Why do people not buy the kit from Unicorn Electronics?

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Why do people not buy the kit from Unicorn Electronics?

Hi everyone, I've been looking into building my own apple-1 replica recently. Iv'e seen many fourms here with people looking for places to source chips, etc. I made my own spreadsheet, and totaling all the parts on the board gives me $719. The Unicorn parts kit is only $666. So my question is: Why do people source their own chips and components if it is cheaper to just buy the kit? Am I missing something?

 

Here is my BOM with links and prices, I set it so anyone with the link can view.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1uBbupGr1aSqgi29___uH-TESfGV_mphf75GHDoiN5Cg/edit?usp=sharing

 

Edit: forgot the unicorn kit does not have PROMs, so the total is $654. Still, that dosen't accont for shipping, and surely shipping from like 5 sites is more than just 1.

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I don't have the answer, but

I don't have the answer, but when I ordered some parts from Unicorn I saw that page, and wondered the same.

Do they really have kits in stock? The site lets you think so, as out of stock components cannot be added to the cart. If they have all the parts except PROMs, it seems like a decent deal for 2024, although less "fun" than spending weeks online figuring out what's the best source for this or that.

I need to do a proper spreadsheet like you did, but my component price so far is more than $666, and I didn't even buy a genuine 2519. However I bought some Allen-Bradley resistors, a pack of sinterglass A14F from eBay, and a few items for the daughter boards and the keyboard, so the comparison is not exactly apples to apples (haha).

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I suppose people don't want

I suppose people don't want to spead nearly $700 at once, thinking they can find better deals on parts. I also don't have the $700 to spend right now, does anyone here know if you can really buy this?

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Also just wanted to ask if

Also just wanted to ask if anyone has any better sources for parts?

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Hi SparrowRat!

This Ron or Rob from Unicorn is a pretty shiatty guy, every time I bought a 2504 kit from him one was not working. But when I told him about it, he always gave me a working one to replace it. From this I suspect that he has some ability to test them, but he sells them untested for some reason. Also potential buyers may be scared off by the lack of any photos, his site is made in some old-school style, there are no photos at all. Perhaps people would like to see something before parting with 700$?

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Comment on Apple-1 parts sources

In post #1, SparrowRat wrote:

 

" Here is my BOM with links and prices, I set it so anyone with the link can view.  "

 

Uncle Bernie complains:

 

I've looked at your spreadsheet and it seems you have picked the most expensive sellers for these parts. The prices for the TTLs and the LM323K are ridicolous. Instead, you should  look at:

 

www.anchor-electronics.com

 

and go to "INVENTORY" to download their Y2024 price list. They have almost all the 74xxx TTL at good prices, all the regulators, including the LM323K/UA323K for $8.95 (your source $14.95 is a ripoff price), all the IC sockets, etc.  For those 74xxx numbers they don't have you can use the 74LSxxx or 74Sxxx which Anchor has all in stock. The only plain vanilla TTL in the Apple-1 you can't substitute with 74LS or 74S is the 74157, as I have found out. (I have built a 100% LSTTL Apple-1 but the 74LS157 did not work in it, except when I used National Semiconductors MM1404 shift registers, with which the 74LS157 did work, but NONE of the other 1k shift register substitutes did work. I have a theory about the possible reason, but no time to explain in detail, has to do with the Schottky clamping diodes).

 

The other regular components other than the ones Anchor has you can buy at Mouser or Digikey (the big blue Sprague capacitors, etc). but the prices for those Spragues have almost doubled since Y2019. This is probably due to the ~2% inflation rate the Bureau of Lies and Scams (officially "Bureau of Labor Statistics") gaslights us with. It may be unintentional, though, and not evil intent to defraud the American public, due to 'Affirmative Action" hires being illiterate and unable to add 1+1. But I digress.

 

For the "very special" components like the 2504, 2513, 2519 there are numerous drop-in substitutes except for the 2519, for which the only "cheap" option is the daughter card with the six CMOS substitutes.

 

I think you could still build an Apple-1 (without keyboard and without enclosure) for ~$400 to $500, if you really shop for the good prices, buy the cheapest PCBs, and accept the 2519 substitute card. But keep in mind that the cheapest motherboards based on the "Russian Gerbers" by Misha Mdesk have small deviations in looks. And his ACI Gerbers do not contain my Gen2 improvements - the only source for "Gen 2 improved ACI" PCBs is Ebay seller "newton-computer" because my circuit improvement work was based on his proprietary Gerbers. Do not confuse these with "improved ACI" PCBs offered by other sellers, which are only cosmetic / optical improvements and don't have my improved circuits.

 

But unless you have a suitable keyboard and monitor and cassette recorder already at hand, any complete Apple-1 clone system that can be demonstrated with genuine "vintage" peripherals / monitors will cost you close to $1000. For those on a budget, Vince Briel's "Replica 1" is the much better deal. If you "hide" its PCB in a nice wooden enclosure, nobody can tell the difference.

 

- Uncle Bernie

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ebruchez wrote: If they have
ebruchez wrote:
 
If they have all the parts except PROMs, it seems like a decent deal for 2024, although less "fun" than spending weeks online figuring out what's the best source for this or that.

 

I think this is far more important than many realize. These replicas aren't built solely as a means to an end, and relatively few are in a hurry to complete them. Picking your own parts, and the "thrill of the hunt" in trying to find them, is a lot of the fun. As they say, "the journey is the reward."

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RFQs...
Dr. Webster wrote:
 
I think this is far more important than many realize. These replicas aren't built solely as a means to an end, and relatively few are in a hurry to complete them. Picking your own parts, and the "thrill of the hunt" in trying to find them, is a lot of the fun. As they say, "the journey is the reward."

 

This is true, I have quite enjoyed searching everywhere for parts, although the one part I wouldent call "Fun" is sending 15 RFQs and all of them responding that they have a $200 min. 

 

 

 

 

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I have bought from them once

I have bought from them once and that's it: Despite advertising a 2519B, the owner shipped the 2519N variant. While they are working just the same, the 2519N has not been "burned in", so the failure rate is higher. When I questioned him about the wrong parts he simply went "There is no difference" and closed the discussion. 

 

He also mentioned that the 2519 I bought from him where his last, but I am not sure whether he meant it in that way that he still has 2519 to be sold in the complete set but has no spare single 2519 to sell.

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On the viability and risks with electronics kits (also Apple-1)

In post #9, retroplace_1 wrote:

 

"Despite advertising a 2519B, the owner shipped the 2519N variant. While they are working just the same, the 2519N has not been "burned in", so the failure rate is higher."

 

Uncle Bernie comments / warns:

 

I don't know if the 2519N sold by Unicorn are from the same lots as the 2519N I had in my first kits, but the ones I had initially (with 1977 date codes) had about 25% failure rate, which means 1 out of four was bad right out of the tube or died in burn-in. These misfits were the primary reason why I opted to build several burn-in rigs (Apple-1 clones with machined contact sockets) and let them run 24/7 for 1 month. But other ICs also turned out to die during that burn-in, so I was happy to have made that decision (to do the burn-in of all motherboard ICs sold in my kits, except for the regulators, which were known good).

 

Later I had 2519B in my kits which had only abut 3% failure rate out of the tube. And none of them ever died in burn-in.

 

Over the years the "graveyard" of ICs on my monitor grew and grew, and here is the thread with the state a few months before I stopped making kits:

 

https://www.applefritter.com/content/uncle-bernies-spooky-ic-graveyard-helloween-2022

 

All these ICs which were eliminated by my test and burn-in process and would have caused great disappointment at the Apple-1 builders using them, because their builds would not work, and their chance to find the culprit was slim (with some exceptions, i.e. DRAM errors are easily identified when running the diagnostics page I added to the original Wozmon ROMs). The Apple-1 circuit is quite tricky (Woz magic) and not easy to understand, so finding out which IC causes a problem is not trivial.

 

My conclusion is that if anybody sells Apple-1 kits without 100% tested and burned-in ICs, so much trouble will be generated that the loss of time with handling the trouble is not worth any profit that could be wrought out of making and selling the kits anyways.

 

This may be a reason why the OP was asking why "nobody buys the Unicorn kits".  Aside from the fact that this is just a conjecture from the OP, and AFAIK Unicorn indeed did sell some of their kits over the years, but if somebody buys a kit and has no build success, this will be posted on public forums and this will discourage prospective buyers. In contrast, my kits with 100% tested and burned-in ICs, which all came out of actually running Apple-1,  a build success was virtually guaranteed, as it should be. A few builders had some teething problems, but overall, the email "hotline" I had to help them was quite silent. As far as I know, only one 2519 died at a builder. And this was one of the nasty 2519N of my first kits. I sent him a 2519B free of charge.

 

There is a reason why "electronics kits" are all but gone nowadays. Remember "Heathkit" ? I once had a discussion with the owner of one of the bigger online businesses about making some electronics kits for kids (I have some nice designs I made as a teen, like a rotary "safe" combination lock with only two 74xxx ICs) but our conclusion was that today's kids are "too fat and dumb and disinterested anyways" so making any electronics kit for kids is a futile exercise. The Apple-1 is an exception as most builders actually are electronics professionals or very experienced electronics hobbyists with money to spend, and some of the components are so hard to find (or if found at IC brokers, can't be bought in small quantitites) so that making kits was viable --- but to avoid trouble and loss of lots of time with angry customers, only viable if all the ICs were 100% tested and burned in).

 

It just so happened that I had bought lots of ICs for my "100 wave-soldered Apple-1" project which fell apart due to the pandemic and other factors beyond my control, and being retired, I had the time to turn that excess IC stock into kits, now all sold out. (As for the  "100 wave-soldered Apple-1", Armin = retroplace has picked up the ball I had to drop, and made it happen. This is because deeply hidden in some German forests they still have small assembly house type companies who are still equipped and able to do wave soldering. In the deindustrialized USA this is not possible anymore, the know-how is long gone, and the wave soldering machine I had my eyes on was sold for scraps when the owner closed down his business. The irony is that the scrap price was largely dictated by the amount of solder still in the machine. Much the same thing as with selling an old, much used car. When the car dealer asks you "is the tank full or empty" then you know the money you will get for the car will be much less than you thought ...)

 

So this is my point of view on electronics kits and their demise / commercial nonviability in general. My famous Apple-1 kits were just a singularity, never to happen again.

 

- Uncle Bernie

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Hey Bernie, Thanks for all

Hey Bernie,

 

Thanks for all you do for this community! So all of your kits have gone, and there are none left?

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