Just the signal, not the noise

Hello 8bit'ers,

All the 'Blacks' and 'Cybers' are over (🤑), it's not the 13th and therefore finally a normal Friday again. But one with 8bitnews in your inbox!

In our current issue we have collected a number of exciting projects that have crossed our path in the last weeks. Among other things we talk about the BBC Micro’s birthday, a super-innovative implementation of a Basic IDE in the browser, a C64 REPL, an Amiga Christmas calendar, the Dream6800 and much more.

Have fun with issue #27!

Don't Miss


Virtual Beep
Source: https://virtual.bbcmic.ro/

This week, the Beep officially zeroed. But since 40 is known to be the new 30 (at least that's what my significant other is always telling me for motivational reasons), that's no reason to whine around.

And it seems some of the usual suspects got together, and dedicated a great serenade to the birthday kid.

VirtualBeep is a tribute to this little machine that has made so many friends, especially in the UK but also on the continent. It seems that Dominik Pajak, Matt Godbolt and Paul Malin have joined forces and erected an equally fine digital statue to this little 8-bit wonder.

I'd be very surprised if there wasn't Matt's emulator jsbeep underneath, but that's not confirmed information. 🕵🏻‍♂️

The latest variant promises to be even more fun, though, as it now includes a WebGL-based virtual keyboard and monitor. 🥳

An absolute must for every Beep fan!

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Commodore 64 - REPL
Source: https://replit.com/

The project by Matthew Iselin is in the same vein. But the approach is quite different. Matthew uses the functionality of replit and especially the possibility to run packages of the Linux distribution NixOS directly in a REPL in the browser.

The result can be found here and starts a C64 emulation in VICE after a short wait for initialization. 

Matthew has packaged two small test programs in C and 6502 assembly in a .d64 file, and if you like, you can easily make your own programs available in the browser based on his template.

It is amazing how universally browsers can be used as runtime environments today. And emulators like VICE are a perfect target. The possibilities of Nix and NixOS go far beyond that. If you don't know the project yet, you might get some completely different ideas over there. 

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Source: https://endbasic.dev/

What made the 8-bit machines of the 80s so interesting and kind of superior? In principle, a whole range of features, but mainly they were … accessible. Power on and go. No waiting time to boot an operating system, no updates, no complex user interface and with the different Basic variants kind of a shell that was directly suitable to start programming.

All features that are missing in our modern systems today, and that make it difficult, especially for children and newcomers, to somehow grasp the huge complexity of computers and programs.

Julio Merino thought the same, and wanted to create an environment, that on the one hand is as easy to use as the 8-bit machines of that time, but on the other hand brings a more modern Basic dialect.

The result is wonderful - EndBasic ... the 8-bit experience directly and instantaneously in the browser. But there is more.

As soon as you start the REPL, a Basic prompt awaits you and you can start right away. With `edit` there is also a source code editor available, and if you create an account, you can save your self-written programs remotely and load them later on. More detailed information about the project can be found here.

Julio is currently working on extending the graphical capabilities as well as the possibility to generate sound. But even without those EndBasic offers a fantastic possibility to introduce newcomers and especially children to programming.

Really great work and if you feel like it, you can have your first Basic program running in under 2 minutes.

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Amiga 🎄

Amiga Christmas Tree
Source: https://ultimateamiga.com/

It's time. Time to prove that we just don't want to grow up. It's December, and as a grown-up child, you rightly demand your ... Christmas calendar! A new door every new day. 👶

Moya Jackie McGeough thought to simply create an adequate equivalent for friends of digital retro-entertainment and the Amiga platform. The result is something to be proud of - the Amiga Christmas Tree.

An all but small collection of games and Christmas mods, one or the other of which should make the heart of every Amiga enthusiast beat faster.

A large part of the mini-projects are from Aminet and lemonamiga.com but the concentrated Christmas package is excellently packed here.

The great thing is, that since there are more than 24 links, you get to open several little doors each day. 🥳

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Ahead of the Wave

NES Hacker

NES Hacker
Source: https://www.youtube.com/c/NesHacker/

Typically, videos and video series only ever appear in our Fun section. But this time we would like to make an exception, because the following has quite primetime character.

Ryan (who we unfortunately have not been able to identify further) runs the YouTube channel NESHacker, and the title says it all. However, his current video series is not about hacks of ROMs or anything like that. Rather, it's about how you can develop games and programs for the 6502-based NES yourself in 2021.

And if you've been thinking about finally getting into 6502 Assembly for a while, you'll find this video to be more than just a good introduction. The special thing about it: Ryan looks at all the necessary topics left and right of the actual programming. So there are videos on topics like setting up a development environment, the binary and hexadecimal number systems, graphics, hardware, and more.

Ryan's videos are produced to a very high standard, and the content is flawless. The speed at which Ryan goes over the topics is a bit fast in places. But what you learn in the short time makes up for that shortcoming in any case.

A recommendation even beyond the actual application scenario NES. Because what you learn in these videos can be transferred to other 8-bit systems in a similar way.

Fat thumbs up. 👍

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DRÖM - DREAM-6800 Emulator
Source: http://www.mjbauer.biz/

At the end of the 70s, when microcomputers mostly had to be soldered together manually, there existed a number of machines, that attracted a lot of people. In particular, the Cosmac VIP and Telmac 1800 should still be familiar to some people, and user groups for both machines exist to this day on Facebook, among other places, where people simply don't give the machines a rest. 

In the southern hemisphere - or more precisely in Australia - a different machine was gaining ground at the same time. The electronics magazine Electronics Australia published a series of articles dealing with the construction of a kit computer similar to those mentioned above. The Motorola 6800 based architecture had its own implementation of CHIP-8 and in a newsletter called VIPER users got new CHIP-8 programs on a regular basis.

Chip-8 itself is probably one of the most emulated virtual processor architectures. But this one by Tobias V. Langhoff stands out.

DRÖM - which is Swedish for DREAM - is a complete emulation of the machine based on LÖVE and MOON6800.

Not only the emulator itself is interesting. Tobias' Blog is a real treasure trove regarding Chip-8.

If you are already looking forward to the Christmas vacations and are looking for a software project for the holidays, DRÖM is highly recommended. 🎯

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Eight Ball - Structured Programming on the 6502
Source: https://github.com/bobbimanners/

Eightball is one of those projects that more or less get lost in the mass and variety of information in the retrocomputing universe. And unfortunately unjustified.

Eightball is an algoritmic language for the Apple ][, the C64 and the VIC-20.

Bobby Webber-Manners is responsible for this project as well as for the implementation of BBC Basic on the Apple ][.

With Eightball she delivers an interpreter, a bytecode compiler, the necessary virtual machine and a bytecode disassembler. The statically typed language she developed, allows structured programming on the machines mentioned, and provides a much more modern approach than Basic and without having to deal with Assembly.

The project comes with excellent documentation. And if you are looking for a new challenge on one of the supported 8-bit machines, or just want to understand how to implement your own language on your own VM, then Eightball is absolutely the right place for you.

Incredible project!

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Vinyl Game

Vinyl Game for the C64
Source: https://youtu.be/C_xXu6BQqI8

Robin from 8BitShowAndTell hasn't been with us for quite some time. Therefore it's about time to change that again!

His latest video is about LukHash's new record We Are Stardust. The vinyl record has more to offer than just some excellent 8-bit tunes. The last track of the record contains a C64 game.

Robin's latest adventure requires an extra adapter to convert the record's audio signal into bytes in RAM, but the result is quite impressive. As always, very entertaining and just relaxing to watch.

Give it a try.

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PolyMega N64 Emulation

PolyMega N64 Emulation
Source: https://youtu.be/Xo6Q0IzgKWQ

We haven't heard anything about the PolyMega until today. Faux pas - but honestly also due to the fact that retro-gaming is always only a marginal topic in our magazine.

Nevertheless, the latest video from ModernVintageGamer had to be included in this issue. Background: the PolyMega is (according to its own statement) the first console, that emulates the Nintendo64 reliably and accurately.

In the current video the inclined Retrogamer can get an idea of what this is all about. In any case, an exciting development and a capable piece of hard- & software.

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The Story of Monkey Island

The Story of Monkey Island
Source: https://youtu.be/9F9ahZQ7oP0

In the last issue #26 we came across Stuart Brown and his YouTube channel.

His channel, named Ahoy, is now 10 years old, but if you look at the videos and their quality, especially the titles of the last 5 years can compete with primetime productions of major TV channels.

One of the best productions has captivated us these days, and you’ll probably feel the same way. The video is already 3 years old, but it's still worth watching.

The Secret of Monkey Island is not only the story of the creation of this great adventure game. It's the whole story of all Lucasgames adventure games of the 80s and 90s with lots of background information.

Whether you are a Lucasgames fan or not, this video is absolutely worth watching and a piece of history.

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There are so many amazing projects in retrocomputing land, that sometimes we don't know what to include in the upcoming issue. Finding the mix that suits your taste between hardware, software, games and videos is no easy task.

8bitnews meanwhile is half a year old, and therefore we would be happy if you give us feedback on our current issues. The easiest way to share this with us is a short email. You can simply reply directly to this newsletter. Alternatively, you can use the Suggest feature on our site.

And if you still enjoy our content, please share the joy with your friends. Especially in December, such a little attention as a small virtual gift is certainly not bad received. 🧑‍🎄

Enjoy the weekend. Build something. And speak about it.

Take care

Jan & Bastian

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