Just the signal, not the noise

Hello 8bit'ers,

Do you enjoy the Its-Friday-Holiday-Feeling™ already? We seriously hope so, because we do.

Quick note before we get into the details of this issue. There will be no 8bitnews in the next week. Bastian is still traveling and I go into holidays too. So the next 8-bit-love magazine will only touch down in your inbox September the 24th.

In the meantime there are plenty of things you could spent your time with. Dust off your Amiga and C64. And should you still own that 386er, get it up and running. You will need them.

We hope you enjoy issue #16, with #17 we return to our weekly schedule.

Don't Miss

Worlds Fastest 68000 CPU

Vampire Accelerator Boards
Source: http://www.apollo-core.com/

Already 34 years ago (😳) Commodore announced the Amiga 500 at the 1987 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The rest is history. 34 frigging, solid years of history and the beast is still alive.

Who owned an Amiga, loved the Amiga. The sound and graphics capabilities were outstanding and quickly the machine became one of the go-to platforms for gamers. The Motorola 68000 microprocessor ran at a whopping 7 dot something MHz, depending on whether you had the PAL or NTSC version.

The machine was just a joy and represented the start into the 32-bit era. The 68000 came with 32-bit wide registers and internal databus, but parts of the architecture were still only 16 or 24-bit wide. That changed with the 68020 (now fully 32-bit), the 68040 (fully pipelined) and the 68060 (superscalar) variants of the architecture. However, finally the IBM PC won the hearts of the consumer for the one or the other reason (I don’t get) and that is the world we live in today.

But some people simply do not want to accept that fact. We could hardly be more pleased. The Apollo Team around their head Gunnar von Boehn should be known to most Amiga afficionados. They develop and produce improved replacement hardware for the various Amiga models and just released, what they call the Worlds fastest 68k.

Of course based on an FPGA the team seems to have hit the bull's eye. If you still own the 'girlfriend', have a look at their site. They provide a number of interesting accelerator boards.

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Turrican II For Amiga AGA

Turrican II - Amiga AGA Version
Source: https://www.youtube.com/c/Saberman

We stick with the Amiga for a moment. Thinking back, and putting yourself in that time, what were the titles that really made an impression on the Amiga? There were plenty, but Turrican was definitely one of them.

The initial version was developed by Manfred Trenz (who btw. was also responsible for Gianna Sisters on the C64). The graphics and level design was beautiful  and outstanding, but what made the game super cool, was the soundtrack by the famous Chris Hülsbeck. 🎵

For many the Turrican series is a perennial favorite, and there have been ports and sequels to the original game. The PC version of Turrican II was special in so far, that it supported more than the 32 colors of the Amiga.

And that was reason enough for an individual named Saberman, to back-port the PC version of Turrican II to the Advanced Graphics Architecture (AGA) of the Amiga and release a demo.

You still love Turrican? Check out the article at indieretronews and see for yourself. 

Happy blasting! 💥

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MS-DOS H(e)aven
Source: https://www.microsoft.com/

In the mid-90s many switched from 8 and 16-bit platforms to the IBM PC. I remember very vividly when I tried to get the voxel based Comanche up and running on my Dad’s business PC and completely screwed up the autoexec.bat and config.sys files. What a drama - the machine did not boot no more and I had no clue, how to fix it. 🤷‍♂️

But evolving hardware, plenty of better and better games as well the availability of Linux cemented the PC’s success for me personally. Still, there were plenty of MS-DOS based titles that justified a dual boot system with Linux and MS-DOS 6.22.

And there is software development going on even today. Of course, MS-DOS counts as 'retro' and there is a community pushing out new titles from time to time.

Sledge is one of the curators. His platform DOSHaven is a neat collection of MS-DOS based indie titles and worth having a look at. Don’t expect expensive, shiny mega titles, but you will find at least some pearls over there.

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Ahead of the Wave

Simple CPU On An FPGA

Verilog CPI On A FPGA
Source: https://unsplash.com/

Old is the new new, right? When Ben Eater started to work on his 8-bit breadboard computer in 2015, it was an old and outdated design, but still new to most of us. As much as Ben’s productions are outstanding, there have been plenty of people before, who designed and developed 8-bit architectures and CPUs. And this time we have found one, that has gone unnoticed so far.

Ivan Sergeev is a FPGA engineer with seemingly lot’s of spare time. 🕖 If you have a look at his personal projects page, you will find a number of interesting things, not only related to hard- and software development.

One of Ivan’s project stuck with us. A simple 8-bit CPU in ~440 lines of Verilog. Check that one out!

If you played with Ben Eaters 8-bit or 6502 projects, Verilog or VHDL on an FPGA are the next logical step. And Ivan’s project is a perfect introduction, because it is simple, yet complete. It comes with the CPU implementation itself, a test bench, an assembler in Python as well as an example program.

The very well organized source will give you a perfect introduction to FPGA programming. Have a look, you will like it!

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Combian 64 V3.5.3

Combian 64
Source: https://cmaiolino.wordpress.com/

You gave away your Commodore64? No emotion is as strong as regret, tell me. 😭 So if you wanna get back into the game (literally), there are plenty of options. You can buy yourself a used one and have it polished and re-cap’ed. Go for it. Best option.

But you can also buy a brand new machine based on an emulator. Some of those are pretty cool and resemble the Commodore feeling quite nicely. Of course you can also just download and run an emulator on your shiny Gigahertz box and be happy with it.

But there is another option. Check out the latest release of Combian 64. That is a Linux distro for the Raspberry PI with the VICE emulator preinstalled. And since it works properly with the cheap Raspberry 400 you can build yourself a still emulated but hardware based C64 replacement, which works quite accurately.

Carmelo Maiolino the developer and maintainer releases new versions of Combian once in a while. The latest release is version 3.5.3 and Steven Combs aka retrocombs gives you a full rundown of the installation process in his video.

Quite an option. Happy tinkering.

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Artist & Computer

Artist & Computer Book
Source: https://unsplash.com/

From time to time we stumble upon a book, that is just too good, not to mention. This time the find of the week is Artist & Computer from Ruth Leavitt.

The book - which went in press in 1976 already - is available legally online at atariarchives.org and guides you through relationships between artist and computers. The author compiled a bigger number of interviews with artists of that era, that somehow make use of math, computers and science to create art.

You will find some impressive and still valid concepts in there and eventually plenty of inspiration for your next retro project. Take a look.

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HDMI Output For Amigas

HDMI Output For Amigas
Source: https://youtu.be/689hvAVBELI

Adrian from Adrians Digital Basement oftentimes finds and tests new hardware, that makes a real difference for retro friends and lovers.

This time Adrian puts a RGB2HDMI converter for the Amiga 2000 and 3000 under the X-Ray. It’s actually a bit of a journey, but as always it is a joy to watch. Wanna see an Amiga 2000 connected via HDMI? Be prepared, the results are astounding. Give the video a try.

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Commodore C64D?

Commodore C64D?
Source: https://youtu.be/dTZonuUtbXw

'On the menu today …' I love that intro sentence! Christian Simpson aka Perifractic has a special one this time. He purchased a Commodore 64, but seemingly a very special one.

Is it the mysterious C64D? Book the cosy spot on your couch, take the iPad, relax and enjoy the latest video, which will definitely answer this question.

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C64 GFX Tricks

C64 GFX Tricks
Source: https://youtu.be/DQpLAIkNVLE

It is impressive, what programmers in the 80s achieved with so little. The graphics capabilities of the Commodore 64 were not bad at the time. Quite the contrary. Still, compared to machines like the Amiga, the C64 was quite limited.

Nevertheless there are games, that really push the limits and some of them seem to go beyond. Sharopolis gets into the nitty gritty details of multiple layer parallax scrolling, which should not be possible on a C64. Still it is.

An interesting video with an interesting twist.

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Karatsubas Fast Multiplication

Karatsubas Fast Multiplication
Source: https://youtu.be/cCKOl5li6YM

If you ever worked on a low level CPU design, an FPGA or built your own ALU, then you might have come across the problem of multiplication. A naive approach has a complexity of O(N²). There seems to be no way around it.

That is also what the russian mathematician Kolmogorov believed. Until … one of his students came up with a different method and actually a reduced complexity. His name was Karatsuba. (Does it ring?) Why is this so interesting? Because it makes multiplication faster. In software and in hardware.

A Gentleman going by the name Nemean looks at the problem in very much detail as well as very high quality.

Take a look at the video, it is quite interesting.

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That was a colorful mix this week. We hope you liked it and found something of interest!

When we started 8bitnews, we were not sure, whether we would find enough material for a weekly magazine. As it turned out, the community is just bringing up more than enough. And that is lovely. Still, if you find a topic or want us to write about your latest project, please contact us, and let us know.

And one more aside. We are in holidays, our infra is not. So sharing the link to 8bitnews in the meantime will still work 😉. Feel free to make use of it.

We will be back. In your inbox. September the 24th.

In the meantime take care. Build something cool. Speak about it!

Jan & Bastian

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