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Re: gEDA-user: Free Dog meetings at MIT starting this September!

On Aug 23, 2004, at 12:02 PM, Samuel A. Falvo II wrote:
Hmm...does a 208-pin FPGA count as wide-pitch?  How about a 128-pin
(which is what the MIPS CPU comes in)?  How about a BGA?
   No, I'm talking about something like SOIC.  Man, those pins are
just *not that small*.  Let's be realistic here.
I am being realistic. My kit was a home-brew computer, something on the
order of complexity of a Commodore 64. But to implement the custom
video logic, I was looking for an FPGA-based solution. The smallest
FPGA I could find that still fit my needs has 208 pins.
  Ouch. :-(

   So you're advocating using crap tools to assemble circuitry?  If
No. I'm advocating this: when you're trying to get into the kit-building
business, you must design your circuit around who your customers are
going to be.
  Well ok, this makes sense.  But

I already have a full-time job; I don't need to spend the
remaining waking hours of my already copious time answering technical
support calls on how they need to, after spending $150 to $200 on a kit,
invest another $150 to $200 in a good soldering iron.
  I'm not talking $150 to $200.  I'm talking $75.

Like I said, the overwhelming majority of the customers who are
interested in the Kestrel NEVER built an electronic circuit before.
Never!  They don't even have breadboards.
I understand your point, and I respect your point of view, I just don't agree with it. I believe these people should FIND some breadboards and learn a little bit more about what they're getting into before trying to build an entire computer.

(as an aside, can you tell me more about the Kestrel?)

you're really talking to people who have never picked up a soldering
iron before, then I fear for our profession.  Most of these people
will give up in frustration with fried components and lifted pads.
David, with a comment like that, I must question where you've been all
these years.  The homebrew kit industry all but died along with the
introduction of SMT -- it's not a coincidence as to why.
Well admittedly I've not build a kit in probably twenty years, but I see plenty of them around. Not as many as in the heyday of Heathkits, sure, but they're not completely gone. Every hamfest I go to always has at least one big rack of Ramsey kits (little FM transmitters, etc etc) even.

   You know, the philosophy of using the right tool for the job is not
You seem to have this idea in my head that I'm ass-backwards.
Nononono. That is not the case. I just disagree with your statement of SMT versus through-hole soldering.

stop. I've explained no less than three times now that these decisions
are based purely on a BUSINESS-level decision-making process. Maybe not
as bluntly as that, but I was hoping that you might put 2 and 2 together
by now. I apologize if I seem frustrated, but I am. I hate repeating
As do I. And I've been repeating that wide-pitch SMT is not more difficult to do than through-hole. Everyone I've ever spoken to has shied away from it, and then upon trying it for the first time, has never gone back to through-hole components. That mirrors my personal experience as well. I was simply trying to give you an alternative (if unpopular, but still quite valid) point of view. I'm sorry if you don't take criticism well.

Maybe I'm just not coming across very clearly lately.

If I don't design my kits around the needs of my customers, nobody will
buy them.  Ergo, I'm essentially out of business.  It doesn't take a
rocket scientist to figure this out.
Sure. But even early-day kit makers like Heathkit rated their projects from "beginner" to "advanced" and listed the tools each kit required. Even in those days, when a lot more people knew what soldering irons were, no beginner would ever try to solder together an entire computer, and no kit maker would ever push them to try.

Again, I don't fear SMT.  Those $22 superscalar MIPS processors are
awfully appealing to me, and as long as I build for myself exclusively,
the idea of using $100 FPGA chips isn't that bad to me (seeing as how
it'll probably replace at least that much cost in combined board space
and discrete components anyhow).
On that topic...I've seen mention of those MIPS processors a few times here. What chips are these? Do you have a URL or a part number?


Dave McGuire "...it's a matter of how tightly
Cape Coral, FL you pull the zip-tie." -Nadine Miller