Just the signal, not the noise

Hello 8bit'ers,

The last Friday in July marks exactly two things: 1. the release of the current issue of our little magazine and 2. the last issue before our short summer break. 🏝

Yep, no tears please - for the whole of August you'll have to survive without 8bitnews, we're taking a break. 😭

But the comeback is for sure!

To sweeten the meantime, we've collected a number of topics in this issue, that will give you enough food for retro-oriented, digital leisure activities for a while.

Have a relaxing vacation and enjoy Issue #59.


Woz's Apple-1 PCB

Woz's Apple-1
Imagesource: https://techtelegraph.co.uk/

It is amazing, what amounts of energy can be released just by nostalgia. Somehow we humans tend not only to glorify the past in excess (guilty), but also to hold on to it in the effect.

But which nostalgic person would still be interested in a piece of broken PCB from the 70s with a few logic chips on it? Probably almost no one. But if this piece of PCB comes from Los Altos California, and was personally soldered together by TheWoz and used in the ByteShop for the first demo, then we are not only talking about a volcanic eruption of nostalgia, no, we are also talking about mountains of money, which change hands at an auction. 🤑

Something like that is about to happen. Tech journalist Josh Norem has gathered the details around the piece of Apple-1 PCB and published it in his current article for extreme tech.

I am more than curious about the final price!

Share the signal:

DIY Ferrite Core RAM

Ferrite Core RAM
Imagesource: https://spectrum.ieee.org/

32 GigaByte RAM in one of the modern machines on which we push pixels back and forth today, is neither a rarity nor really expensive.

If you compare that with the at the time luxurious 4 kilobytes of the Apple-1 mentioned above, which could be expanded to a monstrous 8 kB, we're talking about 4,194,304 times as much RAM in just 46 years. 💥

But before RAM was available in little plastic boxes with metal legs, a completely different technology was used to store individual bits: Ferrite cores. 🧲

For example, the 4 kB of RAM on the Apollo 11 Guidance Computer (AGC) was made of many small, hand-wired ferrite cores. 👩‍🚀Today as unthinkable as unnecessary, but the physical principle behind the idea is quite interesting.

Andy Geppert already picked up the idea in 2020, and delivered an exciting DIY ferrite core with Core64 at the time.

Steven Cass just recently took a closer look at the project, and neatly documented it for spectrum.ieee.org here.

The project is interesting as a stand-alone. But the integration options make it even more exciting. Fancy some 60s tech and a suitable tinkering project?

Here you go. 

Share the signal:


Usborne Books

Free Usborne Books
Imagesource: https://usborne.com/

Technical books for microcomputers and their languages were already a dime a dozen in the 70s and 80s. Depending on the depth one was looking for, and how many candles were present on one's birthday cake, the books from Usborne Publishing in particular were definitely the wheat rather than the chaff.

The imaginatively designed books on topics such as BASIC, computer controlled robots, or music using a keyboard in conjunction with a computer have almost cult status today.

Maybe they have cult status - depends on who you ask, I guess.

Anyway, Usborne has (not just today) decided, to make a whole series of these books from the 80s available for free as PDFs. And since the link to the collection dropped down on HN this week, we couldn't help, but poke around a bit in this beautiful collection of nostalgia.

The books are definitely not out of date. If you want to inspire kids with BASIC or another topic today, these books will still be the perfect literature in 2022. And if you remember one or the other book yourself, but don't own it anymore, you can at least enjoy the digital version again here.

[If the link doesn't work, choose English as language and US as locale, then reload.]


Share the signal:

Game of Life in ASM on MEGA65

Game of Life on MEGA65
Imagesource: https://mega65.org/

Even if the MEGA65 is supposed to represent the never released C65 from Commodore, its CPU architecture is clearly superior to that of its predecessor C64. As with the breadbin, however, with the help of cleverly sequenced assembly mnemonics it is possible, to get much more performance out of the box, than would be the case, with one of the available high-level languages.

In addition, Assembly is just fun with the instruction set that can definitely be described as "reduced“. (That is, if you define something like that as fun for yourself. 🤓)

Dan Sanderson is riding exactly this wave right now, has taken a look at the assembler ACME, and implemented Conway's Game of Life in Assembly.

Just the thing for a cold, snowy Saturday night in winter. 😄

The whole thing works in the emulator too. "I don’t have one…" therefore doesn't count as an excuse.

Share the signal:

Logo AI
Imagesource: https://www.pexels.com/

This is a lovely one. To some people Logo will not only be some programming language, but it might even have been the first step on their way to computer science. With its founding year 1967 it has a few years under its belt. But it became really interesting for Logo, when home computing became a thing at the end of the 70s.

For those who can still remember the first, simple Logo experiments, the combination of Logo with the topic of AI will initially seem a bit weird. 😳

But believe it or not, already in the 70s (and certainly before) people were dealing with the topic of AI. We discovered a very nice proof of that online thanks to the team at the Edinburgh Computer History Project:

To Artificial Intelligence is a scan of the 1976 book by A. Bundy, R.M. Burstall, S. Weir and R.M. Young. The examples in the book are a little rough around the edges as far as political correctness is concerned. But that shouldn't give the historically educated reader a headache, since it’s more or less a shadow  of "Zeitgeist". There are quite a few things to learn, that are not necessarily only related to Logo.

A wonderful piece of instructive history. And since the .htaccess of the underlying server is not designed restrictively, there is a ton of other material to be found while browsing.

Share the signal:


Perseus-9 Homebrew
Imagesource: https://hackaday.io/

Mitsuru Yamada is no stranger to the scene and has delivered an interesting MOS 6502 based homebrew with PERSEUS-8 already.

Since the machine - after its own statements - is to be used somewhat awkwardly due to the necessary serial terminal, Mitsuru now built and presented the successor Perseus-9.

And the thing is gorgous. The aluminum case alone is so cool, that it could perfectly fit into a Japanese Godzilla movie of the 70s. Besides the keyboard Mitsuru has also built in a character display, both of which are powered by a second MOS 6502.

The box runs the floating point interpreter - also developed by the creator - and makes the first MOS 6502 glow. Whether there is other software available, remains a mystery.

Coolness factor: 💯

Share the signal:

6502 Books

The last resource for today is as unconventional as it is helpful. At least if the MOS 6502 is still your object of desire, and instead of Commodore you rather feel an attraction towards Apple devices.

And if you can do without HTML and CSS, and if a simple filesystem structure paired with a webserver is enough for you, you might find enough reading material for the upcoming summer with the following:

Programming 6502 Assembly is only one of ... many resources on the server of asimov.net. We have counted a total of 38792(!) individual files. 😵

Besides a lot of documentation there are applications, emulators, tools, games, magazines, hardware, source code, you name it. Everything that typically accumulates in 20 years of collecting.

What can be found in the archive, is not yet in the public domain. But we assume that the operators have completely cleared the copyright.

Share the signal:


3D Monster Maze for the PET

3D Monster Maze for Commodore PET
Imagesource: http://blog.tynemouthsoftware.co.uk/

Long, long, long before DOOM and even long before the first dungeon crawlers in 2D, the basic gameplay of a FPV in 3-dimensional enclosed rooms captivated a whole generation of ZX81 owners.

We actually speak about Malcom Evans' 3D Monster Maze from 1981. 🧌

And long, long ... long before the Sinclair ZX81 (to be inaccurate a bit more than 3 years) Commodore sent the PET into the race. Still, no port of the game ever actually made it to the PET. 

That is about to change now! Dave Curran aka Tynemouth Software has noticed, that the character set of the PET is sufficiently similar to that of the ZX81. And since Paul Farrow reverse engineered the original, all the puzzle pieces were available.

The result is 3D Monster Maze for the PET. It is as impressive as the accompanying article is worth reading. Considering the cost of today's polygon accelerators, one can't help but wonder, whether gameplay is linearly related to the number of transistors. (Well, at least not for me).

Great reading material. 

Share the signal:

DIY 16bit CPU

DIY 16 bit CPU
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/Zt0JfmV7CyI

Sam Hastings also known as AstroSam has done exactly what hundreds or even thousands before him have done already. He built his own CPU.

But unlike others, however, Sam initially chose a 16 bit architecture in Logisim, but then developed his own little language called Armstrong in addition to an emulator.

His video regarding the project is not intended as a tutorial, but rather as documentation. However, Sam makes all project resources available on github, and what can be found there, is really something to be proud of.

If you feel like building your own emulated 16 bit computer, this is the perfect starting point.

Share the signal:


Imagesource: https://youtu.be/ysIwrhsKyU0

We stick to the genre, but change the hero of the story. Matt Heffernan has been a guest of ours several times already. And we can't help but make Matt's current project part of the current issue.

Background: Matt is currently designing his own 8 bit CPU.

For someone with a weak heart the matter does not pose a problem, but the idea to orientate the instruction set more towards a RISC CPU, does at least raises the pulse.

Matt's current video is so far only a theoretical beginning and goes into the architecture and design of the instruction set. We are looking forward to the next one, and also to what the Rocket88 architecture will be able to do.

It's fun to watch.

Share the signal:

Don't panic! Issue #60 is coming, promise! We're just taking advantage of the current radiation levels and average temperatures in the northern hemisphere, to relax our souls a bit. Retro-Detox so to speak. 😄

Thanks to state-of-the-art communication technology we still respond to feedback. Criticism and suggestions are therefore always welcome.

If you want to help us, talk about us, forward this issue, share the link on 8bitnews.io or convince the rather small remaining part of the population of this planet to signup with us.

Have a great summer. Relax a bit. And stay away from retro tech.

Happy Holidays!

Jan & Bastian

This email was forwarded to you? You can sign up here to receive it directly.

View our privacy policy here.

Made with 🍉 in Berlin

More content like that - only for subscribers. Free of charge. Free of SPAM. Rich in retro.