SX End of Life (EOL) Announcement

Dear SXers,

Today we are making an official EOL announcement for the Parallax SX. You can read the attached PDF for timing, ordering information, etc.

In the interest of our business and our customers, Parallax has looked at all options to continue supply. The wafer design is owned by Ubicom and we have been presented with a final ordering opportunity. In September will be ordering a tremendous number of SX chips to complete the EOL process, serving as many customers as possible. Our future supply will be depleted according to demand, a variable we are unable to accurately predict.

There will be no effect on our own SX-based products, for which we have made per-product provisions for either a lifetime buy or redesign.

We'll be handling this issue to the best of our abilities with your interests in mind.

Sincerely,

Ken Gracey
Parallax Inc.

P.S. We will make this thread "sticky" after a week or two. For now, we need to reach our SX customers (my concern is that sticky threads are often not noticed).

Post Edited (Ken Gracey (Parallax)) : 7/31/2009 5:07:45 PM GMT
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Comments

  • 171 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • edited July 2009 Posts: 0Vote Up0Vote Down
    Wow, that is an interesting business decision!· I know that Parallax's main focus for the future is the Propeller chip, so this opens up some questions about filling the need for loyal SX users.· Will there be an "SX-like" version of the Propeller coming out in the near future?· I am thinking of a smaller DIP version with 28 pins like the SX.· Maybe only 4 cogs instead of 8 to reduce the die size and price.

    Dave
  • edited July 2009 Posts: 5,649Vote Up0Vote Down
    Hello Dave,

    Just to be very clear, the EOL was made by Ubicom and was not our decision or preference, but please direct any frustration towards Parallax instead of Ubicom.

    There's no SX-like Propeller planned which has small pin count, reduced cogs, etc. Our resources are clearly focused on the Prop 1, BASIC Stamp, Stamps in Class, sensors, how-to information and R&D associated with the Prop 2 (more RAM, code protect, smaller die size, 0.18 process, etc.).

    Sincerely,

    Ken Gracey
    Parallax Inc.
    <br>
  • edited July 2009 Posts: 0Vote Up0Vote Down
    I had guessed that this day was coming...And I had talked with Ken about it at the Propeller meeting. But it still leaves me in shock....

    Well at least the Propeller is TOTALLY controlled by Parallax.

    Bean.

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    Does that byte of memory hold "A", 65, $41 or %01000001 ?
    Yes it does...


    ·
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    Esterline Research & Design
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  • edited July 2009 Posts: 0Vote Up0Vote Down
    It is too bad that Parallax doesn't have the resources to take the SX design and improve it: flatten the memory access, give it more RAM, remove the "compatibility" stuff -- boy, I would love to have that for small products where the Propeller is just too expensive to use.
    Jon McPhalen<div>Burbank, CA</div>
  • edited July 2009 Posts: 0Vote Up0Vote Down
    So is Ubicom just going to drop the design totally? If they aren't going to do anything with it why won't they sell the design or license the IP to someone else? It would be cool if Parallax could pick it up from them. Keeping the SX line around would be nice. It helps fill some niche areas where a Prop can't easily be used.

    I guess the only good news about this is that is may end the confusion between the SX microcontroller and the BS2SX for questions that pop up on the forums.....
  • edited July 2009 Posts: 0Vote Up0Vote Down
    Somebody said...
    why won't they sell the design or license the IP to someone else?
    I agree. Better to make little money with a finalized design, than no money.

    regards peter
  • PJ AllenPJ Allen Banned
    edited July 2009 Posts: 0Vote Up0Vote Down
    Bummer.· [noparse][[/noparse]Heavy sigh.]
  • edited July 2009 Posts: 0Vote Up0Vote Down
    Ken Gracey (Parallax) said...
    ... There will be no effect on our own SX-based products, for which we have made per-product provisions for either a lifetime buy or redesign.
    Ken,

    if I understand that correctly, then we will still be able to buy, for example, SX48 and 28 protoboards past the EOL *and* also still when your last stock-up of free-standing SX's run out? [noparse][[/noparse]EDIT - Ken, no need *answered* by others below thx.]

    - Speaking for many that we are sad cry.gif· at the news,·but probably OK if we can still get those proto's ! yeah.gif

    thanks,

    Howard
    ·

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    Post Edited (CounterRotatingProps) : 7/31/2009 10:33:48 PM GMT
  • edited July 2009 Posts: 0Vote Up0Vote Down
    This has major implications for most of the Stamp line since only the BS1 and BS2 still use a PIC microcontroller. Everything else uses an SX microcontroller. Clearly Parallax will be stocking up on enough SX chips to make Stamps for the next couple of years, but any future development will involve something else. The Propeller is a large chip compared to the SX, but the SpinStamp did/does use a Stamp form-factor with the Prop.
  • edited July 2009 Posts: 0Vote Up0Vote Down
    Mike,

    I thought Ken specifically said, "There will be no effect on our own SX-based products". ... but you have an insight that I don't.
    You seem to be contradicting what Ken's posted.

    Ken, sorry could you please clarify this? [noparse][[/noparse]EDIT - Ken, no need *answered* by others below thx.]

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    Post Edited (CounterRotatingProps) : 7/31/2009 10:32:18 PM GMT
  • edited July 2009 Posts: 0Vote Up0Vote Down
    I am very fond of the SX. The comunity here is great. Every question I have ever had has met with a very helpful solution. I am saddened to learn that the microcontroler I have chosen to invest my time in will be no more.

    I recently purchased som prop stuff to start learning, but I feel it is overkill for most of my projects. I would be curious to hear what prossesers you all are planning on sitching to. The SXs limited instrucion was very intutive and accomplished all I needed to do. When I finaly got around to learning SX/B if found it was a beautiful enhancment and frequently use SX/B with my ASM programs. IS there another product on the market with the Speed of the SX, a comunity this great, and doesn't force me to learn C? I'm open to suggestions.
  • edited July 2009 Posts: 0Vote Up0Vote Down
    CounterRotatingProps,
    Please don't misunderstand me. I'm sure Parallax is stocking up on large numbers of wafers to be eventually packaged and incorporated into Stamps and other things. That said, Parallax would be foolish to start development on any new products based on the SX including SX-based Stamps. Ken said that "There will be no effect on our own SX-based products", but, for me, there's an "existing" that is implied and, even there, there will be an end to the SX once the existing chips are gone and a severe "case of the dwindles" before then. It may be a few years before then, but Parallax does take the "long view" on a lot of things. It's one of their strengths.

    natpie,
    I strongly suggest you continue with the Propeller. I'm very impressed with Hanno's beta of "Spinner". If you haven't looked at his announcement and demo video, I suggest you do. Assuming that he continues the development with the same care, thoughtfulness, and quality that he's used with other projects, I think this may become the entry point for educational use of the Propeller much as the Stamp Editor and "What's a Microcontroller?" has been for the Stamps. In terms of assembly language, the Propeller is actually a very good introductory instruction set as long as you stay away from the multiprocessor stuff. There already exist good tools for debugging simple assembly language programs and debugging in general and there are also several Prop simulators for the PC.
  • edited July 2009 Posts: 0Vote Up0Vote Down
    JonnyMac said...
    It is too bad that Parallax doesn't have the resources to take the SX design and improve it: flatten the memory access, give it more RAM, remove the "compatibility" stuff -- boy, I would love to have that for small products where the Propeller is just too expensive to use.
    When I first saw the EOL announcement, one of my thoughts was small "lightweight" commercial products.· I'm a hobbyist, and to go from an SX to a Prop, even at "double" (roughly) the cost, is no big deal, and I was headed there anyone.· I go through maybe 10 or 20 processors a year.

    I was curious at what point this would become an issue on a "commercial" product.· For an existing product, the cost of the chip change would be inconsequential in many cases when compared to the re-design costs in terms of the board and software.

    The·question I was contemplating·is, assuming a new design, at what price point for a finished product (the end user cost for an effects module for exampe) does the change in processor cost for $3.25 to $7.00 or so make a real difference.·

    Obviously if the product sells for 10 bucks, this is a big deal.· On the other hand, if it sells for a couple hundred, does it really matter (it would if this happened with every component).

    Just curious what the thoughts are on that.

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    John R.
    Click here to see my Nomad Build Log
    John R.
    Beaver Dam, WisCOWnsin
    Quando Omni Flunkus Moritati
  • edited July 2009 Posts: 0Vote Up0Vote Down
    CounterRotatingProps said...
    Ken Gracey (Parallax) said...
    ... There will be no effect on our own SX-based products, for which we have made per-product provisions for either a lifetime buy or redesign.
    Ken,

    if I understand that correctly, then we will still be able to buy, for example, SX48 and 28 protoboards past the EOL *and* also still when your last stock-up of free-standing SX's run out?

    Howard
    I·would assume·that proto boards are not included in the set of "SX-based products", but I may be wrong.·

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    John R.
    Click here to see my Nomad Build Log
    John R.
    Beaver Dam, WisCOWnsin
    Quando Omni Flunkus Moritati
  • edited July 2009 Posts: 0Vote Up0Vote Down
    Hello John,

    I can switch to the Propeller for many projects but there are a couple that I can't. If the SX isn't an option then I will have to look at PIC chips, AVR's, or the TI430 for those. Price is one concern but in my case it isn't the biggest factor. I've used the SX processors as intelligent peripherals and for interfacing. They are fast and inexpensive. The biggest reason that the SX is better than the Propeller in these projects is the startup time. The SX processor is ready immediately while the Propeller isn't as it needs to read its program from an external EEPROM. That takes time and in some projects that is an un-acceptable delay. The SX is a really flexible chip that has internal flash, plenty of I/O, can be clocked at high speeds (up to 75Mhz without over clocking), and can run at 3.3v or 5v.

    I'm still going to use the SX (while available) but will have to weight all the options when I have to switch.

    Robert
  • edited July 2009 Posts: 0Vote Up0Vote Down
    Well now for an obvious - and naive - line of thought, full of assumptions:

    1. Ubicom probably wanted out because the SX line not cost effective for them.
    2. Parallax didn't want to loose the device, least of all because of us, the loyal SX fan base.
    3. Ubicom wouldn't mind money.
    4. Why can't the dies be licensed (by Parallax from Ubicom)
    and Parallax contract a different fab shop/ foundary to make them?

    Would this make the chips cost so much as to be untenable?


    @Mike Green - thanks for clarifying - I should have read the PDF before posting - it and your reply made it make sense.
    RE: the SX versus Propeller footprint on BS boards - I just put an SX-48 48BD on top of a Prop 44QFN the Prop isn't really much bigger sans the legs. Do you think it would fit the Stamp form factor ? (I don't have any handy)

    - Howard

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  • edited July 2009 Posts: 0Vote Up0Vote Down
    One of the downfalls of not owning the design from scratch. Props go to Parallax (no pun intended) for stepping up with an honest and open EOL release.

    As for the questions about the proto boards, etc, the EOL PDF states:

    We have carefully planned for the SX’s EOL by choosing redesign or lifetime buy on a per-product basis

    This is a fairly common statement used in EOL notices. What it usually means (and probably does in this case), is that Parallax is purchasing enough SXs to maintain inventory of products based on the SX for the life of that product.
    So, as an example, if Parallax sells 500 of the SX48 proto boards each year and they expect to be selling it for the next 6 years, then Parallax is buying 3,000 SX wafers to reserve for this product alone. Those 3,000 will not ever be used to make SX48 chips to sell, but will be used to make SX48 chips for the SX48 proto board.

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    Andrew Williams
    WBA Consulting
    IT / Web / PCB / Audio
    Andrew Williams<br>WBA Consulting
  • edited July 2009 Posts: 5,649Vote Up0Vote Down
    @WBA Consulting - Andrew:

    That's correct. I'll reply in more detail this weekend when I have the opportunity to address every question in a single reply, but your analysis is correct. We review the monthly and annual quantities for each product. In the case of our core business (the BS2p series, for example) we'll store a 15-20 year supply of SX chips since there is no easy redesign alternative and stable firmware is a core necessity of the product line. Something like the Ping))) will be redesigned with a low-cost microcontroller (has only a few dozen lines of code in the SX), so we will hold a two-year supply for that part while we redesign and get it into production. It's a big spreadsheet of boring stuff, but you've got the idea.

    The challenge our company faces right now is the one posed by Ubicom: place your final order, Parallax. The second challenge we face is to convince our customers that the BASIC Stamp 2p supply will not be affected (at least for a long time). At present it appears that we'll order a three-year supply for our customers/distributors plus whatever they want to guarantee through allocation by being backed up by a purchase order.

    I know this is serious stuff; I had to EOL the SX52 several years ago and personally answered every question relative to its supply since then.

    More to follow - need to sign off for the day.

    Sincerely,

    Ken Gracey
    <br>
  • edited July 2009 Posts: 0Vote Up0Vote Down
    Ken,

    One more question besides the 'die license' one above:

    Independent of Parallax's EOL and online stocking orders, would it possible for a bunch of us to pool our resources together and make one big batch order (meeting EOL order type 1 in the EOL PDF)?

    What would the minimum order have to be to cross that threshold? (And I assume the order would have to be for one chip type, not mixed?)

    thanks much,
    Howard

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  • edited August 2009 Posts: 0Vote Up0Vote Down
    This is very disappointing, but on the other hand fellow electronics buddies have been pushing me into the pic chips for some time.· I'm sorry to have made the investement in the SX line in time and effort but I understand you can't carry everything forever.·
  • edited August 2009 Posts: 0Vote Up0Vote Down
    Professorwiz,
    It's not a matter of "can't carry everything forever". It's a matter of the people who own the rights to the design (Ubicom) neither making any more nor allowing anyone else to make them.

    I do suggest that you look at the Propeller. Like the SX, it's all software except that, rather than interrupt-driven virtual peripherals, the Prop uses multiple processors and no interrupts, but it's all done in software.
  • edited August 2009 Posts: 0Vote Up0Vote Down
    Ah well, this was in the cards for some time.

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    Post Edited (Zoot) : 8/2/2009 9:21:23 PM GMT
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. -- HST

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  • edited August 2009 Posts: 0Vote Up0Vote Down
    Back in January I had a feeling that his was going to happen.

    Possible Hello AtomNano.
  • edited August 2009 Posts: 0Vote Up0Vote Down
    Hello PropJr?

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  • edited August 2009 Posts: 0Vote Up0Vote Down
    Unfortunately I think the writing has been on the wall...

    http://forums.parallax.com/forums/default.aspx?f=7&m=308306&g=308808

    Its a real shame Ubicom went down this road :-(

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    DTQ
  • edited August 2009 Posts: 0Vote Up0Vote Down
    CounterRotatingProps said...
    Hello PropJr?
    CounterRotatingProps,
    Ken's response to my message made it clear that there are no plans for a PropJr.· However, the Prop 2 will have a smaller die size, so it may cost less than the Prop 1.· There are a lot of PIC chips available, and maybe Parallax could resell one of them and provide support and tools similar to the SX.
    I assume Parallax will continue to sell the stamp, which uses the SX chip.· Most companies that face an EOL on a part either make a lifetime buy to cover the expected life of the product, or they redesign the produt for a new part.· So it seem that Parallax would have to redesign the stamp to use a PIC chip at some point.· I think the older Stamps used PIC chips, so maybe they'll go back to an older design.
    Dave
  • edited August 2009 Posts: 5,649Vote Up0Vote Down
    Hey all,

    To answer a few more questions from the weekend.

    Why doesn't Parallax buy the SX design from Ubicom?

    We've looked into all possibilities in this regard. It's not a practical or possible solution at this stage for several reasons which are confidential to Parallax and Ubicom.

    What about the BASIC Stamps that use the SX?

    Parallax has stored away lifetime buy quantities of the SX chip for our core products that are not easily redesigned to use other processors. Even prior to this announcement we were holding a 15-20 year supply of SX chips for the BASIC Stamp 2p series. It's in the interest of our business and customers to do this, as you can imagine.

    Can forum members make a batch order?

    Sure. You can pool resources to buy a quantity of chips.

    How long with the supply last at Parallax?

    Anybody who guesses is doing exactly that – who know? Deciding how many chips to buy is part guess and part business decision (hopefully more the latter). Parallax has a significant investment in this product line in programming tools, books, compilers, BASIC Stamp hardware designs, etc. If you look back you would find that we were rarely (or never?) out of stock of SX chips since we took over the packaging, testing and distribution years ago. We have always tried to stock more than a year's supply of SX chips, yet the EOL will increase our inventory to several years at a minimum. Since we don't know how many customers we will be unable to reach with our announcement we are increasing our inventory for their needs. Some customers place orders once a year and this announcement will be a surprise for them when they contact us in 2011. But we hope to have enough chips in stock to take care of their needs. We've been on the tail end of EOL announcements and redesign efforts enough that we don't want to expose our customers to the same headaches and short notifications that we’ve had from other companies.

    If you enjoy using Parallax products, check out the Propeller! Many of our customers only used the SX because it was supported by Parallax. We've got a great investment and future in the Propeller.

    Sincerely,

    Ken Gracey

    Post Edited (Ken Gracey (Parallax)) : 8/3/2009 4:58:40 PM GMT
    <br>
  • edited August 2009 Posts: 0Vote Up0Vote Down
    "It's not a practical or possible solution at this stage for several reasons which are confidential to Parallax and Ubicom."

    This might have something to do with the lawsuit between Microchip, and Scenix (Ubicom), so many years ago. I believe that Microchip came out on top, and the results of the lawsuit were not made public. I would speculate that Microchip settled on: you can sell the SX chip as it is now, but you cannot improve on the design, or sell the design to somebody else.

    As for a PropJr, or something else, does it sound practical to introduce a competitive chip to the SX, when you still have a lot of stock on the shelves? Parallax is not having a "fire sale" of the chip, they are being nice about it, and telling everyone that the chip production has stopped (ended).

    Ray
  • edited August 2009 Posts: 0Vote Up0Vote Down
    Ken said said...
    It's not a practical or possible solution at this stage
    Meaning never, or not right now?

    Rick
  • edited August 2009 Posts: 5,649Vote Up0Vote Down
    Rick,

    I don't know.

    Once you start the ball rolling in any direction it can be very difficult to turn a situation around. As momentum increases this little bowling ball starts to look and act like a killer tomato. Once we notify our customers of EOL they're going to redesign. As a result the future market for SX chips (or any other EOL'd device) becomes quite small. Some designs will have suitable, lower-cost replacements that are more appropriate.

    We've seen several chips taken into EOL that seem to have a long-term market, but it's mostly for hobby uses (like the SP0256-AL2). It isn't possible to sustain production of chips with a hobby-only market unless substantial income is derived from boards, development tools, etc.

    Ken Gracey
    Parallax Inc.
    <br>
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