Just the signal, not the noise

Hello 8bit'ers,

Some incredibly ingenious head in my environment once claimed that 7 is a number that lies between the 6 and the 8. 😮 The same goes for a Friday ... and I'll leave the rest of this quite exciting and challenging logic puzzle to you.

But since it actually IS Friday, we present a new edition of 8bitnews. This week we have put together a whole range of colorful topics, and hope that at least 1 up to 12 of them will somehow resonate with you.

But if that's not the case, check out our archive. The irresistible thing about retro topics is, that they never get old. 😬

Enjoy Issue #56.



Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes…

Mac OS 7, Mac OS 8 and Mac OS 9 on one machine? That sounds like a square hole, says the voice from the background, but that voice is wrong!

Only a few days ago, Jarosław Mazurkiewicz published his latest project, which does exactly, what is written up there. And it does it on a Raspberry Pi.

The project is based on the well known emulator Basilisk II for version 7 and 8, and SheepShaver for version 9. It runs on Raspberry PI OS Lite, and even if you theoretically could put it all together manually, Jarosław practically did the work for us, and automated all the necessary steps. 🙏

CD and DVD images can be used, a virtual modem emulation allows access to the Interwebs and thanks to DualBoot you can still get a C64, C128 as well as a PET into the house with some digital help of VICE.

Of course, there are several emulators out there already. Also and especially for the Pi, which is more than well equipped for the tasks. But it's rare to find something so lovingly put together as this complete package.

You still have a Pi lying around? Then what are you waiting for? 

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C64 Tensorflow

Tensorflow on Commodore 64
Imagesource: Wikipedia

In Issue #31 we already had the quite crazy sounding topic of machine learning on a C64 in. The article by Swen Kalski was quite controversial in some of it’s aspects, but who the heck did ever try experimenting with ML at 1MHz on a MOS6502 before?

Nick Bild now puts a spin on it. 🤌

With Tensorflow Lite he dares the experiment to run at least the inference part on the C64. The actual training of the model takes place beforehand on a suitably powerful machine.

Nevertheless - the results are surprising, and one may be curious, what kind of ideas other people will come up with.

Interesting read, exciting project.

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Intel's RISC CPU
Imagesource: https://spectrum.ieee.org/

1989 was a crazy year. Voyager 2 passed Neptune, the Exxon Valdez ran aground and lost 240000 barrels of oil, and in November - more or less due to a slip of the tongue by a member of the East German government - the Iron Curtain fell, which meant the end of the Cold War as well as of almost all communist countries.

What. A. Year.

In the same year, Intel worked on a RISC CPU. And the one they worked on had it all. To be exact, it had 1 million transistors in it. And it also was in direct competition with the x86 architecture, which was favored by Intel not only at that time.

The history of this CPU is not as widely known as it is interesting. Therefore Tekla Perry grabbed the topic for spectrum.ieee.org, researched it in detail as usual, and wrote it all down straight away. 🖋

There's not necessarily anything technical to learn in her article, but the reading time is definitely well spent, should you be looking for a few minutes of nostalgic relaxation and distraction.

As always, high quality content.

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Denise Emu

Denise Emulator
Imagesource: https://bitbucket.org/piciji/

There are more C64 emulators out there, than some have pairs of socks in the drawer. Due to the small instruction set of the MOS CPU, the machine definitely is a very interesting emulation target, even if the CPU emulation itself does not get you very far.

However - until today Denise was unknown to us - and one doesn't really know how this could happen. (This must be seriously analyzed, discussed and mitigated with measures by an to-be-built internal committee). 

Denise is not new. The project has seen its first commit sometime in 2019, and a German - unfortunately unknown - programmer named PiCiJi is responsible for the thing.

What makes Denise special, is, that the emu is cycle accurate and platform independent. Builds for Windows, Linux and MacOS are available.

If you want to experiment with it, you find the source on BitBucket. And if you have a little patience, look forward to the to be coming Amiga emulation.

However, we are curious.

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Couch to 64K

Couch to 64k
Imagesource: https://bread80.com/

If you have tasted blood with our Z80 article of the last week, the following might be something for you, too.

Michael Sutton has been inspired by Ben Eater in 2020 like many others, and dared his own experiments on breadboards. But in his case based on the Zilog CPU.

In 5 separate articles on his blog he builds the basic machine, and gradually adds ROM, LC display, RAM and a keyboard. The start of the series can be found here.

For those who have built the BE6502, and are now looking for some … variety, this build may well be for you.

(But not for you Mr. D. 😁)

Michael's build is not quite as detailed as Ben Eater's - but since unfortunately nothing has been heard from the latter for more than 7 months, this project could be a nice pastime for friends of breadboards and cable strippers.

Happy stripping!

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DIY Logic Analyzer

DIY Logic Analyzer
Imagesource: https://github.com/gusmanb/

Everyone who seriously deals with digital technology - especially other people's - sooner or later needs a logic analyzer. The problem: Depending on the maximum frequency, how many channels and how many samples per second are supported, such a thing can easily be the financial equivalent of a family trip to Bali. (Depends on your requirements in Bali).

Agustín Gimenez Bernad has recognized the problem and built a solution.

His DIY Logic Analyzer supports 24 channels, 100 megasamples per second, handles edge and pattern triggering and is - above all - cheap!

For around 15 bucks you get something quite serious here. If you order the not necessarily needed PCB, it gets a bit more expensive - but if even that's not competitive, I don't know what is.

The only downside: Agustín has developed his own protocol and visualization software, which unfortunately only runs on Windows so far. MacOS and Linux might come soon. (Plz)

Excellent project and a real money saver. 💶

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Apple ][ JS

Apple ][ JS
Imagesource: https://www.scullinsteel.com/

Many machines from the 80s exert a special fascination. And Apple's are a very special species for many retro tech lovers. But that alone is certainly not the reason, why so many emulators exist for the various systems.

Will Scullin was not the first in 2013, and will not be the last in 2022, who came up with the idea of building a Javascript emulator for the Apple ][ and Apple //e.

Unlike other projects, however, Will is still busy maintaining it. He has modernized the entire tooling and build chain, and is switching from Javascript to Typescript. So the project is alive.

If you need a fast and comfortable Apple ][ emu with disk image drag&drop, you will be happy with the live version of Apple ][ JS. The variant for the //e can be found here.

And if you have the time and inclination to di through the innards, you can find the source on github, and use it to run the emulator locally.

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AppleSoft BASIC in JS

AppleSoft BASIC
Imagesource: https://www.calormen.com/

A slightly different approach for aged Apple devices is taken by Joshua Bell. Instead of emulating the entire machine, Joshua limits himself to the emulation of AppleSoft BASIC.

Again, the implementation in Javascript ensures, that you can run your own BASIC source directly and easily in the browser. Performance is no problem.

A whole series of example programs can be loaded, inspected and executed directly. You can load your own experiments from and write them back to disk.

It is amazing how well BASIC can still be used for programming today. However, it is questionable how complex the results can be at most. Anyway, a fully functional project with real added value.

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NES Development on Apple ][

NES Development on Apple ][
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/kyN9BZiKqJQ

We kick off this week's Fun section with an Apple classic as well. Tyler Barnes was looking for a challenge, and decided to try to develop a piece of working NES software on an Apple ][.

Not far-fetched in principle, since both machines use a derivate of the same CPU. But basically not necessary, because assemblers can spit out machine code of other processor architectures without any problems. The challenge was primarily to use a device for the NES programming, which was available at that time.

If you're up for this little digital adventure, check out the video. (Pro Tip: For the patient there is a reunion with Hello Kitty 🙀)

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N64 Programming

N64 Programming
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/QAyMe8T540U

Kaze Emanuar made a name a few months ago, when he presented a complete rewrite of Super Mario 64, that was more performant than the original.

Now he has dedicated himself to optimizing the sound routines, although not too many low hanging fruits were to be expected there. As a result, however, Kaze comes to a (as he says) revolutionary realization regarding programming the N64.

We don't want to give away anything here. The video is short, and if you can spare 12 minutes and 33 seconds of your life, you certainly won't regret it.


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Super Mario Clock

Mario Clock
Imagesource: https://www.instructables.com/

For some, Mario is a plumber and a real disease. For others, he is an essential and defining part of video game history, with which Nintendo has shaped as many brains as probably no other game vendor in history. 

That being said, Mario is just cool and the Game & Watch variant we purchased for our office last year, is still in constant use.

But matter of fact the following DIY project by Jonathas Barbosa has only a few features in common with the original Mario Bros.

The Super Mario Bros Clock on Instructables is based on an ESP32 connected to a 64x64 RGB LED matrix display.

With the help of bytes arranged in the right order in the ESP32's RAM, the whole construct turns into a clock that not only makes the heart of every Mario fan beat faster, but also has real project character and invites you to experiment.

Looking for something to tinker with? Here you go.

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NoCode Quantum IDE

NoCode Quantum IDE
Imagesource: https://quantumflytrap.com/

Every now and then there has to be has to be something off topic. Those who know us, know that especially the Space Age on one end of the time scale is quite our thing. On the other side - literally - there is the topic of quantum computing.

Both super exciting. And rarely do you find a source, that invites you run your own experiments at the quantum level.

Piotr Migdał in collaboration with his whole team has set up such a project, and the thing is really worth it.

Quantumflytrap is a playground for quantum-level experiments and effects. A whole series of predefined setups can be tried out and understood, and in a playful series one is introduced to the effects of geometry, interference, polarization and entanglement.

An ingenious time eater. But at least something for your local bookmark collection.

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Bam 💥. The end again. Still, it's amazing that the community keeps providing us with new material week after week.

Do you have something for one of the upcoming issues? Feel free to email us anytime. You can simply reply to this email. Feedback, greetings, congratulations, envelopes filled with lots of cash, bitcoins and other forms of appreciation are also always welcome. 👹

But more importantly, share your weekly joy about our issue. Friends, relatives, the boss, the cab driver ... you know. Forwarding this email will do.

Issue #57 is coming. Probably next ... Friday. Meanwhile, enjoy the potentially free time. Build something. And speak about it.


Jan & Bastian

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