What is a (1541) Ultimate-II cartridge? If you are unfamiliar, read the introduction here.
2016-12-31: To EVERYONE: Have a happy and prosperous 2017!
2016-12-29: 300 Ultimate-II+ units shipped
The production test tool has done a good job, but it broke down mechanically and testing had to be suspended for some days. In the new year we will continue to get the remaining boards pass the tests. I expect to ship the remaining orders starting third week of January.
2016-12-19: First few boxes full of fully assembled, tested and programmed boards arrived from factory
The production batch of over 500 "Rev. B" boards of the Ultimate-II+ has nearly completed. The factory shipped a bit over 300 boards to me.
2016-11-08: Flu struck .. in bed for a week.. some delay
My initial estimate that was communicated on the website shows to be somewhat optimistic. Due to illness on my side for over a week, the design of the test software for the production test tool got delayed. Also, it turned out that there were some significant mistakes in the production test hardware tool that need to be fixed. I discussed with the assembly company what the options are to reduce the introduction of production delays, but a delay of approx. 2 weeks is inevitable. The latest prognosis is that the boards will be ready in the first week of December.
2016-10-13: The production of a third batch of Ultimate-II+ has started!
I know that many of you have the question when your order will ship. Please be patient, as the production of the Ultimate-II+ is still in the startup phase. The announcement of the new Ultimate-II+ caused more orders to come in than I could expect. The first two production batches have been tested and patched; the last ones will ship this weekend. Please note: 300 units already, of this "Revision A" board.
"Revision A" boards exhibited some small issues that needed manual soldering to fix. I spent literally days on this. But... These issues have been fixed in "Revision B", which is now going to be produced in a third production batch! The production has been moved to a company that is capable of doing X-ray inspection as well as programming and testing of the boards. An automated test system is being made now at the manufacturer. Although this costs money and takes time to complete, it is expected to increase quality and I am confident that the invested time will pay off in throughput of the orders later on, because it saves me a lot of time. Maybe I am optimistic, but my initial estimate tells me that I will receive the completed and tested boards on my desk by the third week of November. Obviously I will do everything to take care of a rapid dispatch after the tested boards have arrived.
Hopefully this bit of 'insight' behind the scenes explains why the lead times are as long as they currently are. Thank you for your understanding and patience.
2016-09-04: Ultimate-II+ near completion!
The units are now near completion... The plastic cases as well as the first electronics have arrived from production! As you can see, the final product comes in three colors!
If you already have a pending order, please select the color of choice as soon as possible, as shipping of the first units will start later this week. You can do this by visiting your order status page here.
Another question I often receive by E-mail is: "Ok, I pre-ordered, but.. when do I have to pay?"
The answer is simpler than you may think: Orders are dispatched in the order that they were paid for. This is the simplest and most honest way. So, you pay when you feel confident in doing so. You *can* wait until units are available. However, I am usually running after the facts, and production batches often get sold out before they are even finished.
Fate of time - The story
Since the end of 2015, it became clear that the "good old" 1541 Ultimate-II was at the end of its life cycle. Xilinx, the manufacturer of the most important chip of the cartridge, had started to increase the prices of the chip. Also the memory chip started to be harder to get and at higher cost. When the news came that the company that made the black plastic cases for the 1541 Ultimate-II had lost the injection mold tool, it became evident that the 1541 Ultimate-II would be no more.
I have given it some thought. What would be the best way to continue with this project? When the feelings of being upset about the lost injection tool had subsided, I realized that this may be the perfect moment for an upgrade. This is when set backs change into opportunity.
Since then, a lot of work, and I really mean A LOT OF WORK has been done to create a successor: the "Ultimate-II+". Why not "III", you may ask or think. Well, the foremost reason is the software. The install base of the "1541 Ultimate-II" is rather large (>3000 units), and I do not want to let my customers down that have just purchased a unit. This means that in case of new hardware, the same software should run on both the new board, as well as on the older board. So, the new board will offer similar functionality. You could see it just as an upgrade, not an entirely new product.
Although the "Ultimate-II+" is similar, there are also differences:
- No more MicroSD! (... that needs to be pushed in with something sharp, could fall into the case, ... etc)
- More USB ports (... one to compensate for the lost SD, and just one bonus: 3 in total)
- IEC connector moved (... further back to facilitate use on some C128 models)
- Integrated Ethernet (... no more need for an external USB2LAN adapter, and a smaller step to CS8900A compatibility)
- Dual Flash (... no more worry that a software bug or upgrade failure leads to a bricked device)
- Integrated Speaker (... who connects a speaker set to the audio jack for hearing drive sounds??)
- External power supply connector with auto-switch over circuit (... for stand alone mode, and to lower the demand on the power supply of the C64)
- Improved Audio (... audio codec, 24 bit/96 kHz*, for sampled sounds and SID emulation)
- Improved Tape connector (... no more custom board and able that snaps in on the bottom, but standard USB 3.0 cable)
- Improved power supply circuits (... for some reason they seemed to break down relatively often)
- Slightly bigger and faster FPGA, as to control the new features
Sounds good? I think so, too!