Just the signal, not the noise

Hello 8bit'ers,

After the newsletter is before the newsletter. And boom 💥 … it is Friday! Lucky you, because you are just reading the next issue of our retro tech magazine.

Of course we touch a number of topics worth reading, but behind the horizon, somewhere at the end of the 8bit rainbow different things happened.

Some scientists speculated, that electromagnetism is an inherent property of spacetime. What a revelation! Industrial Light and Magic - as it was in the past - will never be no more, but at least Disney offered a contract to the ingenious deep fake artist Shamook and Stanford scientists detected light from behind a black hole for the first time. 

If that's not enough to remember that one week in the summer of 2021 for the rest of your life, we've rounded up a few side topics from 8bit land.

Enjoy issue #10. 

Don't Miss

An Exceptional Device - IBM Emulation on ESP32

An Exceptional Device - IBM Emulation on ESP32
Source: https://unsplash.com/

Emulation is a topic. Always. It must have been 1991 that I was amazed by a MS-DOS Emulator for the Amiga which allowed me to run Borland Turbo Pascal on my beloved Amiga 500. It was so slow that I do not even want to imagine it nowadays, but it worked. The next quite similar experience was the introduction of VMWare for Linux - free at the time - which allowed to run Windows98 on a Linux machine. 😵

Emulation is still a topic, and this week there is more vintage magic going on in ESP32 land. Lewin Day also known as @whatuptkhere just published an article on Hackaday about simulating an IBM PC on an ESP32.

This very impressive feat was actually realized by Fabrizio Di Vittorio who gives us a video with installation instructions and access to the full source on github.

The project is super complete - keyboard, mouse, sound, graphics. And since there is a direct relation to 8bit gaming, that we will come to a bit later in this issue, it was absolutely worth noting.


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Paper Forever - FREEZE64

You love shiny things. Don’t you? I have to admit, I do. Reading an article online - no matter how well written - is a completely different thing compared to the haptics and optics of a printed magazine.

And what beautiful pieces of art we had back in the 80s and 90s with all the computer magazines available. (PowerPLAY I miss you!) Not only do you get a cool physical product, you can stack a pile of it in the bathroom and have wonderful discussions with your significant other on a regular basis 😏.

Vinny Mainolfi to most known as @FREEZE64 has also discovered this gap, and decided to do something for the troubled retro gamer heart (and your bathroom stack).

If you are into the Commodore64, you know his lovely, lovely magazine Freeze64 already. In case not, I put our IBAN at the end of this mail and you can send the monetary equivalent of your gratitude directly via bank transfer 🤑.

It is a commercial product - as always we do not get paid for that - but it is absolutely worth the money in my humble opinion.

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Non-8-Bit Dream - Colour Maximite 2

Selling the following as news should actually be punishable by law. But I'll give it a try anyway, because we only became aware of the project for the first time this week. 😴

My namesake Jan Beta released a video on his Youtube regarding an 8-bit machine which is kind of new and old at the same time. The Colour Maximite 2 Deluxe is the dream of all those who grew up with 8 and 16 bit machines of the 80s and early 90s, and want to finally give back their lives the meaning, they thought they had lost 30 years ago.

Full credit has to go to Geoff Graham who envisioned the machine and built several incarnations of it since 2011. Geoff’s page for the Maximite might (haha) look a bit dated, but park your possible prejudices in another corner for a moment. The Maximite is no 8bit clone, it is actually powered by an ARM Cortex-M7 32-bit RISC and comes with all kinds of modern doodads.

But it resembles numerous ideas of that era and gives you back that 8bit feeling. Check the machine and enjoy Jan’s intro.

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Ahead of the Wave

8-Bit Games On ESP32

The Nintendo Game & Watch - which we covered in past issues already, is powered by an ESP32. With the RISC-V architecture and this tremendous amount of additional peripherals on-chip, it is a fantastic device for more than … just emulating an IBM PC. What about games? 🕹

Lewin Day also wrote a spot-on article about FABGL - a display controller, PS/2 mouse and keyboard controller, graphics library, sound engine, graphical user interface yada, yada, yada developed by Fabrizio Di Vittorio and open-sourced here. Should you consider an ESP32 development board, have a look.

And it gets even more interesting. Kerry Scharfglass aka @Borgel also examined gaming on this little device and documented, how to run your favorite 8bit games on it.

rossumur developed a groundbreaking piece of modern software history - esp_8_bit and presents you Atari 8bit computers, NES and SMS game consoles on your TV with nothing more than a ESP32 and a sense of nostalgia.

Both projects are everything but brand new. Still, they are very relevant if the ESP32 is relevant to you! Question is, are you relevant to the ESP32? 😇

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How Floating Point Works

Some things about computer science seem natural and boring. And who cares about the mathematical representation of floating point numbers in a binary number system. But actually it is something that you stumble upon, should you be part of the I-don’t-need-no-strinking-ARM-or-X86 home-brew CPU builders guild.

Oleksii Trekhleb talking to us on Twitter as @Trekhleb gets you there. In his collection of Javascript Algorithms he dives into the details of exactly that - Binary representation of floating-point numbers.

A supercool and illustrated read to either get into the topic and grow, or just have fun refreshing your existing knowledge.

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Collision Detection & ALF

Collision Detection & ALF
Source: https://unsplash.com/

Imagine the following. An excellently written article created by Nicole Branagan known to many as @nicole_express regarding an interesting problem and … ALF. A dreamteam for a lazy Friday afternoon you think? Jackpot! 🎰

Nicols' article is about the interesting problem of collision detection and ALF. 🙀

It does not matter, whether you are into game programming or not. Trust us, you will enjoy the read and grow personally reading this.

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The Last Analog Motion GFX System

Believe it or not, there was a world before digital electronics. Analog electronics! A topic we usually do not dig into, however more than just interesting. For example: there are satellites in space - today - which run on analog electronics solely. (There are also people still using Betamax tapes. 📼)

But before it gets too off topic, there still is analog electronics alive today, which is impressive. Extremely impressive. In this video the widely reknown channel VICE TV interviewed Engineer Dave Sieg about the last analog motion graphics system that this gentleman is still running in his house.

Sit back, relax and just enjoy this short high quality happening.

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ZX81 Restoration

Spectrum machines are not that rare on eBay. But finding one which is in good condition and intact is quite a challenge.

Your host Neil and his pillion passenger Mark attempt to repair a ZX81 on Neil’s channel RMC - The Cave.

Both brilliantly tackle the machines problems, that most owners face after a purchase. And it is just fun to watch them. Decide for yourself.

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Commodore Business Machines

Robin from 8-Bit Show And Tell becomes a quasi content here. Recently he started to literally pump out more and more quality content. This week it is a video about Commodore Business Machines and their secrets. 

As always, Robin lets the Commodore shine, especially with his background knowledge. Unagitated, informative and simply fun to watch.

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Serial Communication Protocols

Serial com is as old as machines with a two wire cable between them. And of course there are a number of serial protocols, which - and that is might come as a surprise to some - are all still in use today.

And when you tinker with hardware, sooner or later you need to dig into that topic. Lucky you … Andrei Gabriel Anghel running the Youtube channel Electronoobs did you a favor and summarizes all the necessary information in his excellent video at once.

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Atari ST - True Love

I personally was on the Amiga side of things back in the days. Nevertheless, the Atarians where a mighty force and the Atari ST a powerful machine. We did not cover it so far, but decided to change that today. 👾

The unfortunately unknown owner of the Youtube channel TechTangents who is at least known on Twitter as AkBKukU purchased a 520ST and documented it here.

If the ST is your cup of tea, and actually tea is your cup of tea, check this out.

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We hope there was something in here for you this week. We also hope you got some inspiration for your next weekend project, the upcoming summer holiday or just some spare time waiting for you.

If you did not like that issue, please let us know. You can reply to that email or use our suggest feature on the homepage. As you, we learn on a daily basis and we want to make our magazine into something, that you actually like and look forward to.

Consider sharing with friends. Spread the word. Share the Link. Forward this issue. We don’t mind 🤓.

In the meantime enjoy the summer, build something and speak about it.

Take care

Jan & Bastian

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