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nonarkitten

Posted Wed Feb 03, 2021 9:01 pm

Hi everyone!

I know this is a little late, but better late than never. I just wanted to put a post here about my new project I've spearheaded with long time Amigan, Tim Wacker, called Buffee. We've since seen interest from a number of major players in the community and I cannot be more thrilled, humbled and maybe a little terrified by the sudden interest in it.

So what is it?

Image

Well, it's an accelerator that uses a special kind of threaded JIT (I call PJIT) to provide microcode-like translation of 68K instructions into ARM on the fly that does not suffer the high memory usage or "jitter" of regular JITs. Now, the fact that it's running on ARM is really incidental; this could have been x86, RISC-V, or whatever, but we chose this particular ARM for two major reasons:

- it can access the 68000 bus without FPGA or CPLD as-if it were it's own RAM
- it's really fast, having a 1GHz (2 BIPS) Cortex A8 with 512MB or 1GB of DDR3-800 memory

Buffee will be an in-system accelerator for all 68000-based machines without equal. It is, however, only planned to be a CPU replacement with a ton of RAM -- there is no HDMI, audio, USB, Ethernet, etc.. This is because we feel that there are plenty of complete system replacements out there like MiSTer and the Vampire V4 and don't want to compete with them. We believe in the purity of the Amiga system (and Atari, and Macintosh), and that their limitations of weird graphics modes, crunchy sound and floppy clicks is what makes them special. And we don't want to take anything away from that.

But we still want a stupid amount of processing power to open the door for much more intense and modern gaming, applications and development ... finding new ways of pushing the Amiga hardware and give everyone a powerful processor at a very reasonable price.

We're still really at the early stages and this cannot be overstated. We're wrapping up the design of our first actual prototype board and should have those in-hand in the coming weeks. Once we fail to destroy our junk Sega Genesis consoles, we'll move onto the beta phase and make 10-20 units available for interested testers and reviews. We're hoping for an early Spring Beta launch and a mid-Summer retail launch. Our units will all be professionally manufactured in Shenzhen China and supplies will NOT be limited.

There are already a couple of potentially interested retailers in talks with us and we're hoping for an MSRP of under $140 US for the 512MB model and $180 US for the 1GB mode (and retailers will have enough room to offer sales, promotions or kits with any extras they like).

You're all welcome to come pick our brains on our Discord server https://discord.gg/EEn4nftS7z or you can follow us on our blog https://www.buffee.ca/home/. I am, of course, here to answer any questions as well.

User avatar
TenLeftFingers

Posted Wed Feb 03, 2021 9:51 pm

Just had a look at your blog. This sounds amazing if you can pull it off. Is the A1200 much of an overhead to support in the future ?

User avatar
nonarkitten

Posted Wed Feb 03, 2021 10:02 pm

TenLeftFingers wrote:
Wed Feb 03, 2021 9:51 pm
Just had a look at your blog. This sounds amazing if you can pull it off. Is the A1200 much of an overhead to support in the future ?
As an Amiga 1200 owner myself, I really want the Buffee for it.

The 32-bit systems will have their own set of complexity. While I'm confident that the 16-bit memory controller will work on a 32-bit bus fine (since the Motorola bus was designed to be extremely flexible in this regard), there are all sorts of issues with potential conflicts between the ARM 32-bit and 68K 32-bit memory space. And to date, I don't know of any ARM64 SoC's quite like this one.

That's not saying it's impossible, it's just going to take a bit more work juggling stuff around with the MMU. Our plan is to make a drop-in 68040/060 PGA type board, much like the DIP version of the Buffee we're developing today so it would work in any A3660, Warp1260 or TF1260 like boards.

But aside from having access to big box Amiga's and AGA, there won't be much, if any, performance advantage. And our current "DIP Buffee" is going to take our focus for the better part of this year, so a PGA version probably won't be available until 2022 at the earliest and greatly hinges on the success of this first project.

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intric8
Seattle, WA, USA
Website

Posted Wed Feb 03, 2021 11:54 pm

I had made a post about your project earlier today but after seeing this I've now deleted it. You should own this - everywhere - from the top down.

I'm very excited about your project and absolutely love your angle on things.
We believe in the purity of the Amiga system (and Atari, and Macintosh), and that their limitations of weird graphics modes, crunchy sound and floppy clicks is what makes them special. And we don't want to take anything away from that.
I love this statement on so many levels.

First, I think the fact your product aims squarely at the 68000 is pure genius by supporting so many platforms simultaneously. I mean, holy hell, this thing could be a tidal wave of performance gains across a vast swath of the retro scene, not just Amiga. Brilliant!

Secondly, I love how it still lets the original chip sets be themselves, and see where the cards fall. Why not? Plus, by being so targeted in scope you keep costs at a very attractive price for virtually everyone out there.

Massive applause!

User avatar
TenLeftFingers

Posted Thu Feb 04, 2021 4:59 am

@nonarkitten focus is really important on ambitious projects like this. You're working on something very unique and clever and it's very wise to pay attention to scope in that way. Exciting times, well done.

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Zippy Zapp
CA, USA

Posted Thu Feb 04, 2021 7:01 am

Awesome! This is exactly what I have been wanting. I like using the Amiga for the Amiga, what it was and what it is. It is the main reason that I have not got into the vampire and the likes.

So this is exactly what I have been waiting for. A faster CPU and a modern upgrade that doesn't bypass the awesomeness of the Amiga.

I am looking forward to seeing this released.

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A1-X1000
Toronto, Canada
Website

Posted Thu Feb 04, 2021 11:51 pm

Wow wow WOW! sheesh I’m still smiling from just having received my Parceiro this week and then this news comes along !!! :shock: <3

OMG the past few years in Amiga world for new hardware for our miggies has been the best EVER!

User avatar
intric8
Seattle, WA, USA
Website

Posted Fri Feb 05, 2021 10:07 am

@A1-X1000

TBD on if our Parceiro's RAM will play nice with BUFFEE. But yes - it is a very exciting time to be in the Amiga world!

User avatar
obitus1990
New Orleans, LA, USA

Posted Fri Feb 05, 2021 12:46 pm

Very nice indeed. I have a Vampire, but, I don't even use it, sadly. I built an A500 from one of the kits, specifically to use the Vampire on it, but, I hardly ever turn that computer on due to it being pretty much unusable for anything game related. If I want to use that Amiga to get on the web, well, it is then useful (via using and SDNET adapter). This looks like something that can take its place, or, possibly go in my A1000.

I'm sure John Hertell and many other purists are having an Amigasm over this development :)

This begs the question that has plagued the Vampire... will it have an FPU?

User avatar
nonarkitten

Posted Fri Feb 05, 2021 10:54 pm

intric8 wrote:
Fri Feb 05, 2021 10:07 am
@A1-X1000

TBD on if our Parceiro's RAM will play nice with BUFFEE. But yes - it is a very exciting time to be in the Amiga world!
There's no reason it shouldn't. Buffee will specifically avoid doing anything with the standard 24-bit memory space to avoid conflicts.





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