Chipmusic

8bit Music Computer?

mkpp1-2tMaker Shed has started stocking these 8bit TV-Computers (you may remember from our post here). For $50, you get:

  • Contains a 1Mhz 6502 chip–the same technology that ushered in the “Home Computer Revolution” in the 1980s.
  • Each box comes with a keyboard, mouse, 2 game controllers, operating system cartridge, RCA cables (NTSC video and stereo audio), and a 9 volt power supply.
  • Plays 8-bit 60-pin Japanese game cartridges (such as Famicom cartridges, or NES cartridges with an NES to FC converter)
  • Supplied Cartridge comes with:
  • Mandarin Chinese 8-bit GUI with English DOS prompt
  • BASIC programming language and sprite manipulator (in English)
  • 8-bit Music composer
  • “Visual Theremin” Mode

The last two are highlighted because I ahve never heard of them. Anyone know what they are like? And hopefully Maker Shed will start carrying eeprom carts for this sucker soon..

14 comments to 8bit Music Computer?

  • I think this is pretty damn stupid.
    They been selling these things in Argentina for years, and at 10/15 dollars a pop, mind you.

    Without any sort of development facilitation for end users, it just makes no sense to get this thing.
    Why not use this concept and build something worth anything? Like, replacing that stupid cart slot with an SD card reader. yeah, price might go up (but how much?) but this would be 100 times more useful. I still can’t fine the “revelation” in finding these and selling them in the US for at least 4 times its price. Yeah, lots of kids will surely learn a lot from the mandarin GUI. Are you joking me?

    Just another cheap arse famiclone being sold for a ridiculously high price? I guess we should wait, but at this point, are there any plans to take this to the next level and make something new and useful out of it? I haven’t heard anything, but I was surprised to see 8bitpeoples involvement mentioned in the article posted before and I was excited about it since finally it seemed as this was going somewhere, but this box, as it is now, is as good as an airplane klaxon. How can the supposedly original goal of educational computer be fulfilled with a Mandarin UI? There’s not much effort put in buying a container of these and reselling them iin the US…

    rant over :P

    Oh,some further reading.
    To begin with, Playpower.org seem to be the pushers of using this platform for new stuff. And they say in the website themselves this computer thing is worth 12 dollars. why pay 50 is beyond my comprehension.
    Also, the site that sells these says it’s a “fully hackable”unit. Hardly any hacking you can do to a NOAC unit, it’s one of those “all my IC is in one chip under a gob of black goo”. Bends like the ones performed by Notendo on his NES require to have the real components, as far as I understood.

    so I guess my problem is with this seller and not the project itself, which is run by different hands.

  • Im sure the price is so high because thats the cost after Make imports and adds their markups. I regularly see clones on the streets for nyc of $25-30.

    In developing nations (like argentina) im sure they can be found for the intended price point. It sounds like playpower is going for the OLPC price range, where rich western developers do the expensive work, and then buy and sell the cheap units and software to developing countries.

    As for development, its jsut 6502 assembly right? Hopefully one of the NESDEV wizards who read the site can weigh in. But if you are reading this, you probably have 95% of your development resources already.

  • Sparkyboy

    They sell these things in South Africa as well. Mine also had a typing program, many educational toys etc.
    The Music Maker was rather lame though. Only one loop of about 80 notes all the same length and you can’t save. Tried a long time ago. Will have to check again and let you know!

  • As well here in Brasil, if i’m not mistaken. I just want to see how is the visual theremin thing, sounds fun.

  • About development facilities, i mean that it’s not easy, or rather, straightforward, to run code in these things. You have to hack a cart and whatnot. What’s the purpose of this nowadays? Why not take the philosophy, a NOAC based system with a keyboard and mouse, and build a new thing that we can use? Or look at the C64 DTV which, albeit not intended to be an educational computer, had on the PCB all points and facilities laid out for you to hack it onto a full blown machine. Which is 6502 too. And with a myriad of software available for YEARS to do productive stuff with it.

    Why not do the same instead of just put on the market these units, with absolutely no modifications? I repeat: mandarin GUI??????

    It’s much more worth it to pay a hundred for a device like what I describe than 50 for this garbage.

    Advice for all those interested out there: Grab a C64 DTV while they last, hack it onto a full blown machine (this one is REALLY hackable out of the box) and enjoy a much better development platform. The total cost of a hacked DTV plus a diskdrive, or why not, an SD drive, will end up being less than this and many, many times more convenient.

  • I think you are missing the point. Its basically a learning tool for children. Its not meant to compete with an OLPC. The game software will be self contained, and are designed to be cheap enough to be outgrown once the kids advance farther in their studies. The main point is the price point.

  • The main reason we wanted to import units was to build interest in development. we know that a mandarin gui isn’t good for much–but that’s not the point. We just wanted working units available for sale on the net–

    Cus here’s the thing: there is no computer cheaper than this unit, anywhere in the world. These can be bought for $5 in china. China is making millions of these things, and exporting them to emerging markets around the world. There are very, very high numbers of people who have TVs but no computers. Like Billions of people. We think that an 8-bit computer is a great way to get exposed to video games, programming, learning games, etc. I mean, that’s how I grew up.

    Of course, it would be great if China was distributing a C64DTV instead of the famiclone. I mean, it would be really great (and if you have the VHDL, I know where to send it). But they aren’t making millions of C64s, they are making millions of famiclones– and they are distributing them around the world.

    So we thought–what a cool platform! We could just make cool stuff, whether its educational or not, and just *give* it away to manufacturers.

    Plus, almost all of the world’s video games are made in Japan, EU and USA, because that’s where the buyers are. With a platform this cheap, you could have local markets for locally developed games, in way more countries. That’s the goal, anyhow.

    Playpower is just trying to make it easier for people to access dev tools, in different langauges, for making crazy new 8-bit games on “the world’s most affordable home computer.” Does that make more sense?

    u can hit me up at derek/at/playpower.org

    PS. I am allllll for the sd card slot

  • Karl

    Mandarin Chinese 8-bit GUI

    That will be important when Corey Harris from Mother 13 gives one to Skystalker for Christmas.

  • Hey Derek, love that you chip in on this! But you may have confused my words, or definitely, I have not been clear enough!

    I separated the website publicized, who are distributing these things, from the effort you guys are making on opening this platform up. As I read before, I can see you are tying to push this forward, but the 50 price tag on this unit that you can get for as low as 10 or 8 doesn’t seem right (and that’s the price off the counter, wholesale prices have to be lower, otherwise, how can I buy one of these for that price over here? That includes importing taxes, transportation across the planet, markups… these things are dirt cheap to make).

    I repeat my interest in seeing developments happen, but I do not see how a website charging 50 bucks for these units can generate more interest in the platform.

    What I think you guys can do: Grab the ROM, dump it and promote emulators and cross development tools (like cc65), and you might get yourself a winner (probably an offspin of a C64DTV-like platform based on the NES architechture). Promote development in virtual mediums but do not condone these purchases for development. As you clearly publicize in your website, this is a $12 unit, not a $50 unit. That was my rant all about. Oh well, and some wishful thinking about a famicom-based nextgen hobby microcomputer like the DTV ;)

  • I must stress, also, that you are right about the importance of the Famicom clone industry in countries like us. I can still find Famicom games for sale, and kids like them as entry level games consoles. I use to give them away as presents to young kids that I want to introduce on gaming. They love it. I wish I had a 10 dollars games console, with 3 dollar game carts, to play with when I was a kid, instead of not being able to purchase my own Atari 2600, which was way over the price I could pay over here. I ended up using my rich cousin’s unit, and then, also his C64, until a kind soul gave me a C128 as a present, but only in 1990!

  • Man I didn’t see that converter thingy! NES was non-existant in South Africa. We only had Famiclones. Just good to know that I can buy these converters if I get NES carts one day.

  • I have a question: and what about the music part of the thing? How is the sounds he produces? Can it make children learn music and maybe write stuff on it? As Akira and Sparky, cause our countries are not much different, the famicom is almost inexistent here at Brazil, he survived as the (in)famous Dynavision [which now has even wireless controlers!!!]. Anyway, I’m more concerned about the musical capabilities of the famiclones. I always heard how bad is the sound (cause why would they emulate the sound to be good anyway!).

  • Seriously. It’s really overprices. I bought today the same computer for 5€ (~6/7$) in a local shop :/