[Coco] CoCo 4 (or 5) perspectives: close hardware emulation?

Joel Ewy jcewy at swbell.net
Mon Jan 29 00:26:54 EST 2007

Roger Taylor wrote:
> At 07:58 PM 1/28/2007, you wrote:
>> If you overheard such a discussion between a group of people at a
>> CocoFest meet, would you walk over to them and ask them to please stop
>> talking about it, because it's a waste of breath?
> I'd think of a friendly way to say "get real", but I'd never try to 
> stop it.  I just think that the tremendous effort and large amounts 
> of money required to bring us anything beyond a souped up CoCo 3 is 
> probably the reason we don't have a 4 by now.
I think that the tremendous effort and large amounts of money that
*would have been* required in the past are why we don't have an improved
CoCo by now.  What's different now is that we have recently come to a
time (within the last 5-7 years?) when individuals and small groups of
people can implement an 8-bit microcomputer in an FPGA.  That wasn't the
case when the TC-9 and MM/1 came out.  I remember a time when some
people said the Amiga could never be emulated on a PC.  If there's
anything we can learn from the wild story of the computer industry that
we've all been watching and participating in these past 25+ years, it's
that things change.  Heck, even Moore's Law may be changing.  There was
a time when there was no CoCo emulator.  Now there are 3, 4, 5?  Most of
the feature suggestions I've read in these recent discussions have been
within the realm of the reasonable.  Some more feasible than others. 
I don't think it's likely that we're going to see a polished,
mass-produced, next-gen CoCo.  But I do believe that we can agree on a
specification for an improved CoCo system that can and will be
implemented both in FPGAs and in software emulation.  I haven't seen it
with my own eyes, but I have no reason to doubt that Mark McDougall's
FPGA system does in fact come up to a BASIC prompt, as is depicted in
this picture: 
This ain't total pie in the sky, people.  People really have done
computers in FPGAs.  Like real people, not just big companies.  Yes,
there's a lot of effort involved, and there should be a lot of
collaboration.  And this is exactly why these kinds of discussions
should be had -- so that big mistakes aren't made, and people with a
diversity of ideas and expertise can each put in what they have to offer.
The result will likely be a simple, slick, inexpensive, packaged
emulator for the PC on one end of the scale, and a do-it-yourself,
kit-based, real, visceral, instant-power-on, more costly FPGA computer
on the other end of the scale. 
The PC emulators already exist.  It's clear to me that the FPGA CoCo
implementations are coming.  They're not going to show up in your local
Wal-Mart, but it's likely that even if Mark and James don't complete
their efforts (and I have no reason to believe they can't) then somebody
else will eventually do it.  And if emulators and FPGA CoCos can and
will exist, there's no technical reason why they can't have enhanced
features over the existing hardware.
The current discussion is not about if it is possible.  Work is ongoing
already.  The current discussion is about detailed technical
specifications.  If we're half as smart as we ought to be after watching
these things for over a quarter century, we'll make it so that both of
these "next-gen" CoCo systems can run the same software.


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