Just the signal, not the noise

Hello 8bit'ers, remember to disable your alarm clock, it's the day before Saturday!

And that means, plenty of time to enjoy all the goodies of this weeks issue #06 of 8bitnews.

Summer arrived in the northern hemisphere, everyone is going into holidays and we officially started silly season. There's not so much going on in 8bit land right now, but that is not a problem at all. Bastian and I decided to open the Library of Awesome™ and pull out some of the gems that might have passed below your radar.

If you have seen one of these projects already, just hop to the next one, we have compiled quite a number of topics during the last week.

If you wanna help us out and found something unique, feel free to drop us a mail or simply use our new suggest feature.


8-Bit Doom

8-Bit Doom - Poom - Pico8
Source: https://freds72.itch.io/poom

You either build an 8bit computer from 74xx series TTL chips, or you create the machine of your dreams as an emulator. The emulator thingy is exactly what Joseph White and his fellows at Lexaloffle did. The result is named Pico-8 and it is a stunner.

A virtual game console that runs on Windows, Linux, MacOS, on Netbooks and even a Raspberry PI. The console comes with a 128x128 16color display, 256 8x8 sprites, cartridge size of 32kByte, 4 channel sound and is programmable in Lua. Yes. Lua. 🤭

To top that, the tiny thing comes with an integrated editor for code, sound, music sprites and maps. And the best is the cartridge system: PNG files!

There are more than 1000 cartridges/games available and you can run all of them in the JS based version here.

Sounds incredible? Believe it or not, there is a Pico-8 version of friggin' Doom. It is called POOM. 🧨

Ladies and Gents, we officially love you. Can life be any better?

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80's Blackhat Ops

80's Blackhat Ops
Source: https://unsplash.com/

Timesharing became a serious thing in the 80's. Not talking about the real estate credit card trap here, but timesharing on microcomputers. Multi- and hyperthreading is so natural to us nowadays, that few people remember, how hard it actually is, not only to build a multithreading capable operating system, but to make it thread save. To ensure that code stays code and data stays data and the latter never gets executed.

This very funnily written piece of memory is the HN find of the week and definitely worth reading it. Especially when you ever got in touch with a PDP-8. And are old. As us. 👴

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Source: Lucas Games

Creators who name a game Drygulch also tend to invent characters like Guybrush Threepwood. The capable and unlucky sword fighter appeared much later and the stroke of genius named Drygulch is more a story of the 70's. (LSD sends its regards.) But why is all that naming jazz still relevant in 2021?

The answer: It is not. But there is something to learn in CRPG Addict's story about RPGs we can't play today anymore.

And what lesson do we learn? Keep your already antique computer and game console hardware, otherwise you might not be able to play Fortnite, when you turn 93.

Give it a read, meanwhile I quickly visit my PDP-8 in the basement to pet her a little. And play Drygulch.

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A 200-Lines-of-C VM

UXN - 8-Bit VM in 200 Lines of C
Source: https://100r.co/site/uxn.html

Everyone has got an opinion nowadays. Nevertheless there are not enough opinionated people. The creators of uxn seem to be the epitome of opinion. They realized, that we have a fundamental problem with complexity, maintainability, efficiency and use of resources, especially energy.

There seems to be a growing movement towards simplicity and uxn is definitely a role model here. The 100r.co team rebuilt a number of their own tools on top of their VM, after porting & abandoning them on Electron. As a result they got a number of programs, which can be executed on new platforms and architectures just by porting that beautiful lightweight VM.

Sounds like what WASM should be, but better.

If you ever wanted to get into meaningful, low level, 8bit assembly programming, here you go.

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Don't Read

Retro Computing Kits
Source: https://unsplash.com

Really, do not read this one from John Kennedy unless you are single, have no kids and no job. Would be an advantage, if you did not live under a bridge though. Otherwise you might have trouble checking out John's compilation of thoughts, memories and digital gem stones on his gh-pages branch.

We just refer to the section of Retrocomputing Kits here. If you do not find your 8-bit summer project here, then you also do not find a grain of sand on a beach.

Be warned.

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Polyglot Assembly

Polyglot Assembly
Source: https://vojtechkral.github.io/blag/polyglot-assembly/

Assembly is not the lowest possible level for programming a computer, that is microcoding. But assembly is so much fun if you just want to give your bored brain some fresh, green, healthy and life-extending super food.

Vojtech Kral did something special, something seemingly impossible. He created assembly code, that can run on multiple architectures. 😲

Of course, he is not David Copperfield. David Copperfield is David Copperfield. But there is a trick.

Go, read and find out.

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Sort Bubble You Do

RISC-V - Assembly Algorithms
Source: https://unsplash.com

No that was not Yoda in the headline. Just my bubble sort implementation going to hell. Don't you sort your headlines? Ok, ok, Seriously.

Stephen Marz is so cool, sheep count him before they go to bed. And if you are not familiar with Donald E. Knuth's The Art of Computer Programming series, then Stephen covers your butt. At least a very, very, very small part of it.

He implements some of the most fundamental algorithms in RISC-V assembly. Why? Because he can. And because he teaches computer science courses. At the university of Tennessee in Knoxville. Incredible.

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Mr. MiSTer

Mr. MiSTer - Fun with FPGAs
Source: https://youtu.be/cGqzAY-raUo

The MiSTer FPGA Setup is special in so far, that with it's simulated cores it can bring a whole bunch of retro systems to live again. Jeremy from Jeremy's Retro Bar created a worthwhile introduction, which we quite enjoyed to watch. Thinking of buying and old system? Watch this and think again.

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Nintendo Mario Bros - Revision 2020

Mario Bros Handheld - Revival 2020
Source: https://youtu.be/Rsi8p5gbaps

This one passed under our radar. Not only the video, but the console. The famous Nintendo Super Mario Bros. Game & Watch handheld console which was released last X-Mas to celebrate the 35th birthday of Super Mario. That is the one thing.

The other is stacksmashing's video where he actually hacks the console. The video is short, but goes into the detail of the process itself. Even if you are not planning to hack some piece of hardware anytime soon…

A must see. Trust us.

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16-Bit Homebrew Pong

Pong on 16-Bit Homebrew Computer
Source: https://youtu.be/u9hq6VfH1bY

When others (like me) still play with their infantile breadboards and jumper wires, the cool kids like Mathis already solder their TTL goodness onto their KiCad-homebrew-self-designed PCBs. And what a beauty.

Mathis built a 16bit system, close to what Ben Eater did with just 8 bits, to play Pong.

Excellent job Mathis. Excellent video.

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UART Madness

UART Madness - 8-Bit Computer with UART Interface
Source: https://youtu.be/aIWupXEGDb0

If you did not commit suicide after the last one, call your mom and dad and say Goodbye.

SLU4 built an 8-bit system with 16-bit address bus. Ok. But he integrated an UART interface for - hold your breath - terminal display, keyboard input and file I/O. He also built a minimal OS, a number of ROM routines, PONG and Tetris for the console and an assembler to build everything.

We can only recommend his series of videos.

You can breathe again. Go cry. And call mom.

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Failed Failure

Failed Collision Detection
Source: https://youtu.be/SqpIcsN0FTI

Imagine your job is to create a collision detection system, and you accidently build a system, that ... prevents collisions at all. Incredible example by Pezzzas Work of ingenious software engineering without the engineering. 👏


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What a collection this week. We had so much fun compiling it for you and we hope, you have at least as much fun while reading and watching it.

Please give us feedback. We are real humans. We love to communicate. Drop us a mail. Use our new "Suggest" feature on the site. Send us a carrier pidgeon.

Would not it be great, if your project was part of one of our next emails? Go, create something over the weekend. Start with small steps and enhance afterwards. We would love to see it.

Take care

Jan & Bastian

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