Just the signal, not the noise

Hello 8bit'ers,

whheeee .... that was it. The last week just whizzed by with a mix-drink in hand, and didn't even say goodbye before heading into the weekend.

For your personal preparation of the next 2 days we have compiled a bunch of projects and topics that simply belong on the monitor of every retrocomputing enthusiast.

Our current issue is very 6502-heavy, but that will change again with upcoming issues. The topics and projects are all unique, and as always we hope, at least a few are interesting for you.

So let’s start with issue #25. Have fun!

Don't Miss

Dual Screen C64

Commodore 64 Dual Screen Setup
Source: https://unsplash.com/

A separate (color) monitor on a C64 was a real luxury in the mid-80s. If you had one, you were the king on the schoolyard and had a full house in the afternoon until your parents came home from work and kicked the whole bunch out.

The situation turned around a bit, and today there are quite a few solutions to coax especially modern, non-CRT monitors to work with an old school Commodore.

But the project by Ryan K. Brooks is special. Ryan has built a module for the cartridge port, that allows a C64 to operate two(!) monitors. 😳

Yep, dual monitor. 🖥⌨️🖥 

The project - christened VG64 - is open source and Gerber files, Jedec bitstreams and everything else you need, can be found on github.

The module supports two resolutions: 640x480 with one bit per pixel and 320x480 multicolor.

It took me a while to close my mouth. If you feel the same way, watch the short demo video and call the PCB producer of your choice.

Share the signal:

Rosco M68k

Rosco M68k - The brand new old Computer
Source: https://rosco-m68k.com/

You have time and want to tinker with a project one level above 8 bit? The Motorola 68k has always fascinated you, but a Commodore Amiga never made it into your hardware collection?

Then Rosco M68k could be exactly your project. The thing is a single board computer that you have to assemble yourself. Once you are done, the machine can still be expanded. Software loading is possible via UART (using Kermit) with a bootloader. 

What Ross Bamford delivers here in this league, is absolutely worth seeing. A great tinkering project with a high learning factor. The project is open source and all resources can be found on github. In addition the project is also on Tindie.

Definitely something for cold November and December weekends. Heat up your soldering iron.

Share the signal:

Pico-8 Handheld

PICO-8 Handheld Console
Source: https://retrogamecorps.com/

Pico-8 just won't let us go. Once you've fallen in love with the fantasy console, you'll never put it away. We've already looked at alternatives in past issues, but so far we haven't talked about hardware for Pico-8. 

Now Russ from Retro Game Corps has done that for us. 

In his recent article Russ installs Pico-8 on the Raspberry PI based Anbernic RG351P handheld console. At a price of roundabout 85.00 Euros, this piece of hardware is definitely a worthwhile target for such an operation. Especially because - given the small extra charge for Pico-8 itself - you can put thousands of (retro) games in your pocket free of charge.

The build process itself is straightforward and perfectly documented. And even though this is not a product recommendation by us (and as always not sponsored), a look at the article and the accompanying video on Youtube is absolutely worth the time.

Maybe something for your Christmas wish list? 🎅

Share the signal:


MCUME - Multi Computer Machine Emulator
Source: https://github.com/Jean-MarcHarvengt/

You want more? A few more retro systems and consoles supported by the hardware of your dreams? How about a Vectrex, the NES, the Atari 2600, ColecoVision, PC Engine, ZX81, ZX Spectrum, C64, Atari 800 ... should I stop?

No, I don't have a fever.

What Jean-Marc Harvengt has put together, actually supports - depending on the hardware platform chosen - not only the systems mentioned, but a whole bunch more. Hard to believe, isn't it?

M.CU.M.E or the Multi CompUter Machine Emulator by Jean-Marc can be run on MCU boards from the Teensy3.6, 4.0, 4.1, the ESP32 or the Pico. With the Teensy3.6 and 4.1 VGA output is directly supported. For other boards you need an alternative.

The masterpiece of zeros and ones is based on a number of emulators, which Jean-Marc has ported fairly well to the MCUs. The project is stable and also maintained. Such complete solutions for the fan of beloved 8- and 16-bit systems are rare. Tinkering fun is also included. Actually only the chocolate is missing... 🍫

Share the signal:

Cosmic CPU

COSMIC - A Virtual CPU
Source: https://github.com/clbx/

Wow. Simply. Wow. Pretty much everyone involved in retrocomputing will sooner or later be tackle the topic of processor design. Next Level. Understanding how a general purpose CPU actually works, how assembly instructions are implemented by the hardware using microcode, and realizing how an ALU implements all the math based on electrons whizzing around, is akin to enlightenment. Once you have understood this, no technological development will ever get you off track again.

Clay Buxton and Kevin Carman must have thought something similar. 100 stars on Github can't be wrong, and after our first tests, we're just thrilled.

With Cosmic, Clay and Kevin have built a virtual CPU and a complete runtime environment, that allows anyone to see and understand the inner workings of a CPU.

The simulation comes with eight 8-bit registers, an accumulator, 64k of memory and a complete and beautiful GUI that allows writing assembly code, execution, single stepping and debugging in a single interface. A well thought out instruction set, an assembler and the ability to run the whole thing on a Raspberry PI make the project a real stunner.

In a Linux VM the compile process was trouble-free. Remember to recursively clone the project and update the git submodules. On a M1 Mac build for x86_64 via `arch -x86_64 make`. Clay just fixed the source, so it works on BigSur and above. (Big Thx!)

You are a friend of homebrew CPUs? Ben Eater is your best friend? Then you can't miss this project!

Really outstanding work Clay and Kevin!

Share the signal:

Ahead of the Wave

KIM-1 Simulator

KIM-1 Simulator
Source: http://retro.hansotten.nl/

From simulated CPUs we come back to the real thing. Namely to one of our personal favorites - the MOS6502.

In 1976 MOS Technology launched the KIM-1 single board computer more as a demonstration board for the 8-bit chip, but was then very successful in selling the system. No wonder, the possibilities of the 6502 were just fantastic back in the days and the enthusiasts of that time heralded the microcomputer revolution based on this and other competing chips.

Even though today we simply put ten-thousand times more computing power and memory into our pockets, it is real fun to look at those first systems like the KIM-1.

None other than Hans Otten helps us do exactly that. His KIM-1 Simulator is available for download for Windows and the RasPi. Those who install Lazarus can also build the project themselves from source on other platforms.

For those who are already through the fun with Nick Morgan aka SkillDrick here, the simulator makes absolute sense as the next step.

And honestly - what better way to spend your precious and thinly spread spare time, than with a simulation of a 45 year old machine? 🤔

Share the signal:

KIM-1 Battleship

Battleship for the KIM-1
Source: https://github.com/netzherpes/

If you are enthusiastic about the KIM-1 (which I assume you are, since you are also reading this now) then the question of software quickly arises. On the one hand to play around with it and on the other hand to learn something new.

The gentleman named netzherpes comes to our rescue, and shows a heart for real retro gamers. Say Hello to Battleship for KIM-1. And that's really funny, because it's hard to believe, the whole original game printed in hex format fits on less than half an A4 page. Compare that to current multi-gigabyte epics ... but I won't complain. Nothing is as constant as change. 🥳

Corresponding PNGs can be found in the github repo of the game.

Definitely a lot of fun for everyone, who knows the instruction set of the 6502, and wants to comb through the 196 lines of Assembly once. Cool. Thing. This.

Share the signal:


Prog8 - Structured Programming Language for the 6502
Source: https://github.com/irmen/

Another 6502 oriented project comes from Irmen de Jong. If you are familiar with the C64, you know, that besides the usual suspects Basic and Assembly, there are a number of other languages that can be used to give the little 8-bit CPU quite a run for its money.

Really amazing is the Rust compiler we had in issue #17.

But Irmen takes a different approach. Instead of forcing a more or less modern high level language into the tight corset of the 6502, he simply designed a structured programming language for the 6502, 6510 and 65c02 family completely from scratch.

The project named Prog8 has a whole list of advantages. Less code than raw Assembly, high execution speed, modularity but especially the native support of types like 16-bit words, floats and strings makes working with the language a real pleasure.

If you want to stay close to the 6502 hardware, Prog8 seems to be the best alternative besides Assembly at the moment. Nice, easy to read code and still high execution speed were not really congruent to each other until this project arrived.

Current compiler targets are the C64 and CommanderX16 ... uhhh, I said it ... the bad word. 🤫

Share the signal:

Retro Pixels

RetroPixels - C64 Palette Conversion
Source: https://github.com/micheldebree/

And we close the retro round with another 6502 related topic, but this time it's about artwork.

Thinking back to the intro screens of some C64 gems of the 80s, I wish projects like this one had existed back then. But who had 64-bit operating systems, Photoshop and other tooling at that time? 🤷‍♂️

Anyway, Michel de Bree has built the "extended arm" for such an artwork setup and is reaching out towards the C64 with it. We’re talking about a project (surely known to some) called Retropixels.

This nice, little piece of software converts modern image formats to the color space of the Commodore 64. Dithering included. If you don't want to install it locally, you can also use it directly with the web version and give your own artwork the very own charm of the lovely C64 color palette.

Happy Pixeling!

Share the signal:


Ben Eater on Timers

Ben Eater on Timers
Source: https://youtu.be/g_koa00MBLg

Book that spot on the couch, put on your YouTube socks, grab a suitable hot beverage or optionally something alcoholic. He's back.

Ben Eater.

Regularly but unpredictably, videos keep coming from Ben expanding his BE6502 series. And finally Ben returns from the keyboard topic to the actual machine. The topic of his current video is timers. I don't want to give too much away, let's let the maestro speak for himself.

Have fun!

Share the signal:

C64 OS Playlist

C64 OS Playlist
Source: Gregorio Naçu

Gregorio Naçu should be an old acquaintance. If not, check out his C64OS. We also have to thank Gregorio for the tip regarding VG64 (Big Thx!). 

Greogio is dedicated to making the C64 a daily driver with real added value even in 2021. And what an undertaking! In fact he is very successful with it, and even better - he documents most of his successes directly on YouTube.

The current playlist on his account strings together a total of 11 short videos, in which Gregorio presents various tools he built. One can be more than curious how this journey will go. Keep going G!

Share the signal:

PET Sound

Commodire PET Sound
Source: https://youtu.be/txCkpmYd8Kc

The Commodore PET and sound? Yes, it does go together. In 1978 a sound card called "Petunia" was released. And especially because hardly anyone knows the details about it, Chuck Hutchins has thankfully taken on the topic, and gets to the bottom of this little piece of hardware in 16 minutes and 8 seconds. 

Chuck's latest video is absolutely worth watching, not only if you own a PET. Nostalgia, here we come.

Share the signal:

C64 Epyx Games

C64 Summer|Winter|…|Games
Source: https://youtu.be/6pS8-cKSWxM

Between 1984 and 1988 the producer Epyx released a number of sport games for the Commodore 64 including "Summer Games 1&2" ,"Winter Games" ,"World Games", "California Games", "The Games Summer Edition" and "The Games Winter Edition". Games, games games … 😵‍💫

bastichb64k - avowed Epyx fan - has already dedicated an entire video to other Epyx games. This time he takes on the sports titles.

A high quality production that is really fun to watch for half an hour. Especially if you can remember a title or two. 👴

Share the signal:

Railgun Paper Plane Launcher

Railgun Paper Plane Launcher
Source: https://youtu.be/_4TGb3MsSjE

As is so often the case, the last video recommendation of the day is off topic. But that doesn't make it any less fun.

Do you know Railguns? No?

Imagine an electric motor that doesn't turn a crankshaft in a circle, but accelerates a projectile sled on a straight line. Actually a military concept, but you can also use it at home to torture sausages and candles, or to launch homemade paper airplanes.

Tom Stanton had nothing better to do with his time, and built such a railgun. And he bought sausages. 😜

The result is as worth seeing as it is funny, and may be an entry point for your own experiments with electromagnetism. Anyway, very worth seeing.

[Editor's Note: During the production of this video, no sausage was seriously harmed ... only eaten. 🌭]

Share the signal:

Do you know that situation when there is not enough month left at the beginning of the motivation? This way we often feel when we have once again completed one of our issues. It's just incredible how much creativity retro enthusiasts use, to turn all these projects into reality. And there is so little time, to dig into all of them.

If one or the other projects appealed to you, then we did our job. On the other hand, if there is any reason to complain, then be so kind and let us know. You can always reach out to us via email, and also reply directly to that very message.

If you have your heart set on future issues of our little magazine, we would be happy if you could help us out a little. Feel free to send this issue to friends, relatives and colleagues, no one should have to spend their Friday without 8bitnews. No, no. We don't want that. 👹

Meanwhile, enjoy the weekend. Build something cool. Speak about it. And let us know.

Take care.

Jan & Bastian

This email was forwarded to you? You can sign up here to receive it directly.

View our privacy policy here.

Made with 🍉 in Berlin

More content like that - only for subscribers. Free of charge. Free of SPAM. Rich in retro.