Just the signal, not the noise

Hello 8bit'ers,

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. And since today is finally Friday again, there is a whole weekend ahead of us, where you can devote yourself to the pleasure again. Accordingly, our fun section this week is a bit more pronounced and comes completely without videos.

Of course there are articles waiting and a few things happened last week. On Ebay, an Apple 1 is looking for a new owner. It will be interesting to see where the price goes. 🫣 Also, the brilliant Sam Zeloof is looking for Funding right now. Maybe you know someone who knows someone.

A few more retro-related things also happened. Details below.

Enjoy Issue #52.


Z80 Testing

Z80 Testing
Imagesource: https://mitsi.com/

The name Mostek might be known to you. Back in the days this company was one of the manufacturers of integrated circuits. Founded in 1969 and existing until 1985, Mostek is especially known for having invented DRAM and dominating the RAM market until the end of the 70s.

After a little bit of back and forth the company was shut down in 1985. But one fact is still interesting. Pretty much every Z80 CPU built in the 80s was tested at Mostek.

An unfortunately unknown author at Micro Technology Services Inc. has now crystalized this piece of history in black letters on a white RGB background, and gives us insights into how the Z80 but also DRAM and ROM chips were tested at that time with the help of a Fairchild Sentry 610 test system.

A piece of history and of course a piece of nostalgia. Nice to read.

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The ATARI Years

The ATARI Years
Imagesource: Unknown Author - Wikipedia

Chris Crawford is a game designer and programmer who should be familiar to some. Chris was responsible for a number of Atari, Mac and C64 games, particularly in the 80s.

Remarkably, his website, which dates back to 1996, can already be considered retro. But Chris keeps publishing small masterpieces, even if he rather enjoys his free time nowadays.

In his essay The ATARI Years Chris goes through his memories of the 80s, the collapsing video game industry, and the subsequent, somewhat more conservative rebuilding.

Quite interesting, definitely reading material for a few quiet minutes.

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The Xerox Parc Story

The Xerox Parc Story
Imagesource: https://spectrum.ieee.org/

Xerox Parc, set up as a research center by Xerox in 1970, played several decisive roles in the digital revolution of the last 50 years. Xerox itself was never able to bring crucial technologies to fruition, but the concept of the mouse, the Ethernet protocol, antialiasing and the first graphical user interface, among others, were developed there.

In their usual detailed and professionally researched manner Tekla Perry and Paul Wallich have dedicated themselves to the history of Xerox Parc and written a wonderful article that takes its time to read.

For good reasons.

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Mega65 Review

MEGA65 - Review
Imagesource: https://mega65.org/

The first Mega65 machines of the first batch have been delivered. Reviews start to slowly pile up on Youtube and in the interwebs. And if you are still waiting for your machine, or if you want to have a look at what Commodore should have released, you will find some seriously good reading material in the following.

Epsilon has taken a lot of time and not only put the Mega65 through its paces. In his super detailed review you can find 111 high quality and high resolution pictures of the machine and software.

If that doesn't whet your appetite…

Unfortunately, the price of the Mega65 is a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem. As long as there aren't enough buyers, the price of the machine won't drop significantly. And until the price comes down, the machine is just too expensive for many. 😔

But there are alternatives. One of them is to build your own Mega65 based on a Nexys4 FPGA. Steven Combs helped with his walkthrough.

Let's hope for the best.

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Open Circuits

Open Circuits
Imagesource: https://nostarch.com/

Eric Schlaepfer better known to some by his Twitter pseudonym Tube Time, has just published his latest book together with Windell Oskay

Voila, Open Circuits

And when the man says open, he means open! Eric and Windell sawed open, polished, photographed and documented countless electronic components.

The result is more than worth seeing. The pictures alone are worth the price of the book. Additional explanations and graphics give an almost perfect insight into the inner workings of the little gizmos, which otherwise only ever come across as puzzle pieces covered in ceramic or plastic. Fantastic book. 📙

As always, we are not sponsored. If you're not sure whether the book is worth the price, you can read the first chapter for free.

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Hex Words

Hex Words
Imagesource: https://hexwords.netlify.app/

Did you know that the plural of "DOS" is "DOSSES"? And did you know that DOSSES can also be written using hexadecimal as "#D055E5"? Neat, isn't it?

The plural thing is bollocks, of course. But you can write a lot of meaningful words Leetspeak-like using the hexadecimal alphanumerics.

It's not entirely clear whether Paolo Ricciuti has checked all 16,777,216 possible variants, but his collection of Hex Words is just fun.

Nice #6AD6E7. 😁

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Analogue TV Encryption

Discreet11 Encryption
Imagesource: https://fabiensanglard.net/

Anyone who grew up with technology from the 70s and 80s has certainly passed by pay TV decoders. 📺

My personal interest was first aroused when the analog version of Nagravision (I think in 1997) could be cracked in real time with the help of a Pentium II CPU and its MMX extension. The whole thing had its limitations, but found perfection in Xawtv under Linux, and was responsible for a good part of my very own cineastic pleasure. 🏴‍☠️

Fabien Sanglard recently looked at a predecessor system: Discreet11 - then used by Canal+, the first private payTV in France.

Discreet11 was an analogue encoding mechanism based on the SECAM standard used in France and was extremely efficient. Today, any pocket calculator could probably perform a line similarity analysis in real time, and decode the signal just like that. The problem with this is that Discreet11 is no more used today as terrestrial TV is still on air. 

But Fabien's article on the subject is really interesting. Especially because it also goes into additional mechanisms for securing the decryption and distribution process.

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SNES and Famicom PVM

SNES & Famicom PVM
Imagesource: https://www.lovehulten.com/

Take a real Famicom, take it apart, add a Sony Trinitron PVM-9042QM CRT monitor, design and build a wonderful case, put it all together, and you arrive here:

SNES and Famicom PVM. 🤩 Beautiful, isn’t it?

The Ausretrogamer Team got their hands on one of the latest works by the brilliant Love Hultén and took a closer look.

Unfortunately, the productions are all one-offs. Not a problem in principle, but thus not mass-produced pieces that would be affordable.

Nevertheless beautiful and worth sharing.

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Imagesource: http://www.gamebase64.com/

gamebase64 has completely bypassed us! 😵

If Robin from 8BitShowAndTell hadn't shared the link, we'd still be clueless today.

What the gb64 team and countless fans and contributors put together here, is huge and impressive. A fully fledged archive of software titles for the C64 and references of most titles in the ZAP!64 edition, where they were tested.

A great resource that should not be missing in the bookmarks of any C64 friend.

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MS-DOS Game Library

MS-DOS Game Library
Imagesource: https://archive.org/

Last but not least, (again) the question comes up whether MS-DOS software can already be called retro or not. The answer to this question probably depends more or less directly on your own affiliation to GenX, Y or Z.

Regardless of this, it has to be said that some of the best game ideas of all times were born in the 90s on MS-DOS based systems. Back then, it wasn't about the number of polygons, but about captivating game dynamics, which triggered enthusiasm in a different way.

If you are looking for a bit of nostalgia, the archive.org team will help you once again. In the dedicated Software Library MS-DOS Games you can find a lot of software that can be used directly in the browser thanks to the DosBox emulator.

If you don't find something in there, blame the letters Y or Z. 😉

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This was a somewhat different issue. We hope that something for you was in here, the weekend will be long … a whole 2 days. 😎

If you liked the issue, we would be happy if you would help us and bring friends, relatives, colleagues or even strangers on board. Just forward and you're done.

Wanna give feedback? You can always directly reply to this message.

Until next time. Build something. And please speak about it.

Take care.

Jan & Bastian

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