A next-generation Dragon?

A place to discuss everything Dragon related that doesn't fall into the other categories.
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CaptainNemo
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A next-generation Dragon?

Post by CaptainNemo »

I've been following some very nice retro-computing projects over the years, like the many Amiga next-generation platforms (AmigaOne, MIST, R-Pi, etc.), TheC64 and the new ZX Spectrum Next.

This got me thinking...

What would it take to have a brand new 'Dragon II' breathing fire again in the wild?

What features do you think a 'Dragon II' should have? Obviously backwards compatibility with old software is a must, but what new properties should be there in next-generation mode? Better sound and graphics perhaps? How about a real OS with a new GUI?

Is this vision even possible? I mean, almost anything could be made these days -- no doubt about that –- but would you back this project if it were mature enough? How many units do you think could be sold around the world to us enthusiasts? (The) TheC64 costs over £100... the new ZX Spectrum Next is over £200 and already sold out!

There are some very smart and creative individuals in this forum who helped develop new hardware and software for this old beast, including a Dragon 32 project leader from way back when, who joined us recently.


Would be interesting to hear your thoughts!
Alastair
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Re: A next-generation Dragon?

Post by Alastair »

CaptainNemo wrote: Thu Feb 20, 2020 10:46 pm How about a real OS with a new GUI?
The Dragon already has a "real OS" in the shape of NitrOS-9, any hardware improvements should therefore be of a form that allows the "Dragon II" to use NitrOS-9 Level 2 and Level 3.

Would there be a market for such a machine? Back in the 1980s the C64 and ZX Spectrum sold in huge numbers and so for both machines there is a very large potential nostalgia market, I'm not sure that such a market exists for the Dragon.
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snarkhunter
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Re: A next-generation Dragon?

Post by snarkhunter »

CaptainNemo wrote: Thu Feb 20, 2020 10:46 pm What features do you think a 'Dragon II' should have? Obviously backwards compatibility with old software is a must,
Hello,

I do not think this would really be needed since the power of currently available processors easily allows full software emulation, which means backwards compatibility could be achieved through embedded emulation. I also guess this would be all the more efficient since quality emulation does exist (... as everyone here may know!), so there would be no actual need to "reinvent the wheel".
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unumlapis
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Re: A next-generation Dragon?

Post by unumlapis »

Don't see that this is about re-inventing the well but mor of making a new hardware board which is being tweaked maybe with some nice addons and still maintain the backwards compatibility in the same way that has been done for C64 and Amiga boards projects. I think it's a cool idea and been thinking of the same idea as well. The main reason for doing this would be because we can :D
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CaptainNemo
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Re: A next-generation Dragon?

Post by CaptainNemo »

Good points everyone, I agree with you all.

unumlapis -- this is exactly what I was thinking!

snarkhunter –- I'm quite certain that every retro-product that's being sold to the public today is using emulation (consoles like Sega, PS1, NES, etc. and of course TheC64 and Spectrum Next), so there's really no point in 'reinventing the wheel', as you said.

Now imagine a 'Dragon II' set in next-generation mode, achieving the full potential that this machine should have had in the first place –- better graphics, sound and everything else that matters. Learning from 'other people's mistakes' would help design a solid piece of hardware with an accompanying SDK/IDE that would invite people to port or develop new stuff.

Alastair –- Commodore and Spectrum definitely have a huge nostalgic market. I'm not fooling myself to believe a 'Dragon II' would sell as many units as TheC64 or Spectrum Next, but there are many 'flavors' to nostalgia... here's a little anecdote:

I own two Silicon-Graphics workstations and also frequent their online hobbyist community. Although my machines are 15-25 years old by now, they're much more practical today as a daily driver (minus web browsing) than the Dragon would ever be. Both SGI and Dragon communities are relatively tiny compared to Commodore, Atari or Amiga enthusiasts, and many SGI community members do not own a machine because they are big, noisy, power-hungry and expensive. There's also no real emulation available...

One SGI community member got up one morning and fitted a single-board computer inside a 3D-printed a mini-Indigo case he designed –- a cool little case with a modern Linux OS inside which isn't compatible at all with the old hardware/software –- it sold faster than hot cakes!


Again, would be interesting to hear your thoughts!
sixxie
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Re: A next-generation Dragon?

Post by sixxie »

The CoCo2 plus, a CoCo1/2 clone

A good starting point?

Would need a bit of redesigning to PAL-ise it, but rethinking that to an add-on board (with maybe some jumpers on the main board to switch between PAL/NTSC signal routing) seems like a good idea anyway.

Edit: maybe make the D64 HSync routing bug selectable too ;)
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unumlapis
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Re: A next-generation Dragon?

Post by unumlapis »

An idea would be to create a wish list based on current available hardware which we would like to see included on a new mobo such as the CocoVGA, DragonMMC, additional audio chip which currently being done via cartridge, more memory maybe 128kb (Dragon Plus board), and what else can be found from for example Draco 64 and down to smaller easier things like adding a power LED and maybe additional I/O ports or changing the form factor.
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snarkhunter
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Re: A next-generation Dragon?

Post by snarkhunter »

CaptainNemo wrote: Fri Feb 21, 2020 11:57 am snarkhunter –- I'm quite certain that every retro-product that's being sold to the public today is using emulation (consoles like Sega, PS1, NES, etc. and of course TheC64 and Spectrum Next), so there's really no point in 'reinventing the wheel', as you said.

Now imagine a 'Dragon II' set in next-generation mode, achieving the full potential that this machine should have had in the first place –- better graphics, sound and everything else that matters. Learning from 'other people's mistakes' would help design a solid piece of hardware with an accompanying SDK/IDE that would invite people to port or develop new stuff.
It sure is a nice "roadmap", with the risk the resulting machine ends up as kind of a a clone of a previously existing one that had better specs. For instance, larger memory, more colors and improved resolution and sound, a faster processor, or even several specialized processors (à la Amiga), hard disk support, etc.

... but are not we going to end up with a better C64 or Apple II, or a dwarf Amiga clone, etc.?!
I do not have any preconceived notions about such an issue, only questions!
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robcfg
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Re: A next-generation Dragon?

Post by robcfg »

I personally would like to have a FPGA implementation of the Dragon 64 loaded with all possible compatible improvements.

Like 6309 processor, CoCoVGA, CoCoPSG, CoCoSDC or DragonMMC, Dragon Plus, with usb keyboard connector, joystick ports and maybe two video outputs.

My goal would be to have the best Dragon you can have in a convenient format for modern use.

Sadly I don't have all the time to work on my developments for the Dragon, less even to try to improve emulation (CoCoPSG specially not being emulated is killing me), so a nice hardware implementation of that would make my life much easier and we'd have a future-proof Dragon.
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unumlapis
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Re: A next-generation Dragon?

Post by unumlapis »

So this is what we have so far then in terms of inspiration of hardware that we would like to see squeezed into a new motherboard for this next gen Dragonstein:

CPU: Hitachi 6309 or FPGA (CoCo3FPGA / CoCoDEV)
Graphics: MC6847 + FPGA (CoCoVGA / AtomGodilVideo has some interesting features) + Sprite board capabilities (Sprite Graphics board)
RAM: 256 Kb (min) using MC6829 for memory management (Dragon Plus)
ROM: Switch bridge for various ROM's (Like Draco)
OS: NitrOS-9
BASIC: Extension & Bug fixes
Audio: YM2149 or SN76489 as an additional (CoCo PSG / Game Master Cartridge)
Disk Interface: DragonDOS (enhanced version)
Storage: Flash Card Support (DragonMMC)
Graphics Output: VGA / HDMI
Cartridge slot: Standard Cartridge slot + internal cartridge slot
I/O: USB Keyboard connectivity (Tynemouth project)
I/O: Digital joystick ports (Vrai's Retro Stuff)
I/O: Ports improvements in general
Board: Integrated PSU-board and motherboard to one big board which provide more space and easier handling of I/O-ports.

The Zippster Zone has a bunch of various project listed to provide additional ideas and I'm sure that I've missed lots of interesting tweaks which would be interesting to pick from. So keep the ideas and links flowing and we'll update the list.
Last edited by unumlapis on Sat Feb 22, 2020 9:43 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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