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microcat - The ultimative ARM based handheld game console

Started by DarkestEx, August 09, 2015, 09:50:08 PM

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DarkestEx

August 09, 2015, 09:50:08 PM Last Edit: October 15, 2015, 07:08:22 PM by DarkestEx
I'd like to present you the new console @adekto, @Cumred_Snektron, @gbl08ma, @Streetwalrus and I are working on!
Special thanks to all of them, they are awesome :)

The microcat

Preliminary specifications:
- ARMv7 Core @ 120 MHz
- ESP8266 WiFi @ 80 MHz
- 128 KB builtin RAM
- High speed SDIO interface for SD cards for program and media storage (resulting in almost unlimited program and ressource sizes)
- 128x128px 16 bit OLED (about 1.5 inches in diagonal)
- 4 direction buttons, 4 action buttons, a soft power-, a home- and a reset button
- big expansion header
- Digital 16 bit audio and headphone socket
- LiPo battery with builtin charge circuit
- USB 2.0 full speed, host and slave

Estimated price is about 45 EUR for the base unit
About 59 for a full starter kit.

The console will be very tiny. Just about smaller than a credit card.

We are still in prototyping phase, but I want to log progress here, and we really hope that you like it :)

Have fun!
  • Calculators owned: TI-84+, Casio 101-S, RPN-Calc, Hewlett-Packard 100LX, Hewlett-Packard 95LX
  • Consoles, mobile devices and vintage computers owned: Original Commodore 64C, C64 DTV, Nintendo GameBoy Color, Nintendo GameCube, Xbox 360, PlayStation 2

Snektron

Looks pretty sweet :D Im interested in how developement with this wil go.
How will games be made?
  • Calculators owned: TI-84+
Legends say if you spam more than DJ Omnimaga, you will become a walrus...


DarkestEx

Quote from: Cumred_Snektron on August 09, 2015, 10:31:45 PM
Looks pretty sweet :D Im interested in how developement with this wil go.
How will games be made?
Games can be made in a Lua like language or in our custom, easy assembly language.
They can be made on a PC or even right on the device.
Debugging and uploading can be done over WiFi.
  • Calculators owned: TI-84+, Casio 101-S, RPN-Calc, Hewlett-Packard 100LX, Hewlett-Packard 95LX
  • Consoles, mobile devices and vintage computers owned: Original Commodore 64C, C64 DTV, Nintendo GameBoy Color, Nintendo GameCube, Xbox 360, PlayStation 2

DJ Omnimaga

It seems interesting. I hope it comes to fruition like the Gamebuino did. The specs also seem pretty nice for retro gaming :)

  • Calculators owned: TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition, TI-84 Plus CE, Casio fx-CG10, HP Prime, fx 1.0 Plus, fx-7400G Plus, fx-9750G Plus, fx-9860G, HP 39gII
  • Consoles, mobile devices and vintage computers owned: Huawei P30 Lite

Unicorn

Oo, sounds very cool!This seems ambitous, but good luck! :)
  • Calculators owned: I own all of them: PICKACHUP TI 84+ CSE TI 83+ SE TI something something ??? ??? ??? ??? ???
  • Consoles, mobile devices and vintage computers owned: PICKACHUP ??? ??? ??? ??? ???



??? ??? ??? ??? ???

DarkestEx

Quote from: DJ Omnimaga on August 09, 2015, 11:50:30 PM
It seems interesting. I hope it comes to fruition like the Gamebuino did. The specs also seem pretty nice for retro gaming :)
I really hope so too and yes, we want to do primarily retro gaming as we really like it. Basically we want to start where the Gamebuino's limits are and allow color retro games with modern SD, WiFi and USB capabilities to become reality again.

Quote from: Unicorn on August 10, 2015, 04:25:08 AM
Oo, sounds very cool!This seems ambitous, but good luck! :)
Thanks. I will keep you all updated on our progress.
  • Calculators owned: TI-84+, Casio 101-S, RPN-Calc, Hewlett-Packard 100LX, Hewlett-Packard 95LX
  • Consoles, mobile devices and vintage computers owned: Original Commodore 64C, C64 DTV, Nintendo GameBoy Color, Nintendo GameCube, Xbox 360, PlayStation 2

CKH4

Very cool, maybe this will become very popular as it sounds great.
  • Calculators owned: TI-83+, TI-84+


Strontium

What OS will it  run, if any? Will it be able to run code in any language that can compile to ARM assembly?
  • Calculators owned: TI Nspire CX, HP Prime
  • Consoles, mobile devices and vintage computers owned: NES

DarkestEx

August 13, 2015, 08:51:47 AM #8 Last Edit: September 23, 2015, 10:36:52 PM by DarkestEx
Quote from: Strontium on August 13, 2015, 12:13:42 AM
What OS will it  run, if any? Will it be able to run code in any language that can compile to ARM assembly?
It will run our custom OS we're working on.
About languages, we don't support running ARM assemblies,  as this is not possible on our architecture.
Basically it's like Java - you have a virtual processor running on the microcat that executes our own improved assembly code that you can write directly or use one of our compilers that we're working on to generate assemblies for you.
Benefits are smaller code sizes, easy game writing, library support, code is loaded directly from sd card, so it won't be loaded into ram.
This allows for games without any size limitations.

It will support games written in C and linked to a shared API in Flash.
  • Calculators owned: TI-84+, Casio 101-S, RPN-Calc, Hewlett-Packard 100LX, Hewlett-Packard 95LX
  • Consoles, mobile devices and vintage computers owned: Original Commodore 64C, C64 DTV, Nintendo GameBoy Color, Nintendo GameCube, Xbox 360, PlayStation 2

Snektron

Sweet :) Can libraries have native code though? or do you implement everything (like a graphics library and such) in the asm language itself?
  • Calculators owned: TI-84+
Legends say if you spam more than DJ Omnimaga, you will become a walrus...


DarkestEx

August 13, 2015, 12:37:16 PM #10 Last Edit: August 13, 2015, 12:39:03 PM by DarkestEx
Quote from: Cumred_Snektron on August 13, 2015, 10:19:01 AM
Sweet :) Can libraries have native code though? or do you implement everything (like a graphics library and such) in the asm language itself?
Libraries can bridge core and OS low level functions directly to any assembly or just provide easy to use functions.
Basically we will provide a subset of base functions that the libraries can build on top of.
We can always update the main firmware to implement new features.
Libraries will have linker files that contain the entry points to the referenced functions to interface with programs, so we will basically have shared libraries.
The whole assembly executing system will be secured by permissions.
Libraries and assemblies can only use functions that they have permissions for or the program execution will end and the console will return to the menu.
So the library has to use the same permissions as the main program or game requests.

Maybe libraries can have small static ARM assembly blocks, but we don't know yet how to do it. Probably they won't have them to prevent security incidents.
  • Calculators owned: TI-84+, Casio 101-S, RPN-Calc, Hewlett-Packard 100LX, Hewlett-Packard 95LX
  • Consoles, mobile devices and vintage computers owned: Original Commodore 64C, C64 DTV, Nintendo GameBoy Color, Nintendo GameCube, Xbox 360, PlayStation 2

Streetwalrus

Are you sure security is somehting you want to focus on with such low-end hardware ?

DarkestEx

Quote from: Streetwalrus on August 13, 2015, 02:25:04 PM
Are you sure security is somehting you want to focus on with such low-end hardware ?
Well, yes. No complex security, but basic things like permissions (just flags in the VM) and SSL which is already builtin to the WiFi chipset.
Maybe certification, but we probably ditch that idea.
  • Calculators owned: TI-84+, Casio 101-S, RPN-Calc, Hewlett-Packard 100LX, Hewlett-Packard 95LX
  • Consoles, mobile devices and vintage computers owned: Original Commodore 64C, C64 DTV, Nintendo GameBoy Color, Nintendo GameCube, Xbox 360, PlayStation 2

Vogtinator

Looks interesting so far, although I wonder why a seperate µC for power control?
Most ARM µCs have a lot of power control built-in.
Quote- ARM Cortex M0+ Core @ 48 MHz
- 128 KB builtin RAM (expandable)
Let me guess, a STM32F0? I like those chips a lot, I have the F407 and F429 discovery and they're really useful.
Why not a slightly more powerful core like a Cortex M4F, though? Faster floating point processing could be nice to have.
  • Calculators owned: TI-Nspie CX CAS, Casio FX-85ES

c4ooo

Quote from: DarkestEx on August 13, 2015, 08:51:47 AM
Quote from: Strontium on August 13, 2015, 12:13:42 AM
What OS will it  run, if any? Will it be able to run code in any language that can compile to ARM assembly?
It will run our custom OS we're working on.
About languages, we don't support running ARM assemblies,  as this is not possible on our architecture.
Basically it's like Java - you have a virtual processor running on the microcat that executes our own improved assembly code that you can write directly or use one of our compilers that we're working on to generate assemblies for you.
Benefits are smaller code sizes, easy game writing, library support, code is loaded directly from sd card, so it won't be loaded into ram.
This allows for games without any size limitations.
Sounds suspiciously familiar...  <_<

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