Just the signal, not the noise

Hello 8bit'ers,

The sun is shining, the longest day of the year is approaching in the northern hemisphere, and it's Friday - the 24th of its kind this year.

Apart from face-palm-discussions™ around the topic of self-awareness of a particular piece of software, a somewhat more eventless week lies behind us. (Given the buzz it's been more than enough, but ... you know.) However, we have dug up some treasures of retrocomputing history, which should sweeten the weekend for you and one HN topic, that you might really like. At least, if you do not belong to the Z80 camp. 👹

Enjoy Issue #53 and stay sentient. 👻


Plastic Processor

Plastic Processor
Imagesource: https://unsplash.com/

Flexible processor technology has enormous potential, that's for sure. Silicon dies quickly reach their limits when it comes to developing the "CPU for everything". The biggest problem is not even that silicon is not flexible. A high-performance CPU could be made so small that it could be surrounded by flexible plastic, making it suitable for a wide range of application scenarios.

No, the problem is rather that the admittedly small die requires more surface area for IO lines, for example, and cutting it out of the wafer requires a certain footprint. You quickly reach regions where you could in principle produce a flexible chip, but the costs would simply be too high in comparison to other approaches.

Samuel K. Moore wrote a beautiful article about a new approach by PragmatIC, who have produced a 4-bit microcontroller on plastic, that could be produced for $0.01.

The whole thing is along the same lines as the Flexible 6502 we reported on in Issue #48, but uses a different technical approach.

Great to see 4 and 8 bit systems finding valid application scenarios even in 2022. 

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6502 Mem Transfer Speed

6502 Memory Transfer Speed
Imagesource: http://c64os.com/ - Gregorio Naçu

Michael Doornbos, Gregorio Naçu and the MOS6502 in one article. A dream! 🙌

Apple presented the specs of the new M2 at the WWDC, and made a poster out of it in a nice, albeit already known design dress. You know, design is, when designers rework old things over and over again. 😜 And if you like color gradients on fonts, you'll get your money's worth here, in addition to the specs.

However, Gregorio's remake of the poster for the MOS6502 is way cooler. With a twinkle in the eye, he had posted the spec sheet on Twitter this week, setting off a real avalanche. 

Good thing! 

Not only the 6502 but also Gregorios project C64OS deserve way more attention. 

Michael Doornbos to the rescue. Michael took the tweet as an opportunity to measure the speed of a memory transfer on the 6502. And not only on the C64 but also on the KIM-1. Because: Why not?

Michael's article on the subject reads very nicely, and since the thing has been trending on HN since Thursday, of course it had to be in our current issue.

Thanks Gents. Was fun!

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Altaid 8800

Altaid 8800
Imagesource: https://hackaday.com/

Nope, that's not a typo. ☝️

This is the result of what happens when you try to squeeze an Altair 8800 into an Altoids box. For connoisseurs and lovers of classic membership cards, the Altaid 8800 by Lee A. Hart is probably a rather old hat.

But if you're looking for a project for the summer, this little all-in-one kit for under $100 might actually be interesting.

You can do a lot with the 8080 CPU. And there's a touch of magic when you hack in the assembly program as machine code, written with pencil and paper, using the 12 on-board buttons, and see exactly the LEDs light up, that you expected.

Also a nice Christmas tree deco. 🎄

But all kidding aside - the Altair 8800 is a piece of history, and if you want to learn about computer architecture, soldering irons, push buttons and LEDs, you might find just the right project here.

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Everything XOR

Everything XOR
Imagesource: https://unsplash.com/

Of the 16 possible boolean 2-bit operations, as is well known, not all of them really make sense (some can be used in unmentioned 8-bit CPUs but that’s a story for another day 😁). XOR isn't one of them, makes sense from the logical point of view, helps with encryption, the implementing of subtraction when you only have an adder, and probably about 81.432 million other use cases.

And just when you think there's really nothing more to learn about XOR, along comes Florian Hartmann, and proves you wrong.

Florian's article on the subject is super interesting, detailed and nice to read. So how do I exchange two register values with each other, when there is simply no free RAM cell left?

A problem I personally have all the time, and regularly gives me sleepless nights. 🥱

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Kenbak-1 Emulator

Kenbak-1 Emulator
Imagesource: Adwater & Stir

And if the Altair 8800 clone is not enough for you, the Kenbak-1 might be your thing.

There are a lot of devices that claim to have been the first personal computer. Surprisingly, the Kenbak-1 is no exception. 😏

It's rather difficult to judge in 2022, and since we don't want to conjure up a new I-was-the-first-war™ here, we'll leave it at that.

We already reported on the device in Issue #12. This week, however, we found a nice way to play with the device without having to warm up the soldering iron.

Yep, an emulator.

Again, pencil, paper and brains are required. If you've ever wanted to hack machine code into a machine via simple switches, and don't have the nerve for the Aldaid 8800, you might be really happy here.

The person responsible for the nice JavaScript implementation doesn't hang around on the usual platforms, so unfortunately we can't give credit.

Nevertheless: Excellent work and thanks for sharing!

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TurboGrafx Architecture

TurboGrafx Architecture
Imagesource: Evan-Amos, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Between 1987 and 1989 NEC introduced the TurboGrafx-16 to the markets of this world. The special thing about this 4th generation console was, that it was basically a 16-bit device, but came with an 8-bit CPU.

The console, outside the US known as PC Engine, was quite successful with 8 million units sold, but it's still interesting that a successor of the already 1975 released MOS6502 (more exactly the WDC65C02) powered the device - the HuC6280 from Hudson Soft.

In combination with 2 16-bit graphics processors, the console's gaming experience was quite impressive for its time.

More impressive, however, was the machine's architecture. Rodrigo Copetti is known for taking apart and studying consoles of all generations. His article on the TurboGrafx is not new, but no less interesting.

Nice reading for the friend of outdated digital technology.

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C-Compiler for KIM-1

C-Compiler for KIM-1
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/xTZsXe4ahBg

Dave Plummer aka Dave's Garage is a household name. The same is true for the KIM-1.

If you put both in a room, wait for a very long but limited time, following the rules of quantum mechanics in at least one of the emerging worlds (many-worlds presumed) a video about a C-compiler for the KIM-1 must come out.

Obviously we have caught exactly this branch of the universe, and are infinitely grateful for it. After all, what world would we live in, if we couldn't feed the KIM-1 using C? 🤔

The video on the subject can be found here. Lovely one.

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Apple IIgs Online

Apple IIgs Online
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/XolvT9DF_1I

In September 2021 it was 35 years ago, that Apple launched the IIgs. The machine and various projects with it have made guest appearances in our magazine time and again, but no one has yet come up with the idea of connecting the thing to the network of all networks.

At least not until June 11, 2022. What a memorable day! 😋

ActionRetro has dared the feat, documented it with the help of camera and video editing software, and thankfully made it available on Youtube.

The video invites you to copy the idea. Let say, it invites at least the lucky ones, who own a working IIgs.

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NESHacker Continues

NESHacker Continues
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/sJFCwDJq1gU

A few moons back we had this gentleman in one of our issues: NESHacker. Ryan just went cold turkey, and produced a whole series of videos on the architecture and functionality of the NES, that were absolutely worth watching.

Then Ryan was gone. 💨

Now he's back. His latest post is about the CIC chip that was built into every NES game and the console itself, to ensure the authenticity each piece of hardware.

Ryan's video is - as always - super competent, entertaining, and the subject is really interesting.

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Dragons Lair II for Apple IIgs

Dragons Lair II for Apple IIgs
Imagesource: https://brutaldeluxe.fr/

In March of this year, Antoine Vignau and Olivier Zardini accomplished the feat of releasing a more than just pretty port of Dragons Lair for the Apple IIgs. Here we had reported briefly about it.

Now they have followed suit, and implemented the second part of the game as well.

Since we don't have the hardware, we had to test this part in the emulator, too, and were successful.

The gameplay is as la-la-la as that of the first part. But just the fun of seeing this Laserdisk epic on an IIgs, is more than worth the time spent.

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Pixel Artist

Pixel Artist
Imagesource: https://www.pixelyz.com/

The last hint of the day is unfortunately only for Windows users. But for exactly those, who have a soft spot for pixelart.

Miuze aka Pixelyz has built a nice tool for designing 2D pixelart as well as animations, and offers the current demo version for download.

Especially the animation capabilities will make you want more. But decide for yourself.

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And here you have reached the end of this email. That's it. At least with Issue #53. If there was something for you ... Bingo. 🫂 If not, we are looking forward to your suggestions, criticism or content for one of the upcoming issues via email. Just hit the reply button on your email client and hit the keys.

Oh.Well.Yes. Want to help us? We are looking for subscribers. Always. Constantly. If you can think of someone suitable, feel free to forward this mail, the rest will be taken care of.

Enjoy the summer. Build something. And please speak about it.

Take care.

Jan & Bastian

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