Just the signal, not the noise

Hello 8bit'ers,

The day before yesterday we had 2022.2.2 and today is  … Friday. What a joyful connection between determinism and causality. 😲

In keeping with the historical date with no historical events, let's give the week at least a little shine before it heads into the well-deserved weekend.

The topics this week are well-mixed, hardware, software, two cool products and of course again something for the cultivated evening entertainment in front of a glowing screen.

We hope there are one or two articles for you and hope you enjoy issue #35!


Atari Unix

Atari System V Unix
Imagesource: http://www.atariunix.com/

UNIX on an Atari? Sure thing. 😏

Wait, this is actually not a joke! In 1990 Atari had a serious powerhouse with the TT030 workstation. 68030, up to 256MB RAM, harddrive, etc. And for this machine a UNIX version was actually released. Really. 

Atari System V. Anyone who has ever sat in front of a UNIX / Linux box with a simple window manager like TWM will feel right at home. 

Bryan Lunduke has collected a little more information in his article on SubStack. And if you can't believe the whole thing, imagine that - with Mosaic available on the system - even the web is open for discovery. 🌍 (Ok, ok, not the bonkers JS-SPA multi megabyte stuff …)

Good enough for our cover story today, and definitely a knowledge nugget we've been missing. Good job Atari! Good job.

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Atari on a Mac

Imagesource: http://atarimac.com/

And since Nolan Bushnell's company unfortunately always gets a bit short shrift with us, we'll stick to Atari and the release of a software, that at least we didn't know about either until this week.

AtariMac is an absolutely complete and very capable emulator for Atari 8-bit machines. From the 800'er with 16kB RAM over the 130 up to the 1200 a whole lot of machines is emulated. The unfortunately unknown creator atarimac has provided 8 virtual drives, one can boot directly into a BASIC variant, and in the multitude of settings allows controllers and gamepads to be configured properly.

No brand new software, but just because of this absolutely mature. And one of the best emulators for Atari 8-bit machines, which we have come across so far. 

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UNijoysticle 2
Imagesource: https://unsplash.com/

Personally, I'm one of those who love the old machines because you can do everything with them. Down to the metal. On the other hand games rarely find their way into my normal daily routine.

But for fans of the cultivated 80s computing machines that is possibly quite different. And for exactly those there is a very special piece of hardware for the C64, the Amiga and Atari devices on the market since a few days:

Unijoysticle2 brings Bluetooth gamepad support for exactly these machines! The project by Ricardo Quesada supports 12+ different gamepads from Xbox 1S over Sony and Nintendo controllers to some mice.

As an idea almost a no-brainer, as an implementation fantastically done. Hello market niche! 💰

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Brew 8Bit Watch

BREW 8-Bit Retrograph
Imagesource: https://www.brew-watches.com/

As an actual friend of Space Age mechanical watches, the following is once again a real treat.

Brew Watch Co. and founder Jonathan Ferrer introduced a new watch back in December of last year: 

The Retrograph 8-Bit Brew. For a hefty $395, you get a quartz chronograph in a steel case with sapphire crystal. So far nothing special.

But with the 8-bit retro theme, definitely an interesting timepiece. Last year we had reported about the fast out of stock Tag Heuer Connected in issue #08, as well as about the Casio F-100 in issue #09.

Here as always applies: No advertising! We are not sponsored, nor do we have any relationship with the vendor. We just think the watch is so cool that we don't want to deprive you of it.

If you want to know more about this timepiece, here you find a short review by Robert Stewart aka random_rob.

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Acoustic Transistor

Topological Acoustic Transistor
Imagesource: https://unsplash.com/

The last news is rather loosely related to retro technology, and you may have read it this week already.

The American Physical Society this week introduced the concept of a transistor for sound. 🔊 In addition to electricity and light, it can in principle be used to build logic gates that are acoustically driven. But what's really exciting about the IEEE article is the fact, that the concept could allow barriers in current transistor manufacturing to be broken in the near future. Quote:

However, creating electronic topological transistors in which the dissipationless flow of electrons can get switched on and off in topological materials requires dealing with complicated quantum mechanics. By using acoustic topological insulators, in which sound waves can experience topological protection, scientists were able to sidestep this complexity to create acoustic topological transistors.

Charles Q. Choi has collected the most important facts in the article. It will be interesting to see where this journey will lead us.

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Fresh DIY Retro Console

DIY Retro Console
Imagesource: https://unsplash.com/

Every now and then an ambitious person with big plans crosses your digital path. That's what happened (again) this week with Tom Gambill

More or less by chance we came across Tom's project to design and build a retro console including CPU, GPU and graphics output by himself.

Inspired by Ben Eater, Tom has come pretty far so far. The journey starts with the first post about the basic requirements of such a machine. Currently there are 4 more parts available, and Tom is designing the instruction set in #5. 

Rather less a LS74 but more a FPGA story. But there is a lot to learn in this series. One can be curious about further parts. 

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Rusty Wolfenstein

Rusty Wolfenstein
Imagesource: id Software

id Software made history with titles like Wolfenstein and DOOM. The games teased kind of magic out of hardware, that was actually unthinkable until the titles were released.

Facundo Olano was taken by this, as well as by the book Game Engine Black Book - Wolfenstein 3D by Fabien Sanglard, and decided to develop a Rust port of the Wolfenstein engine with a number of other enthusiasts during a Hack Week.

All without serious Rust experience. (Chaaaaaallenge!)

The article is exciting to read. Assets, maps, raycasting, rendering ... all to be implemented in just a few days.

The project itself is opensource, still unfinished but the result is more than respectable. Curious? It's worth it.

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Interactive C64 Programming

Interactive C64 Programming
Imagesource: http://tomasp.net/

A very special pearl glittered at us this week from the direction of Tomas Petricek.

BASIC programming should be no stranger to most of us. Yet there is still a lack of good teaching facilities - and not just for BASIC.

What Tomas has built here is an interactive article in which he demonstrates a simple Breakout implementation (not complete) in BASIC. What makes it special, is the way the dynamic tutorial is implemented.

I'm not gonna give too much away. Even if you immediately know, how to solve the problems behind Breakout in BASIC, the interactive article is definitely more than worth its reading time.

Very well done Tomas!

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SNES Audio System

SNES Audio System
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/zrn0QavLMyo

Attention, tech deep dive ahead. The SNES audio system is so complex that it was developed completely separate from the rest of the system. The architecture known as SPC700 is super interesting, and that was reason enough for the YouTuber named IsoFrieze to produce a whole series on the subject. 

With this video the first part is online since a few days. 

You can be curious about the following parts, because his previous series Super NES Features is as high quality as well informed.

Rather less for gaming fans, rather more for the system-architecture-interested.

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How the Amiga languished

How the Amiga languished
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/zB_UZsJUbwQ

Stuart Brown is a welcome contributor to our little magazine, as his productions are absolutely prime time. 📺

On his channel Ahoy you can find excellent documentaries about a whole range of retro machines, games and technologies.

This time, however, we were particularly fascinated by his documentary on the Amiga, which is already more than 3 years old. The video and its content are - as always - seamlessly researched, and skillfully put together. Nothing on TV? Here you go.

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GFX on the Atari 2600

GFX on the Atari 2600
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/IGq992JnK1Q

Racing the Beam also a product of IsoFrieze should be known to most people.

If you don't know it, it's highly recommended, because it shows in detail, which limitations software engineers had to deal with at the end of the 70's with the Atari 2600.

Kyle Reiach aka 8Blit goes into a similar direction with his current video about sprite animation and the use of pointers on the VCS.

Super interesting and the code is available on Github.

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That's it for this week, we hope you enjoyed the issue. If not, feel free to contact us, feedback and suggestions are always welcome!

If you want to share the happiness of the Friday 8bitnews issue with friends and family, we would not mind. Feel free to forward the email directly, or just share a link to our archive ... speaks more than 1000 words.

We'll be back in your inbox in exactly one week. You guessed it, on Friday! 😬

In the meantime, build something. And speak about it.

Take care.

Jan & Bastian

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