Just the signal, not the noise

Hello 8bit'ers,

Welcome to Vintage-Friday™!

I guess, we all agree, vintage is cool. What is not so cool, is to be vintage yourself. One of the upsides might be a a youngster offering you a seat in the tube (oh boy 🤦‍♂️), but one of the downsides is, that time seems to pass … just faster. I mean, it’s Friday!

However, this week we have quite a mix for you. The TRS-80 did not get much love from us yet. Let’s rectify that. And besides a number of related articles we share some interesting finds regarding Super Mario, the PlayDate, the MEGA65, the RC2014 …

But you will find it out.

We hope there is something in here for you and you enjoy issue#15.

Don't Miss

Radio Shack

There are a number of company names, that immediately light up the inner retro-80s-goodnes-candle. RadioShack is definitely one of them for many who lived in the US, UK, Australia, Canada or Mexico back in the days. The electronics retailer was founded in the golden 20s of the last century, lasted for a very long time and eventually went bankrupt in 2015.

For someone interested in electronics, entering a RadioShack store was like Christmas and Easter happening the very same day. And in 1977 - only two years after the Altair 8800 - RadioShack sold a fully assembled 8-bit computer, when most microcomputers still had to be soldered together manually: the TRS-80.

In 1980 the TRS-80 Color Computer followed and even if the machines got nicknames like 'Trash-80' they were milestones, playing in the league of a Commodore VIC-20 or Sinclair ZX Spectrum.

Ned Utzig was around at the time. A few days ago he published an article regarding RadioShack, the TRS-80, overpriced 555-timers and the ingenious idea of a 'battery club' …

Ned’s substack is a goldmine. If you loved the RadioShack experience of the 80s, you will feel at home with his article. Enjoy.

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Arctic Adventure

Arctic Adventure
Source: https://unsplash.com/

We stick with the TRS-80 here, and found another hidden gem, which would hardly lure anyone out from behind the warm stove of millions-of-colors-64-bit-handheld-console-gameplay today. Text adventures.

Yes, those games, where all the magic, all the plot, all the gameplay just happened via white ASCII text on a black CRT screen. If that sounds as interesting as the yesterdays newspaper, skip this one. If on the other hand you remember especially titles like the Adventureland games from Scott Adams, then this one is for you.

Harry McCracken was a proud TRS-80 owner back in the days. And since most if not all 8-bit machines of that era came with a BASIC interpreter, he quickly familiarized himself with the language and began writing games.

The Arctic Adventure is one, that he actually finished. And nearly 40 years later he ported the still existing source into a browser playable game. In addition Harry shares his story and besides the wonderful trip back to the 80s you can play his game directly on the article’s page.

Be careful. Time sink ahead.

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PlayDate Easy Peasy SDK

PlayDate PULP - The SDK
Source: https://play.date/

Before we completely get lost in 80s nostalgia today, we pull your brain to the present again, and to the latest events of the week.

The PlayDate from Panic Inc. made some news, again. We covered the console itself way back in issue #05 already, and spoke about the 1-bit graphics last week.

And since we're still intrigued by the console's unusual concept, we'd like to share the latest news.

Say an inner Hello to Pulp.

Neven Mrgan - a designer, game maker and writer involved in the PlayDate development at Panic Inc. gives you an introduction to this brand new SDK for the console. Are you familiar with the development environments of the PICO-8 and TIC-80 machines? It’s kind of like that, but cooler.

Pulp runs in the browser and allows the creation of games even without prior software development knowledge. But we don't want to give too much away. Head over to Neven’s explanation and get all the details.

And if all this is still not enough for you, here is another article. The story of PlayDate gets into the gory details and all the events that Panic Inc. has actually kept secret for so many years. Careful, a long read. 

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Fullscreen Super Mario

Super Mario Bros. - Extrawide
Source: http://www.joshuakgoldberg.com/

Super Mario is one of the icons of 8-bit gaming. Whether you like him and the gameplay or not, there is probably no title in video game history, that had so many ports, successors, mods, clones and fans. Even today you can still buy a brand new device (the Nintendo Game & Watch) which has the original 1985 Super Mario Bros. ROM in it, playable on a modern ESP32 RISC-V design.

And if the following did not come up on Youtube lately, we would never have found it. A fullscreen HTML5 clone of Super Mario Bros. which is special. The version that Josh Goldberg built already back in 2013 is not just a Mario clone.

Besides the fact, that you can play every single map directly, the game comes with a number of funny mods. You can have infinite lives, a dark mode, gradient skies, earthquakes, low gravity, parallax clouds and on and on. The best is, you can create and edit your own levels and save them.

But the one feature, that makes this version of Mario outstanding, is the widescreen ability. Depending on your monitor and resolution, the games viewport is a real …. stretch. See for yourself.

Of course, a takedown notice from Nintendo’s suits waited around the corner early on. And the original domain of the project responds with a 404 only. Still, Josh has a version online, which can be played in every modern browser. And if you scroll down to the fun section, you find a video showing a crazy full level view setup.

Some things simply never get old.

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Linking ROM Routines in Sixty5o2

An operating system for Ben Eaters 6502 Breadboard Computer
Source: https://8bitnews.io/

For those who own the BE6502 and use Sixty5o2 as it's operating system, there is a short update. Today we added a number of changes, that were provided by David Latham. Big Thank You, David!

He realized, that VASM is actually able to spit out addresses of routines and labels during the assembly process. Simply adding a command line switch during the assembly of the bootlader, one can generate a symbol list:

vasm -dotdir -Fbin -L bootloader.lst bootloader.asm -o bootloader.out

This allows to outsource often used routines into the ROM - there is plenty of space. Afterwards one can simply 'link' against these routines, by jumping to their respective addresses from a program im RAM via 'jsr'. Check David's example program for details.

This way you can make use of existing ROM routines easily, as well as add your own ones and keep your programs in RAM small.

If you check that out, please be aware, that we also changed the default behaviour of the mini keyboard. We now assume, that you built the BE6502 according to Ben's schematics and all buttons are tied high normally, and get pulled low when pushed.

Happy hacking!

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Ahead of the Wave

TRS-80 Emulator in the Browser

TRS-80 Emulator In The Browser
Source: https://www.my-trs-80.com/

Do you remember Steve Ballmers Developers, developers, developers…? 🤣 Can I have a meme like that for emulators please?

8-bit machines are such a grateful target for emulation today. And there exist plenty of different emulators for most if not all of those machines from the 80s. They target different platforms but many can be run in a modern day browser.

This is especially true for My TRS-80 built and published by an unknown author. So if you enjoyed our related articles today and if you feel like tinkering with a TRS-80 right now, give it a try.

The site also contains some software like 'Dancing Demon', 'Attack Force', 'Missile Defense' or 'Meteor Mission 2' … I love those game names❣️ All can be loaded into the emu and you are up and running (better gaming) in no time.

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Mega65 Tools on the Mac

Everbody and her grandma are waiting for the MEGA65. You do, right? A few lucky ones could order the devkit and watch the IC daemons release their smoky soul through the transparent shell already. 🔥💨

Steven B. Combs aka retrocombs obviously managed to get his machine through the last few months without any fire damage and recently shared a beautiful article about How to build the MEGA65 Tools on a Mac.

Feels a little bit like a kid, standing in front of a candy shop, having empty pockets. 😫

However, as the release of the first batch of the machine is planned for autumn this year, and since autumn is not too far away anymore, his writeup could help you to ease the pain and prep yourself for the machines arrival. Let’s hope for the best.

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8085 on RC2014

8085 CPU For The RC2014
Source: https://feilipu.me/

Do you remember the RC2014 we spoke about in issue#12? No? Huge problem - head over, we’ll be waiting here for you.

This home-brew is special. Still. And it’s getting better. One of the advantages of the design is the way, the bus is broken out. It allows you to extend the machine with additional 'modules' at any point in time and extend the computer’s abilities just like eating a piece of cake. 🍰

Phillip Stevens aka feilipu did exactly that. I don’t mean the cake. I mean the module. He built one, which allows you to run a 8085 CPU in tandem with the machines Zilog Z80. As you might imagine, there are a number of challenges when trying something like that. Especially when it comes to timing. But Phillip did it, and even better, he wrote a post about it. 

If you are not yet familiar with the RC2014, this might feel a bit off. Should you actually own that very special piece of hardware, the article is definitely for you. Hopefully your collection of But-I-need-that-because-X-justifications™ did not run out of items already! 🤷‍♂️ 

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Fullscreen Mario

BlueTelevisionGames is one of those gentleman, that you wanna spend a gaming night with. A bit crazy but definitely funny. He combines the concept of FullscreenMario with a SUPER Ultra Wide Gaming Monitor. Let me cite him:

'This is so cool!!!'

And it definitely is. It changes all the enemies timing dramatically and combined with the games mods it is worth a few hours of your valuable gaming time. Have a look at the video and decide for yourself.

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Rarest Computers

Do you fancy a little sit-back-and-relax-retrocomputing-education? Don’t remember all those fine machines released in the 80s? NewsmakersNet to the rescue.

The producers behind that video seemingly own a number of vintage computers and hopefully did not spark serious internal discussions when voting for the best 5 of them.

Nothing really to learn here, but who knows, you might see an old friend again 👋.

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The last Commodore?

Commodore as a company is history. Unfortunately the same applies to the brand. But if you look at Commodore’s history in more detail, you’ll find a number of interesting stories especially from the time, the company went south.

The Tech Time Traveller sheds some light onto something that eventually was The last Commodore.

The relaxed style and calm voice make this video a joy, and you might learn a number of things, that you did not know before.

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Long Lost - The Magic Room

At the beginning of the 80s with the rise of 8bit computers Atari wanted to make those machines more accessible to kids. From 1982 up to 1984 they ran summer computer camps in various locations in the US.

Filmmakers Bob Elfstrom and Lucy Hilmer shot a film about at the University of California, San Diego and released it under the name The Magic Room in 1983.

A long lost 18 minute version just resurfaced and was professionally digitized thanks to the efforts of Kay Savetz. He uploaded the video to Youtube where you can enjoy it right now.

If you did not live in that era, try to understand, that these kids grew up in a world without computers, mobile phones and the internet. Whole. New. World!

Fantastic film.

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Breadth First Search Illustrated

Our last one for today is only loosely related, but you will like it. There are several different algorithms to solve a maze. One of them is breadth-first-search.

Matt Henderson a math wiz and google AI researcher implemented a version in Mathematica which is not only beautiful in itself, it creates a graphical output, that will a’maze you. 🥳

Brady Haran - to most known as numberphile - interviewed Matt, and the result can be seen in numberphile’s latest video. Don’t miss it.

I would love to see an assembly implementation on an 8-bit machine!

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One of our readers recently suggested, to send out 8bitnews as a physical copy on 3.5'' disks. 💾 What an idea! We officially love it!

But how to share and spread the word then? Dust off the acoustic coupler and upload the content to a BBS? 🤐

We rather stick to our chosen way of via-the-interwebs-distribution and hope, that makes it way easier for you to spread the word.

Did you know, that your email program has a 'Forward to' button, which allows you to send this very issue to a friend? Revelation? You are welcome. 😉 Technology is awesome. 

Should you discover something that is similarly exciting, please do not hesitate and contact us. You can send us a mail anytime and also use the suggest feature on our site.

We are already looking forward to next week's issue. In the meantime we hope you enjoy the weekend with some retro activity.

Create something. And don’t forget to speak about it.

Take care.

Jan & Bastian

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