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about the future (missing ICs)

giobbi

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...I have a question...

what will happen when Commodore proprietary ICs will dead?

Actually you can still easily find any replacement for PET/CBM computers, but it's more difficult to find VIC-20, C=64, etc. replacement chips like 6510, VIC, VIC-II, SID, etc.

Is there a way to build a replacement or (better!) is there anybody around the world that's making them?

I'm worried about the future of our poor machines without spare parts :-O
 

MikeS

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...I have a question...

what will happen when Commodore proprietary ICs will dead?

Actually you can still easily find any replacement for PET/CBM computers, but it's more difficult to find VIC-20, C=64, etc. replacement chips like 6510, VIC, VIC-II, SID, etc.

Is there a way to build a replacement or (better!) is there anybody around the world that's making them?

I'm worried about the future of our poor machines without spare parts :-O
Well, hopefully those chips will be emulated as time goes on and the supply dries up; there are already emulated replacements for the custom PLAs, 6530s and even the SID chip, and probably others that I've forgotten or wasn't aware of. Some pretty amazing work being done on and for these old machines...
 

Chuck(G)

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At some point, it becomes more expedient to toss the original electronics, keep the case and run an emulator in a modern platform in the case. You can already envision some of the problems that are getting tougher to solve--e.g., where does one find a replacement monitor, slowly disappearing 5 volt logic, etc.
 

giobbi

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At some point, it becomes more expedient to toss the original electronics, keep the case and run an emulator in a modern platform in the case. You can already envision some of the problems that are getting tougher to solve--e.g., where does one find a replacement monitor, slowly disappearing 5 volt logic, etc.

I don't like to do that; of course it's just my point of view, but I like to own an original, working machine. Emulator doesn't give me the same feeling.
My wish is to find a way to fix broken machines.
 

giobbi

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Well, hopefully those chips will be emulated as time goes on and the supply dries up; there are already emulated replacements for the custom PLAs, 6530s and even the SID chip, and probably others that I've forgotten or wasn't aware of. Some pretty amazing work being done on and for these old machines...

Mike,
many parts aren't available yet, like i.e. VIC chip... there are tons of machines broken without chance to be fixed because of lack of components, so it would be fantastic if somebody (some chinese firm? ;-) ) could develope a replacement....

How to emulate a 6530? I've seen it's possible using a 6532 (that it's quite hard -or impossible- to find too...) and an eprom. This will probably my next need, since I've a broken 8050 in Italy and I'll take it in october. Not sure if the problem is the 6530, but since it seems I only get nasty problems, probably it will be... ;-)
 

Unknown_K

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I kind of wonder if in 30 years when the supply of original replacement parts dry up if anybody will still bother with original equipment anyway. Even now most users are only into playing games, and most of them use an EMU of some type. C64s that work are still common and cheap, some of the older Commodore models like the PET are not exactly popular with the masses so there is no incentive to make replacement parts. I can see people getting an EMU board and sticking it in a gutted PET connected to an LCD monitor, might as well just emulate the whole thing.
 

Chuck(G)

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Even in the PC and Macintosh world there are plenty of vendor-custom chips, some with at best, a part number printed on them. While you may be able to deduce a general idea of what the chip does, detailed information isn't available. If I have to junk something, I'll try to depopulate the board and stash the ICs away against a future need. Just beating the Chinese pull vendors to the punch...
 

jac_goudsmit

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Mike,
many parts aren't available yet, like i.e. VIC chip... there are tons of machines broken without chance to be fixed because of lack of components, so it would be fantastic if somebody (some chinese firm? ;-) ) could develope a replacement....

The SID, the VIC, the PLA and many other chips have been reverse-engineered and can be emulated. Jeri Ellsworth did it in the C64-DTV. As far as I understand, she was well underway to emulate the Amiga 500 chipset in an FPGA too, but the project got canceled.

The bottom line is: Nothing lasts forever. But you should wonder what really is worthy of preserving? Most people now work with computers, smartphones, TV's that are really computers with tuners, etc. so you're never going to be able to re-create the experience from the 1980s where you had never ever seen a computer before and then all of a sudden there was this box in your house that could do so much, if only you knew how to use it :)

Personally, I think the most important thing is to keep the information about the hardware alive, as well as the software that runs on it. It may not always be possible in the future to keep the actual hardware alive, but as long as the information is available that can be used to rebuild that hardware somehow, or to emulate it on some other hardware, it will be possible to run the software too. So thanks to websites such as Zimmers and Bombjack, who take it upon themselves to keep this information alive, the history of those old computers is safe, even if they run the risk of getting shut down every day because of the retarded copyright laws in the United States.

But it will be a long time before all the old hardware will turn to dust and will be unrepairable. Most of the standard chips (like TTL chips) will be available for a number of years and the custom chips like the PLA, SID and VIC are so well understood that it doesn't really matter if we run out: they can be emulated if there's no system available from which a working chip can be removed.

It's unavoidable that if you have a broken computer from the 1970s or 1980s, some ICs are already not available anymore, except in other machines of the same type. Eventually other chips will have the same thing happen to them. Eventually there will just be no other choice but to emulate most, if not all of the computer. But it will take so long before that happens, that I doubt that anyone will care when the only way to fix a C64 is to replace it with another C64 or an emulator, as long as they can run the old software and experience the "look and feel". If anything, the keyboard is the most important hardware to keep alive because it's probably the only thing that can't be emulated :)

===Jac
 

MikeS

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If anything, the keyboard is the most important hardware to keep alive because it's probably the only thing that can't be emulated :)
Forget the smiley; that's actually a very profound point! I personally find running Vice with a PC keyboard a strange experience, even with the correct keystickers, and not really a true emulation/simulation at all; on the other hand, although I haven't tried it yet, I'd imagine it'd be hard to tell the difference between a 'real' C64 and a C64 case & keyboard running Vice through a C64 kbd>PS/2 converter.

Even using Giovi's 8032-SK with a VIC-20 keyboard must feel just a little odd...
 
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Chuck(G)

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After a time, it becomes extremely difficult to keep very old hardware running. Try it with, say, an IBM 1401. I suspect there may still be one or two around that still function, but keeping them going would be a labor of deep pockets.

Yet I can quite successfully run 1401 programs on a modern emulator.

So I wouldn't worry about it. There's always emulation.
 

billdeg

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I think that soon enough it will be possible to scan a chip in an IC tester and burn a functional equivalent cheaply enough that you can own a device to make missing chips. there. problem solved.
 

Chuck(G)

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Well, I still have, somewhere, a state machine project I did in the late 60s/early 70s. It used DTL in flat-pack packaging, with the exception of some Fairchild 8-bit memory devices in TO-100 cases (odd part; used 5V Vcc, but took a 7V clock). All of those devices are pretty much unobtainium and no one has developed drop-in substitutes.

That's only about 40 years. There are a lot of other technologies/devices that have gone into the category of "we could make them or substitutes for them if the demand were great enough to offset the costs of replication". That "if" will never be satisfied. We'll be digging around on dusty shelves, hoping to find replacements that someone forgot about, but I suspect that ultimately, it'll all be the domain of museums.

HTL, old ECL (I, II, and III) and TTL (non-7400 series), RTL logic ICs are pretty scarce on the ground now and will only become more so.

Right now, we're in sort of a "honeymoon" period where DIP packages and 5V logic are still being manufactured. But that won't last.

The outlook is even bleaker for modern gear, with FPGAs or custom fab being considered proprietary and therefore not available after the company (a) gets old enough to discontinue the manufacture and shred all documentation or (b) goes bankrupt or gets eaten by another firm. What was the last modern electronic device that you purchased in which you felt confident that you could repair, even if the manufacturer went out of business?
 

Al Kossow

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The outlook is even bleaker for modern gear, with FPGAs or custom fab being considered proprietary

It is much worse than that. Any electrically programmed device WILL become corrupted as the charge leaks off the floating gates.
That will kill anything built with an EPROM, FPGA, or Flash long before metal migration or corrosion kills the masked ICs. I'm
amazed things from the 70's with EPROMs still work. Guess we're lucky the gate sizes were big back then.

Then there failure due to electrolytics or batteries leaking and corroding the PCB.
 

giobbi

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OK fine I am depressed now...


me too, it means that I some years, our machines will be just a dead shell full of useless parts. Strange and surreal that you can have a fully working EM calculator from 1930s or 1920s or even older and you can't keep your '70s and '80s electronic machines running... :-(
 

Chuck(G)

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There's also a cultural shift to worry about. Back in the 50s, 60s and 70s (and to some extent, the 80s), companies had field service personnel and went to some pains to explain the inner workings of their products. So we now have quite a bit of paper that can be referred to that gives some information on how an original device might be replicated.

Try that with your modern embedded device, with no programming information available. I had an experience with a device made in the 90s with an early FPGA on it. Although the manufacturer was quite willing to help, they had retained no information at all on how the FPGA was supposed to function or what was supposed to be uploaded to it. Good times for the scrappers.
 

cr1901

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Well, I still have, somewhere, a state machine project I did in the late 60s/early 70s. It used DTL in flat-pack packaging, with the exception of some Fairchild 8-bit memory devices in TO-100 cases (odd part; used 5V Vcc, but took a 7V clock). All of those devices are pretty much unobtainium and no one has developed drop-in substitutes.

That's only about 40 years. There are a lot of other technologies/devices that have gone into the category of "we could make them or substitutes for them if the demand were great enough to offset the costs of replication". That "if" will never be satisfied. We'll be digging around on dusty shelves, hoping to find replacements that someone forgot about, but I suspect that ultimately, it'll all be the domain of museums.

HTL, old ECL (I, II, and III) and TTL (non-7400 series), RTL logic ICs are pretty scarce on the ground now and will only become more so.

Right now, we're in sort of a "honeymoon" period where DIP packages and 5V logic are still being manufactured. But that won't last.

The outlook is even bleaker for modern gear, with FPGAs or custom fab being considered proprietary and therefore not available after the company (a) gets old enough to discontinue the manufacture and shred all documentation or (b) goes bankrupt or gets eaten by another firm. What was the last modern electronic device that you purchased in which you felt confident that you could repair, even if the manufacturer went out of business?

The site owner of another forum I go to called byuu.org (which is focused on emulation development and other programming projects), has similar sentiments. He believes for this reason that cycle accurate emulators need to be developed for hardware to keep the memory of old machines alive when they finally bite the dust. Me, I'm surprised that some of the things I have still work as if they're new- the most prized possession being an original IBM AT CMI hard drive.

Of course, it would be nice if people could make small runs of old CPUs or ICs XD... kinda like PCBs, except you pay someone to use a specific mask- provided they still exist. In the extreme case, a microcontroller or CPLD could replace broken ICs... it might not be authentic, but whatever works, right? I highly doubt we're entering an age where small microcontrollers will disappear.

At some point, devices will become too complicated for long term reliability, period... this is why it's tantamount we document everything, even technical standards not necessarily meant to be fully understood by a single person.
 

Chuck(G)

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Of course, it would be nice if people could make small runs of old CPUs or ICs XD... kinda like PCBs, except you pay someone to use a specific mask- provided they still exist. In the extreme case, a microcontroller or CPLD could replace broken ICs... it might not be authentic, but whatever works, right? I highly doubt we're entering an age where small microcontrollers will disappear.

In a sense, that's an excellent application of FPGAs. At least you're forced to write out a detailed description of the hardware.
 

RobertB

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The SID, the VIC, the PLA and many other chips have been reverse-engineered and can be emulated.
The replacement(s) for the SID chip is not perfect.
Jeri Ellsworth did it in the C64-DTV.
Her emulation of the SID was not perfect (as she herself admitted).
As far as I understand, she was well underway to emulate the Amiga 500 chipset in an FPGA too...
These days, the various Amiga cores vary in how well they emulate the Amiga.
...some ICs are already not available anymore...
As evidenced by Commodore Plus/4 users scrambling to find any 7501/8501 CPUs and TED video chips to replace the failed ones in their machines. Those chips had a high-failure rate.

The night before leaving for Vegas,
Robert Bernardo
Fresno Commodore User Group
http://videocam.net.au/fcug
July 27-28 Commodore Vegas Expo v9 -
http://www.portcommodore.com/commvex
 
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