don't remember WASD ever being that cheap. The Chloe keyboard was originally a version 2.0, but since then I've changed the key caps, replaced the case, and switched it to a USB-C connector. They cost about the same as other keyboards with genuine Cherry switches in the US, but once you add shipping and taxes they become very expensive in Europe. We really need someone to open an equivalent business in Europe.


Assuming the Chloe is ever finished, and that anyone actually wants one, I'm aware that they may not want to pay for a top end keyboard. So normal PS/2 keyboards are supported as well with a variety of layouts including AZERTY, QWERTZ, and localizations for Brazil, Spain and the US.


The main thing I've been working on for the latest firmware update is localization. Most of the Windows code pages are supported now, and several other character sets. The system messages have been translated into 20 languages. And I'm working on JCUKEN (Russian) keyboard support.
Title: Re: Chloe 280SE
Post by: TotO on 21:28, 29 September 20
I don't remember WASD ever being that cheap.
A fast check on WebArchive show it at 129$ 6 years ago. May be 99$ was a special offer, or oldest. By the way, it is nice that you have your computer project. Congratulation. :) 



Title: Re: Chloe 280SE
Post by: Cheveron on 22:21, 29 September 20
A fast check on WebArchive show it at 129$ 6 years ago. May be 99$ was a special offer, or oldest.

I got the v2.0 about six years ago, so perhaps the v1.0 was $99. There are other options for custom printed keyboards, but they tend to have a minimum order of 1,000 units.

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By the way, it is nice that you have your computer project. Congratulation. :)

Thanks. I know I'm not changing the world like the members of the Homebrew Computer Club in the 1970s, but there is a certain sense of satisfaction in creating an original machine.