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Two years of kit making and Open Source Hardware

Posted: 20 Mar 2020, 18:36
by marcelk
Two years ago this week we started sending out the first "real" Gigatron kits to enthousiasts on our waiting list. Those early kits came with ROM v1, without Tiny BASIC, without Pluggy McPlugface, and without video reviews on YouTube. Originally we aimed for February 2018 as release month. But after waiting for 10 weeks, more than one hundred of these boxes arrived on our doorstep:

Oops.jpg (208.77 KiB) Viewed 3989 times

Our manufacturer had used wrong drawings for the production run and all holes are wrong! Luckily, the company immediately acknowledged their error and managed to deliver new boxes a few weeks later. It was hard to deny who was to blame anyway, because we had sent them a dummy board with connectors soldered on to serve in their quality check... Always be prepared for such mishaps! The good thing is that for the respin we could make the inside look a lot nicer.

From day 1 we open-sourced the schematics and software. Obviously we had to be a bit careful with the PCB design files due to the financial risk we were taking. But after two years we've shipped several times more kits than ever anticipated. So last week we spent some time to clean up the KiCad design files for both the computer and keyboard adapter. They're now available as zip files from the file section on the HaD project page.

Although some parts are becoming a lot harder to get, we recently managed to secure another batch of Gigatron kits. So we'll be good for a little while again and you can still get complete kits directly from us. Of course we don't know how the Covid-19 situation will develop. So far, we can still ship!

Happy hacking and thanks for all your support during these crazy two years,

Marcel & Walter

Re: Two years of kit making and Open Source Hardware

Posted: 21 Mar 2020, 01:36
by jbailey
Hello Marcel,

That great you guys are willing/able to Open Source the PCB, it will be interesting to see what experiments people come up with. I want to thank you guys for this kit it was my first kit of any kind, and help me get started (with amazing documentation i might add). It been cool to see the interesting upgrades you both implemented from 6502 cpu emulation, SPI, a verity of basic interpreters and alike.

How many kits have you guys sold to date?

Thank you, Jim.

Re: Two years of kit making and Open Source Hardware

Posted: 21 Mar 2020, 06:33
by marcelk
jbailey wrote: 21 Mar 2020, 01:36 How many kits have you guys sold to date?
We're currently somewhere between the Apple-1 and Apple ][ :-)

Re: Two years of kit making and Open Source Hardware

Posted: 22 Mar 2020, 05:48
by jbailey
Hello Marcel,

Sorry if my previous question was bit out of bounds, and I hope you guys keep selling them. If you don't mind me asking are you guys looking to make a Gigatron v2 variant from all that you learned from your project over these years, or explore a very different architecture?

I hope some electronics teachers eventually use this kit in class, it is a real good into to digital electronics and the basics of computer design. This reminds me of early 8-bit computers where you really could understand how everything worked, and it was easy to write for even in a low level language.

Re: Two years of kit making and Open Source Hardware

Posted: 22 Mar 2020, 07:59
by marcelk
Although we don't "target" schools at all, quite a few buyers are teachers and school departments!

We have plenty of ideas, big and small. But an idea is of very little value unless you commit to it yourself. For example, I'ld love to build a discrete transistor Gigatron at full speed. But something like that takes eons and obviously can't ever become a kit. Another idea is to write 8080 emulation, go to 12.5 MHz, 480x160 resolution, 128K RAM, a card interface and then unleash CP/M with embedded 80x20 terminal on the Gigatron. But each of those steps is major thing by itself: it takes some months of hard work to make that all work well. Add some more months if you turn it into a kit you can support.

Furthermore, my changed personal circumstances prevent me from starting projects I can't complete real quick or that aren't pure fun. So for now I just finish open ends first, one at a time. For example, as of yesterday Jeff Jetton's 15-PUZZLE is working. Such things are immensely gratifying: that step practically wraps up the Apple-1 emulation project!

When in the early days we wrote the FAQ, we foresaw there wouldn't be a new kit design any time soon. See "Will there be a Gigatron 2?" near the bottom of that page. Today our opinion on that hasn't shifted. The main point is still that it will not be as much fun to do the same things all over again for something that is objectively only marginally "better" (but probably worse due to feature creep). Even small changes in kit logistics cause us lots of headaches. We haven't forgotten the introduction of Pluggy McPlugface yet and, more recently, the pain that came with preparing ROM v4 because of incompatible game controllers. It may not seem like much, but behind the curtains those were big things. The diagram below is still accurate:

Breakdown.png (121.53 KiB) Viewed 3930 times

The first two slices are always fun parts. The other slices are only fun when you do them for the first time...

Re: Two years of kit making and Open Source Hardware

Posted: 23 Mar 2020, 08:49
by qwertyface
Congratulations on the success over two years, and thank you very much for open-sourcing the schematics.

Re: Two years of kit making and Open Source Hardware

Posted: 11 Jun 2020, 16:31
by walter
The assembly manual and a Bill of Materials are now also open sourced, see under "Manuals and References" on

Re: Two years of kit making and Open Source Hardware

Posted: 16 Jun 2020, 20:09
by jbailey
Thank you for keeping this computer available by open sourcing it. This is a valuable computer for learning, not to mention fun to put together and program. You both put a lot of thought, care and effort into this system.

I finally got one of my co-workers to order one just before before you stopped selling them.

Thanks care and best wishes.