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CassLan
05-19-2008, 02:51 AM
Hi, new user here.
Thank you OBC for your Protoboard book, it's been very useful.

Quick question for those out there who may have an answer:
Why would Parallax put so much into the protoboard and not put the 3 transistor·RS232 programming circuit?

I hate having another "little black box" for life attached to this protoboard. I may just put it on the Protoboard itself, it just seems like it should already be there.
I would highly suggest·this as a future thought.
Thanks,

Rick

Leon
05-19-2008, 03:17 AM
Probably because of the cost. They don't make much money on them as it is.

Leon

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Amateur radio callsign: G1HSM
Suzuki SV1000S motorcycle

CassLan
05-19-2008, 03:38 AM
Perhaps, well it would be nice if it was part of the accessory pack then or at least convenient to build into the board.
·
I just can’t see spending $25 on a proprietary USB-serial adapter.
·
Rick

Drone
05-19-2008, 03:39 AM
IMHO it is crazy for Parallax to sell the Protoboard at near-cost to allow entry to the product and then sell the Prop Plug at such a high price ($25 USD)! Anyway, I suggest you just put the serial interface parts on the protoboard yourself. But this doesn't address the high cost of prop plug in-general. The question remains - is Parallax MARKETING trying to recover profit from the sale of prop plugs vs. he low protoboard price? Heck, last Christmas I thought about buying a bunch of protoboards for my friends & co-workers as stocking-stuffers - but then realized I would have to buy prop plugs for each of them as well (more than doubled the price per gift). Parallax SHOULD do protoboard V2 and include RS-232 serial support for the propeller tool. I wouldn't mind paying an extra buck or two for this option just to get away from the prop plug.

Regards, David

Jimmy W.
05-19-2008, 04:40 AM
IMHO, I LIKE the fact that
1.) its a nice little USB package, I program/reprogram protoboards quite a bit in the field, new laptops = no serial ports
2.) I dont have a serial port on the protoBoard for people to play with once I have programmed it.
3.) its 25 usd for another "tool" to have in your box, not that bad
4.) it has awesome red and blue LEDS! :)


Jimmy

hippy
05-19-2008, 07:57 AM
PropPlug in the UK is $40 so even more expensive. It was a price I accepted ( suffered ) to avoid problems in trying to get the two-transistor circuit working or damaging the $32 ProtoBoard. It did / does seem insane that the PropPlug is so much more expensive than the ProtoBoard. I'd have much preferred to buy another slightly more costly ProtoBoard than a PropPlug.

Oldbitcollector (Jeff)
05-19-2008, 08:59 AM
The fact that the communications circuitry is seperated from the board itself
(whether USB-TTL, MAX3232, or Transistor circuit) keeps me from having
to re-purchase it every time I start work on another Protoboard.
I'm in the planning stages for #3 and the purchase of additional
communications mech is not a concern.

On a related note, it was the initial high cost ($79) that kept me
from making that first causal purchase of the BASIC STAMP, while
$19 for a Protoboard seemed like a small enough amount to
"take the chance" -- I shutter to think what I've invested in this
hobby the last two years... :)

OBC

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New to the Propeller?

Getting started with the Protoboard? - Propeller Cookbook 1.4 (http://ucontroller.com/Propeller%20Protoboard%20Designs%20for%20the%20Beg inner.pdf)
Updates to the Cookbook are now posted to: Propeller.warrantyvoid.us (http://propeller.warrantyvoid.us)
Got an SD card? - PropDOS (http://www.orrtech.net/propdos/)
Need a part? Got spare electronics? - The Electronics Exchange (http://warrantyvoid.us/exchange/)

Cluso99
05-19-2008, 10:21 AM
My 2 cents...

About 3 weeks ago I bought 2 protoboards without propplugs. It gives me all the I/O pins available.

I had (on hand) an FT2232C board (40pin DIP package similar to the Stamp concept). I wired it on vero board with 2 TTL interfaces and put a jumper on each port to optionally link/remove the DTR signal from the header. I now have two proto boards working simultaneously with 2 IDE's (see my post about simultaneous IDE's).

Currently I have one protoboard connected to one port and the IDE. The other to port is connected to same protoboard and pins 0 & 1 for a serial connection using Hyperterminal to the FullDuplexSerial object. My code now samples all input pins at 12.5nS (every clock cycle) using 4 cogs, then sends the results over the 2nd serial port. (see my DataLogger post).

I bought the protoboard based on price http://forums.parallax.com/images/smilies/smile.gif Therefore, my vote is to keep the protoboard as is.

mikestefoy
05-19-2008, 04:44 PM
As a long time electronics engineer, I am very happy with Parallax, and their prices.

I bought 2 protoboards, and a propplug, and am super happy with them

I aint no fanboy, but if you compare parallax with other suppliers, they are tops.


I am in Europe ( UK/Spain/France ( depending on which week it is)).

I bought my stuff directly from them and saved much money. the delivery was quick, no problems.



Mike

Ken Peterson
05-19-2008, 08:15 PM
Although I think the price for the Prop Plug is a bit steep, I agree that it's better to only have to buy it once and keep the cost out of the protoboards which are often a re-occurring cost for a Propeller enthusiast.

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Paul Baker
05-20-2008, 06:35 AM
Manufacturing cost for the PropPlug is much greater than the protoboards, it sounds crazy for such a small product but it's true. There are several extra steps required in the manufacturing of the PropClip/PropPlug that aren't done with the Protoboard. Also it's an apples to oranges comparison, the protoboard has a razor thin margin. The idea is to get a low cost development tool in the hands of customers in the hopes that it will eventually lead to greater chip sales (part of this low cost is not having the programming interface on the board). If we started doing that to everything we would quickly go under as a company because we would have no means to cover operating costs. The correct question isn't "Why is the PropPlug so expensive?", but "Why is the Protoboard so cheap?". If you guys really want parity we can raise the cost of the Protoboard to what we would ordinarily charge for such a product.

As for the serial thing, we don't build support for RS232·into new products because our customers complained for years that thier laptop (and now even desktops) no longer have serial ports on them.

We will be coming out with a USB version of the Protoboard (it's in it's 3rd first article for those of you who know manufacturing speak) that will have the functionality of the Propplug onboard. It will be cheaper than a Protoboard + PropPlug, but that savings is immeadiatly lost when you start purchasing multiple units (assuming you reuse the PropPlug on each protoboard). We relented on integrating the·two when we had several Professors ask for it because they were having·to buy both for every station in thier lab (a situation we hadn't anticipated).

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Paul Baker (mailto:pbaker@parallax.com)
Propeller Applications Engineer
[/url][url=http://www.parallax.com] (http://www.parallax.com)
Parallax, Inc. (http://www.parallax.com)

Post Edited (Paul Baker (Parallax)) : 5/20/2008 12:06:06 AM GMT

Oldbitcollector (Jeff)
05-20-2008, 08:49 AM
If you guys really want parity we can raise the cost of the Protoboard to what we would ordinarily charge for such a product.



I sense a great disturbance in the force...

...as if a thousand voices screamed out at once...

OBC

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New to the Propeller?

Getting started with the Protoboard? - Propeller Cookbook 1.4 (http://ucontroller.com/Propeller%20Protoboard%20Designs%20for%20the%20Beg inner.pdf)
Updates to the Cookbook are now posted to: Propeller.warrantyvoid.us (http://propeller.warrantyvoid.us)
Got an SD card? - PropDOS (http://www.orrtech.net/propdos/)
Need a part? Got spare electronics? - The Electronics Exchange (http://warrantyvoid.us/exchange/)

Post Edited (Oldbitcollector) : 5/20/2008 2:04:42 AM GMT

hippy
05-20-2008, 06:42 PM
Paul Baker (Parallax) said...
We will be coming out with a USB version of the Protoboard that will have the functionality of the Propplug onboard. It will be cheaper than a Protoboard + PropPlug


That's excellent news, particularly for home and hobby users who don't buy ProtoBoard in
quantity. Thanks.

As Drone noted earlier, this will make the ProtoBoards much more suitable as stocking fillers
and more easily passed around to friends etc.

Ken Peterson
05-20-2008, 07:43 PM
Get them hooked with a Protoboard with USB. Then if they buy more they can get a prop plug and save some money. Good all around!

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Graham Stabler
05-20-2008, 08:37 PM
Having with and without options is perfect for me. I have a boxed control unit which houses a protoboard and a proplug, always seems a waste of the prop plug but I wanted straight to usb connectivity.

The protoboard is great for prototyping but also lots of one off systems and those certainly appreciate a built in usb interface.

Graham

bambino
05-20-2008, 09:27 PM
If you guys really want parity we can raise the cost of the Protoboard to what we would ordinarily charge for such a product.



I sense a great disturbance in the force...

...as if a thousand voices screamed out at once...



Hmm............Be silent we will, .........Remain happy a must. Hmmm..........http://forums.parallax.com/images/smilies/cool.gif

Ken Gracey
05-20-2008, 09:29 PM
I really like this kind of discussion. It's the kind of topic I think about all the time! Must be exciting for me, eh?

Here is something you need to know to understand the crazy high price of the PropPlug. The PropPlug is built in our office in California (first tip!), and it has been done so since the beginning as a special design of Chip. The product started as the PropClip and it was·manufactured internally·so we could get the product finished more quickly and properly. There was a very unique plastic molded part and a special dome label, and [at the time] we couldn't have accomplished that in Asia due to communications, expectations, timelines, etc. Of course people didn't like the PropClip concept so we turned it into the PropPlug and changed the connector. It had already established a manufacturing·presence in our Rocklin office with jigs, processes, BOMs, purchasing, etc. and moving it to our [new]·China office appeared like more work than continuing to make it in Rocklin, so we carried on with a simple BOM change to remove the plastic part and switch to a header. Building these in Rocklin costs a premium, to say the least. We could build them in·China for less than we pay for the components in the USA and obtain the same level of quality.·This is·no secret to those in manufacturing,·nor would you·be surprised that our·domestic BOM costs are probably over $12 for this little part! And when you sell anything to distributors you must give them a reasonable margin, which puts their costs very close to·our costs even with the Prop Plug selling around $25.

As an aside, the first Prop Demo Boards required the Prop Clip. Thankfully Chip moved the USB adapter onto the Prop Demo Board. Thanks Chip. I still remember the day you agreed to make that change!

We·agree with you that hanging proprietary "connectors" off the edge of a board isn't ideal. I don't like it either. More cables to wiggle around, loose connections, an expensive part to loose, doesn't work in education, etc. At least in the case of the Prop Proto Board this allowed us to keep the price of the Prop Proto Board low and not burden each board purchase with the cost of an extra built-in USB adapter. Instead, you could buy the adapter once and get five boards without paying for five more FTDI chips. Once you owned five Prop Proto Boards it was cheaper for you to have purchased a Prop Plug since the likely cost of a Prop Proto Board USB is $5-10 more than the Prop Proto Board without USB.

What's different today is that we have our own·manufacturing in Hengli, China (near Dongguan and Shenzhen). It is staffed by our own internal team who lives in China (led by Aristides). If we started all over with the Propeller product line then the PropPlug would be manufactured there for a lower cost, and you'd pay about $15. Still not very cheap.

Instead of focusing on the Prop Plug and its cost, our product plan shifted towards integration of the PropPlug onto the Prop Proto Board USB, which should be in stock in about 30 days. The Prop Proto Board is·being made at our China factory, which enables a·reasonable price for the customer. These will likely price at $39, maybe $10 more than what you currently pay for the Prop Proto Board.

Incidentally, having two products (USB adapter + Prop Proto Board) was also a problem for marketing. How could we produce a very low-cost Propeller kit around the Prop Proto Board when the PropPlug hangs over our head like an overpriced extra? The low-cost Propeller Starter Kit approach needs have the fewest parts possible and·needn't involve unnecessary high costs for adapters.

Personally, I wish it were all serial. When we offer two versions of anything (serial and USB) such as with the Boe-Bot, the product mix shifted over a two-year period to be 75% USB and 25% serial. For us this only adds inventory costs, documentation costs, tech calls, etc. We always have two pallets of Boe-Bots (serial and USB) and we buy FTDI chips like the donut man buys flour.

The BASIC Stamp HomeWork Board has survived in a serial-only situation, thankfully. That's because it uses the Parallax USB to Serial adapter (made in China) which we can almost throw into the kit.

That's more than you want to know, maybe. If there's a way you'd like us to handle this·design/marketing situation differently please tell us.·You·can now see inside Parallax·and·understand the details, so·continue to give us your direction and I'll see that we respond the best we can. I think I know what you're going to tell me, too: just make the silly PropPlug a loss leader and make your profit in the boards. . .or switch the Prop Proto Board to the USB to Serial adapter. It's all possible.

Ken Gracey
Parallax, Inc.




Post Edited (Ken Gracey (Parallax)) : 5/20/2008 4:59:23 PM GMT

Cluso99
05-20-2008, 09:48 PM
Thanks Ken,

Thanks for taking the time to explain the issues involved. I fully understand the situation as we manufactured in Australia before most things went to China.

The new protoboard with USB sounds great and should be a winner all round.

Praxis
05-20-2008, 09:55 PM
Just my 10 cents worth on the subject.

Personally I think the prop plug price is OK, but then we are used to buying parallel or USB port JTAG programming adapters.

Integrating it into the proto board is great from an R&D point of view, however if you are designing a product and do not want to include the USB/serial chip to cut production cost then a prop plug would still be required to upload the firmware.

Cheers

Azlan

Paul Baker
05-20-2008, 11:19 PM
BTW, that quote about raising the price of a Protoboard is a tongue-in-cheek joke, I hope no one thought I was in any way·serious.

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Paul Baker (mailto:pbaker@parallax.com)
Propeller Applications Engineer
[/url][url=http://www.parallax.com] (http://www.parallax.com)
Parallax, Inc. (http://www.parallax.com)

Post Edited (Paul Baker (Parallax)) : 5/20/2008 4:26:08 PM GMT

Ken Peterson
05-20-2008, 11:29 PM
*WHEW*

Can the Stemp USB to Serial converter be used with the Prop ?

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Mike Green
05-20-2008, 11:37 PM
The Stamp USB to Serial adapter is a 5V logic device. You can't directly connect it to a Propeller. Using 1K series resistors in the receive, transmit, and reset leads will protect the Propeller from damage.

Ken Gracey
05-20-2008, 11:41 PM
Paul, I thought it was serious :). But then again, I work in the business side of things. It's true that the cost of manufacturing a Prop Proto Board is similar to a Board of Education, yet one sells for $29 and the other $59. This just goes to show you that pricing isn't only about manufacturing costs. Oh no, I can see the marketing people wringing their hands from this side of the office. . . I best stop now. They're always looking for opportunity!

Ken Gracey
Parallax, Inc.

Oldbitcollector (Jeff)
05-20-2008, 11:41 PM
I was fairly certain you were joking, but it did get a little scarier when I read this statement...


Ken Gracy (Parallax) said...
The Prop Proto Board is being made at our China factory, which enables a reasonable price for the customer. These will likely price at $39, maybe $10 more than what you currently pay for the Prop Proto Board.


This implies that the Protoboard is $29.00 -- I was starting to wonder if Ken was either unaware of the price,
or if they were about to go up...

*WHEW*

OBC

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New to the Propeller?

Getting started with the Protoboard? - Propeller Cookbook 1.4 (http://ucontroller.com/Propeller%20Protoboard%20Designs%20for%20the%20Beg inner.pdf)
Updates to the Cookbook are now posted to: Propeller.warrantyvoid.us (http://propeller.warrantyvoid.us)
Got an SD card? - PropDOS (http://www.orrtech.net/propdos/)
Need a part? Got spare electronics? - The Electronics Exchange (http://warrantyvoid.us/exchange/)

Ken Gracey
05-20-2008, 11:50 PM
OBC, indeed I'm a bit disconnected on this one. If I know what a loaf of bread costs I should know what you pay for a Prop Proto Board.

Guess they're currently on sale until our marketeers read this thread! I promise I won't send them a link, though. I do my best to stay out of their side of the business.

Lucky for the Proper people, our marketeers want to inspire you to use the Propeller in mass so they're keeping things priced very low to capture your interest. Buy lots of chips and we'll be able to give you the boards for free some day.

Ken Gracey
Parallax, Inc.

Ken Peterson
05-20-2008, 11:58 PM
I work in automotive and I'm trying to get the Prop considered for one of our products. There's some volume for you. That's going to be an uphill battle because it has no automotive history, and it's rather expensive per unit. So we just use it for proof of concept now because it's so easy to work with.

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Ken Gracey
05-21-2008, 12:26 AM
Ken, we would be glad to initiate any testing you need with TUV Rheinland or other 3rd party for ESD, temperature, etc. beyond what is described in the datasheet. You only need to make the request.

Ken Gracey
Parallax, Inc.

Praxis
05-21-2008, 12:32 AM
Ken Peterson,

What product do you have in mind if you don't mind me asking?

We have are considering using the propeller for a customer for an after market engine management computer.

Azlan

Ariba
05-21-2008, 01:05 AM
Ken Gracey (Parallax) said...
..Buy lots of chips and we'll be able to give you the boards for free some day.



If a company plans to use the chip in bigger quantities, then the most important thing is the price of the chip itself, not that of a Protoboard or PropPlug.
And it seems that the price of the propeller is also such a marketing price, especially in quantities of 25..999. Why is the cost per chip at 100 pieces nearly the same as at 1? IMHO the price for a single unit is OK, and also for 1000 pieces up, but not in between.
Do you tell us what is the cost per chip for Parallax (before the Marketing has noticed this Thread, and stops you)?

Andy

Ken Peterson
05-21-2008, 02:34 AM
Ken G: I'll keep that offer in mind. Thanks.

Praxis: I can't elaborate much right now, but it's not engine control. More like driver information.

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Paul Baker
05-21-2008, 03:03 AM
Ken Gracey (Parallax) said...
If I know what a loaf of bread costs I should know what you pay for a Prop Proto Board.

With the dramatic price increases in commodites such as wheat, I·am no longer·certain what a loaf of bread costs.

Ken P, is there any type of certification process that goes on for automotive parts, or is it just a matter of looking at the temperature·range and other parameters?

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Paul Baker (mailto:pbaker@parallax.com)
Propeller Applications Engineer
[/url][url=http://www.parallax.com] (http://www.parallax.com)
Parallax, Inc. (http://www.parallax.com)

Post Edited (Paul Baker (Parallax)) : 5/20/2008 8:08:28 PM GMT

Ken Peterson
05-21-2008, 04:04 AM
@Paul: Right now I think the reservations stem form a lack of history. Basically, key people that I work with are unwilling to stray from the tried and true. For example, Freescale has a line of processors marketed as "automotive certified", and our customers are familiar with them. I have not yet dug into the intricacies of what "automotive certified" means. I imagine it has to do with a lot more than temperature range.

Any product that we launch with the propeller will most likely aftermarket, at least at first.

Just as a side note: For some of our product, startup time is important. It takes quite a while for the Prop to copy everything from EEPROM and begin execution. It would be nice if somehow I could force that initial copy to happen at 80MHz.

BTW:· This is getting way off topic, so I probably won't discuss it anymore here.

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Ken Gracey
05-21-2008, 04:15 AM
Hey Andy,

I can answer the question with an explanation.·Maybe I need an economist·handy. . .

First reason. The cost per Propeller chip is significant due to large die size and low manufacturing volume (relative to big market 32-bit controllers). We also do not use external funds to fund the business, which may have one drawback as well that relates to our Propeller unit cost. Market development funded by company-generated revenue occurs only at the rate we can create it from our own income. Only after we sell chips and other products do we reinvest in sales-related efforts and have the ability to lower our costs. While our approach produces a stable, reliable customer base with people like you, most chip suppliers you know have substantial capital for sales forces, FAEs, etc. Their·model can quickly produce high-volume sales. Higher volumes put a fabless company in the driver's seat for choosing a foundry, and enable lower unit costs for those who have foundries. We're not there yet.

The second reason that you don't see significant drops in the·the 1..100..1000 unit price relates to our customer profile. At present, Parallax customer base is an even distribution among education, hobby and commercial/industrial. At least half of·this customer base (hobby and education) buys an assortment of products from us, but not 1,000 of anything.·They are large in numbers, but·they place lower dollar orders. We must derive·income from their lower-volume Propeller purchases simply to stay in business.·We have two customer types that·buy·Propellers: the hobby/education and the volume user.·We try to create prices that allow us to generate revenue from both customer types.

Third reason: fixed costs of handling any sale are probably $50-100, particularly when dealing with QFN and QFP parts in trays. Oh boy! Packing up MSL-3 chips with bags and trays takes some significant time to do correctly, not to mention that we carefully track lot numbers and date codes even though there have been no changes to the die.

This·business model·should·provide reliability in long-term supply, quality technical support, and more valuable customers in the long term. But it also means·the prices don't drop until you hit the 1K mark for now.

There are other business models, I'm sure, but this is the way prefer to operate.

Something like that. . .

Ken Gracey
Parallax, Inc.




Post Edited (Ken Gracey (Parallax)) : 5/20/2008 9:26:59 PM GMT

Ken Peterson
05-21-2008, 04:33 AM
So if we want to buy a million Propellers (hypothetically) then Parallax might be willing to negotiate a little?

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hippy
05-21-2008, 04:56 AM
Ken Peterson said...
Just as a side note: For some of our product, startup time is important. It takes quite a while for the Prop to copy everything from EEPROM and begin execution. It would be nice if somehow I could force that initial copy to happen at 80MHz.


BTW: This is getting way off topic, so I probably won't discuss it anymore here.


I have some questions about that so started a new thread -

http://forums.parallax.com/showthread.php?p=727478