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'[Way, Way OT] Tamagotchis and VPs'
1998\01\24@214711 by Charles Laforge

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Hey Guys

While looking at the Business section of the Clobe and Mail the
Tamagotchi story caught my attention.  After the (very active) thread on
anti-lock brakes I thought this wasn't all that off topic neither.    Ya
right! :)

Anyways, who has taken their kid's virtual pet appart yet?  You meanies!
I was curious as to what they were using for brains and thought perhaps
someone could enlightened me.  It looks like I'll have to go out and buy
myself one now to experiment... or maybe I should have kids.  They also
have that neat little LCD...  Anyone use it yet?  Please let me know
what you know on Tamagotchis and their inners.

Charles

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1998\01\24@225531 by John Payson

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> While looking at the Business section of the Clobe and Mail the
> Tamagotchi story caught my attention.  After the (very active) thread on
> anti-lock brakes I thought this wasn't all that off topic neither.    Ya
> right! :)
>
> Anyways, who has taken their kid's virtual pet appart yet?  You meanies!
> I was curious as to what they were using for brains and thought perhaps
> someone could enlightened me.  It looks like I'll have to go out and buy
> myself one now to experiment... or maybe I should have kids.  They also
> have that neat little LCD...  Anyone use it yet?  Please let me know
> what you know on Tamagotchis and their inners.

I haven't looked at the Tamagotchi-brand products, but I have taken apart
a Tiger(R) Compu-kitty and another company's "Cool Doggy".  Both devices
use die-bonded MCU's with display drivers built-in; the "Cool Doggy" has
a 29x16 display wired as such, while the Compu-Kitty has a 29x16 display
wired as a 58x8 (i.e. split down the middle) for better duty cycle and
contrast.  I don't know who makes those particular MCU's since there's no
packaging on them other than the blob, but expect that they're mask-prog'd
4-bit'ters.

I think if you want to play around with LCD's the only way to go is to get
modules with drivers or controllers built-in (with drivers, you still have
to generate the timings on multi-plexed displays, while controllers include
enough memory and logic to scan the entire display without CPU interven-
tion).  Interestingly, I've not seen any smallish graphic displays with
drivers included; they all seem to include controllers.  Some of the larger
ones from Timeline et al include drivers only, but there's no way a PIC can
usefully manage a 320x240 display without adding external RAM (which then
defeats much of the purpose of using the PIC).  If the application requires
showing 16x16-dot characters, then the task might almost be reasonable on
the larger PICs (20x15 characters==300 bytes) but most applications will
demand too mcuh RAM.  On the other hand, a 120x32 display with driver only
might be fun; the PIC could then be programmed to provide a variety of
display modes (2-5 lines depending upon character size, with different
options for inter-line spacing).  Even on a controller-based display such
a project might still be fun; anyone know of a good source for small gra-
phical displays?

1998\01\25@003255 by Andrew Warren

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Charles Laforge <spam_OUTPICLISTTakeThisOuTspamMITVMA.MIT.EDU> wrote:

> Anyways, who has taken their kid's virtual pet appart yet? .... I
> was curious as to what they were using for brains

Charles:

At the Embedded Systems Conference last October, someone [Bob Blick
or Andy Errington, I think] mentioned that they were all (or mostly
all) ASIC-based.

This had large implications for other ASIC users... It seems that the
Tamagotchi manufacturers had locked up most of the world's ASIC
production, so none of the foundries were taking new non-Tamagotchi
designs.

-Andy

=== Andrew Warren - .....fastfwdKILLspamspam@spam@ix.netcom.com
=== Fast Forward Engineering - Vista, California
=== http://www.geocities.com/SiliconValley/2499

1998\01\25@041459 by Walter Banks

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John Payson wrote:
>
> I don't know who makes those particular MCU's since there's no
> packaging on them other than the blob, but expect that they're
>  mask-prog'd 4-bit'ters.


I don't know which processor is in the Tamagotchi-brand products
but I have seen quite a few products of that type. One of the
more interesting processors that is often used in watch style
products is the Sanyo LC5800 series. It is a RISC processor with
a 15 bit instruction path and 4 bit data path. It has a
programmable gate array that is generally used to directly
multiplex an LCD display up to 120 segments or so.

The processor executed at 4096 instructions / second with a
32Khz clock and at full speed required something like 2.3uA. In
sleep mode essentially no power.

Walter Banks

1998\01\26@150712 by Wayne Foletta

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Andy:

I don't understand - all reports I have read indicate we have half idle
wafer fabs world-wide and capacity expanding in all product lines at
twice the demand rate. What's unique out Tamagotchi ASICs? Maybe the fab
houses are just turning away low margin ASIC customers.

- Wayne Foletta
BMI - Saratoga, CA

{Quote hidden}

1998\01\26@204844 by Andrew Warren

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I wrote:

> > At the Embedded Systems Conference last October, someone [Bob
> > Blick or Andy Errington, I think] mentioned that .... the
> > Tamagotchi manufacturers had locked up most of the world's ASIC
> > production, so none of the foundries were taking new
> > non-Tamagotchi designs.

and Wayne Foletta <@spam@PICLISTKILLspamspamMITVMA.MIT.EDU> replied:

> I don't understand - all reports I have read indicate we have half
> idle wafer fabs world-wide and capacity expanding in all product
> lines at twice the demand rate. What's unique out Tamagotchi ASICs?
> Maybe the fab houses are just turning away low margin ASIC
> customers.

   Maybe, Wayne... Or maybe the problem lasted only a very short
   time, or maybe the information I heard was totally wrong.

   I don't know... I was just repeating what I'd heard at the show.

   -Andy

=== Andrew Warren - KILLspamfastfwdKILLspamspamix.netcom.com
=== Fast Forward Engineering - Vista, California
=== http://www.geocities.com/SiliconValley/2499

1998\01\26@235134 by William Chops Westfield

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It's not like ALL fabs can produce a particular ASIC, right?  There's some
pretty vendor dependent stuff under most of those (unless you mean that
they're full custom chips, perhaps.  ASIC can be an overly general term.)

I don't have any trouble believing that a wildly successful product could
have tied up vendor XYZ's fab capacity, or even all the "silicon foundry"
fab providers, but it seems unlikely that they could have tied up ALL the
ASIC production capacity.

BillW

1998\01\27@120807 by Bob Blick

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It wasn't me talking about them at ESC, but I have a secondhand experience
I could share.

I think chipmakers spend most of their time trying to steal work from
other chipmakers, so when you call them, they are caught unawares and are
suspicious. They will quote giant "go-away" prices to you, even if you
want something as simple as a hex inverter with a funny pinout or a diode
array.

After you finally find a company who will talk to you, you go through a
very lengthy process that turns out to cost a lot more in NRE charges than
first quoted. And the per-piece cost goes up because the original quote
was only valid for 100 nanoseconds.

Your project is turned over to the most junior group of people in the
company. They have never actually done this work before, only brought
coffee to the senior staff.

The parts arrive late and do not work. They fix some of the problems and
run a second batch, which still does not work. They refuse to do anything
more on the job. You get some of your up-front money back. All this took
only 9 agonizing months.

Your mileage may vary :-)

-bob

1998\01\28@203722 by Paul BRITTON

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I read something that concurs with what Andy Warren reported, in
Electronic Times or Electronics Weekly a few months back.....Probably, a
short term thing.......bit like the toy really!



TTFN Paul

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