Just the signal, not the noise

Hello 8bit'ers,

The year is slowly coming to an end, but there are still a few Fridays left in … the box and we already have another one.

This time - as usual - we let the rest of the world take its course, and focus exclusively on the things that really matter. Among other things, this time it's an Atari 8-bit cartridge, an article about retro scams, 8-bit Unity(!) and of course ... Roger Wilco! He is back.

Since you surely have your head in Christmas wish lists, fairy lights and cotton candy, we won't burden you with further things, and wish you a lot of fun with issue #28.

Don't Miss

Space Quest II Remake

Space Quest II - Remake
Source: https://infamousadventures.itch.io/

Games are usually not our main focus, but in this issue we would like to make an exception. When Sierra-Online released the classic Space Quest II in 1987, about 100000 copies of the game were sold in the aftermath.

Point-and-click adventures were absolutely en vogue at the time, and alongside titles like Maniac Mansion and Zak McKracken from Lucasfilm Games, Sierra was right up there with its adventures.

The story of Roger Wilco the janitor 🧹 is as funny as it is wacky and weird. But especially the humor made the game series quickly a classic. But if you want to play part 1 or 2 today, you have to be satisfied with a reduced resolution as well as color palette - certainly not a limitation for the real Roger Wilco fan, but it can be better.

Steven Alexander and the team of Infamous Adventures have completely relaunched the second part of the space saga technically. New screens, reworked animations, more spoken dialogues and everything in VGA resolution give the title a whole new shine. Space Quest II is available for Windows, Linux and the Mac and after a short download nothing stands in the way of the game fun. The game was released at the beginning of 2020 already, so it’s not brand new. Nevertheless we found it just this week, and did not want to withhold it from you.

It's amazing how quickly you feel transported back in time. And sending Roger around is just as much fun as it was back in the days. Give it a try.

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Source: https://fujinet.online/

There is no special reason for this, but Atari is not as often discussed here as the 8-bit machines of other manufacturers (which we don't want to name here now ... 😆).

Ultimately, however, this is only due to our own bias, because the Atari scene is at least as active as the ones of … other well known former manufacturers of silicon-metal-plastic crossings.

With the project of Thomas Cherryhomes however, we now finally have a good reason to turn our attention to Atari again, especially to the 8-bit machines that made many fans of cultivated computer gaming very happy before the ST came to life.

Thomas' project is FujiNet - a multifunctional cartridge for all Atari 8-bit systems.

And boy, this thing can do a lot. Originally it was supposed to be just an ESP32 based network adapter. But soon other functionalities were added. For example loading CAS files from an SD card or a TNFS server, 850 modem emulation and a printer emulation with PDF export. Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity are in the works ... that includes a TCP/UDP stack. 😮

Small batches are always available for order in the store, but the whole project is open source. If you want (and can), you can build the thing yourself.

This is what I call a DIY project with a real tear-off edge!

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Home PC Wars

Home PC Wars
Source: https://unsplash.com/

Long read ahead. We stay with Atari and are happy to once again present a professionally researched article by trained journalists (… there are quite a few others 😙).

In 1979, Atari pushed the 400 and the 800 into the market. Until then, the company was more known for its video game consoles and to compete against the holy trinity of Apple ][, Commodore PET, and TRS-80 at the time, they needed devices that could seriously compete in the growing microcomputer market and free Atari from the cliché of being a game console manufacturer.

What followed is history ... but for those who either don't remember what happened between Atari and Apple in the years that followed, or were simply still the not-so-pious wish of their own parents, there's plenty of potentially unknown and interesting information in Benj Edwards' article.

The text is from 2019 and almost exactly 2 years old. So to put it as news is not quite fair ... but for us it is news. Maybe for you too. 😁

You have a long train ride ahead of you, or just a little time in the wing chair? Then the article could well be the right thing. Give it a try.

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Retro Scams

Retro Scams
Source: https://www.zdziarski.com/

In the fall of 2014, when Apple announced its AppleWatch, my attention fell on wristwatches again for the first time in several decades. I was less interested in the Apple device. But driven by my enthusiasm for the space age, the moon landings and everything that has to do with rocket science, I very quickly came to the desire for a truly original, very special, mechanical wristwatch from that era. What followed, was a hard learning, fakes, Frankenstein watches, and lot's of time until I was able to identify a true original. Learning: When there is a market, better do your homework before spending your money.

But what does all this have to do with Jonathan Zdziarski and retro scams? Everything!

Because exactly the same is true for video game consoles as well as game cartridges. Where there is a market, there are fakes. And if you want to be in this market, you better do your homework first. After all, if you buy a piece of hardware whose price is mainly determined by its originality and age, you quickly risk losing a whole bunch of colorful bills that you could otherwise exchange for useful things like clothes, rent and food.

Jonathan is no stranger to this problem. As an expert on iOS security, he has since been hired directly by Apple. In his wonderful article, he goes into detail about Nintendo consoles and cartridges, summarizing everything you need to know, to separate the wheat from the chaff.

You like to invest in retro hardware? Then you can't avoid this article.

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Ahead of the Wave

Pyxelate PixelArt

Super Pyxelate
Source: https://github.com/sedthh/

In issue #25 we spoke about Retropixels, a really great tool for converting modern image formats to the color palette of old 8-bit machines.

In principle exactly the same concept was implemented by Richard Nagyfi with his project Super Pyxelate.

Pyxelate is developed in Python and the tool is currently going into its second, somewhat faster iteration. The special thing about it is that the reduced color palette is computed using an unsupervised learning approach. Four dithering mechanisms are available, and the results of Pyxelate are more than just respectable. 

The current version does not (yet) have a CLI, but with a few lines of Python a batch processing can be set up very easily.

The results are convincing in their quality. It would certainly be exciting to convert a whole movie sequence frame by frame into the 8-bit style with Pyxelate.

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8-Bit Unity

8-Bit Unity
Source: http://8bit-unity.com/

The project of a guy named 8-Bit Dude sounds like a SCAM at first sight. 

Quote: You have some great ideas for a game on 8bit era computers, such as the Apple //e, Atari XL/XE, Commodore C64, Oric 1/Atmos or Atari Lynx... But you don't have any clue about assembly language programming? 8bit-Unity is the only cross-platform C language SDK for 8bit computers, which allows writing your game just once, and then deploy it on all those platforms!

What sounds so tempting is still in the beta stage, but is already quite mature and usable. 

8-Bit Unity is currently available in version 0.4.0 and really allows builds for Apple //e, Atari XL/XE, Commodore C64, Oric 1/Atmos and Atari Lynx. The integrated asset pipeline makes life much easier, because only one master asset needs to be produced for bitmaps, sprites and music, which can then be easily adapted to the corresponding target systems.

As a one-man-show-project it is really impressive. But to what extent you can produce complete titles with the SDK is not foreseeable from our side. But it should be worth a test in any case.

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Galaforce 2 - Open Source

Galaforce 2 - Opensource
Source: https://github.com/KevEdwards/

Last week, the BBC Micro (affectionately called Beeb by its fans) had its 40th. But hey, 40 is the new 30, right?

Kevin Edwards, who may be familiar to some, has taken this joyous anniversary as an opportunity to open source a number of tracks for the Beep.

And so today we may say a cheery Hello to the original but expanded version of Galaforce 2 - Aliens' Revenge.

Due to the historical developments of the machine at the end of the 80s, the title was not really a financial success. All the more it honors Kevin that he makes the source available to the general public for free today.

The source can be easily converted to binary with the help of beebasm, and subsequently run with almost all of the available emulators.

A nice excursion into the 80s and a great title with which you can sink quite a bit of time.

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Atari 800

Atari 800
Source: https://youtu.be/THqw7lS2yYE

As if he smelled it, TheRetroShack has the matching video feature for this issue.👃

Starting in 1979, Atari initially distributed the 800 only in North America. Then, starting in 1981, it expanded toward Europe, and beyond the production stop in 1983, it sold very successfully in those markets until 1985.

And that had good reasons. The 800 was versatile and allowed even completely inexperienced users an easy introduction to technology, that had (until then) been the preserve of specialists.

The following approximately 15 minutes give a complete overview of the 800, and anyone who once called the machine their own, or still does, will promptly feel transported 40 years into the past. Lovely.

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New Commodore 1581

New Commodore 1581
Source: https://youtu.be/8_3zLvWC-ZI

The 1581 named disk drive from Commodore was an absolute hammer in its time. A 3.5 inch floppy drive that offered almost five times the data volume of 5.25 inch floppy disks. But $400 was a lot of wood at the launch in 1987.

And even today, the units cost no small amount of money, having a complete 6502 based computer inside.

RetroBits asked himself, whether he can build a clone himself with modern means. And for much lower costs.

You can find out if and how this is possible in his current video.


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PiMiga 2.0

PiMiga 2.0
Source: https://youtu.be/KLJk8fTjQLw

The Amiga ... we can not live without it. And besides a real machine made of hardware flesh and software blood, the inclined gamer has access to a whole range of emulators for modern systems  to enjoy a round of Cannon Fodder, Rick Dangerous or Turrican. 🕹

Chris Edwards is dedicated to the same topic, but comes from a completely different direction. The Raspberry Pi400 is almost perfect as a retro gaming machine, since keyboard and machine reside in one case, as with many of the 8- and 16-bit classics. With PiMiga, a new Linux image is available for the Pi, but of course you can also run it on other Raspis of version 4 without any problems.

After you have brought your own ROMs, nothing stands in the way of lots of gaming fun. What PiMiga has to offer in contrast to other solutions, you can find out in Chris' current video. Have fun.

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That was it again. Short and sweet.

If there are legitimate reasons to complain, feel free to let us know. But also independent of that we are happy about any kind of feedback.

Ah yes ... our plan regarding world domination still stands. And we know that you too are addicted to the desire to convince market giants like Apple, Intel, AMD and others to finally produce an 8-bit CPU with memory-based IO and minimal instruction set again. In order to make ourselves heard, we still need some comrades-in-arms. And this is where you come in. Just share this mail. With everyone. EVERYONE.

We will take care of the rest. 😁

Have a wonderful weekend with a lot of retrocomputing activities.

Jan & Bastian

[PS: Build something. And don’t forget to speak about it!]

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