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Licensing the Propeller 2 FPGA: For Serious Commentary and Consideration
I mentioned this idea in another Propeller 2 thread, but I have since retracted all of my recent threads as they were too critical of Parallax's operation. I've received the "go ahead" that this concept is one is solid for public consumption, so I'm going to put on my very best word-smith cap and open this discussion hopefully without invoking hard feelings and concerns...
<deep breath> here goes...
(First a little history from my favorite era and subject. Stick with me here, you youngsters might learn something.)
Back when Apple was still producing machines that displayed "]" prompts and booted with something called PRODOS, a young Steve Jobs got a chance to "time travel" in a sense to the future with a visit to Xerox Parc, a research division where Xerox had hired the top minds to "create the future". They had! They had invented Ethernet, Email, and most importantly the GUI (Graphic User Interface). Xerox seeing themselves as a company who put things on paper didn't see the value in the creations from their own research company, but Steve Jobs KNEW that this was the future of computing and after a visit, returned the next day with several Apple engineers armed with notebooks. The end result was the Macintosh Computer which looked very strangely like the Xerox Altos prototype computers they had seen.
Fast forward just a couple short years.. Another young programmer by the name of William Gates got a look at the Macintosh and realized that the GUI had more to do with the PROGRAMMING CODE than the machine it was running on. He ran with the idea of moving computers from a C:/> prompt to something that we know as Windows today. The magic was that the GUI is simply software. Guess what? It's software on the modern Macintosh too.
Parallax has been pushing for a long time to get the Propeller 2 silicon (hardware) to market. They have suffered from redesigns caused by technology changes, on top of this there is much hardware testing that needs to be done to prove the chip.
Here's the crazy idea: Hopefully better presented...
License the Propeller 2 FPGA as SOFTWARE instead of pushing to silicon. Make the license free for personal/hobby use (registration required) because these are the people who will spend countless hours exploring, pushing, writing code, blogs, and documenting their findings. Discount the licensing for educational use. (I know that Parallax already offers a better price on hardware when it's purchased at quantity 100 or 1000. The same would happen here.) License the code for commercial use. Again with a provision for a slightly better price for those who purchase 1000 licences at a time vs the small hardware producer who buys a few at a time.
Here's are the neat kickers. First, Chip could continue to develop the code and make improvements. (Registration over piracy has it's privileges with upgrades and support!!) Parallax could create some great FPGA products who run the code on. If created cooperatively with a few other vendors and "insiders" the boards could be tasked to do all kinds of great things. You would be surprised all the places that the Raspberry Pi boards are being found these days. This would be no different.
Finally, we could start working NOW. We still need some real development time to get traction under code. The Propeller 2 will be no different from the Propeller 1 in this regard.
Again, this is IN NO WAY intended as a criticism of the decisions of Parallax, it's simply an idea from someone who still wants to "live the dream" that's been a long time coming.