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The History of the Pandora
The Year 2007
After various ideas, the final design of the Pandora slowly takes shape.
MWeston starts to design the PCB, Craig starts making deals with various part distributors and manufacturers, Fatih helps dealing with Asian Companies, DaveC has started designing the case, whereas EvilDragon didn't have much to do yet.
Some developers from the GP2X scene like Squidge and notaz help with the first PCB tests.
The Year 2008
April 2008, the team starts a first reaction test as an Aprils Fool on the website www.gp32x.com.
The post mentioned a new device coming from GPH (at that time the manufacturer of the GP2X), however, the specs of the device mentioned there were actually the ones of the WIP Pandora so far.
The reactions were great - and a lot of more ideas came directly from this thread and have been included of what the Pandora is now.
Summer 2008, the first prototype board has been revealed to the public, together with a very basic, not yet finished case design.
EvilDragon starts doing videos and pictures, shows off some early emulators (which were running very well already, though not yet optimized!). The first interviews and newsposts appear on different websites.
End of September 2008, the preorders started.
Within a few days, 4000 Pandoras had been sold (they were limited to 4000 for the first run).
The payment has been done in advance, as the money was needed to finance the production run.
The team was determined to start shipping of the Pandoras December 2008 - but due to a huge series of bad luck, this was delayed quite a long time.
In October 2008, the worldwide financial crisis started - which lead to our first difficulties:
The bank froze Craigs bank account due to a sudden increase of funds there. Within a few days, over about half a million USD popped up there - and the credit card companies panicked (even though Craig explicitely told them before that this will happen).
Same with PayPal...
Most of the payments had to be refunded and repaid using some other payment method.
This took quite a while, so we didn't have the money available for a few months.
And without the money, we couldn't do the production or buy any parts.
Another issue with the financial crisis was a downfall of the european currency. While Craig and EvilDragon are based in Europe, most parts are being paid in USD. The new conversion rate made everything about 200K EUR more expensive for us than originally planned!
But the worst effect of the financial crisis were highly increasing leadtimes: Before, part manufacturers put a lot of parts on stock so they could be bought instantly. Suddenly, some parts had leadtimes of 14 weeks or more! Which was quite an issue when trying to do test production runs as well.
Anyways, end of 2008, a few Pandora prototype PCBs had been delivered to various devs like DJWillis, notaz, cpasjuste, skeezix, etc. to help develop the OS and emulators / games.
The Year 2009
2009 was spent mostly with finalising the development of both the PCB and the case.
Thanks to the increased leadtimes, this took a lot longer than we all expected.
Additionally, we didn't expect that making small changes in the case design can take months until you actually get a new prototype case.
As the case and the PCB need to fit together very well while it also needs to be comfortable in usage as well, it took the full year until the perfect combination had been found. We were testing out quite a few different setups.
MWeston and DaveC both worked very hard to make the Pandora as good as possible.
Craig continued to discuss with manufacturers and part distributors to get good prices, and he also decided to add analog nubs to the Pandora and worked on finding a company which can produce them.
He found one - but in the end, the company went bankrupt and 30K EUR were lost.
The actual people working on the design switched to a new company - however, we needed to pay that amount anew.
During the whole year, the devs (mostly notaz) worked on the low-level OS stuff (drivers, kernel, etc.), while EvilDragon kept the community informed with videos and pictures.
End of the year, DJWillis, notaz and skeezix started to shape the first version of the current OS, based on Angström.
EvilDragon tried to help as good as possible, testing stuff, trying to find issues and creating some helper scripts.
Finally, end of 2009, the first real working Pandoras were finished, so mass production was due to start early 2010.
Only issue left was a non-working Wifi, which seemed to be a software issue.
The Year 2010
Mass production for the case as well as the PCBs started.
MWeston found a fix for the non-working Wifi: Only one resistor needed to be changed - thank god it was an easy fix.
Finally, in April, the cases and the first 800 PCBs had been delivered to Craig in UK.
MWeston, Fatih and EvilDragon went there and the team was assembling all of the Pandoras themselves.
As the first 400 Pandoras still had the old resistor, MWeston had to replace all of them manually... that was some work.
The parts for the next 4000 Pandoras had been ordered as well.
Delivery of the Pandoras started - but shortly after that, a new issue appeared:
A lot of the nubs actually failed right from the start.
The first approach was to let the manufacturer test them all before delivery, so we'd only have good nubs.
However, after a while it turned out that the nubs failed after a while... therefore, we had to stop the production and let the manufacturer fix the nub issue.
This happened September 2010. Until then, 800 Pandoras had been delivered to happy customers.
It took the manufacturer until December to solve the issue.
During that time, the PCB production company was supposed to populate the remaining PCBs, so that only the nubs would have to be soldered onto them.
However, they blatantly lied to us. They told us they were well within their production plan - when in reality, they didn't do anything.
We found that out end of 2010, when the nubs arrived...
We also found out that the LCD cables failed after a while - commonly known nowadays as Purple Tint of Death.
So it was time to look for a company here which could help us with those cables - a very experienced one.
Fatih took on that task.
The Year 2011
Early 2011, production finally resumed, delivery restarted.
In April 2011, the new LCD Cables arrived. Finally some cables that won't fail that easily.
All seemed well now - however, a new issue took shape:
More and more PCBs that had been delivered to us had various failures or didn't boot at all.
The reason: As the bare PCBs were lying around for too long, they started to oxidize. Populating these boards would be crazy, as it leads to a very high failure rate.
The production company didn't care and continued production - with the result of a VERY high failure rate.
We received the last working PCBs from them July 2011. Over 1000 PCBs were broken... over 300K EUR lost.
That was nearly the end of the Pandora. Over 1000 remaining customers waiting, no more Pandoras, no money left... time to give up and file for bankruptcy...
EvilDragon didn't want to give up though. He started looking for a better production company in Germany, got some quotation from them and made a business plan that included delivery to old and new customers.
Basically, the profit from new sales would be used to fund the old preorder units.
The production should NOT happen with paid preorders as before, but using investors.
He managed to find enough investors to get the production going - all investors are from within the community (which is just plain awesome!).
So the full production was moved to Germany. The parts were moved, the machine and production was setup.
End of December, the first prototype PCBs had been produced in Germany (Global Components in Oberhaching) - with great success.
The Year 2012
Real mass production started end of February.
It was also in February that about 5 prototypes of 1GHz units had been produced. notaz started to work porting Kernel 3.2 onto the Pandora and making everything compatible with the 1GHz PCB as well.
Delivery now happened mostly on a regular basis.
While the production was slower than expected at the beginning, it reached full speed in June.
EvilDragons original plan was to first use up all 600MHz SoCs and then switch to the 1GHz ones, without any preorders, however, Craig wanted to speed up the release of the 1GHz units and we started taking preorders.
Producing the 1GHz units was a lot more complicated, as the DM3730 SoC behaves differently in the solder process than the OMAP3530 SoC. The OMAP3530 was WAY easier to handle.
Global Components did a great job here as well and solved that.
In August 2012, the production of the 1GHz unit started, a bit slow at the beginning, but looking promising.
From November on, production was ramped up to full speed.
It's now possible to theoretically produce 250 Pandoras per week, and Global Components is now stocking them as well.
There's NO shortage of delivery anymore - anyone who orders it now will get it right away!
End of December, the price of the 1GHz unit has been lowered, to make it more attractive to new customers.
The Year 2013
A very promising start.
All production issues have finally be solved, within the last few months a lot of software has been released for the Pandora, a Nintendo DS emulator is in the works and looking very very promising already.
The main goal in 2013 will be marketing and advertising, to bring more Pandoras into the wild and be able to finally fulfill all original preorders.
Thanks to everyone from the community as well as all the devs for the AWESOME support
And of course also to the investors - you made it possible we could continue!
Without all of you, the Pandora would not exist anymore!