Just the signal, not the noise

Hello 8bit'ers,

Summertime, and the living is easy 🎧… especially since it is Friday! Yeah. Let me repeat that for all those living in the southern hemisphere.

Wintertime, and the living is … sorry! I can literally see the snow in front of your house. So sorry! See the positive side of things. You can … go skiing ⛷, have a gluhwine and enjoy the sauna! I mean, that is something, isn’t it? ☃️

For all those, who have the sauna outdoors every day for a few weeks now, let’s make the best out of it and enjoy possibly holidays or at least the weekend with some really cool geek projects.

And we compiled a few for you this week. Especially due to the reason, that the human brain works best in a temperature range, that we currently don’t see very often, we keep it easy this weekend. Even if our current issue looks a bit more like gaming, it is not really. In fact it is more about nerding and we seriously hope, you will like the topics.

A little bit of DIY hardware, lot’s of really impressive 8-bit software and a number of videos just to relax and enjoy. And by the way:

We hope you enjoy issue #11. 

Don't Miss

Build Yourself A DEC Mini

Quite surely you remember the DEC Programmed Data Processor (PDP) series machines. The PDP-11 was not uncommon in universities in the 80s and 90s and I remember when friends and I - all studying CS - stood devoutly in front of such a machine, unknowingly admiring the genius of the engineers who built this series of thoroughly significant apparatus’ back in the days.

Then we went ahead and played Quake all night! 🎮

Lorenzo Herrera must have had similar experiences, because his kind of humor is right up my alley. What he presents on decmini.com is the DEC Mini and let me quote:

The long-awaited new DEC Mini is the latest iteration of the DEC1 business computers […] is fully IBM-PC compatible, offers extreme upgradability and packs unprecedented high-end specifications […] up to 4 processors at 1.500 MHz, up to 8.192 Megabytes of RAM, …

I better stop here. You need to check this yourself, because it is no joke. You can not buy the machine as a product, but you can build it yourself. And should you still be searching for a summer project … you are welcome! 😜

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C64 Compendium

Retro computers and consoles have one thing in common. They are 'retro'. You might replace that word by 'old' or 'outdated' but if you actually look at the communities behind these pieces of burning inventiveness of the 70s and 80s, you find quite the opposite.

There are strong and growing communities of fans who, regardless of any age of a particular hardware, produce content such as books, videos, programs and games to this day.

For some of these plastic boxes filled with silicon chips you find more, for others less and Gregory Nacu decided to extend the already overwhelming universe of Commodore64 material by a great deal.

His C64 Afterlife Guide is super fresh, comes with a bright and inviting design and summarizes all important facts about this machine not only for enthusiasts, but also for beginners in an excellent way. 

You still have a C64 catching dust at the attic? Planning to buy one? Definitely check this out.

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The Old / New Apple ][ Journal

In 1977, Apple introduced the Apple ][ to the public at the Westcoast Computer Faire. What followed, went down in history as the world's first highly successful mass-produced microcomputer. Chances are, you remember.

Chances are, you own an Apple ][. And chances are, you do not know Juiced.GS already.

This quarterly Apple ][ magazine dates back to - relax you muscles - 1996!

Steven Weyhrich and a number of team members produce and publish 4 issues every year. Ever since. Until today!

That ended up in my personal Dictionary of Awesome™ under 'Persistence'. (Before I had a pic of my grandma constantly hitting F5 on an eBay auction 2 days straight … the auction already being over.)

But you know, what is the best? They deliver the magazine to your doorstep personally! Service. Economy. 

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Ahead of the Wave

Monkey Island™ Sound w/o Monkey Island!

Monkey Island Sound - Guybrush For All Mankind
Source: https://unsplash.com/

We love space. We also love Guybrush Threepwood. Both are seemingly unrelated and if you're wondering how we're going to get our act together here, it's simple: Thanassis Tsiodras! Makes sense? 🤪

No? Yes! 

Thanassis is actually an engineer at the European Space Agency - ESA 📡. And he loves Guybrush as much as he loves his nieces and nephews, who he built something for. Something special.

His masterpiece about The Monkey Island™ PC-Speaker music player is something, that you will definitely enjoy reading. This is nerdism at it’s best and you will learn a ton while reading how Thanassis brings the original Monkey Island™ soundtrack onto a tiny, tiny ATTiny85 with only 512 bytes of RAM and 8kB of flash! 

What.An.Achievement. Tip to the hat Sir!

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The Machine You Fantasized About - Pico8

I guess you know the famous South Park 3-phase success plan. Phase 1: collect underpants. Phase 2: (ehhhm). Phase 3: Profit!

zep.p8 aka Joseph White definitely collected his underpants (I guess) and definitely profited. But rightfully so, because not only did he build a fantastic piece of software (the ehhhm part) that many call a fantasy console. He and his company lexaloffle also kicked off a movement towards retro gaming and retro programming.

The only-virtually existing machine he built, is called Pico8. And I beg your pardon if you know Pico8 already, the project is around for a few years now. Nevertheless, there is at least a greater than zero probability, that you did not come across it yet. You better correct that! Now. 👈

What you will find is not simply an emulator for a non-existing console. It is a whole retro-coding environment which can be run on Windows, Mac, Linux, a RaspPi and … a browser!

There are literally hundreds if not thousands of games available to be played online. Free of charge.

Don’t feel like gaming today? Download, start and have a sprite running around your screen in literally 3 minutes. Pico8 comes with a console, a code editor, a sprite creation tool, a map editor, a sound creator and a tracker. And it takes you merely minutes to grasp and master their functionality. In no time you find yourself coding a first example to cycle the background color of your screen 60 times a second. 🖥

There is a good starting point for your Pico8 adventures and if you shy away from the the $14.99 purchase, read on, we cover a fantastic open source alternative down below.

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TIC80 - A Better Pico8?

When there is something good, then there are clones 👯‍♂️. (Clones, not 🤡.) But oftentimes they don’t even come close to the original. The situation is quite different with TIC-80 - an alternative to Pico8.

TIC-80 is open source, free of charge and comes with nearly the same set of features than Pico8 does. What differentiates TIC-80, is, that it does not want to be a console, but a virtual computer. What the Tic80 Team and community around this project deliver here, is outstanding. As with Pico8 you are up and running and find yourself in the console of the machine in no time. There is a huge library of programs, demos and games, that you can download and inspect the source code of.

And when speaking about source code, TIC-80 - in contrast to Pico8 - can be programmed in Moonscript, Javascript, Wren, Fennel, Squirrel AND Lua.

Not only can you build something, you can easily bundle your gem of creation into kind of an executable for all platforms with a simple export command. Send the bundle to a friend. See jaws dropping. 😱

Try a cd tic80.com in the console, followed by load 92_character_dithered_plasma.tic and run.

You will love it!

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PicoCAD - 8Bit 3D Modeler

And a last one. Can you imagine Blender at a resolution of only 128x128 pixels, just 16 colors, 3 screens for X, Y and Z-axis mesh manipulation plus one for realtime rendering? Add support for PNG based textures and you arrive in Johan Peitz’ crazy idea of a 3D CAD tool for Pico8.

You can download his creation picoCAD at itch.io and use it free of charge. It comes bundled with the Pico8 runtime and is available for all platforms, that are supported by Pico8 itself.

Forget the mind-boggling limitations for a moment. You will have so much fun while creating your first 3D models without any startup time. You can color them, add dither based lighting and even apply your own textures via simple PNG files. When done, you can export a 360 degrees rotating, animated gif or use your 3D model … elsewhere.

Of course, more a gimmick than anything else. But one that will make you cry yourself to sleep tonight. Why did not I come up with that idea? 

Awesome work Johan!

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First of a kind - Build an Apple 1

Hopefully an old acquaintance. The 8-Bit Guy enters his own Youtube stage once again, but this time with a real challenge. The build of an Apple 1!

This gentleman has long since earned a place of honor in the 8bit Hall of Fame. And for a reason. He comes up with high quality content on a regular basis, not only on Youtube, but also on his own platform and Facebook page.

Don’t know him already? Subscribe and enjoy … the Apple 1 story is to be continued, but definitely worth your time.

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Ben Eater: n-key Rollover

And he strikes again. Ben Eater went silent on his twitter and his homepage deserves an update regarding all the videos he published during the last year. But I could not care less, because he continues to do, what he does best. 

Teaching microelectronics. This time he continues his series about how modern USB keyboards work. Complex stuff broken down into easily digestible chunks of knowledge.

As always a must-see.

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Hello World in ZX Spectrum Assembly

We had Matt Heffernan in the show already a few weeks back. This time we had to include him again, because his latest video about the Z80 will get you into assembly programming in 17 minutes and 8 seconds.

Don’t believe me? You better do. And even if the Z80's assembly might look a bit alien to you (Hello 65'ers) Matt’s introduction and Hello World example are worth watching.

Don’t have a ZX? No worries, just use an emulator as Matt does. Have fun!

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History of Graphics

Since our fun section is all about enjoying life, the universe and everything but 42, here is a stream of frames and pixels about … frames and pixels. Literally. 

Steward Brown goes into the details of graphics and sails through the seas of history, starting with huge monochromatic pixels and ending in our high end, shader driven mega-pixel gaming gfx world of modern day games. 

This video comes with enormous production value and is not to be missed. Go check it out.

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Simple Problem, No Solution

We were a bit off topic here and there today. We beg your pardon if not everything is strictly 8bit. On the one hand, that's not our claim, but on the other hand, we don't want to deprive you of content that is absolutely worth seeing, and at least has a strong connection to what we all love so much. Retro computers.

If you don’t know Derek Muller and his channel Veritasium yet, plan a few weekends away from family and friends now. Binge watching! This gentleman is one of the main pillars of Youtube itself. 

His latest creation is about a seemingly simple math problem, that is … unsolved yet. Who needs TV? I don’t.

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And here we conclude this weeks issue #11. As always, we hope you enjoyed reading it as much as we enjoyed writing it.

We repeat this again and again, but let us repeat it again: Feel free to contact us with feedback. Anything you would like to see in the next issue? Drop us a mail. Just respond to this one. Whatever it is, we always like to talk to likeminded people. And should you have criticism, go ahead. We’d love to hear from you as well.

If you still enjoy 8bitnews it would mean the world to us, if you supported us and shared a link to 8bitnews.io with your friends and neighbors, your pizza delivery guy, the janitor, the gardener … you get it.

Other than that, take care, enjoy the spare time and as always: Build something and speak about it.

Jan & Bastian

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