Just the signal, not the noise

Hello 8bit'ers,

The first days of the new year are gone, and interestingly enough, the week still ends on a Friday! Consistency is kind of endearing. 😄

In the current issue we take the opportunity to bring on some projects and articles from last year, just because they are a bit older doesn't make them worse - rather more retro.

In any case, have fun with issue #32 and a colorful, albeit somewhat shorter mix of topics today.



SymbOS Z80 - Multitasking Operating System
Imagesource: http://www.symbos.de/

A window-based, graphical operating system with multitasking capabilities sounds rather modern at first glance, and like something you would place back in the 90s.

But far from it. Also for earlier machines with 8-bit CPUs there existed and exist quite usable, graphical operating systems, which also bring single-core multitasking to the table. 

For the C64 GEOS comes to mind, for Atari BOSS-X. But also for Z80 based systems there exists something. Unfortunately not with the notoriety it deserves.

SymbOS just got version number 3.1 at the turn of the year, and is a multitasking operating system for Amstrad CPC, MSX, Amstrad PCW and Enterprise 64/128 machines.

Joseph Antony is the mastermind behind this project and has been taking care of the development of the OS, widgets, software and everything else needed, to get the most out of the Z80 for many years.

Don't know SymbOS yet? Time to try it out.

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Commodore Workstation

Commodore 900 Workstation
Imagesource: https://vintagecomputer.ca/

A Commodore workstation sounds like a tough claim at first. Apart from the PET/CBM machines, Commodore was never really successful in the business market. But in fact there were plans for it.

Initiated in 1983, the Commodore 900 was supposed to be a modern workstation with a UNIX-like operating system from Coherent. 

Unfortunately, the architecture based on the Zilog Z8000 never made it out of the labs, but the fact that some pre-production models survived, is all the more interesting. 

Santo Nucifora got his hands on one of these devices, and his article is well worth reading, not only for fans of chicken-lips. 

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Programming in the 80s

Programming in the 80s
Imagesource: https://unsplash.com/

Curtis "Ovid" Poe is actually less likely to be found in the nostalgic corner. But a few days ago he published an interesting article about how the craft of programming has changed from the mid-80s to today.

In his article he compares an implementation in BASIC on a ColorComputer 2 with a current version written in PERL. (Which in itself is almost a retro joke ...)

The result is rather less surprising, but nevertheless, the article and the topic are as interesting as relevant.

Reading material for a train ride home.

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Apple & NeXT

Apple & NeXT
Imagesource: https://ssaurel.medium.com/

As a small overhang from 2021, the following is still slumbering in our to-be-spoken-about-list™. Back in December, Steve Hayman captured this nice little piece of history in black letters on a digital white background.

The subject is Apple history. To be exact, it's about Apple's purchase of NeXT for $400 million. Steve was a systems engineer at NeXT, and in his article he provides first-hand insights into the weeks before and after the purchase unfolded from his point of view.

The NeXT operating system is still the basis of all incarnations of modern macOS variants for x86 and ARM processors. I would almost bet that some of Steve's code can still be found in it today. 🎰

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Apple ][ Emu in Typescript

Apple ][ Emu in Typescript
Imagesource: https://github.com/chris-torrence/

Emulators are always fun. Especially 8-bit CPUs and companion peripherals lend themselves to building your own emu.

There are almost as many emulators for the Apple ][ as there are bars of soap in the closet of my 85-year-old neighbor 👵. (You smell awesome Lita…)

But Chris Torrence has thought the heck with it and has added another one to the compendium. Unlike other projects, however, he used current frontend technologies for it: Typescript and React.

Whether this is good or bad, I will not judge (language wars 🙄), but at least he addresses a very large audience with the project available on GitHub.

Accompanying is also the matching video on YouTube. Fact is, there's plenty to learn, and Chris' approach is absolutely interesting.

Great geekend project.

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6502 Kit Computer

6502 Kit Computer
Imagesource: https://www.kswichit.com/

Kit computers ... a love story. I actually don't know anyone, who hasn't ordered and built Ben Eater's 6502 kit at some point ... (which rather means that I obviously don't know anyone. 😬).

But out there in the 8-bit universe there are many more such projects, and some of them come up way short in terms of attention. Wichit Sirichote is the creator of exactly one of them.

His 6502 Microprocessor Kit is just one thing - beautiful. Equipped with a keyboard, LEDs, multiple 7-segment displays, clock, RAM and EEPROM, the machine is ready for any outrage starting at 0x200.

The perfect entry into 6502 assembly experiments for all those, who neither want to solder nor break their fingers on breadboards.

And if you are looking outside the 6502 world, you will also find what you are looking for on Wichit's site. I only say Z80, 8080, 8086, 6809 etc., etc., etc.

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Learn Assembly

Learn Assembly
Imagesource: https://unsplash.com/

When the thirst for new knowledge regarding assembly is quenched, and the MOS6502 and the Z80 instruction sets no longer rule the dreams at night, then it's time for something new.

Although the following has no direct relation to retrocomputing, it is so exceptionally good, that we just had to include it in the current issue: ASMTutor is one of the best x86 assembly tutorials I've come across.

All you need is a recent version of NASM and you're off. In the first lesson, you build functional code, assemble the good stuff, link it, and execute it already.

Lesson by lesson, you learn new instructions and very quickly find yourself doing your own experiments. For those who still have the "abstraction layer" topic from the last issue on their watch, and are not bound to the ARM architecture, this tutorial by an unfortunately unknown author might be a great resource.

Enjoy! ⌨️

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FD 100

FD 100
Imagesource: Wikipedia / remi

There are only 10 types of people. Those who understand binary, and those who don't. (I apologize, it had to come some day.) Beyond that, humanity is also divided into two other groups. Those who wrote their first programs in Logo in the 90s, and those who made their first steps with Pascal.

Admittedly, this categorization isn't sooooooooo accurate, but almost 😉.

Susam Pal was part of the Logo group, and if FD 100 means anything to you, then the matching article should be something for you as well.

Worth reading in any case.

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Harpoon History

Harpoon History
Imagesource: Three-Sixty Pacific

Harpoon was one of the games that consistently got 5 stars, 100 rubber points, a bouquet of flowers ... you know ... in game magazines from 1989 to 1993. And rightly so. Released for MS-DOS, the Mac and the Amiga, the game is a realistic naval battle simulation developed by former naval officer Larry Bond.

The story behind the game is mega interesting, and RetroViator has taken on the subject in detail. In his already a few days old article on Harpoon you’ll find lots of historical details about the game.

The necessary reading time is very well spent.

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DIY Bubble LED Clock

DIY Bubble LED Clock
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/m_juPAK7I_I

CuriousMarc is a guest in our magazine every now and then. This time with a very special project. The Bubble LED Clock.

Never heard of it? Take the TI AC5948 chip, which started the era of digital clocks in the late 70s, and solder it together with a bunch of HP Bubble LEDs. Add a few components and a battery, and you have a semi-modern and absolutely awesome timepiece. 

Great project. Love it.

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Amiga Awesomeness

Amiga Awesomeness
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/PHN8ANlR8KI

The Amiga platform was and is simply outstanding. Even if only an acquisition of Commodore, the Amiga has massively influenced homecomputing in the 90s, and the large, as active community shows a lot of love for this platform up until today.

But why is that? What made the Amiga so special in its time? These questions can't be answered in 2 sentences, and that's why Dave Poo took the time to collect all the facts.

The result on YouTube is great, and if you don't feel like watching Netflix, Prime or Free TV tonight, the video is highly recommended.

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We hope there were one or two topics that met your taste. We are pretty sure that 2022 will be another great year for retro technology.

And speaking of 2022 - we are still striving for informational supremacy in the 8- and 16-bit area! If you enjoy reading our magazine and would like to help us, please share this email with your friends. The forward button is your friend.

If you have feedback for us, please send it. We are always happy to receive criticism, suggestions or projects that we would like to include in one of our next issues.

We will be back next week with new topics. So no need for tears.

In the meantime: Build something, and speak about it.

Take care.

Jan & Bastian

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