We (at Garrett’s Workshop) were a little surprised at how many people were interested in our GW4201-series RAM expansion for IIgs, so we figured we would design some new cards for the rest of the Apple II family:
There are also a few accessory-type items:
With the exception of RAM2E and some of the accessories, these boards all require software to be useful. Regarding Mouserial and Library Card, not only do these need Apple II ROM software, but they also contain microcontrollers that must run their own software, so they have even more complexity. Rather than having proprietary nonfree software or, in the case of the ROM software on the cards, copying Apple’s or AE’s ROMs, I figured we could try to collectively do the requisite software development.
For these products with software, we will release the schematics, bill-of-materials, board layout source, PLD firmware, and the software which we have written so far under some kind of permissive, open-source license, probably GPL. We will also try our best to sell the cards for what we feel are reasonable prices. RAM2E will be priced at $30 USD, and GR8RAM, Mouserial, and Library Card will be $40. Time Machine will be priced at $50, as the 1MB SRAM and the vintage DS1215 clock chip account a lot of the cost when acquired from the most reputable sources. We will be trying some cheaper vendors for the clock chip and seeing if their parts are indeed genuine. I have developed a pretty good eye for fake chips. If we can reduce our costs by $5 or $10 on the Time Machine, that will be reflected in a lower selling price for the card, which we think is a little too expensive at $50. All prices include tax and shipping to the 48 contiguous United States. We haven't priced the accessories yet but they will be inexpensive.
We are hoping that in exchange for our open-source contributions that some skilled members of the community will contribute their time, knowledge, and ideas to these cards. We do try to make money selling the products, but we think it’s a fair amount considering the investment in our assembly line, etc. And of course, we have designed the products to be pretty much best-in-class but sell for something like half the price of similar solutions. We want to move a bit quicker and develop some more interesting products. I have accelerator designs for Apple II and Macintosh in mind and there are also some similar products for Macintosh, Commodore, and Nintendo that have been on the back-burner for a while which I want to get out there to those communities. These current products’ hardware designs could all be revised with improvements or new features. My hope is that with some help from the community, we can move faster and all have cooler products for our vintage machines.
Anyway, the hardware designs are all done and I am pretty confident that the hardware I have designed can support the intended functionality. Other than Library Card (which has a lot of potential but I don't really know what to do with it in terms of software), I know exactly how to implement the requisite software, it's just a matter of time. So hopefully some others can assist and the cards can become usable sooner. I’m gonna have boards made for all of these products simultaneously, but I need to focus on them just one or two at a time.
Source will be coming soon on GitHub for the cards, maybe one-at-a-time as I go through them and get the software usable (hopefully with some help from others), or maybe I will just post the files all at once. We will also be offering the cards for sale once we receive the boards from the board manufacturer in China, but we don’t want to formally put them up for sale yet as they don’t have software to make them work (RAM2E and most of the accessories aside). So you’ll have to contact me if you want a card at this time. Free hardware will of course be provided for top contributors.
What does everyone think? It makes me uncomfortable to ask for help with these projects knowing that my friend and I are going to profit off of the sale of the cards, but on the other hand, we want to make sure that people can readily buy the cards, rather than them being a sort of abstract thing that you have to know how to build yourself in order to obtain. To do that we have to make a little money. So I hope this strikes everyone as fair.
Now, if indeed the current proposal is seen as fair enough, which products merit attention first?