Just the signal, not the noise

Hello 8bit'ers,

As luck would have it, today is Friday again. And rather due to causality, our current issue has landed in your mailbox. 📧

For us - as well as probably for you - this week was marked by the JWST. And even though the pictures are absolutely outstanding, we'll forego a link here. We prefer to save repetitions of repetitions for old 8-bit technology and wait for new images in the month to come.

Despite the overpoweringness of this topic, there was also something else. Actually a lot happened. And we just couldn't help, but gather everything together and put it into a digital format like we do every week.

We hope, there’s something in for you.

Enjoy Issue #57.


TRON at 40

TRON - This is 40
Imagesource: Disney

It was a Sunday afternoon, sometime in 1984. In the living room my dad turned on the transformer for our black&white TV (yes, transformer AND black&white), and turned the manual VHF modulator until we had a picture.

Two hours later I was flashed like rarely in my life, and even if I really missed color, TRON was gigantic at that time. The story, and especially the graphic effects were something, that had never been seen before. Even years later - but then in color - the movie picture had lost hardly anything of its fascination, and should become formative at least for me personally - the rest is history.

Hard to believe that the actual release of TRON was 40 years ago this week. I mean ... 40! And hard to believe Jeff Bridges was in the sequel almost 30 years later … he was old in the first part already. 😂

Ryan Britt has gone into a little more detail about the history of the Master Control Program 👺, and for those who miss the times, his article will make you feel right at home.

Happy Birthday TRON!

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CP/M Open Source

CP/M is Open Source
Imagesource: arith Public domain, Wikimedia Commons

CP/M is open source. Finally. Officially. And the like.

48 years after the release of the first versions by Digital Research Inc. you can now implement CP/M for virtually any architecture yourself, without having to reckon with having a fat lawsuit and the associated payments on your neck tomorrow. 😮‍💨

But seriously: CP/M played a crucial role long before DOS. Besides the initial versions for the Zilog Z80 and the Intel 8080, there were versions for Motorola's 68k, a port for 8086, and a number of compatible versions for various computers in the European Eastern Bloc.

Those who were allowed to call a C128 their own, also got to enjoy CP/M thanks to the Z80. And to this day there are madmen who produce CP/M compatible software. 🤓

We owe the news to Martin Maly aka retronic, without whom we probably would have just missed this groundbreaking event. Whew. That was close.

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Apple ][ Documentation Project

Apple ][ Documentation Project
Imagesource: https://unsplash.com/

What would life be without HN. Bland, dull ... almost pointless. But since we don't need to approach this thought any further, we're all the more glad to present the HN-find-of-the-week™:

The Apple ][ Documentation Project.

The operators of the host are not really to be made out. But one must state, the ladies and gentlemen have done a great job. In the perfectly, pedantically organized archive you find manifold resources not only about the different versions of the Apple ][

Software, manuals, books, photos for almost all Apples of the 70s and 80s are neatly divided into subfolders and made available for download.

The index has been updated only a week ago. So one can assume that the project is still maintained. An immensely helpful resource for anyone, who wants to do more than just boot up once, to see if the box runs. And for all friends of either an emulator or the real hardware.

Great collection! Don’t miss it.

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Amstrad Emu

Amstrad Emu
Imagesource: https://github.com/ColinPitrat/

What a shame. For more than a year we have ignored a machine, of which millions have been sold. Millions! The Amstrad CPC series.

Competing especially with Commodore and Sinclair machines, Amstrad's Z80A based 8-bit boxes were really successful, especially in Europe. Something special were the integrated storage devices - either a compact cassette deck or a 3.5'' floppy drive.

The software variety was not to be sneezed at, because besides the available CP/M programs there were also a lot of games available for the machines. Amstrad also licensed the machines to Schneider, among others, and in East Germany a compatible clone of the system was developed in 1989 - dubbed "KC Compact". But it became irrelevant after the fall of the Wall.

1990 marked the end for the CPC. In general the 8-bit era was coming to an end (I mean for the rest of the world, not us…), and Commodore and Sinclair divided the remaining market almost alone.

Too bad. That's what Colin Pitrat must have thought, when he added another star to the emulator universe.

His Caprise32 is not the only piece of software, that brings the CPC machines back to virtual life. But it is one of the few projects that is completely open source.

Caprise32 can be compiled on Windows and Linux. If you live in front of a Mac, you should have a look at the excellent RetroVirtualMachine by Juan Carlos González Amestoy as an alternative.

Something different. Love it. ❤️

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Commodore Screencasts

Commodore Screencasts
Imagesource: https://64bites.com/

The Commodore machines in the 80s distinguished themselves by having a version of BASIC on board.

Turn on. Start working. Update superfluous.

To achieve first successes with BASIC was and is not so difficult. But if you want to get more out of the machine, or if you want to push the CPU to the limit, you have to use Assembly.

Learning the latter, can be easy or difficult. A version of Turbo Macro Pro and a book on the subject would be the hard way I guess. So, why tax your own brain, when you can approach it with a completely different attack vector?

Sounds good? Then Michał Taszycki may have something for you. 

Michał is a self-confessed friend of beloved 8-bit technology, and has documented his knowledge in a whole armada of screencasts. His project is basically commercial in nature (and we are, as always, not sponsored), but Michał is making 9 videos of his Season 1 available for free.

Looking for some relaxing fodder for the brain? This might be it. 

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Rust on the MEGA65

Rust on the MEGA65
Imagesource: https://unsplash.com/

The MEGA65 remains a hot topic. The real hardware, the emulation via XEmu (or someday maybe a MiSTer core) offer everything that many expected from Commodore in the 80s, but never got due to the missing release of the C65.

Today the community has quite a few interesting software titles to offer, but some people are less interested in gaming and more in programming the machine. And there are a few options.

One of the currently most interesting is Rust!

Sounds funny? (I mean, not funny-funny, but crazy-funny?) It actually is not. Because since the release of LLVM-MOS, which we spoke about in Issue #39, it's absolutely realistic. And interesting. And usable.

Mikael Lund has given himself over to the adventure, and knitted together a suitable Rust Playground Project for the MEGA65.

The whole thing is more a StarterKit than anything completely finished. But it opens a more than interesting option for programming the machine.

Fancy something rusty? Have fun.

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LS74XX Radio

LS74XX Radio
Imagesource: https://unsplash.com/

This will probably be the off-topic-topic™ of the week, but we just couldn't leave it out. Sorry! 😐

74XX logic ICs should be known to almost everyone, who has ever played around with digital electronics, and dared to do some 8-bit experiments at home.

But these little thingies can be used for much more than just building your own calculating machines. How about a shortwave radio? 📻


Michael Wiebusch has done just that. And not only has he been successful, he has done away with coils, variable capacitors and Schottky diodes with his build.

Sounds adventurous? Here you can find all details about his project.

Something really different to satisfy your tinkering mania. Add to the positive side of things: a working radio. 

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Zeal 8-Bit Graphics

Zeal 8-Bit Graphics
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/Yqj1tTqxfC4

In Issue #23 we published a short introduction of the Zeal 8-Bit Computer.

The project of an unfortunately unnamed friend of 8-bit technology (greetings to France 🙋‍♂️) should resonate with just about anyone who enjoys a DIY machine based on the Z80.

After building the machine, the next logical step was the output of a video signal.

The author solved this problem using an FPGA on a custom PCB, and has now published two interesting videos on the subject. So ... now is rather relative. Both videos are already a few weeks old. But if you are currently dealing with the topic of video output, and do not want to exclude an FPGA based implementation, you might get the right idea here.

Great work!

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x86 Breadboard Computer

x86 Breadboard Computer
Imagesource: https://www.youtube.com/c/SladorSoft/

Ok, admittedly, the following is blasphemy. 👹 For one thing, we've arrived at 16 bit here, for another, it’s about a CPU from Intel ... whoooooaaaa.

But the reason we just had to include this playlist from Slav, is the overall coolness factor of the project behind it.

An x86 computer on breadboards. 😮

What sounds strange at first, is of course not that far-fetched. Why shouldn't one get a 70s Intel CPU to run on small, hole-ridden plastic boards.

Slav proves that it is possible. His playlist currently offers 13 titles, and one can assume that more will follow.

Appetite for an off-kilter topic? Here you go.

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Fighter Pilot

Fighter Pilot
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/-6U9dLjAG0c

Change of subject: Games. 2D scrollers were more or less a kind of natural choice for machines of the 80s with sprite rendering capabilities. Game titles with 3D graphics were more of a challenge, especially because the calculation of the corresponding 3D objects including Z-buffering with only a few megahertz was definitely a challenge.

But titles like Elite have shown, that it was possible.

But there was another 3D genre. Namely that of flight simulators. And one of the more famous ones from the beginning of the 80's was Fighter Pilot.

Rob Caporetto took a look not only at Fighter Pilot, but also at some other titles for Atari, the C64 and the Spectrum, and published a worthwhile video on the subject.

Something to relax.

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That. Was. It.

As always, we had a lot of fun putting #57 together. Hopefully it was just as much fun for you to read it.

If not, feel free to drop us a line. Feedback of any kind is always welcome. If any of your projects make a wonderful hit for our 8-bit target, don't hold back. You can reach us by simply using the Reply button of your email client.

Help beyond that is even more appreciated. You know someone who might like our magazine? This email has no copy protection, feel free to forward it. 😜

We look forward to issue #58. It's coming. Until then - built something. And speak about it.


Jan & Bastian

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