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Yellowstone Future Forecast

BMOW’s new Yellowstone Universal Disk Controller for Apple II computers has been popular in its first month of release. At the time of its announcement, I warned that parts supply constraints might make this the one and only manufacturing run of Yellowstone cards. That forecast now looks increasingly likely.

Ignoring the burst of Yellowstone sales immediately after its release, and extrapolating from the average daily sales rate more recently, there’s enough stock on hand to last until August or September. Unfortunately the Lattice FPGA at the heart of Yellowstone is out of stock everywhere, due to the global semiconductor shortage that keeps getting worse. The estimated factory lead time on new Lattice FPGAs is an eye-watering 67 weeks. Ouch!

I thought long and hard about placing an order anyway. After all, the sooner I place an order, the sooner I can eventually get the parts. But 67 weeks is a very long time, and that’s just an estimate. I’m not confident that Lattice really has any clue when they’ll be able to resume shipping these parts. It could be never.

Ultimately I decided I’m just not comfortable extending my plans until almost 2024. Will the other required Yellowstone parts still be available then, at prices to make the product viable? Will the product even still make sense to produce, or will it have been obsoleted by something else? Will I still be interested in this line of business in 2024? I’ve already invested money and time securing parts for planned future manufacturing runs of the Floppy Emu disk emulator and the ADB/USB Wombat input converter, expected roughly six months in the future. This already makes me nervous. 67 weeks “estimated” for the Lattice parts is just too much. That would demand making business plans on a cloud and a prayer.

This means when the current Yellowstone stock runs out this summer or fall, there won’t be any more inventory for a long time. I’ll keep an eye on the lead times for Lattice FPGAs and the other required parts. If the situation begins to improve, and it becomes possible to manufacture more Yellowstones with under 30 weeks lead time, I’ll consider jumping back in.

Read 7 comments and join the conversation 

7 Comments so far

  1. Michael - April 11th, 2022 6:06 pm

    Looks like I’d better get an order in for a Yellowstone to ensure I have one.

    I was wondering if you’ll be making more of the Internal/External Drive Switcher for Apple IIc? I just noticed they were out and my intention had been to purchase one of those as well.

  2. Steve - April 12th, 2022 6:15 am

    There will be more IIc Switchers, but they’re delayed due to COVID lockdowns in China and global shipping slowdowns.

  3. rasz_pl - April 12th, 2022 2:06 am

    RP2040 looks less stupid now 🙂

  4. groinksan - June 20th, 2022 2:18 pm

    Wow! This sounds much like the Uthernet. I think it is in its third revision with up-to-date components. When the parts discontinue, someone just redesigns the Uthernet card with the next up-to-date components. And this is a reality, where shrinking designs to just a couple of chips bring on these kinds of challenges and supply problems. Electronic projects today isn’t like building something totally out of 74-series chips you feel confident will be around for generations. And that reality is one of the things that inspired FPGAs in the first place. I would’ve thought that a huge reason for going with FPGA was the ability to move code from one chip to another chip when the previous chip runs out. It now sounds like FPGA is just as proprietary. Regarding the RP2040, I’m getting into RP2040 after being inspired by the Bald Engineer.

  5. Richard - August 5th, 2022 10:50 am

    Thank you for your transparent blog posts around manufacturing and selling products in this current global climate. It’s intriguing and shows how much thought is necessary to do so in 2022.

  6. Dennis - August 15th, 2022 8:02 am

    Just placed my order today, along with the IIc switcher as well. I’ve been thinking about getting one for so long that it just makes sense to buy one while I still can. Thanks for all the work you do, Steve. It is much appreciated!

  7. Ben in Seattle - March 21st, 2023 9:14 pm

    Steve Chamberlain wrote:

    > Will I still be interested in this line of business in 2024?

    I’ve been hesitating on buying a Yellowstone for exactly this reason. I’ve been excited for what the card promises, but what happens if Steve loses interest? Sure, the it will continue to work as it did before, but will the reprogrammable FPGA become no better than a proprietary ASIC? That’s actually an important feature for me.

    I don’t know if there’s a good solution for this. My hope is that Steve will release (or at least promise to release) the current source code and CAD files in his [FPGA Disk Controller]( Github repository, but of course, that’d be more work for him.

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