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Re: [N8VEM-S100:2359] Re: accepting pre-orders for the S-100 Z80 CPU V2 board

On 2/6/2014 5:59 PM, Andrew Lynch wrote:

Hi Jim!  Thanks!  Well you know we’ve discussed this before.  I am not anti-business by any stretch.  Please try not to take this as an insult but just my honest reaction.

Honestly, last time, when I asked for gerbers, I just received a "thanks, but no".  All of the following is good information, but it's news to me.


The only thing less appealing to me than starting my own business or a non-profit organization is to be the involuntary unpaid support staff for someone else’s business. 

To clarify, you're stating that if a commercial entity sells a board at the same cost as you were charging, that's unacceptable?


That is the root reason why I cringe at any sort of attempt to commercialize or organize a formal N8VEM home brew computer club organization.


Think back in history to the original home brew computer club.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homebrew_Computer_Club


Did they file paperwork to become a 501C3 non-profit organization or open a storefront? 

They have counterparts in today's world, and those groups are sometimes both.  It was a different time, then.  A storefront would have been a real one, need to be manned, and cost a lot of money.  Filing a 501c3 would have been a much more arduous process pre-Internet, and no information (or little) would have been available.  I posit that the HCW would have set up a store today, and would accept bitcoin :-)


They were the incubator for the great founders of Silicon Valley because they were basically one step away from anarchy the whole time.

Yes, yes they were.  But, I see them as visionaries as well.  They saw the value of putting technology into the hands of as many people as possible.  Also, remember that many of them played prominent roles in the Internet culture we use today, a culture that allows online stores and this forum.


It is also why I am philosophically opposed to kitting and assembled boards.  Home brew computing is supposed to be hard and difficult.  It is not a toaster!

Hmmm, does the community agree?  I admire your personal conviction, but the median age of someone who cares about Z80s and CP/M is not 20, and many folks who find value in these endeavors are physically handicapped or unable to solder.  Would Woz have told a person wanting a pre-assembled Apple I "no"?  That the person needs to learn how to solder, learn how to debug data busses, learn digital logic?  I doubt it.  If the person said, "Woz, I'll pay for the privilege of having you fully assemble my kit", he'd have done it, because he wanted the computer in peoples' hands.  In any case, before folks say "it's OK, Jim, those of us on the list can assemble one for Jim P., who's hands shake enough he needs to give up soldering", let me note that these folks will not ask, because they are humiliated and embarrassed that they could at one point do these things, and now cannot, or that they never could and are now too old to learn them (in their mind).  They just suffer in silence, or move onto something else.

You become fully invested in your creation when you stay up all night for days on end only to watch it burst into flames when you power it up.

I think you can be fully invested in something in many ways.  But, I agree that bringing a system up from nothing is rewarding.


However I fear we will lose something essential if it becomes just another commercial enterprise.
I think that minimizes the effort.  Even a "commercial enterprise" such as mine is more than "just a".  I buy old parts for stock to help hobbyists, since I can afford to sit on the stock for years.  I buy new parts in bulk, because you can't, for example, buy C64 IEC cables new anywhere anymore.  I fund development activities, and send boards out to people who want to write SW, but are low on cash.  I participate on forums, not just to answer questions on my stuff, but to answer questions in general.  I try to bring back older HW that has been orphaned.  All of that takes time and money, and the proceeds from the sales fund those things.  If the "commercial enterprise" breaks even or shows a bit of a profit at the end of the year, it's a great year, but it's not expected.

I'll be honest.  I cringe at the emails that state "we have a great new PCB design.  I need 20 people to sign up to start this process" not because of the email, but because of the uncertainty.  If it's a great new design, it needs to be made, and now!  20 people will eventually show up.  I cringe at the flurry of emails "Put me down for one", because I know someone has to manually manage all of that, and the payment, and the coordination, and the reminders, etc.  I cringe at someone hand cranking out mailing labels, hand figuring overseas shipping costs.  I cringe at that someone doing all of these things when this someone (or someones) should be sitting at a desk with a soldering iron, or writing some great new snippet of Z80 code (or 6502 of 386 code) to bring this new board to life.  I cringe at the lone enthusiast, struggling to source all of the parts from 20 different places, and then just giving up.  I cringe a bit (no offense to folks in this thread) at the responses to this forum:  "Well, maybe we could adopt some boards", "are you sure we can't just start doing payment another way", "what about this or that".  All of that brain activity, devoted to stepping around the truth that the group should be playing with their new machines and letting automation take care of the dirty jobs.

I realize my ideals and community ideals might be at odds, and that's OK.  I just wanted to suggest that there is a class of commercial interest I think should be called "community commercial", that serves to help address issues just like this.  And, some of them are educational in nature.  The orders here, at least, are filled by my 9 year old daughter, who asks every night "are there orders tonight?"  She gets paid for her efforts, has to ensure orders are correct, and handles making sure things get done.

All that said, it seems Jack Rubin has made a nice offer, so maybe that would work out.