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'[SX] How does one read a crystal ball'
2005\08\29@065901 by John Bondn/a

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In SX Microcontrollers, SX/B Compiler and SX-Key Tool, John Bond wrote:

Congratulations on your acquisition of the SX range of micro-controllers. It has been apparent for some time that Ubicom lacked a vision for the line,

A few months ago Elector, the European electronics magazine, suggested that you should try to stick with one micro controller because you are better able to fully exploit the device's resources if you understood it well. For me, the transition from Stamp to SX isn't being too difficult and the SX's raw processing power has its advantages. I am therefore a new SX user (very new). Clearly, if you are entering the market without Stamp experience, you would need a good reason not to go with the market leader (Microchip) but I already know and use the BS2p.

I am concerned about my investment in time to learn the SX language. The competitors are offering fancy features such as 10-bit A to D, PWM etc. etc. Yes, you can do all that with the SX but, in my eyes, the product no longer has the edge. There has been no development of the silicone chip and there have been no additional hardware features. In my humble opinion, this is mainly due to Ubicom's lack of vision for the product but, if I'm going to switch, now is the time to do it.

Parallax has traditionally been very strong in strategy. Forget Dell, MartinAir, Wallmart and Harley, the companies that the Ivy League Business Schools traditionally push as experts on strategic vision. You have passion for your product and you understand your users. You have well segmented your market, and you sell a couple of products that are intrinsically the same to different market segments at vastly different prices. You grow your market (literally) by introducing the product at school. Your customers are generally as excited about your products as you are. As the Zulus would say "Eyesh! Parallax has vision".

So, without giving too much away, what is your vision for the SX range?


Kind regards from Kwa Dukuza

John Bond
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2005\08\29@085746 by George Herzogn/a

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In SX Microcontrollers, SX/B Compiler and SX-Key Tool, George Herzog wrote:

I am not Parallax, but here is my 2 cents worth.

My own experience with learning indicates that [1] the SX-Ubicom provides are far more versitle entry point than the PIC of Microchip and [2] Microchip will bury your learning in tons of documentation.   For the person with imagination, Guenther has written a quite comprehensive book that will take you a long way.

For the PIC, I suppose that having dozens if not hundreds of differrent chips offers someone some kind of security against people reverse engineer your software code as you have to know what exactly the hardware is, but having to select and work around all those different chips seems to be a bigh waste of time.

Having said that...
Microchip is an excellent resource for seeing the many diverse applications that have actually been brought to market and I do take a peek to try and understand what can really be done.

Just for starters, the PICmicro DC Motor Control 'Tips 'n Tricks' is a great quick and simple read for anyone trying to survey motor control.

Regarding limitations real and not so real, you can add on an SPI or I2C chip to do most of what competitors package and these are coming out so fast that it is hard to keep up.   You may find that having one vendor trying to do it all will put you into second place if a SPI or I2C really rocks with innovation.

If anything, the SX-Ubicom needs to expand the amounts of RAM and ROM on board.  And of course, there is always the 16 bit micro-controller to be made.  I suspect they know this and have been look for ways to go there in a business-like fashion.

I completely agree with sticking with one microcontroller for learning, but you still should look at the competition for both ideas and innovative applications - after all they are looking at you.

Regarding your investment time in learning SX language - it is nearly the same as Microchip PICs.  I suspect once you understand the SX fully, you can always program a PIC .  I would be more concerned if you wanted to master Amtel's AVR RISC with 110 instructions [how can they call that a 'reduced instruction set?].

Regards from topical Taiwan
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2005\08\29@093108 by Coriolisn/a

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In SX Microcontrollers, SX/B Compiler and SX-Key Tool, Coriolis wrote:

Their current plan is to assume control of the line and making sure the supply channel works efficiently. Later they may introduce new package varieties (smaller pin counts, nothing over 40 I/O pins will be made because the silicon is static and cannot handle more), don't expect new features such as A/D, D/A, extra PWM etc. This would require multi-die chips, and wouldn't be cost effective.

So why go with the SX? 1) speed, 2) price and most importantly 3) support, go take a look at thier forums http://forum.microchip.com/ I personally find it a bit disappointing, many of the sub catagories have just a few posts, plus I don't see many (any?) microchip employees participating in the discussions. Sometimes questions cannot be answered by someone outside of the company. Plus I find thier software functional but a bit difficult to work with.

When I decided on a platform to develop my ideas on (8 bit), I looked at pretty much all of the major manufacturers (Atmel, Ubicom, Microchip, Rabbit, Renassas, Zilog, Toshiba, Intel, Motorola, etc) and the SX was the best valued general purpose 8 bit microcontroller. This investigation started 2 years ago culminating in purchasing the SX platform just over a year ago, and there has not been a single day that I have regretted making the decision. You may conclude differently, but if you already have the SX platform, I would stick with it (for one most of the other microcontroller require a substantial investment in third party software to develop in any other language besides assembly, if you are familiar with stamps, the PBASIC-like format of SX/B is a very convenient way to slowly wade into assembly rather than having to take the complete plunge and risk drowning in confusion).

As a side note, I purchased an atmel 8 pin microcontroller (was going to use it as a multi-purpose extension chip), the thing is still sitting on my desk, and never been programmed, and Im quite proficient in assembly. But the whole process is time consuming and not very intuitive.

Ubicom does not lack vision, just go take a look at thier IP line of microcontrollers, that are in a word amazing, effectively imitating a 8 way multi-core processor through zero-wait state task switching. Its an impressive line of microcontrollers. But they have marketed the line to large corporations willing to plunk down large amounts of money on development platforms, plus they do all thier sales through distributors. I tried to get the platform when I had more change in my pocket, and the distributor representive was discourteous, dismissive, and downright rude when he found out I was an independent inventor and could not gaurentee upfront that I would be purchasing 10K+ units of the processor. Thats when I said to heck with it and settled on the SX.

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2005\08\29@122239 by dkemppain/a

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In SX Microcontrollers, SX/B Compiler and SX-Key Tool, dkemppai wrote:

Ubicom does not lack vision, just go take a look at thier IP line of microcontrollers (the succesor to the SX line of microcontrollers), that are in a word amazing, effectively imitating a 8 way multi-core processor through zero-wait state task switching. Its an impressive line of microcontrollers. But they have marketed the line to large corporations willing to plunk down large amounts of money on development platforms, plus they do all thier sales through distributors. I tried to get the platform when I had more change in my pocket, and the distributor representive was discourteous, dismissive, and downright rude when he found out I was an independent inventor and could not gaurentee upfront that I would be purchasing 10K+ units of the processor. Thats when I said to heck with it and decided to go with the SX.





It would be nice if Parallax could get us into the bigger Ubicom chips.  There are times that I need some more power for number crunching...     ...hint hint parallax...

I am a little concerned about Parallax taking over the production of the SX chips. (Actually, the Parallax switch and SXlist going away at the same time bothers me a bit!)  I like the support a lot, and I like the chips a lot. They are great. It's just a nagging feeling that the 'end' is near. Everything that I know about parallax tells me that the chip is going to be around for a long time, but I still have this nagging feeling.


-Dan
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2005\08\29@123529 by Jon Williamsn/a

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In SX Microcontrollers, SX/B Compiler and SX-Key Tool, Jon Williams wrote:

Let it (that nagging feeling) go, Dan, let it go....

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2005\08\29@133502 by Coriolisn/a

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In SX Microcontrollers, SX/B Compiler and SX-Key Tool, Coriolis wrote:

[Quoting: "dkemppai"]
It would be nice if Parallax could get us into the bigger Ubicom chips.  There are times that I need some more power for number crunching...     ...hint hint parallax...


I am a little concerned about Parallax taking over the production of the SX chips. (Actually, the Parallax switch and SXlist going away at the same time bothers me a bit!)  I like the support a lot, and I like the chips a lot. They are great. It's just a nagging feeling that the 'end' is near. Everything that I know about parallax tells me that the chip is going to be around for a long time, but I still have this nagging feeling.


-Dan

Parallax's bread and butter are the Stamps, they spent considerable time and money developing the series of Stamps based on the SX. They wouldn't let the SX fade away because they rely heavily upon them to make thier core product. You have nothing to fear about them dissapearing, you should rather gain solice that they have taken the appropriate steps to ensure the SX will not be discontinued until they are ready to do so, and since there really isn't a viable alternative to the SX for thier stamps, not to mention having to go through an entire product cycle again; this will not happen for quite awhile.

As per the IP series, while you may have applications which require more processing power than the SX can provide, more than 90% of hobbist's applications can be handled by an SX (just think of how many applications Stamp users come up with and those operate in thousands of operations per second). If Parallax were to carry the IP line, it would be a low volume product, like the Javalin or Altera FPGA platforms. And Parallax does have a bottom line to consider, the resources to support it, the warehouse space to stock it and other incidental costs of expanding the number of processors they carry makes the prospect of carrying the IP not a very attractive prospect for them. If you are truely serious about the IP line, try to procure it through Ubicom's distributor and lie if nessesary to get them to treat you with enough respect to provide it to you. I can't remember what the development platform costs, but it was either in the $500, $800, or $1000 range, and good luck getting any bare processors in sub-reel quantities, and you'll also be on your own as far as support (Ubicom isn't going to provide you with support unless you are a major manufacturer).

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2005\08\29@162705 by dkemppain/a

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In SX Microcontrollers, SX/B Compiler and SX-Key Tool, dkemppai wrote:

[Quoting: "Paul Baker"]
If Parallax were to carry the IP line, it would be a low volume product, like the Javalin or Altera FPGA platforms. And Parallax does have a bottom line to consider, the resources to support it, the warehouse space to stock it and other incidental costs of expanding the number of processors they carry makes the prospect of carrying the IP not a very attractive prospect for them. If you are truely serious about the IP line, try to procure it through Ubicom's distributor and lie if nessesary to get them to treat you with enough respect to provide it to you. I can't remember what the development platform costs, but it was either in the $500, $800, or $1000 range, and good luck getting any bare processors in sub-reel quantities, and you'll also be on your own as far as support (Ubicom isn't going to provide you with personal support unless you are a major manufacturer).





Yeah, I know how it all works. I get the feeling Ubicom and Maxim are trading buisness plans.

However, There is still probably a bit of market in small companies that need long term support for bigger processors. It doesn't mean that the programmer is $100. A $500 or $1000 programmer may be fine those applications. (If support is there). Third parties do make money at it developing IDE's. And, Parallax has a history with Ubicom that could prove benefical in such a venture.  I could Imagine Ubicom marketing a "Parallax" supported IDE...     ...or how about a Visual Basic Stamp...   ....I could spend all sorts of Parallax's time and money if they'd let me!  :lol:  
If I am forced into bigger processors, I'm going to look at a bunch of the 32 bit chips out there (DSP's and otherwise). The problem is that I need a processor that has a very very very long life cycle. I deal with low volume (<25/yr) stuff. My biggest problem is product obsolescence. Just about every week I have to find a source for an obsolete part, or redesign something older because of stuff changing. It's a big part of the reason I'm using the SX now. (It's also the reason I'm pushing the powers that be to allow me to stock reels of components!)  
If parallax supported bigger guns, I'd always be able to get ammo for them! It would make my life much easier! (Even though, I'd probably still have that nagging feeling, Jon!)
-Dan
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2005\08\29@174330 by kgraceyn/a

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In SX Microcontrollers, SX/B Compiler and SX-Key Tool, kgracey wrote:

Hello John,
You are asking about our business plan. Our vision for the SX is the following:

  1. Ensure reliable supply For the long term, for our designs and those done by our customers. Parallax has a reputation for consistency, reliability and support. When we initially collaborated with Ubicom (then Scenix) on the SX we knew that we would back our decision for many years. Obviously, Parallax also uses many SX chips in our BASIC Stamps and we're serving many new and past SX projects. And one of our goals is to be a consistent, reliable supplier to our customers.
  2. Provide a Parallax-supported migration path from BASIC Stamps to the SX with SX/B BASIC Stamp users can access a low-cost, high performance production path for their projects while continuing using Parallax tools. For this reason we have SX/B, low-cost SX48/52 Development Boards and SX/B code support for a growing number of our peripheral products (LCDs, ultrasonic sensors, etc.). We realize that BASIC Stamps could become quite expensive to our customers in higher volumes.
  3. Introduce microcontrollers in education This goal could be achieved with many microcontrollers. In fact, many educators are still using HC11s before they switched to the BASIC Stamp. The SX is simply an advanced processor in our educational set of products. It has commonalities to many other popular devices (i.e., programmed with assembly language or BASIC, 8-bit, fast, good package variety). All of our tools are supposed to be easy to use with minimal setup time with these users in mind. Our focus on education benefits everybody and it serves to provide some customer training to use future Parallax products under development.
  4. Treat the hobbyist and the volume user the same Everybody will get help here, for free, regardless of how many or little products you have purchased. This leads to volume uses of the product, whether it is a BASIC Stamp or SX.

Not on our list of goals are the technical comparisons between AVRs, PICs, etc. and their internal hardware. We always aim to present our products based on their own technical merits. And the SX has no internal hardware, so selecting it from a long list of processors with built-in hardware is not a good marketing approach. Instead, our marketing tools are support, Parallax tools, a free compiler, low-cost proto boards, etc. Many of our customers will waste the many SX MIPS available, and that's just fine if you want to run it at 4 Mhz with the internal oscillator. Heck, it's just like a BASIC Stamp in many ways.

Sincerely,
Ken Gracey
Parallax, Inc.

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2005\08\29@182759 by johncouturen/a

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In SX Microcontrollers, SX/B Compiler and SX-Key Tool, johncouture wrote:

(grin)
Ok, I look at the "About Parallax" and see the name Chip Gracey.  Who is this Ken Gracey?  (big grin and lots of respect here).

Thank you Ken.  My experiences with Parallax have always been positive.  It's amusing to call the office up there and, because the company is small but very efficient, you can talk directly to the department manager and get the issue resolved right then and there.  
I'm finding the SX intriguing (I better, I just bought a bunch of them) and I'm having fun tinkering with several of Parallax's sensors and stuff.  
Ken, do you think that you could come up with a nice clean and inexpensive download that will turn an SX into a web server ... with I2C communication capability (I know, I'm dreaming, but someday I'll figure out how to get TWO led's to light on my SX chip AT THE SAME TIME!!!)  :-)
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2005\08\29@190946 by kgraceyn/a

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In SX Microcontrollers, SX/B Compiler and SX-Key Tool, kgracey wrote:

John,
Chip is my brother and runs our R&D; I manage the daily operations and product marketing. Chip isn't active on the forums, but today I asked him to read this "crystal ball thread".

No plans on turning the SX into a web server. The SX's resources memory resources were quite limited once the TCP/IP stack was running, which led Ubicom into the IP2K/3K designs. However, we've got a new partner in the "microcontrollers to internet" business and they're doing a fantastic job putting together exactly what we need to provide a friendly BASIC Stamp/SX interface to the web (e-mail send/receive, web pages, etc.). The hardware from this effort should be less than 30 days away. Those in need of our prior Red-I device will be pleased.

Okay, what's the problem with your two LED project? http://forums.parallax.com/forums/emoticons/smile.gif
Yours,
Ken Gracey
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2005\08\29@214933 by johncouturen/a

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In SX Microcontrollers, SX/B Compiler and SX-Key Tool, johncouture wrote:

Ken,
Thank you for the peek into the future.  It keeps us guessing and salivating over the possibilities of new products.

The corporate title explains your avuncular "voice of authority" that sometimes comes through on your posts in other forums and belies your High School graduation picture above (grin).

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2005\08\30@001005 by John Bondn/a

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In SX Microcontrollers, SX/B Compiler and SX-Key Tool, John Bond wrote:

Thanks Parallax for that view of the future. Thanks also to those other users shared their comments.
It's interesting that your users, partners and customers took the time to add to and amplify on your comments. Was it Peter Drucker, that old management guru of the 60's and 70s (of the last century) who stated that one should strive to create a sense of ownership of your business among your stakeholders be they suppliers, staff or customers? Well. seems like you've done that!
Kind Regards from that place somewhere in darkest Africa.
John Bond
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