Just the signal, not the noise

Hello 8bit'ers,

there are 53 Fridays in a typical year, and believe it or not, we just hit one - again. Its. A. Miracle.

The summer is definitely here, people are in holidays, traveling, relaxing, doing nothing or not so much. Still, there is some news worth sharing, and we found a number of articles, resources and videos, which you hopefully enjoy.

What else is going on, while the Russians just decided to build their own RISC-V CPUs? Well, an original and pristine copy of Super Mario 64 sold at an auction. For a whopping - hold your underpants - $1.5m! That is, how one sets priorities.

At the same time Tag Heuer released a limited edition of the Connected wristwatch as a tribute to Mario Bros. You guessed it: sold out. So it seems, we still have to tinker with our old Casios in the meantime.

However, we are happy to present Issue #08 of 8bitnews.io to you. We seriously hope you enjoy it, there will never be another issue #08 again. Ever. If there are any reasons for complaint, please … just contact us.

And should you currently work on something, that could be part of our next issue, please drop us an email or use our suggest form to get in contact with Bastian or myself.

In the meantime just enjoy the warm whether in the northern hemisphere and the cold down below.

Don't Miss

Your very own Apple ][ plus

Your very own Apple ][ plus
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Bilby

Every once in a while, there is a classic coming up again. And if you are one of the lucky ones, who grew up with an Apple ][, I don’t have to argue here, what an extraordinary machine Apple brought to the light of the astonished public here in 1977. It really took off a year later as one of the world's first highly successful mass-produced microcomputers and it laid the foundation for later successes like the Macintosh. A MOS6502 at a clock rate of 1.023 MHz powered the machine. Another classic inside a classic so to say. Fully 6502 compatible CPUs are produced by Western Design Center until today, therefore it is only fair to state that the - in today's sense - very simple architecture is still kind of up to date. And it receives a lot of love - especially in the retrocomputing community. 🤟

So in 2007 it happened, that Stephen A. Edwards reimplemented the Apple ][ plus hardware components in VHDL and ran it on an Altera DE2 FPGA board. Six days ago, Feng Zhou decided to follow in Edwards' footsteps and repeat the experiment, but this time based on Xilinx hardware - the PYNQ-Z1 FPGA board. You get nearly the full 70’s experience here, since the FPGA board comes with HDMI video output, 3.5mm line-out jack, PS/2 keyboard input and the ability to switch between color and monochrome mode.

If you want to resurrect the goodness of this 70's machine as well, you will find all necessary sources on Feng's github repo. And since FPGAs are amongst the most versatile pieces of hardware, I am sure, that there are some other very interesting things that can be implemented on this FPGA also. 👩‍💻

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Brainfuck in only 231 Bytes!

Please don't beat me up, I can't help the title. 🤬 The creator of this quite esoteric little language - Urban Müller - is to blame here. Yes, the Swiss are just known for their (straaaaaange) humor ... Brainfuck is a language, that most CS students stumble upon in year one. First they smile, then they don’t. BF is not easy to learn, let alone write, or debug. The language, that has quite a little more of history, comes with just 8 symbols - so I guess, no huge manual here 😬.

The goal of the creator was to write one of the smallest possible compilers for a Turing complete language. Achieved. Congrats! Currently, however, Dr. Brian Robert Callahan proudly holds the winner's cup, his implementation of a working BF compiler is just 231 bytes in size!

What a feat. And for full transparency, the title is somehow double-fu$%§0. Brian actually managed to bring the size down to 210 Bytes after the release of his article. No matter, whether you know BF already or not, Brian's article is a wonderful lesson and a resource to marvel at absolutely worth your time. Enjoy the HN find of the week.

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A Huge Dwarf

TinyPICO - A Huge Dwarf
Source: https://www.tinypico.com/

Product recommendations always feel smelly, but rest assured, that there is no sponsorship behind ANY of our articles. Should there be any in the future, you can be absolutely sure, we will let you know beforehand!

The following gives us even less of a headache because both hardware and software are completely open source. And TinyPICO is just outstanding. It is an ESP32 based development board, that is so small, you will not believe it. Still, it comes with a huge list of onboard features like (not exhaustive) a 32Bit Dual Core RISC-V ESP32 MCU at 240MHz, Wifi, Bluetooth, 4MB SPI Flash, 4MB PSRam and 14 GPIO Pins broken out. Considering that this board measures only 18x32mm and comes with a Micro-B or USB-C port, it's almost magical. I mean, look how small this thing is! Still enormously capable and programmable in MicroPython as well as C.

This certainly very hard piece of work by Seon Rozenblum is available since this week. Should you plan some hardware project this summer, give TinyPICO a read. Especially the ESP32 which for example also powers the Nintendo Game & Watch is very interesting. Not only because of it’s RISC-V architecture, but especially because of it’s super low power consumption.

Nice device.

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Planck Scale

Planck Scale
Source: https://www.zsa.io/planck/

Some people have a sense for a great product. And when one comes to the other, they also have good taste in names. Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck was a german theoretical physicist, who - amongst other things - is known for his postulation of the 'Planck Length' - the smalltest possible length in our universe … believe it or not, quantum physics says so. Period. ⚛️

And in stark contrast to Max Planck's parents, Jack Humbert is one of those gentlemen who seem to have the aforementioned good taste in naming. Jack and companions just released the Planck EZ. Go watch and let that sink in.

Since you registered to our digital magazine, it is fair to assume, that your finger musculature is probably one of the most stressed in your body, at least during working hours. The keyboard is the most important interface for human interaction with a machine. Hence design and cleverness of that device dramatically impacts productivity. And we all want to be productive during our 4 hour work week, don’t we 🤡.

This is the second product in that email and therefore I do not want to stress this any further but say: Have a look and decide for yourself. I guess, you will like it.

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Ahead of the Wave

Your Career Shortcut

Algorithms & Datastructures - Full Course
Source: https://unsplash.com

I am quite sure, you have some great plan for the summer. I can also imagine that you are carrying around quite mature plans to take over world domination from the fall. Plan to apply at Google? 👌 I guess you just packed the 5kg of the paperback book series The Art of Computer Programming by Donald E. Knuth right next to the underpants in your travel backpack. You did not? You better should have, because algorithms and data structures is, what 80% of your upcoming interview will be about. Knowledge of this separates the wheat from the chaff. And you want to be the wheat, right?

Then I have good news for you! Scrap the books. Not literally of course. To be honest, they belong to the 100 best books ever written in this universe, but this time you can take a shortcut.

freeCodeCamp in cooperation with Treehouse offers a free and fully fledged 5 hours 22 minutes and juicy 8 seconds course on …. Algorithms & Datastructures.

If you don't take it with you, it's your own fault. And this time it fits on your phone. 0kg. (Unless you count the electron mass, bean counter.)

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Machine Code What?

Machine Code What?
Source: https://feertech.com/legion/software/game/2021/06/10/game-from-scratch-03.html

We mentioned the untraceable creator of Legion CPU already in Issue #05. And she / he was up to creating a game from scratch in old school assembly. Meanwhile this credible person continued the series and added the next part. Having some 6502 assembly knowledge under your belt, will be helpful in all situations in life. (That one time at Boy Scout camp 🏕 in 1983, me and the 'Friends of the Sun' only survived because I was able to use my 6502 knowledge to ... oh I better leave that for another email.)

If you enjoyed the start of series, head over to the blog and continue your journey. You know … all situations in life 🤓.

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Pedal to the Metal

The Anatomy of a Machine
Source: https://chelseatroy.com/2021/07/12/compilers-1-anatomy-of-a-machine/

A compiler is the piece of software that ingests another piece of software, squeezes it through one or more internal pieces of software, and then outputs another piece of software ... or something along those lines. 😵‍💫

Do you remember your compiler construction lessons? Enjoyed them? Who seriously does is Chelsea Troy. In her first post of an upcoming series titled Anatomy of a Machine Chelsea takes us on a wonderful journey down to the metal.

Compiler or no compiler, there is plenty to refresh or plenty to learn here. Read - it is entertaining - bookmark and come back later. I am excited and waiting for her next post already.

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Source: https://www.instructables.com/Nintoaster-Build/

Feel like tinkering? Still have your NES somewhere in the attic? If that was two times 'Yes' then you win the grand prize only if you also find an old toaster at home. And the grant prize is … whoop, whoop … a Nintoaster!

I can not imagine, how I was able to cope with life and everything before Nintoaster. What Ryan Daws delivers here is crunchier than my slice of toast this morning.

If you love to build stuff and are a Nintendo fan, then this might be the project for one of the upcoming weekends. Go, check it out.

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Source: https://youtu.be/zprSxCMlECA

If you have not seen this one already, you disconnected from social media the last two weeks, right? Good for you!

Even better: You did not miss this gem either. Matthias Kramm presents the pure definition of NERDism. Had a C64? 1541 Floppy drive? Monitor? Remove the C64 from the equation and you are left with …? Exactly, essentially close to nothing that could be used for a demo.

Matthias will prove you wrong, and you will love it, check it out.

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Ben Eater - USB HELO
Source: https://youtu.be/N0O5Uwc3C0o

And he is back. I am sure, you have seen it already. Apologies, we still have to mention it here. Ben Eater just resurfaced with his latest video about how USB device discovery works. As always: high quality education with a good splash of entertainment. I wonder where this video series will lead us?

Ideas? Let us know.

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Breadboard VGA

Breadboard VGA
Source: https://youtu.be/A9b6BdymlyE

There are a number of people who took up the baton and continued somewhere, where Ben Eater left off. (Guilty.) We did not cover George Foot yet, but that is really not fair. George continued the VGA implementation on a breadboard, and boy did he nail it.

Not only did he increase the possible resolution of the machine with nearly every video in the playlist. The latest video continues the series with sprites.

 Seriously impressed George. Please go ahead.

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Z80 Assembly

Z80 Assembly
Source: https://youtu.be/eWhUfsc8rZo

Do you know Matt Heffernan already? Whether or not, you might like this one. Matt is very much into retrocomputing and on his YouTube channel you might find numerous videos for a long weekend without the missus and the children. 🎊

In this weeks video Matt gets into the details of Z80 assembly programming which is quite enjoyable. Whether you own a ZX Spectrum or other Z80 based machine, does not matter. The video is what I like to call 'edutainment'.

Decide for yourself.

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Source: https://youtu.be/TthFh27Mx5k

The last one for today nearly ended up in our news section. A NES emulator for the SNES. Yes. It is possible. Of course only in the NES emulator, but see for yourself. The story behind it is quite impressive. Especially the time and effort that the creator put into the project.

The whole thing is open source, and Myself086 put up the whole codebase on github.

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And that’s it for this week. As always we had a lot of fun compiling this issue. We hope you like it.

Still it is very important to us, to stay connected. If you did not like anything about this issue, please contact us. You can always reply to that email and reach us both directly. In addition you can use our suggest feature if you like.

We are more than happy, if you find a topic that we could cover in the next week. So feel free to also contact us with some hot content.

Enjoy the geekend. Create something. Speak about it.

Take care.

Jan & Bastian

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