Just the signal, not the noise

Hello 8bit'ers,

the temperatures are dropping, and the number of interesting projects in the beloved retro-space is increasing again. A correlation?

The last two weeks were mainly marked by the long awaited release of Return to Monkey Island 🐒🏝, but also independently of that, there were a number of projects, articles and videos, that we don't want to withhold from you.

Shouldn’t Guybrush be your thing, and shouldn’t you have plans for the weekend, there might be some inspiration down there.👇

Have fun browsing through Issue #62.


C64 OS Release

C64 OS Release
Imagesource: https://c64os.com/

You live under a rock, on the moon or on an island far away from any submarine cable that enables basic communication with the outside world? If not, then you have surely heard about the release of Gregorio Naçu's C64 OS.

But if one of the options stone | moon | island should apply to you, here’s the story. Gregorio is anything but an unknown in the scene as well as on Twitter and has been working on a whole bunch of C64 utilities for quite a while now, which are not only written in pure 6502 assembly but also consider the limitations of the machine. 

The totality of available utils actually makes the old C64 a whole new machine, with which one can be productive to a certain extent even in 2022 without sacrificing performance or usability. 25 of those utilities are currently available and can directly be used after loading the thing from the provided SD card.

Besides the probably best C64 operating system you can find a lot of information about the machine on Greg's site as well. Especially recommended: his C64 Buyers Guide.

If you're looking for a new playground for your breadbin, and can loosen up the digital equivalent of those colorful printed bills we use to pay, you'll be more than happy with the C64 OS release. And if you want to see a review first, head straight to the Fun section below.

Great work Gregorio! 🍾

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What happened to Tandy

Tandy's TRS-80 is legendary and finds far too little room in our magazine. Machines with this name were produced from 1977 to 1981. Not all of them were fully compatible with each other, but all had a Zilog Z80 at their heart.

Interestingly, the name TRS actually stands for Tandy Radio Shack, and that again is a result of the history of both brands. The actual story behind Tandy is probably known to few, and probably more interesting than really relevant today. Nevertheless, David L. Farquhar has researched the details and compiled them in his usual informative style.

His recent article should at least be worthwhile for anyone, who still owns a TRS today. And if you are looking for a new retro challenge for your own garage, basement or "study", you might find the right inspiration here.

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Capcom Origins

Capcoms Origin
Imagesource: https://unsplash.com/

Once upon a time, when the first 8-bit machines made their way into the living rooms of the masses, there was superior technology. Arcades. These machines were not only more advanced than the home hardware available at the time. The zeitgeist was different, and arcades exerted a very special fascination on a very special generation.

The Capcom (Capsule Computer) machines of the 80s actually came out of a merger between I.R.M. Corporation and Japan Capsule Computers Co. Starting in 1983, gamers were then had the chance to enjoy the first title "Little League" and later burn their pocket money on titles like "The Battle of Midway", "Commando" or "Ghost'nGoblins".

The home consoles of the late 80s and early 90s then (successfully) tried to catch up with the arcade boxes' technical edge, and so the machines more and more played only a minor role for the masses. 

However, Fabien Sanglard - who should certainly be known to some - has just published his outstanding book on the subject, and it packs a punch:

The Book of CP-System goes into detail about software and hardware concepts, highlights Capcom's history and challenges, and is so detailed that it's rather surprising, that Fabien is making it available as a gift-what-you-want PDF.

One of the best technical historical books in recent memory, and those who can afford it, should make it worth an appropriate amount of money. 💯

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Atari 2600 at 45

Happy Birthday ATARI 2600
Imagesource: https://unsplash.com/

In the mid-70s, video game consoles flooded the market. What they all had in common, however, was the problem, that the games themselves were hardwired into the hardware - so the implementation was directly in the circuits. If you played through the existing games, you were through with the console. Sustainability is something else, but that wasn't an issue at the time for machines like the Magnavox Odyssey, the Coleco Telstar, or the many PONG clones.

What was needed, was a console, that was capable of running different games - regardless of the base hardware. At ATARI Al Alcorn, Jay Miner, and Joe Decuir worked on just that solution, and the rest is history. 

And it is this history that Jamie Lendino has rehashed and written down for the 45th birthday of the ATARI 2600. The original 2600 as well as the later VCS still enjoy serious popularity today, and whoever is interested in details of the console and its innards, may find some previously unknown facts in Jamie's latest article.

In any case, entertaining and absolutely worth reading. 🕹

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EmulatorJS 3.0.5

Imagesource: https://github.com/EmulatorJS/

Imagine you wanted to run a diverse number of game ROM's just in your browser. And imagine you wanted to support different systems from Nintendo, SEGA, ATARI but also the TurboGrafX, the NeoGeo, MSX systems and others. Impossible? Nope.

Take RetroArch, run it through EmScripten and generate the corresponding WebAssembly. A bit of glue code and done.

And that's exactly what Ethan O'Brien has just done again with version 3.0.5 of EmulatorJS. The result is impressive. It’s not only the variety of supported systems, but also the performance of the emulation.

A total of 14 different cores is available in the current version. ROM's must of course come from the user.

EmulatorJS is convincing. The online version comes with documentation, the executable emulator as well as a code editor, which invites to quick experiments.

Fancy an emulation adventure in your browser? Here you go. 

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A-SID - Commodore64 Effect Generator
Imagesource: https://pixabay.com/

If you're into music, then you know what the wah-effect is. If not, then a short hop over to Orastron A-SID will suffice, because there you can try it live on various SID creations with the help of a JS demo.

CutOff, LFO Amount and Speed can be set separately, and the generated effect should at least trigger the acoustic memory of most. Now what does all this have to do with 8-bit machines?

Well, the Orastron Team has implemented the effect generator for the C64. The highlight is, that no hardware modification is necessary. But you do have to get your hands dirty, if you want to build the audio/video breakout cable and the optional pedal2paddle adapter.

Otherwise, a VST3 plugin is also available ... but who needs that if there is a C64 implementation. 😑

Very cool open source project and a playground that shouldn't get boring anytime soon. 🎹

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C64 OS Review

C64 OS Review
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/MVeW2ZlV2WU

Still unsure whether to buy Gregorio Naçu's C64 OS? Perifractic to the rescue. 🛟

Chris took a detailed look at the new OS right after the release, and dedicated an entire episode to the project.

As usual colorful, professional, funny, informative and simply worth watching.

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PDP-12 in Action

PDP-12 in Action
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/4jY5tOEx4NA

Prof. Peter Peterson seems not to be exactly, what you might call a dazzling personality of retrocomputing.

But he is! And so is the entire team, that worked with him to restore and commission a PDP-12. This DEC 12-bit machine from 1969 is as beautiful as it is interesting, and the front panel of the machine alone could be done by Dieter Rams (in fact it's not).

In the 37-part(!) YouTube Playlist, however, it's not so much about the outer as the inner values of the machine. And if you're looking for some new but old fodder for your retro brain, you might be very happy here.


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Programming the Apple ][

APPLE ][ Programming
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/I9gexDyrnHU

Apple's ][ was and still is an exceptional machine, whose prices on the known platforms keep rising for machines in working condition. But once you've got hold of such a treasure, the question arises, how to actually use it. 🤷‍♂️

Information can be found in an immense number of sources. Therefore it is almost impossible, to quickly separate the wheat from the chaff. A condensed kickstart instead is provided by the makers of InkboxSoftware, who explain in a short video how to program in Basic, in Assembly, how to handle the graphics modes and how to use downloaded software.

Short’n sweet and the perfect start, even if you only want to play with an emulator.

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Maze Solver

Maze Solver
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/BvwgdrC8vlE

To conclude this issue, there have to be two more off-topic gems. Kicking things off with the ingenious Matt Henderson. Matt is known for his extraordinary experiments with mathematics, which he loves to turn into colorful pixels on a screen in a visually stunning way using his knowledge of computer science and programming.

His latest video is more about brain- than eye-candy - and honestly, not even really brain. Because Matt was looking for the simplest variant of a maze solver. And of course he found one. The result is somehow surprising and also nice to look at.

Top content. Worth watching. Go for it. 

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Lego Top Gun

Lego Top Gun
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/bEzbim8peGU

And the last tip of the day has as much to do with 8-bit machines as Jeff Bezos does with a moon landing in this century. 👨🏻‍🚀 Sorry!

But if you're still in love with 8-bit boxes today, you probably actively lived through the 80s. And anyone who lived through the 80s is very unlikely to have gotten around the hit movie Top Gun.

And even if martial picture monsters with little content are rather less my personal taste, Top Gun has left a lasting impression, which has driven me personally in the cinema for the second part. 

As a result: even less content, even more visual gadgetry, but entertainment and retro feeling pure. The more surprised I was when I became aware of Augustus Danko aka OnBeatMan and his channel just a few days ago. Augustus rebuilds famous movie trailers in stop-motion technique using only Lego. And the whole thing so good, so bricky and so highly professional, that the results IMO scream for a whole movie.

But see for yourself - his remake of the official Top Gun 2 trailer is just amazing.

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Our new 2-week cycle has so far not led to any deep-seated upsets, and allows us to continue running 8bitnews - so far so good.

If you have ways and means to support us in the future (in whatever form), we are happy to hear from you.

The same applies to sharing our magazine with friends of old but ingenious technology, as well as tips on content that might be interesting for all our readers.

Hope to see you again in issue #63. Until then,  build something, and speak about it.


Jan & Bastian

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