GadgetFactory and Papilio is dead, but looking for inspiration to new projects to start.

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Hello all,

I'm not sure if anyone still drops by here but just wanted to post an update if anyone does.

Covid and the scarcity of chips on the market was the last straw for the Xilinx based Papilio FPGA boards.

I've made new designs with Lattice UltraPlus and Gowin LittleBee FPGA chips but bringing those boards to market right now is just not very practical. The other consideration is that there are super cheap FPGA boards available now such as the Tang Nano 9k board.

I'm not sure it makes any sense to try to make new Papilio FPGA boards to compete with the low cost boards that are out there so I'm thinking along the lines of what projects can be built on top of low cost and interesting modules such as the Tang Nano 9k, Raspberry Pi's, and ESP32's.

I'm going to post some project ideas to this thread and see if anyone is still here to kick ideas around with.

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  • 1 month later...

Hi Jack,

   we blow me over! I had wondered what on earth had happened to you, since you appeared to have ghosted the forum for 2 or 3 years, and it started to fill up with spam postings. I was concerned that something had happened to you, so good to hear that you are alive and kicking!

In the "Papilio General Discussion" forum I posted the question "Where's Jack?" back in Jan 2020, but never saw an answer.

In any case I just want to say "THANK YOU" for making the Papilio line of boards available. Back in 2019 a Papilio One was my first venture into the world of FPGAs. It was a bit of a struggle at first, such as when I tried to load an arcade circuit, supposedly "Space Invaders" and all I got was Breakout. Very confusing, but I guess you couldn't post the expected code due to copyright.

I have since gone on to design and get PCBs made for my own FPGA boards, Altera Cyclone II was my choice, due to package pin out choices. I also was shocked to discover that this line of  FPGAs (and nearly all others) had become as rare as rocking horse ***t. I had been tossing around the idea of selling my boards as part of a bigger set of companion boards for old retro CPUs, but that idea has now evaporated 😞 .



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Yeah man, I've prototyped several new Papilio boards and even some new product lines over the last couple of years. Every time I get stuck at chip availability and cost to assemble the boards. It's very tough right now to create something new...

As far as why I went silent, I just hit a brick wall. I had three little kids back to back and undiagnosed sleep apnea which just sapped me of all energy. I ended up having to take a full time job outside of GadgetFactory and it was all I could do to hold on and perform that job.

I'm getting to a better place now where the kids don't need so much care and the sleep apnea is treated to the point where I'm feeling back to my normal self again! Lot's of ideas are starting to go through my head again, along with the energy to start pursuing some of them.

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Sorry to hear about your family problems, makes complete sense to focus 100% on your kids.

Just relieved to finally discover that you are still around. BTW I did google the obits.

I'm still not 100% sure what exactly are the reasons behind the chip shortage, but it is affecting so much stuff. A contractor friend can't get hold of AVR chips to implement solutions for his clients, I just found out that it is more or less impossible to get hold of any Raspberry Pis, and the only place to get hold of tiny quantities of lower cost FPGAs is from China, but I have been stung a number of times by fake/remarked chips from Chinese sources. Given the price hike and what is available I am not prepared to take the risk.

The problem now is what is a safe "platform" to choose to base your next product line on?

Ironically as you sort of mention, there are new FPGA lines coming out of China, but can the toolset be trusted and what about availability?

Wishing all the best.


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Thank you for you concern, support, and kind words. :)

Since it is just not feasible to make my own FPGA product line right now I think it makes a lot of sense to focus on the Tang Nano 4k and Tang Premiere 20K FPGA boards/modules.

I've been playing around with LiteX on the Tang Nano 4k and have been absolutely loving it so far.

I heard the open source toolchain might be ready for use now, but the testing I did was with the Gowin toolchain. I don't mind using that toolchain until the opensource toolchain matures, which I think it will in no time. 

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