Well much time has passed since the original rumblings of a Coldfire based Atari clone has been discussed. I’m pleased to announce that after such a long absence of progress things are moving at breakneck pace! Hardly like the Atari community I know ;) but who can complain right? :-P I have officially joined the Atari Coldfire project at http://acp.atari.org. This project has been revived using some original members and many new members to create a coldfire clone. You’ll recall that Didier and I were originally (and still are) working with Freescale M5484LITE evaluation boards using the coldfire fire engines. These are fine but they are very expensive for what you get and have very limited flexibility. A case in point is that even though this board is Mini ITX it doesn’t actually fit properly in my real Mini ITX case at all and the PCI riser I have doesn’t work with it. There are numerous other issues with it like soldered on non-upgradeable ram which cause me to make the tough call that I agree with Fredi Aschwenden and others that the evaluation boards are just that.. Developer boards useful for just that. So alas I will be spending good money like the rest of you on the new coldfire machine when it comes to light.
There are two main things that stand out about the new machine that are really important.
It’s on a PCI form factor card. What this means is that you will be able to use it as a standalone (very) small motherboard, you can use it as a cpu board on a pci backplane for a standalone but standard tower case installation, or finally you can even use it as a daughterboard in another pc! Very flexible indeed.
The machine basically consists of just the CPU and a BIG FPGA. This means that as the future goes on there are a LOT of possibilities without spending your hard earned money! ACSI, SCSI, and all the other atari ports you are used to. But then your normal coldfire machine can change! For instance, all of the suska project cores can be imported and the machine can become a REAL STe hardware wise. Reprogram and it becomes your fast coldfire machine again. There’s no reason the FPGA can’t be reprogrammed in the future to act as all of the amiga special chips. Also this board could be a very worthwhile purchase for people building embededded systems.