Just the signal, not the noise

Hello 8bit'ers,

another week, another Friday. And another issue of 8bitnews in your inbox. There are two days of weekend ahead of you, and probably - hopefully - one or more of the following topics resonate with you and help you spending that time in a meaningful way. 😀

This week there is a litte bit of hardware - interesting machines that did not come with an external keyboard and monitor, software, some beautiful approach to pixel art and a number of fun topics to look at.

Stay positive and enjoy Issue #41.


sed Circuit Simulator

sed Based Circuit Simulator
Imagesource: https://unsplash.com/

48 years ago Lee E. McMahon designed a small but neat tool for parsing and transforming text. Until today it can be found on every POSIX system and at least some people like to use it as a CLI tool in connection with awk.

We are talking about sed

In fact sed is a stream editor and implements a small language. By the way, it was one of the first to support regular expressions. And what do you do when you're like Francisco Castro and you're looking for a new challenge?

Well, sure, you build a circuit simulator based on sed. 🤪

Francisco proves in detail here, that the whole thing is no joke. And even if the project sounds a bit crazy at first, it is more than interesting, at least if you like to peek beyond your own horizon. 

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Papercraft Mario

Papercraft SuperMarioBros.
Imagesource: https://boooo3.itch.io/

Admittedly, we love Mario. There are few games, that have left such a mark on an entire generation, and Nintendo has arguably pulled off one of the biggest stunts in gaming history with the franchise. Games rarely make it onto our agenda, and when they do, there's a good chance it has something to do with Mario.

And so it is this time - again. 🍄

Boo3 recently released a remake of SuperMarioBros. It is still in beta and is focusing not on gameplay but on the visuals. 

SuperMarioBros. Papercraft comes with a special kind of render engine, the title says a lot, but you have to see it for yourself.

Alpha Beta Gamer has posted a brief outline here, and there's also a short gameplay video.

The gameplay so far only includes the first world, and there are bugs. But maybe we'll see something more, before Nintendo's takedown notice puts an end to the project.

As my mother-in-law would say: you'll have to have a look.

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PDP-11 Tour

PDP-11 Tour
Imagesource: https://arstechnica.com/

The PDP-11 was DEC’s most successful minicomputer. Over 600’000 units were sold between 1970 and 1990. This is no wonder, since the PDP-11 was way ahead of its predecessors - especially the PDP-8. Additional registers, an innovative instruction set and a bus system that allowed access to peripherals via DMA.

ARS contributor Andrew Hudson has taken the machine's former popularity as an opportunity to publish a small tour of the PDP-11 at arstechnica.

The article is indeed anything but short, and anyone who has worked with this machine, or who is simply curious, will find plenty of information, skillfully and competently compiled.

Definitely worth reading.

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Imagesource: https://pockemul.com/

If you like old computers, you also might like the other old computers. That is, the ones that you can't connect to a monitor, and only have numeric keyboards and LCD displays.

To be honest, these machines are not less interesting, they are based on the same basic principles and partly even on similar hardware and CPUs as the microcomputers of the early 80s.

But these thingies don't get nearly as much love as they might deserve. Maybe we can change that. The unfortunately unknown authors from the PockEmul Team have been maintaining their emulator for calculators and pocket computers for several years now: PockEmul.

The software implements a whole range of machines from Casio, Sharp, HP, Texas Instruments and NEC. Especially interesting, the Epson HX-20 ... probably the first laptop in the world.

Well, curious now? 🧮

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FIGnition Fuze

FIGnition Fuze
Imagesource: https://sites.google.com/site/libby8dev/

The following project by Julian Skidmore is also not quite as fresh as it used to be, but that doesn't detract from the fact that it could well get one or two bored hobbyists off the couch.

Ever heard of FIGnition Fuze?

Granted, the name is a bit ... idiosyncratic, but the project is interesting. What you get here is a DIY computer that functions like an 8-bit home micro, but with a 20MHz Atmel ATmega328 microcontroller doing its thing inside.

Unfortunately unavailable due to the current state of the world. But being on the positive side of life, we assume, that like all other things this can only improve.

Besides a PS/2 keyboard, the thing communicates with PAL and NTSC compatible output devices, and is directly programmable thanks to built-in Forth.

Fancy something new? If you still have the necessary hardware lying around ... don't build the thing, call us. 😜

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Peak Performance Pixel Art

Peak Performance Pixel Art
Imagesource: https://unsplash.com/

Downsampling is an apt term and a thoroughly exciting thing to do, which is about bringing something from today to life with ways and means from the (good) old days.

Blake Patterson has done just that. However, he's not talking about a complex technological project, just the "peak performance" image from Apple's March 8th event.

And downsampling is very appropriate here, as Blake converts the image for display on a somewhat aged Apple //e. Thoroughly entertaining, his article invites your own experiments.

I love pixelart. 💛

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Spacewar Contest

Spacewars Code Contest
Imagesource: https://www.retroaccion.org/

What was programmed in 1962 already by Steve Russell in collaboration with Martin Graetz, Wayne Wiitanen, Bob Saunders, Steve Piner and others?

Right, you know it: Spacewar. Whether it was really the first computer game, is more or less a matter of definition of the term game. In any case it goes down in history as such.

The colleagues of Asociac. RetroAcción have now had a great idea: Why not use the game and its principle as a basis for a programming contest?

The idea is great, because from the game principle certainly some modern incarnations can be derived, and who has desire and time, or simply wants to be inspired, can find the original source code of Spacewars as well as all details of the contest here.

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Bil Herd Discord

Bil Herd Discord Server
Imagesource: https://discord.com/

And a very short one. You know Bil Herd? Former principal engineer at Commodore and responsible for the development of the Plus/4 and especially for the design of the C128.

Bil is still very active today, and it's always a pleasure to listen to him at events. But now it's getting interactive too, because since a few days Bil can be contacted directly via his own Discord server.

Sounds interesting? The Discord can be found here.

Many greetings.

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1 over Prime

1 over Prime
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/DmfxIhmGPP4

Matt Parker is always fun to watch. Combine him with Brady Haran aka @numberphile and you end up with a neat video regarding the The Reciprocals of Primes.

As always there is lots to learn and watching is just plain fun.

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Pi Day

PI Day
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/Nv5jl1l909s

March 14th was Pi Day. Robin from 8BitShowAndTell took the opportunity to put Pi and a C64 together in a video. And what is more obvious than to determine the decimal places of PI?

But that's not all. As always Robin has a little more to offer. But I don't want to get ahead of myself, so check it out here for yourself.

Have fun.

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And Issue #41 finds its end here. But that's not a bad thing, because the next one is already in the works.

In the meantime, if you're working on something you'd like to see in 8bitnews, feel free to contact us via email.

If you enjoyed this issue, feel free to share it. A forward to family & friends is just a click away, and really, there's an 8-bit retro heart beating in pretty much everyone of us, right?

Until next week. Stay positive, build something. And speak about it.

Take Care.

Jan & Bastian

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