The board and software work beautifully. They do need rebooting on start up as the power supplies come to life in the wrong sequence sometimes.
The board requires converters for the HDMI and keyboard (USB) connectors these are rather messy. I converted the board to lay flat and parallel with the backplane board. This gives a tidier arrangement but the board then needs a couple of extra mounting holes to fasten it to the baseboard.
Documentation could address the keyboard interface and the fact that HDMI can be used as well as the composite output to an older TV.
I've been in to "retro home computers" for a long time... Lots of experience soldering, trouble-shooting, designing & making my own boards and custom cases, but next to no experience with CP/M. To my pleasant surprise my daughter has developed an interest in the nuts & bolts of computers, but being 14 has little nostalgia for the 70's and 80's. As as result I thought I'd design a CP/M capable computer for the two of us to build that would be her's to tinker with, based on Grant Searle's design... ...given my total newness to CP/M, and having come across the excellent RC2014 Pro I decided a ready-made kit would be better for the both of us and so bought one. The backplane design isn't just delightfully old school while giving easy expansion potential but allowed my daughter to tackle the project in manageable chunks.
After about a week of on and off effort my daughter has become pretty decent at soldering and has a fully working machine - she's delighted, and I'm pretty darn pleased with her and the results too. She's looking forward to getting to know it and it's operation better, and is already eyeing up further options - I think Colecovision compatibility is on the cards.
So the RC2014 is an excellent little machine with a lot of potential and on that basis I'm very pleased with it. But at this point I would recommend those new to building electronics to avoid it, and even those with a bit of experience to be very careful indeed when putting this kit together. Why? Well I consider myself to be pretty experienced when it comes to such things but even so the documentation really isn't up to the job for construction, and largely absent when it comes to leading the new user through their first steps.
As we came to the end of the build I found myself on a good few occasions having to desolder and move components about when it became apparent my initial guesses were not always right - the kit comes with no documentation, and while there is a good deal of info on the website it's often hard to track down specifics, the schematics and boards aren't all fully labeled, and there is no build guide. I'm also somewhat glad I just spent a very frustrating weekend getting to know the absolute basics of CP/M for the first time as I suspect my daughter would have rapidly lost interest if that frustration had been hers. Some first steps advice, especially with regard to the basics of file transfer, would have saved hours of frustrated googling on my part.
If I may be so bold to make some suggestions. Build: -An included build manual would be wonderful but a proper on-line one would do just fine and is certainly needed -Labeled components would, again, be wonderful but a board-by-board BOM list would be fine if included with the above guide -No urgency, but the next run of boards could do with including component values in all areas to help reduce confusion
Post Build: While I was fortunate enough to spot and rectify all my mistakes and finished up with a working machine... -An initial set up, power on, and basic trouble-shooting guide would be very helpful
First Steps: It would be REALLY helpful if there was also a simple first steps guide... -Want to run BASIC / CP/M? Here's how you set up the computer for that, here's a link to the documentation for this version of BASIC or CP/M, and most important of all here's a quick run-down (with examples) of some commands and software you will need to start using the machine - saving / loading / file transfer basics comes instantly to mind -A list of links to appropriate software would also be very helpful - google is fine but if you've never seen a tree before it's hard to tell one from another and the difference is often important.
To be upfront: it all, finally, went up in smoke and down the trash bin, after wasting me many hours. And while I would consider myself an "advanced amateur", not a professional at all, I cannot, in good faith, recommend this kit to others.
Let us start with the documentation: essentially, that is consists of various scraps of information all over this website and the author's, which in some way correlate, in some way contradict, and mostly require you to squint your eyes and try to figure out from the photos of the various components, HOW, just HOW are you supposed to place said various components. (Want a live example? Look at the parts and try to figure out which of them have double pins and which of them have single pins.) The documentation is, essentially, as bad as possible.
Now the kit: now, you might assume, if the documentation is so bad, perhaps the parts are quite obvious to put together. Well: that is NOT the case. There are pin holes where NO components should be soldered, although this is drawn on the PCB. The pins of the components don't quite fit the holes in the motherboard, and you have to be careful where you place the "starting pin". (That defies the VERY POINT of a motherboard! And of the drawing on PCBs! WHY would you draw double pins if single pins are required?)
Furthermore, it contains apparently no such thing as fail-safe mechanisms, if anything "happens" anywhere — which is super likely due to the one million solder points and the terrible documentation and the unclear kit markings. Anything goes wrong — your kit burns, as did mine (burns = the chips start to smoke and make a glistering sound).
And to be frank: you cannot say "there is no handholding" or "this requires experience", just as you cannot sell a heap of scrap.metal and say, "a little refreshment and this is a car". This is supposed to be a KIT, and it is not cheap!
As to the gentleman himself: a brilliant mind, extremely caring and fast in his replies, an absolute pleasure to deal with. — But you understand, legally, this should be a "point-in-time" contract, such is the nature of buying and selling; one should NOT NEED to contact him. His service to his buyers is GREAT. His product is NOT.
I shall buy another kit some day, I like your IDEA. I am only hoping this will motivate you to a better EXECUTION. Do not take this review unkindly, it is not meant so.
Meanwhile, I got that kit that sounds like a Greek letter (the author surely gets the hint), and — guess what — it works flawlessly.
Some PCBs have silkscreen print not readable, but due to documentation and small cards it is not a real problem. Everything that should be shipped are, and the ROM is in ESD package. (I've recently got other ICs not in ESD packages from other sources..)
Now for my part - ordering the rest of the components and solder everything together...
This has to be probably one of the most complex boards to build, there is a fair bit crammed onto this one.
I did struggle with this one, eventually needing to re flash the avr before it burst into life.
its possible to use it with a rom module installed and in fact it its most stable like this
on a ram only system it can be quite hit and miss, and with the the star trek rom for example I haven't been able to get working, even the ones that have worked it will take multiple goes before it will work - this is a known issue and I'm confident its been worked on but it is something you should bare in mind...
How do enter/output data into/from the system? Dox of this would be very useful. - Do you have a list of methods to perform if/when it is not working? I was working very hard in the early 80s with this Z80 and to make it run under control we had to use an emulator. Do I need one now? I could probably find one on eBay, wright?