Just the signal, not the noise

Hello 8bit'ers,

another week, another Friday. And a special one. 22.4.22. What a date.

Yesterday the Gameboy celebrated its 33rd birthday, and since this week there is an Ubuntu port for RISC-V. Things move. At a certain speed. And if that were not the case, we would no longer have any real development. And we love development, don’t we? ⬆️ 

Anyway. This week (for #reasons) we had to scale down our usual extract of retro topics a tad, but hope there's still something in the mix for you.

Enjoy Issue #46.


C64 turning 40

Commodore 64 at nearly 40
Imagesource: https://hackaday.com/

Someone always has to be first. At least as far as forecasting birthdays is concerned. Because to be exact, the Commodore 64 won't turn 40 until August this year. But 40! (Where the squirrel did the time go?).

But if anyone deserves to ring in the breadbin’s birthday today, it's Bil Herd

Why? Bil was virtually part of the Commodore inventory, the only difference being that he walks and talks and does not pick up dust. In fact, Bil was a principal engineer involved in the development of the Plus/4, C16, C264 and C364. But he will go down in history as the architect of the C128.

It is all the more interesting to listen to Bil, telling his very personal story, even though you might already know all the details about the MOS6502, KIM-1, PET, VIC-20 etc. Bil's quasi-essay has just been published on hackaday.com, and the refreshingly written material is definitely worth the invested reading time.

If you haven't had enough yet, you can find the link to Bil's Discord channel in our Issue #41, where you can exchange ideas directly with him.

It will be interesting to see who will be the next in the birthday series for the tough little Commodore 8-bit machine. 🎰 

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Modern DOS Machine

Modern DOS Machine
Imagesource: https://archive.org/

Personally, I wouldn't classify DOS as retro technology, but that's more due to the fact that my birthday dates back to somewhere in the mid-70s. 😭

Nevertheless, interest in DOS is definitely high in the retro scene, and for various reasons other than #gaming. 

Angelo Pesce aka c0de517e has taken it upon himself, to equip a laptop (of an equally profound age) with DOS, and grants us a fine insight into his experiences, as well as the accompanying personal background story.

His blog post is nice reading material for a few minutes in between. In addition, there are also some interesting suggestions that will help, to set up a pure DOS machine in 2022.

Give it a shot.

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Calculating Pi on the 4004

Calculate Pi on a 4004
Imagesource: https://unsplash.com/

A little more than 50 years ago, Intel released the 4004, a milestone in microcomputing history. The data bus had only a width of 4 bit. The address bus could access 2^12 addresses. The clock rate was 3/4 MHz and still you could get away with it and beyond.

If you still like to work with modern incarnations of the Z80 or the MOS6502, you will have lots fun with the 4004 as the quasi-grand-grand-father of the x86 architecture. If you still have one in your tinkering box, can spare a few unused breadboards, and feel like experimenting, the following might be a good place to start.

Mark Ablovatskii spurs the good thing - in connection with a little periphery and with the help of sensibly strung together assembly instructions - to calculate a limited but not unimpressive series of decimal places of Pi.

Exciting experiment with a 4-bit CPU. The details can be found in Mark's recent and apparently first post.

Great start, hope to see more.

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Imagesource: Jan Rösner

Nand2Tetris should be familiar to pretty much anyone who has studied digital design and processor architecture independently of a CS degree. The course basically tells the story arc from how a transistor works, over digital logic, to fully functional processors, compiler construction, and programming in a thoughtful and very focused way. Super interesting, but also tedious.

Alternatively, grab Ben Eater's 8-bit computer videos, and rebuild them in a circuit simulator like Digital or Logisim. But if you don't like the whole bootstrapping behind it, the following might be a good place to go:

The NANDGame by Olav Junker Kjær. Basically a cross between Logisim, Nand2Tetris and an online course in the browser.

May sound boring to some, but it is quite the opposite. Especially if you want to refresh something, you have learned years ago. The project is not brand new, but unfortunately only touched down on our desktops this week. Definitely worth a try, because high-quality learning material with participatory character in the segment is unfortunately far too rare.

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Woz Voice

Woz Voice
Imagesource: Wikipedia:Pratyeka - CC BY-SA 4.0

Some people just need that extra dose. Dealing with an Apple //e alone is not enough. No, they also need to be able to listen to stories from the good-old-days™ on exactly the good old device. Retro squared, so to speak. 🤩 (I officially love it.)

At least that's how the current story by Oliver Schmidt reads, or something along those lines at least.

His project is about making .a2stream files available with a simple HTTP server, and playing them back in realtime on just mentioned hardware with the help of his software A2Stream. The highs suffer a bit, as the sample rate is capped at 22kHz, but the whole thing is absolutely worth listening to.

If you combine this with the Open Apple Podcasts, which Oliver also provides on his site, you can listen to Woz himself on one of his very own creations.

Great weekend project for anyone with the right hardware. And real weekend. 😫

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FPGA on the cheap

FPGA on the cheap
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/IpiZqRIcPCo

Those who spent some time with FPGAs, know, that $32 for a well equipped Altera-Cyclone-IV based board is everything but expensive. Matt Heffernan bought one of these devices, but failed at first because of the matching but unfortunately missing USB bridge to connect it to his desktop PC.

But now that Matt could make up for this disgrace, he takes a closer look at the FPGA board in his current video. And the result is as exciting as it is promising. If you know Matt and like to listen to him, or if you are just looking for a good but cheap FPGA board, you will definitely find what you are looking for in this video.

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PC to Amiga

PC to Amiga
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/kbDJBZQ-NR4

This is no Amiga Emulator. Important sentence upfront! Dan Wood gives us a quite deep insight into a software called AmiKit X, which runs on top of AmigaOS, and brings a very modern Amiga feeling to a PC, Mac or Raspberry Pi.

Sounds strange, but that’s what it is. And it's actually quite interesting if you subsequently equip it with an Amiga emulator afterwards.

In principle something for hardcore Amiga fans, or those who want to become one. But in any case eye- and UX-candy at its best. If you want to have a look first, you can find everything you need to know in Dan's video.

The rest is up to you. 

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MacOS on the Amiga

MacOS on the Amiga
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/8v4BaWwoyA0

Sounds similar, is again something completely different, and has under guarantee already appeared in your timeline here or there last week. MacOS on the Amiga.

What sounds crazy at first, makes absolute sense when you look at the machines in question as well as  their hardware in detail. It is very, very similar. As a result, you can actually run System 6 on an Amiga 500 without any restrictions, which is more than just amazing considering the price difference of the girlfriend, compared to the Mac Plus. Actually $1900 in 1987.

The 8-Bit Guy tackles the subject in usual quality, and in 12 minutes and 38 seconds we learn everything there is to know about this beautiful and exciting experiment for the weekend.


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Zero Elektronics Clock

Zero Electronics Clock
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/SVG9veCKogU

Imagine a watch that looks like an electronic clock with Nixie tubes, but ultimately has no electronics built in at all. Sounds like an exciting puzzle that you urgently need to get to the bottom of, equipped with a screwdriver and some patience.

The screwdriver and the patience must have been with Fran Blanche, who was our guest at the very beginning of our journey last year already.

As usual, Fran competently and entertainingly takes the plastic and metal based thing apart, analyzes it, and solves the mystery at hand.

An exciting and entertaining journey to a time, when electronics were still so cool (and expensive) that they were simply faked with the help of (cheaper) mechanics. Bud ... did times change.

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Machine Code for Kids

Machine Code for Kids
Imagesource: https://punkx.org/

The project of Borislav Nikolov is commercial in nature, and also for this project applies: we are not sponsored, nor do we have any relationship with the author. 

But the Machine Code Card Game for Kids is just such a good idea, that we just want to support it here.

What is it about? It's a card game that allows you to simulate a very basic 4-bit computer on paper. A simple instruction set, 2 general purpose registers and a total of sixteen 4-bit memory cells as well as Turing-completeness should allow to execute pretty much anything on paper. Whether the kids want that, remains to be seen.

But in any case, they can learn how a computer works at the machine code level. Somehow I have the feeling that this (unfortunately) won't be a mega-million VC project, but if it gets just a few kids going in the right direction, it's already worth it.

See for yourself.

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That was it. Issue #46.

Today actually a little thinner, fewer pages, less paper, we also want to contribute our part. Um... wait a minute. Nonsense, of course, but in times like these, the focus should be on the important and right things in life. And since the bus width of my very personal project called life grew from 8 to 12 bits last night, there was a bit less time for articles than planned.

But if you liked the scope and content, feel free to help us out by sharing the issue with friends. Just send it on is enough.

Do you have any suggestions? Or a project that fits perfectly into 8bitnews? Or you are interested in sponsoring our magazine? Then contact us at any time. You can simply reply directly to this email.

Enjoy the weekend. Build something. And speak about it.


Jan & Bastian

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