Future H5 buyers & assembly

Information and progress towards the H5 board.

Future H5 build options

Bare PCB only - no parts
1
6%
Generic SMT parts assembled (birdseed)
7
39%
Bulk parts assembled (as they are sold now)
10
56%
 
Total votes: 18

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Future H5 buyers & assembly

Post by exxos »

I think I touched on this subject before recently. There are only six boards left in stock now I wonder about what any potential next batches would be. If any.

The first likely problem is that while the majority of the board is assembled, with parts prices and postage and whatnot increasing, it is doubtful I will be able to produce the same board as they are sold now again at the same price. They could literally end up being £20-£50 more these days.

One option is to only sell bare PCBs. Though I think this would be somewhat of a nightmare for even the best of people to assemble because of the sheer amount of SMT parts. I can honestly foresee that nobody would ever get such a board up and running. Even moreso considering people have been struggling to solder the simm socket, nevermind the entire board. I'm not saying I won't do it, but I think there would have to be sufficient demand in that respect.

The middleground is to only assemble birdseed only. But does really beg the question that if I'm going to the trouble for the birdseed, then assembling them fully would not really take much more. But it would have course increase the costs.

Though I think people also need to understand that even if the board is cheaper (as in lacking parts) people would still have to buy them and solder them. I think it would technically work out more expensive because at least I can buy stuff in more bulk amounts etc.

In case anyone is wondering, a 100% assembled and tested board is still not really viable currently. For example the oscillators were custom-made and I really don't want the hassle of shipping them to China assembly. I don't have time to fully assemble things myself. But problem is, this also increases time and costs which people don't generally want to pay anyway.

So my opinion is that the birdseed board is likely the best option. Initial outlay would be less so it would encourage more people hopefully with a cheaper price. But of course, this could also limit potential interested people cannot solder the things themselves. It's a bit of a no-win situation.

As a side note, if anyone in the EU or USA (or even UK ) wanted to bulk buy some boards, assuming birdseed, fully assemble them test them and sell them themselves, then that would be a good thing as well.
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Re: Future H5 buyers & assembly

Post by exxos »

Considering the lack of votes I wonder if there just isn't any interest in the boards anymore? I mean there's a fair few out there now already in one revision or another. That is great of course and thanks to everyone who bought one making the project happen.

As said before, a lower price with less parts may encourage more buyers but it's harder to assemble. But considering a lot struggled to solder the SIMM socket on the H5C1 , people really need a fully built board. But as prices of stuff is a fair bit more for some stuff these days, aside from I don't have funds to risk on a fully built batch, a new run would be more expensive than before. Even more so if the remaining parts were assembled. But they will never be fully built from factory because for starters, I'd have to ship the oscs to china. I've mentioned problems with shipping to china now already. So it's not going to happen.

Overall, if the H5C3 was ever produced, it would likely have to be a totally bare PCB. Or a PCB with "birdseed". I think having the SMT stuff done is going to have to be a must as it will be a lot of fiddly work and it's bad enough with people soldering the through hole parts.

While I'm not against a run which has most parts assembled again. It's the cost and slow sales which is the problem. I mean who would spend several thousand on a new run these days ? I've not had much work on since COVID, so I just don't have the cashflow like I used to. I have to be more careful what I'm spending cash on these days.

I think really these boards need a couple of distributors , maybe in the EU and USA who can buy like 20 boards for resale. With the price of postage on the rise all the time as well, its not really cost effective for me to sell them worldwide. But again, it be a fair outlay for someone to buy the boards. I just don't see it being likely.

So unless anyone else has any ideas...

I'm not giving up on the platform. I still have projects to finish but without trying to sound like a broken record, lack of time and my RSI has pretty much killed me off doing much these days. It will likely be next year before I can possibly get back to the H5 add-ons unfortunately.

EDIT:

The LEGACY board might still be an option. But it's a fair way off being completed. Smaller PCB helps with postage and some some costs, but I don't think it's really worth spending the time on that project anymore.
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Re: Future H5 buyers & assembly

Post by stephen_usher »

I do wonder if the 16 bit Atari scene is just too small to fully sustain this sort of board recreation, unlike the Commodore 8 bit and 16 bit communities.

I guess Europe would be the largest potential market as the ST was most popular in Germany. It didn't really break into the US market in the same way that the C64 and Amiga did. Even the Amiga struggled a bit in the 'States.
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Re: Future H5 buyers & assembly

Post by exxos »

stephen_usher wrote: Sun Mar 31, 2024 2:40 pm I do wonder if the 16 bit Atari scene is just too small to fully sustain this sort of board recreation, unlike the Commodore 8 bit and 16 bit communities.

I guess Europe would be the largest potential market as the ST was most popular in Germany. It didn't really break into the US market in the same way that the C64 and Amiga did. Even the Amiga struggled a bit in the 'States.
Yeah Atari world is small. So to be expected for low volume of stuff. But demand has to be at least non-zero. But gets harder the more expensive and the larger batches become.I don't think the software side of things is much better. But like you say, it's difficult to sustain things in Atari land.

UK is my biggest market. But I'm in the UK so... Next largest is USA. Germany and France are half and half again. I guess if I count all EU sales they would be comparable to the USA sales..which seems odd in some ways..
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Re: Future H5 buyers & assembly

Post by olivier.jan »

exxos wrote: Sun Mar 31, 2024 2:59 pm UK is my biggest market. But I'm in the UK so... Next largest is USA. Germany and France are half and half again. I guess if I count all EU sales they would be comparable to the USA sales..which seems odd in some ways..
Interesting, I would have thought Germany and France to be quite big in terms of sales.
Now, the language might be an issue (at least in France) as you need to go through the forums for a lot of information and help. Also obviously money is another factor compared to the US, average income here in France is much lower than in the US, so investing in Atari stuff is not as easy.
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Re: Future H5 buyers & assembly

Post by exxos »

olivier.jan wrote: Sun Mar 31, 2024 9:47 pm Interesting, I would have thought Germany and France to be quite big in terms of sales.
They are in the top 5, but germany/france are nothing like UK or USA orders. I would say overall, EU sales are pretty bad in comparison. If it got to complicated in the future to ship to EU, I could stop selling to EU, it would be a blow to sales yes, but not to the point of resulting in me shutting down my store. I talked about this before anyway.

I think there was a couple guys maybe reselling my stuff in France about a year ago. That could have been a factor. But I don't think that happens now. I half recall someone on evilbay reselling stuff at a huge inflated price, but don't know if that was related, but think some people moaned about it on here.. (I don't mind people reselling, but not at vastly inflated prices.)
Now, the language might be an issue (at least in France) as you need to go through the forums for a lot of information and help.
Possible yes.
Also obviously money is another factor compared to the US, average income here in France is much lower than in the US, so investing in Atari stuff is not as easy.
Also a possibility yes.

It's also possible EU buyers may look for EU suppliers because of postage costs and possible import charges from the UK. USA people will end up paying huge costs anyway. So it could be why I get more USA sales if my store has what they want anyway. There are probably a few factors at play in it all.

But in terms of shipping a motherboards, it's pretty expensive even to EU now. I wrote about postage chaos before as well anyway.
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Re: Future H5 buyers & assembly

Post by russellnash »

Since I started with Atari again three years ago and found your website I have been interested in having a board at some point, but wanted to wait until I have more idea about what I am doing and can solder better. I also thought it would be better to wait because people uncover problems that need to be fixed. Soldering SMT and small SMD is a problem for me, mainly because it makes me dizzy looking at such small parts under magnification. :D
I haven't ordered from you for a while but every time the package arrived with no delay from Customs or VAT charges. At Christmas I ordered a book from the UK which I received last week after filing in customs forms for the post office in January. They kept it for over 2 months. That might be meaningless and they did that because they couldn't be bothered, but it could also be a general move towards the controlling, anti business, protectionist attitude that the European Commission has. If that ends up being the case and you no longer ship because it is too much hassle that is perfectly reasonable.
I once saw one of your bare boards for sale in Germany, I think with price on request.
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Re: Future H5 buyers & assembly

Post by rubber_jonnie »

Whilst I am in a position to do the SMT soldering, not everybody is, so I'd suggest probably that the birdseed version would be the best candidate.
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Re: Future H5 buyers & assembly

Post by exxos »

russellnash wrote: Mon Apr 01, 2024 7:27 am but wanted to wait until I have more idea about what I am doing and can solder better.
A good idea not to take on a it on as your first soldering project.
I also thought it would be better to wait because people uncover problems that need to be fixed.
There has been some oopies on previous runs, but not much on the H5C1 now. Mostly was just the audio circuit malfunctions if a real floppy drive is used. I don't think it was a issue for gotek users.
Soldering SMT and small SMD is a problem for me, mainly because it makes me dizzy looking at such small parts under magnification. :D
I am the same. I have a large magnifier, I can't look at it for very long, makes me feel ill.
I haven't ordered from you for a while but every time the package arrived with no delay from Customs or VAT charges. At Christmas I ordered a book from the UK which I received last week after filing in customs forms for the post office in January. They kept it for over 2 months.
That sounds bad. Last time I checked things like books were not applicable to VAT anyway.
That might be meaningless and they did that because they couldn't be bothered, but it could also be a general move towards the controlling, anti business, protectionist attitude that the European Commission has.
Nothing would really surprise me these days. Mean the UK had the strange idea of overseas companies collecting UK tax. While wrote it can have some advantages and because the saving, it is a nightmare for the small sellers who just cannot deal with such a system. Who's to say that EU won't start doing such a thing as well soon. They would obliterate a lot of small sellers overnight. I don't think any government really cares about the little sellers, unless they stop paying tax of course.
If that ends up being the case and you no longer ship because it is too much hassle that is perfectly reasonable.
I think the general direction for everything is always more paperwork. It already has to be done with the main couriers. Also as I said a few weeks ago, shipping to China is a nightmare now. They want a itemised list of everything along with prices. It is just not realistic for me to work out years worth of parts and how much I paid for them and exactly what quantity was used on the project shipped. The calculations would span probably 20 pages and I really doubt it would be calculated properly or understood. It would just get rejected. Also such paperwork does not physically fit on the small boxes which we generally use. We just don't have space for more boxes. But then larger boxes then upsets the post calculations.. It rapidly becomes a huge problem. If I remember rightly USA are trying to block shipments from China.. So I think it is only a matter of time before shipments to Europe become problematical as well. Be from USA or UK. Things rarely move for the better in any case.

I probably digress here, but my girlfriend packs items for me as I don't have time. She does not get paid for any of the work either. Finding parts and making up the boxes and printing out the addresses and now filling on the online forms, doing the custom labels.. It always seems to be more and more work as time goes on.

I can understand why companies tend to go with minimum orders. Because the time it takes to pack up one item for maybe £2 profit, really isn't worth the hassle. If my girlfriend actually got paid, I would actually making the loss on selling items. I don't get paid for anything for starters. Obviously that is not sustainable. I would simply be forced to introduce a minimum order value. But then I would likely lose probably 50% of my orders. Any small change can have serious consequences. There becomes a point of "is it really worth it" in the end. Such things may not happen. But I always have to think worst-case scenario all the time in order to try and protect myself.
I once saw one of your bare boards for sale in Germany, I think with price on request.
I think there are a few boards out there where people purchased them, but probably thought they could not assemble it, so sold it on I guess.
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Re: Future H5 buyers & assembly

Post by exxos »

rubber_jonnie wrote: Mon Apr 01, 2024 9:25 am Whilst I am in a position to do the SMT soldering, not everybody is, so I'd suggest probably that the birdseed version would be the best candidate.
If I remember rightly some people struggled with soldering the video DAC on previous boards. As said previously people struggled to solder the SIMM socket on the current boards.

On the newer boards, there are very tiny resistor packs. I don't think I would even attempt to solder than myself..

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It just becomes a no-win situation I think. Because if everything is assembled, more people would probably want one, but then the prices too high which they don't want to pay. In order to cut costs the only option is to sell the PCBs only. But then there is less interest because people cannot assemble them. If they try it will most likely end in tears.

My only other thought was a couple years ago of doing some tweaks to the original H4 and producing those PCBs because if I remember rightly there was all through-hole components which withstand the greater chance of people soldering them. But in a way to sort of going a step backwards and people wasn't interested in another run of the H4 anyway. There is of course the legacy board which would be smaller to produce but the project is not finished. It would need a custom case doing as well. Though I don't really have the time to start re-spinning motherboards these days either.

So a birdseed board run would be the only likely solution in all this. But there is still the problem of simply not enough buyers to get a new batch done. It has always been a bit of a struggle even with past runs. Probably the same few people on the forum would buy one, but they don't really need a new motherboard at this point as the H5C1 is pretty much the final board anyway now. Probably half the people who would buy a H5C3 cannot build it themselves anyway.

I think like a lot of projects I try and do, they just hit the proverbial brick wall, regardless of what direction I try and move in. A simple solution will be someone just purchases a batch of 50 of them just sells them themselves. Probably someone in the USA or EU. But I don't think anyone's going to put up like £10k to get a new batch done. But even then, I probably wouldn't trust someone doing a chargeback after they receive the goods anyway.

It's not like I'm not willing to do another batch, I just don't think it is going to be realistically possible. At the end of the day, the buyers are just simply not there.But anyway, I think I'm probably repeating myself a lot again.
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