Future-Proof

I was in a discussion last week with a potential customer about a product I created using a QuickStart as its basis. And I was asked, what is the future availability of the product. I know Parallax promised the P8x32A to be available for ~15 years not too long ago, but what about the QuickStart, FLIP, or PropMini? This is not at all meant as a dis, since Parallax has been there for us since forever, but more like what can I tell my customers without being wrong when I say it.

Comments

  • I would go all in on the FLiP. Ken has assured me that this product will have a long life, which is important for me, since I've designed it into an OEM product.

    -Phil
    “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. -Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  • Future-proof protection:

    Qty: 5 spare Quickstart modules... $500.00

    Siemens have a 6 year EOL on their industrial control components.

    $500 should be chicken feed.
    Failure is not an option...it's bundled with the software.
  • PublisonPublison Posts: 11,060
    edited 2019-09-15 - 21:51:59
    Mickster wrote: »
    Future-proof protection:

    Qty: 5 spare Quickstart modules... $500.00

    Siemens have a 6 year EOL on their industrial control components.

    $500 should be chicken feed.

    ?? Quickstart $34.99 X 5 = $174.95

    Better yet, FLIP at $27.99.
  • Please don't tell me QuickStart is destined for EOL. All of my projects start with a QuickStart and a breadboard.
    Larry

    If the grass is greener on the other side...it's time to water your lawn.
  • Well I suppose this is why I started this thread. I trust Parallax and I am asking in good faith what I should tell my customers. I spent the week on the west coast and I am still a bit jetlagged. I am in a position to step in after another manufacturer dropped the ball. But I am being asked in seriousness what I can promise. I can say, these guys still make the Basic Stamp after +20 years, but I am not sure that will be good enough in the coming days.
  • I like these parallax products. They make it easy to step into micro controllers. But for mfg. a product with a micro controller I'd rather use a microchip PIC series. And just burn copies with the eprom programmer. The BS2 is just a PiC16.
  • DigitalBob wrote:
    I like these parallax products. They make it easy to step into micro controllers. But for mfg. a product with a micro controller I'd rather use a microchip PIC series. And just burn copies with the eprom programmer.
    That depends a lot upon the complexity of the product's firmware and the sales volume. The Prop excels in rapid development of apps at any level of complexity. For small to medium sales volumes, the front-end development savings of designing in a Prop will far outweigh the parts costs. For higher levels of complexity, the Prop will beat the pants off of any PIC or AVR, regardless of sales volume. Sure, for simple apps with high sales volumes, low-level chips like PICs and AVRs are probably the way to go. But that's the only time I would consider them.

    -Phil
    “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. -Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  • Both FLiP and QuickStart have a long long life ahead. Parallax have previously said they will keep building them whilst customers keep buying them, and have committed to keeping high stock levels.

    PropMini may be impacted by the EOL QFN P8X32A-M44 chip at some point in the future, although AFAIK Parallax have kept a significant number of chips to support future production. (like they always seem to do for customers).

    Interestingly, I just checked the store and notice the EOL tags appear to have gone from the P8X32A-M44 product page. Maybe the manufacturing issues were resolved for that case style and Parallax were able to keep it? I'll ask them.

  • Parallax have open sourced many of their products. I’d expect if they EOLed the Quickstart or Flip you could make or have made these boards provided the parts are available. Thats a lot better than manufacturers EOLing a product so that you cannot get it anymore.

    From what I recall, there are lots of PIC chips that are EOL already.
    My Prop boards: P8XBlade2 , RamBlade , CpuBlade , TriBlade
    P1 Prop OS (also see Sphinx, PropDos, PropCmd, Spinix)
    Website: www.clusos.com
    P1: Tools (Index) , Emulators (Index) , ZiCog (Z80)
    P2: Tools & Code , Tricks & Traps
  • @localroger It seems all of the pieces needed to have a 3rd party make an aftermarket Quickstart board are published: schematic, BOM, tracefile, etc. As long as any flavor of a Prop1 chip exists, a drop-in replacement for the Quickstart board could be made quickly. It seems to me that escrowing these docs (and maybe a couple of tubes of chips) should be sufficient assurance. Or am I missing something obvious here?
  • I hope the PIC doesn't go away because the Stamp will go away then. With MPLAB I have dozens of different PIC's I can choose from many with built in ADC and DAC's. Makes migration simple.
  • Publison wrote: »
    Mickster wrote: »
    Future-proof protection:

    Qty: 5 spare Quickstart modules... $500.00

    Siemens have a 6 year EOL on their industrial control components.

    $500 should be chicken feed.

    ?? Quickstart $34.99 X 5 = $174.95

    Better yet, FLIP at $27.99.

    Sorry, I should have been clearer. I was referring to the selling price to the customer. Nothing wrong with a bit of a markup ;)
    Failure is not an option...it's bundled with the software.
  • Mickster wrote: »
    Publison wrote: »
    Mickster wrote: »
    Future-proof protection:

    Qty: 5 spare Quickstart modules... $500.00

    Siemens have a 6 year EOL on their industrial control components.

    $500 should be chicken feed.

    ?? Quickstart $34.99 X 5 = $174.95

    Better yet, FLIP at $27.99.

    Sorry, I should have been clearer. I was referring to the selling price to the customer. Nothing wrong with a bit of a markup ;)

    Absolutely not, and unless the code and additional hardware was absolutely trivial to produce that's a very low markup.
    In science there is no authority. There is only experiment.
    Life is unpredictable. Eat dessert first.
  • A rule of thumb I use is that retail should be around 5x parts cost; wholesale, 3x. I don't always get there, though, especially with rising costs and the current insane tariff schedule. The problem is how much do you eat, and how much do you pass on? Any amount you don't eat gets multiplied as much a five-fold before it reaches the end user, possibly putting the price out of his/her reach. So a reduced market can be just as bad as eating costs at the source.

    -Phil
    “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. -Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  • Thanks for the comments -- the point about the circuit board products being open source is particularly well taken.

    The situation we have is that there are several thousand industrial machines, all costing over $100K new, whose custom OEM embedded controllers are obsolete. The original manufacturer has taken this as an opportunity to, um, perform an unwanted reproductive service on their customers. We are coming in with a cheaper and, more importantly, simpler and easier to maintain alternative. However, all of these customers have already been bitten hard by the obsolescence bug, so they are asking pointed questions. I need to have solid answers in place as we get set to market our solution. The cost to do one of these retrofits will be in the $50K range, most of it travel and labor for setup and installation.

    Mickster, that Siemens thinks 6 years is an adequate EOL window for their products is ridiculous. I know people who are using 40 year old PLC's in mission-critical applications. They don't need more power or features, they need it to be reliable without spending money to redevelop a system that's been working for 40 years. They are nursing along old DOS computers to run the obsolete DOS-only software needed to troubleshoot and program those things. And they'll continue to do that until their hand is forced by the smoke escaping from something they really can't replace.

  • @localroger How would your customer respond to this: “ok, I totally grok your reluctance to marry yourselves to 13 year old hardware. You’ve been bit before and I get that. But take a look at this new critter called the P2. It’s the same (ish) chip but on steroids. If the Prop1 was PeeWee Herman, then this is Ahhhnuld in his powerlifting days. It was just released for engineering samples, and it blows the socks off the P1. It is a freakin’ animal. And I can package this creature in a FLIP-compatible pinout and you’ll never notice the difference... except that you now have monster memory, 4x the processor speed, and my dev time gets cut in half for adding new features. Oh... and just to show you I’m serious, here is a schematic that I’ll happily convert to a board and prove to you it works if you give me the contract”.

    (This is where Parallax goes “hey... you know... we could do a FLIP2...”) :)
    (This is where Ken goes “oh no... please dont let Chip see this...”)
    (This is where Chip says “I actually had this in mind when I designed the P2”)
    (This is where Peter says “hey! You could do this in Forth!!)
    (This is where Phil says “I *told* Roark to stay on his meds”)

    Ok. Sorry. My bad. I’ll put the caffeine down now and back slowly away from the computer...
  • JRoark,

    The P2 is not quite ready for prime time and in the industrial world, "Failure IS NOT an option".

    When all the bugs have been worked out of the P2 and it has been through stress test hell and back many times over then it could be used.

    If you want to make some wiz bang gizmo that customers will tolerate having bugs or the magic smoke getting out then the P2 is your baby.
  • Genetix wrote: »
    JRoark,

    The P2 is not quite ready for prime time and in the industrial world, "Failure IS NOT an option".

    When all the bugs have been worked out of the P2 and it has been through stress test hell and back many times over then it could be used.

    If you want to make some wiz bang gizmo that customers will tolerate having bugs or the magic smoke getting out then the P2 is your baby.

    Killjoy. :) (but in all fairness, there is also some truth here).

    To be clear, my post was offered (mostly) as a bit of sidebar humor. That being said, the main takeaway should be that there are many creative options to deal with a manufacturers EOL’ing any given product. Sometimes it helps to think outside the box.
  • Phil Pilgrim (PhiPi)Phil Pilgrim (PhiPi) Posts: 22,474
    edited 2019-09-17 - 01:37:59
    JRoark wrote:
    If the Prop1 was PeeWee Herman ...
    The Prop1 is hardly a PeeWee Herman. It's fast, easy to develop for, and has a 13-year track record. That's way more important than raw speed from an unproven new chip.

    -Phil
    “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. -Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  • Thanks for all the suggestions, I think I know how I will pitch this now.

    It's all open-source; even the P1 itself is open source, so in some kind of worst-case development we could always use FPGA's or even form a group and have more original P1 chips fabbed. This is not a thing we are ever likely to do but it is possible if necessary. Unlike, for example, recreating the ecosystem of the Intel 80386SX, which is too bad so sad like dead, and with it the previous controller for these machines that was built on that ecosystem.

    On the PC end all of my software runs just fine under emulation via WINE, although I've never bothered to deploy it that way it's an option if Microsoft really drops a shiv hammer on all of us one day. I might have to move past the ENC28J60 for ethernet one day, but I'm not really seeing that being necessary any time soon. By the time that's necessary P2 will probably be mature enough to reliably do native ethernet on its own.

    I think I can walk into my next customer meeting with my head held high. Thanks of course as always and most of all to Parallax. You guys just make amazing stuff.
  • msrobotsmsrobots Posts: 2,967
    edited 2019-09-17 - 02:36:43
    @localroger

    How about using Quemu to simulate a 80386SX, it is a tad slow but the 386SX was too...

    Mike
    I am just another Code Monkey.
    A determined coder can write COBOL programs in any language. -- Author unknown.
    Press any key to continue, any other key to quit

    The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this post are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119.
  • msrobots, it's not just the CPU, it's a whole stack of software most of which we don't control. There's lots of firmware there that the miscreant OEM doesn't control either. It's just a pure mess and best redone from the ground up.
  • And replacing it with some Props is a good idea anyways.

    I am just another Code Monkey.
    A determined coder can write COBOL programs in any language. -- Author unknown.
    Press any key to continue, any other key to quit

    The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this post are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119.
  • @localroger
    You mentioned that they are using DOS based machines to support PLC stuff that uses DOS to run things. And that these are 40 year old ones. (The computer that is.) Do you happen to know what brand of PLC this is? If it's Allen Bradley I believe they are some what proprietary in that their OS was home written and they moved from it to embedded Windows around the beginning of this century. In fact the last release of DOS was made available to OEMs for the sole purpose of the embedded device market starting about the time of Windows Seven on the desktop.

    GE-FANUC was in the same bucket, I remember an interesting gathering at one of three places, it turned out to be running an industrial strength version of Windows CE, which is what A*B did do as well.

    And what's decidedly bizarre about A*B is that during the late 1980s they were a firm supporter of the DEC PDP-11 and even building motion control boards for it. Eventually they even leaned towards the VAX(!) and did much the same thing.

    There's more of course, but I felt I'd ask. And contribute.
  • localroger,

    You should give Ken a call at get it straight from the horses mouth, including something in writing if possible.

    At the moment Parallax is focused on education because that's what's paying the bills but they have always been very supportive of their commercial customers.
  • frank freedmanfrank freedman Posts: 1,516
    edited 2019-09-23 - 01:36:13
    LR,

    At a few thousand machines, does it make sense to use a (flip|QS|etc) rather than rolling your own into the project? Then your main worry would be just stocking the prop chip. I liked the GG board and the DIP on a breadboard. And a PPDB (only because the pins are not hardwired to things I may not need).

    As an alternative, since the P1 was open sourced for for FPGA, you could always make that a backup counter point to them being left high and dry by explaining the use of FPGA to become whatever the project contains. iNTEL/Altera and Xilinx will not likely go away anytime soon. So while you will want for cost reasons to remain with the Prop, your customer can see that there is a backup plan if needed down the road.
    Ordnung ist das halbe Leben
    I gave up on that half long ago.........
  • Both the FLiP and QuickStart boards are core products at Parallax and will be available for a long, long time. Customers and Parallax depend on their existence.

    No need to speculate on their future availability. Please design them into your products!

    Ken Gracey
  • Thanks Ken. I'm happy with Parallax's legacy but as related above, the customers we are courting with this system have all been stung by the obsolescence bee already, so they're asking pointed questions. With our first couple of customers being in California it hasn't hurt at all to point out that you guys are right here in Rocklin. (Well 'here' for me is New Orleans, but for my corporate masters it's ten states now.) The fact that everything we are using is open source is going to be a big help if anyone is too skeptical. Our implementation doesn't even require P2, just twelve serial ports, an ENC28J60, and IIC. But we have to promise it or something compatible will still be available in 15 or 20 years.
  • localroger wrote: »
    Thanks for the comments -- the point about the circuit board products being open source is particularly well taken.

    The situation we have is that there are several thousand industrial machines, all costing over $100K new, whose custom OEM embedded controllers are obsolete. The original manufacturer has taken this as an opportunity to, um, perform an unwanted reproductive service on their customers. We are coming in with a cheaper and, more importantly, simpler and easier to maintain alternative. However, all of these customers have already been bitten hard by the obsolescence bug, so they are asking pointed questions. I need to have solid answers in place as we get set to market our solution. The cost to do one of these retrofits will be in the $50K range, most of it travel and labor for setup and installation.

    Mickster, that Siemens thinks 6 years is an adequate EOL window for their products is ridiculous. I know people who are using 40 year old PLC's in mission-critical applications. They don't need more power or features, they need it to be reliable without spending money to redevelop a system that's been working for 40 years. They are nursing along old DOS computers to run the obsolete DOS-only software needed to troubleshoot and program those things. And they'll continue to do that until their hand is forced by the smoke escaping from something they really can't replace.

    Definitely feels like planned obsolescence.

    I'm at ~$20K/retrofit for machinery that is $150K - $200 to replace.

    However, I have $300K - $500K machines coming up that are currently fitted with 12 axis Siemens 840D controls.
    Machines are good as new, mechanically but they can't get support from the OEM nor Siemens.
    I am currently working with an enclosure manufacturer to give me the big-name look. Can't go sticking exposed PCBs in place of a Siemens system.
    Failure is not an option...it's bundled with the software.
Sign In or Register to comment.