Just the signal, not the noise

Hello 8bit'ers,

A new week, a new Friday. And what a week it is!

Our collection today touches a whole range of different topics, but each one is a pearl in itself. There's something for the eyes, something for the ears, software, hardware and DIY projects for the weekend.

Grab your favorite drink, book your favorite spot on the couch, take some time and enjoy Issue #43.



Imagesource: necro

Beautiful things are simply beautiful. And because it's so beautiful to have so many beautiful things, we'd like to put some of those beauties in today's issue.

ASCII and ANSI Art is an inherent part of retrocomputing. In times when graphics didn't have enough space in memory when packaged as thousands of pixels with a color value each, one inevitably had to make use of pre-defined characters and a limited palette from a ROM. But as is often the case, this very limitation had challenged and encouraged creativity, and the PixelArt scene has a lot of wonderful things to offer for the eye in the form of ASCII art until today. 🖼

A special collection has been put together by the team behind Sixteen Colors.

Their project 16colo.rs invites you to rummage around, and if you don't find something to satisfy your brain and eyes, you can't really be helped.

An incredibly nice collection for the friend of colorful, organized ASCII characters. If you don't know it yet, don't miss it, there are some of the most extraordinary pieces in there.

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70s Games Reloaded

70s Games Reloaded
Imagesource: https://unsplash.com/

Bryan Lunduke should be known to some retromachinists, because Bryan is no stranger to the scene. On his SubStack we find interesting material every now and then, which then finds its way into our issues eventually.

But this time it is an own production of Bryan. Background: Who doesn't remember them - BASIC games of the early 80s, a lot of typing, hours of debugging and eventually an executable program. In Issue #37 we already spoke about corresponding representatives of the genre.

Bryan goes one step further and has ported a number of BASIC games and programs for use on a modern Linux system. The details of his little adventure can be found here and the impatient finds the whole package on his itch.io account.

Happy typing … ehm not!

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Dragon’s Lair on Apple //gs

Dragons Lair for Apple //gs
Imagesource: Cinematronics

Dragon's Lair was one of those games, that definitely divided minds. The original game idea and implementation by Rick Dyer and Don Bluth in the LaserDisc version from 1983 was absolutely ahead of all console and computer games available at the time ... at least in terms of graphics.

The gameplay was rather so-so, and after a short time you had already played through the game. Throughout the 80s there were ports for almost all systems, some of which due to hardware limitations were so bad, that the actual franchise really suffered.

The Amiga version Escape from Singe's Castle from 1990 looked quite good, but the gameplay was anything but exciting anymore at that time.

However, the game has made history and has fans. Two of those fans are definitely Antoine Vignau and Olivier Zardini from Brutal Deluxe Software.

The two have made the impossible possible, and released a version of the game for the Apple //gs a few days ago! 😳

Don't believe it? Here it is. And it looks fantastic!

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C64 Chiptunes on Vinyl

C64 Chiptunes on Vinyl
Imagesource: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mattgray64/

With the ASCII Art above we had something for the eyes. Now here there is something for the crafty connoisseur of pulsed air pressure waves … music. 🎧

Matt Gray is a well known musician and has remastered over 120 chiptunes from popular C64 and Amiga games in the last 7 years. And he's really got that down.

His current project is about The Last Ninja, and if you run the video on his Kickstarter campaign Reformation 5, you immediately feel transported to the end of the 80s and right in front of a C64 running the game. (Like muscle memory of the ears.

Matt is currently planning CD and vinyl versions and there are quite a few stretch goals for the campaign. As always, we just think this project is cool, we are neither sponsored nor affiliated with Matt or the campaign in any way.


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Ultimate System 7.1

Ultimate System 7
Imagesource: https://erichelgeson.github.io/

You know how it is. Some manufacturer every other day launches a new CPU on the market. Then you buy a new computer with exactly that thing, because you hope to finally get rid of the lag. The thing is at least 4.58 million times faster than the previous generation from ... yesterday … so you had to buy it.

You also double the RAM and off you go. At the beginning it all looks good, but I can already see the days coming, when even on a Mac Studio equipped with a M1 Ultra the start of Chrome takes 12 seconds and opening a "modern SPA" takes another 10. 🐌

Somehow this has become the norm and a disease of the digital civilization, where software is no longer optimized, but you just throw more transistors at it at the level below.

Eric Helgeson goes exactly in the opposite direction. He suggests the use of a Mac Plus or early PowerPC and uses Macintosh System 7.1 on them.

The extremely small memory footprint and the good availability of software for 7 make the system quite attractive for many tasks, even today. 

And Eric has compiled a wonderful article, inside you find everything worth knowing as well as resources needed to give the thing legs, and teach it missing skills.

Feel like tinkering? Your'e welcome!

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Plywood Handheld

Plywood Handheld
Imagesource: https://www.hackster.io/

A fine project without specific retro character but quite suitable for friends of old 8-bit systems came from a computer science student named "cultsauce" this week.

His DIY project is something for everyone who just had another fight with their soldering iron last night. 😈

Built only from plywood and cork, the thing houses an ATTiny85 MCU, a 120x64 pixel microdisplay, a bit of other stuff and wires. After a few hours you hold it in your hands … a portable and minimalistic game console!

After the tinkering lesson, you can at least play Snake, and if you've tasted blood, you're invited to do your own experiments.

I would at least be curious to see the looks of the people, when you get into the subway with the thing.

Cool project!

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BE 8-Bit Emulator

Ben Eater 8-Bit Machine Emulator
Imagesource: https://cpu.visualrealmsoftware.com/

Troy Schrapel should be a well known constant to almost everyone, who built Ben Eater's 8-bit computer.

Troy not only built the whole thing himself, he also extended the machine. But more importantly, he has implemented a realistic emulator and assembler in Javascript for the browser.

His project is everything but brand new, but it's super cool. Not only does the emulator look like Ben's original breadboard collection, you also get the full ensemble of BlinkenLights!

The assembler implements a minimal instruction set, and you can either study Troy's examples, or write code yourself, assemble it, and run it directly on the emulator.

Interesting for those who want to understand how a CPU actually works, and everyone else in love with blinking LEDs. 

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Midi Receiver for C256 Foenix

Midi Receiver for C256 Foenix
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/Ptb4PH5GpEc

The Foenix machines from Stefany Allaire are already legendary. If such developments had been possible in the 80s, the computing landscape would probably look different today.

However, hardware is only as good as the available software. And fortunately, the community already has a lot to offer. Currently John Seymour is adding an interesting piece of software - a MIDI Receiver.

In contrast to available trackers, John was looking for an alternative similar to Staffpad, where you can enter notes in a classical way and then listen to and export a MIDI track.

The result is not finished yet, John is currently on a break, but his project is mega exciting.

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Realtime Clock for 8-Bit Computers

Realtime Clock for 8-Bit Computers
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/WUPyML_IsPA

In April 2021, the unfortunately unknown creator behind the Zeal 8Bit Computer started building a brand new 8-bit architecture.

In Issue #23 we already had a video about the build. Now the creator has built an interesting extension that should be on the wish list of other 8-bit builds as well: a realtime clock.

Not much more should be revealed at this point. If you're interested in building your own hardware, spend a useful 9 minutes and 30 seconds here. It’s worth it!

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Rise & Fall of The Digital Group

Rise & Fall of The Digital Group
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/uQSdw74xnrE

The Digital Group was a small company that started building systems around the Zilog Z80 in 1975. The special thing about their systems: they were so modular that you could exchange processors for others, but they were also so poorly available, that the company went bankrupt already in 1979.

Tech Time Traveller has researched the history of the company in more detail, and put it together in a wonderful video. Anything but boring and a beautiful piece of nostalgia.

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8-Bit You never heard of

8-Bit You never heard of
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/OsikuBXmJIo

Have you ever heard of Southwest Technical Products 6800 Computer System? No? 

Neither have we. (Not that this means anything.)

Adrian Black of Adrian's Digital Basement got his hands on this 1975 machine, and in a first video gives us an exciting tour of the architecture of it. One actually needed a separate Teletype and monitor, to be able to run it at all.

Commodore, Atari and friends … that’s for everyone. This thing is really something out of the ordinary.

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If there was nothing for you in this collection, then we can only put you off until next week. There will probably be another day called Friday, and God willing, the next issue will arrive in your mailbox.

In the meantime, you are welcome to send us your criticism and suggestions. You can reply directly to this email, we try to respond to every message.

If you still want to do something for your 8-Bit karma, share this issue with friends, family, colleagues ... every new subscriber is welcome, and for each one we light a candle at our 8-Bit shrine in the basement vaults.

Until next week. Build something. And speak about it.

Stay confident.

Jan & Bastian

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