Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Apple II 4play Joystick Card - Available

The printed circuit boards and parts arrived. I put a few boards together so that I could get a few pictures made up for the blog, website, kit construction instructions and to test out distribution options.

The only thing that concerned me at first was the rainbow ribbon cable I received from Futurlec. Compared to what I was used to, it was more rigid and transparent between the cores. Looking into it further I found that it has the same gauge, 28AWG, as the stuff I was sourcing locally except the insulation around the cores is reduced. It's more than adequate for the 4play card but I'm happy to use the more popular grey AWM2651 cable if one prefers that option. Just make a note when ordering. The locally sourced rainbow ribbon cable is roughly three times the price of the other two.

A fair bit of time was spent in trying to find cost reductions so as to make the product as affordable as possible. Some changes resulted in small savings but others surprised me as to how much of a difference they made. For example, by removing the non functioning gold fingers from the card's edge connector resulted in savings of more than a quarter of the printed circuit board's production costs. Also one of my pet hates when purchasing goods is unnecessary high postage costs. When looking at packing options for the 4play card I was able to determine that if the packaging was no more than 2cm thick then I was able to use padded envelopes instead of parcels to cut postage costs in half or even more depending on the destination. I'm hoping that by delaying the product's availability and time spent sorting everything out has payed off as I'm all for providing the best product at the best possible price.

My biggest dilemma was what to do about an ordering system. One thing about the retro computer community is that there is no shortage of examples. The variety of different solutions ranging from using the email system all the way through to full on web stores is amazing. I listed all the things I wanted out of the system and it became clear that the best solution for me was going to be a custom website. I just wasn't sure about how much effort was going to be needed to pull it off. I was already familiar with Blogger and found that people have used it to turn their blogs into web stores. I didn't want to go to that extreme straight away so after a crash course in HTML hacking and a weekend of playing around I managed to put together a webpage where I can customise the order to each customer's situation. It's flexible enough for any unexpected changes and it will be able to provide up to date product availability information. At this stage it's not capable of handling multiple products and it's not going to win this year's most impressive website award but I'm hoping it will be enough to get the job done.

The site is called "Lukazi's Loot" and the link to it is here. http://lukazisloot.blogspot.com.au/

I plan on keeping only the parts available on hand. Each card will be put together on an order by order basis so by doing this I'm hoping it will result in the product being available on a more regular basis than just being batch driven.

Construction instructions for those that wish to built the product themselves can be found here. https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B5PVarmqxaOnS2ZxZWRKSDg5WE0

In today's fast paced world where the norm is to find technology products being developed by large teams of people it's great to find a place such as the vintage computer community where one can immerse themselves into all levels of a product's life cycle, be it software, hardware or both and still have fun at the same time. I really enjoyed the experience of taking a product from concept to the final product stage but I could not have done it alone. Thank-you to everyone who provided assistance with the project, advice or just support.

Do yourself a favour. Experience something different.

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