Just the signal, not the noise

Hello 8bit'ers,

Friday, Friday, I always hear Friday. 

After all, it's the weekend that's important. And to get you in the perfect mood for exactly that, this week we have once again summarized the topics that have crossed our digital path in the last 7 days.

We hope there's something for you in this colorful mix, and hope you enjoy Issue #39.



LLVM for MOS6502
Imagesource: https://www.linuxadictos.com/

The biggest 8-bit news of the week so far and unlikely to be topped. Daniel Thornburgh and a couple of friends have released version 0.1.0 of their LLVM backend for the MOS6502: llvm-mos.

Finally you can write C++ code, compile it using Clang, link it against a very small standard library providing printf, malloc & free as well as exit.

If that does not tell you anything ... don't worry. 😥

Due to the unfortunately somewhat limited address space of all 6502 based architectures, the project won't blow the retro world out of the water. But completely independent of that, it is an absolutely remarkable achievement! 

Why? Because the thing is complete. Besides the LLVM backend itself, you get the standard POSIX tools, a GAS-compatible assembler, a linker ... you could almost say every 6502 lover's wet dream. Scrap the almost.

We are more than curious about the first real experiments with the toolchain. Awesome project!

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Tank Mouse

Imagesource: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lukas-remis/

You had or still have an Amiga? Then you know that the not so ergonomic looking standard mouse of the Amiga is surprisingly ergonomic in use.

In principle a real tank, because the thing is extremely robust. For the current time, however, it can't really be compared with more modern pointing devices, since - due to the ball - it's comparatively imprecise, and due to the technical preferences of the engineers of the 80s, it's cable-bound.

Łukasz Remiś took exactly these facts as an opportunity, and decided to give the beloved device a new life. Of course, one in which the little thing would be equipped with cutting-edge technology like a cyborg … a mouse .. cyborg. 🤖

His Kickstarter project looks rock solid.

The specs are bulls eye, the mouse can be used on any Bluetooth capable computer, and of course the Amiga is supported via a USB-to-DB9 adapter.

Completion unfortunately only in November this year ... but the proven Kickstarter / Indiegogo friend can not be stopped by such things. (I better don’t talk about my FLX experience here …)

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C64 PLA Replacement

C64 PLA Replacement
Imagesource: https://unsplash.com/

The current project of Marek is a perfect combination for all those, who want to understand 8-bit architecture, memory map implementation and more complex chip select on the one hand, but on the other hand are inclined towards the topic of FPGAs.

Both definitely skills that would suit pretty much any hardware / software pro, and both fundamentally super interesting.

So what is it about? The C64 PLA chip. Responsible for generating the chip select signals of the breadbin, the thing is actually just combinatorial logic. But if you replace it with your own, you pretty quickly arrive at such great things like memory banking and hence more than just 64kB of RAM. More magic waiting in the dark.

Anyway, in his current article Marek goes into building a replacement for the C64 PLA using an FPGA.

I think, super exciting. For you maybe only 🥱. Let’s find it out!

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9-Bit Computer

9-Bit Computer
Imagesource: https://unsplash.com/

A 9-Bit computer? Why not? There is more space for instructions. The address space becomes twice as big. Just more sugar sprinkles on the donut, sounds great!

Apparently Ned Utzig thought so too, and in his blog post he traces the winding paths of this wanna-be 9-bit architecture.

Those who know Mad Ned, also know that Ned is really serious about such things. And if you feel like joining this adventure, you can find the first and the second part of this surely new blockbuster series in his blog. 😁

Good luck.

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Transistor Level NES Simulation

Imagesource: https://github.com/iaddis/

For the following you need time. A lot of time. And you also really need to be very attached to the few-thousand-transistor-cpu-architectures-of-80s CPUs to really dig into this topic.

The short version: Icer Addis aka Sardu introduced MetalNES, a transistor-level NES simulator, a few days ago.

Despite current gigahertz bolides, the thing is so snore-slow that you don't even have to think about wanting to play a game of any sorts. The whole project has rather the purpose to rebuild the overall architecture of the NES (however without MMU) on transistor level and has real educational value.

If you have the time I just mentioned (congratulations! 🙇‍♂️) and if you are attracted to the 6502 and the NES architecture, this project is pure gold.

Unfortunately it is currently only available on the Mac.

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Mac SE/30 Ownership

To wrap up the news, a little reading material for all those, who plan to finally end the embarrassing emulator existence with a piece of real hardware - the real deal so to say.

Charlie Harrington has taken the plunge, and takes us along on his purchase of a Macintosh SE/30.

Rather less news for pro's, but the perfect recipe for anyone flirting with buying an old machine. Besides the necessary steps from „I’ll find it on Ebay“ via „I’ll pay for it“ to „I pray for the package to survive“, there are classically a few other faux pas you'd better not step into.

Charlie's article is a very good hook, and relaxed reading material for the way home. Enjoy.

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The A500 Mini Unboxing

The A500 Mini Unboxing
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/7PZYmNbDlM8

Perifractic we don't need to introduce. And it is the same for Ladyfractic. And for those who know both, it was also super clear that the actual release of The A500 Mini would definitely be an occasion for a special.

And so it has now happened here.

The technical review of the box is still pending and will come later. Probably also because the actual release of the hardware is only supposed to be on March 25.

Whether this thing keeps its promises and can compete with pearls like the Pimiga from our Issue #28, we'll find out a bit later.

Nevertheless, as always relaxing and very worth seeing.

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Analog Computers II

Analog Computers II
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/GVsUOuSjvcg

Although mostly unrelated to 8-bit topics, Derek Muller and his channel Veritasium is oftentimes present with us. 

In Issue #31 we had referred as explicitly as insistently to his video regarding analog computers. Now the team around Derek has released the second part, and it actually delivers, what the first part promised.

The topic is the revival of analog computing, especially when it comes to machine learning. Super interesting, and as always prime time quality.

Enjoy the video.

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WASM Fantasy Console

WASM Fantasy Console
Imagesource: https://exoticorn.github.io/

A penny for every fantasy console ... But no, the whole thing is not meant to be derogatory, even if I personally could pave the street torn up in front of our house with fantasy consoles. 👷

Dennis Ranke is responsible for a new incarnation of the beloved and popular genre, and just a few days ago introduced microw8, a WASM based console.

320 pixels in width, 240 in height and there are 256 different dresses available for each of these cute little things. Underneath there is 256kB of available memory, and gamepad input is feasible.

For all virtual console collectors and - all kidding aside - anyone who wants to get serious about WASM. Great project!

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Almost PONG

Almost PONG
Imagesource: https://unsplash.com/

The HN find of the week is a game. PONG, but the other way around. If you haven't seen it yet, the game idea by Thomas Palef is just great. You don't control the player paddles, you are the ball.

And even if the reference just recently fell, this clearly reminds me on Flappy Bird. 🐥

The game is a lot of fun, and even if the connection to 8-bit devices is rather so-so, we just had to include the thing in the current issue.

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This week was a little thinner, which is certainly understandable due to the current events. We hope for a revitalized spring and summer.

Should you have content, know, have seen or got as a tip from a friend of a friend of a friend, just send it over. We always appreciate material as well as feedback. Feel free to reply directly to this email.

Otherwise we are still happy about new subscribers. If you think of someone who doesn't know 8bitnews yet, just forward this email directly, sooner or later we'll catch them all. 👹

We'll report back in exactly one week. In the meantime, build something, and speak about it.

Take care.

Jan & Bastian

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