Just the signal, not the noise

Hello 8bit'ers,

life is beautiful, and it’s Friday again. Jan moved his office to the Canary Islands for the upcoming weeks, so be prepared for some sunny content. 🏖

Unfortunately a virus hit our team, fortunately it’s not the C-thing, so todays issue is a bit smaller than you might expect. Nevertheless, a number of things happened during the last two weeks, that you should be aware of.

Enjoy Issue #65.


CBM prg Studio V4.0

CBM prg Studio V4.0
Imagesource: https://www.ajordison.co.uk/

What makes fantasy consoles like PICO-8 or TIC-80 so interesting, is that they come with complete, integrated development environments, that not only allow you to write the actual program, but also provide a debugger, sprite editor, character editor, level designer and sound creation tool.

It would be nice, if there was something like that for Commodore machines, wouldn't it?

BAM!💥There is.

CBM prg Studio packages exactly the tools described above into a single Windows application. Arthur Jordison's masterpiece is not new, most might know it already. However, its current release 4.0 is relatively new and comes with quite a list of few new features.

If you've always wanted to get into real 6502 assembly programming on a CBM machine, but are a bit overwhelmed with Turbo Macro Pro and friends, CBM prg Studio is just the right tool for you. 

Unfortunately only for Windows, but hope dies last.

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Yellowstone Floppy Interface

Yellowstone Floppy Interface Controller
Imagesource: https://www.bigmessowires.com/

One or the other Apple ][ lover will know the name: Yellowstone Floppy Interface. This lovely piece of PCB replaces The Disk ][ Controller on demand and comes from none other than Steve Chamberlin better known as Big Mess O' Wires.

So far so good. And even though this piece of hardware is interesting by itself, it gets even more interesting when Nicole Branagan implants it into her Apple ][ Plus. 🩺

And That's exactly what happened. Her story reads entertainingly as usual, and in equally familiar detail, you marvel at what can be so special about a floppy controller for our beloved machines from the 80s.

Relaxed reading for in between, and not only for fans of slightly older Apple devices.

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The Fastest 8-Bit Machine?

Agon light
Imagesource: https://www.thebyteattic.com/

Do you know the feeling, when someone blocks you on Twitter because of a factual, critical tweet, but then asks you to write about their project? No? Neither do we. 🙄

That's why we're happy to see that Bernardo Kastrup is heavily promoting his 8-bit project Agon Light, and of course we don't want to deprive you of this stroke of genius.

If you take a look at the 8-bit box, you can't help but speak in superlatives. Therefore, we'd better quote the creator Bernardo himself at this point, so as not to possibly make any mistake: The fastest and cheapest 8-bit microcomputer ever made, by a large margin. Basta! ⚠️ 

The design of the machine is of course absolutely flawless, adequate and exemplary, it can be programmed directly in C, and both hardware and software are open source. If you are seriously looking for a fast 8-bit solution in 2022, you will definitely find it here. If you just want to have some not so serious fun, you will also find ... lets say - one or the other appropriate alternative. 

A great project with only one or two drops of bitterness. But: It’s rare, that all good things come together, right? Take a look and decide for yourself.

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Circuit Simulator

Qucs-S Circuit Simulator
Imagesource: https://ra3xdh.github.io/

Do you remember the time when there was no GUI for the Circuit Simulator SPICE? I do. Wasn't funny. 😩

Something like LogiSim or Digital at the end of the 90s would probably have made my personal resume look a little different. But let's leave that alone. Today, more than one frontend exists for SPICE, and one of the better known is Qucs. The problem with this one is, that it only supports the commercial and not the free SPICE version. And that was reason enough for the duo Vadim Kuznetsov and Mike Brinson to change exactly that with Qucs-S.

Their software is not new, but just a few days ago they released a 1.0.0 release candidate. And this thing is something to behold. For those who want to simulate digital circuits in physical detail, and do not live on a Mac, Qucs-S is definitely a recommendation.

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DIY KIM-1 Text Adventure

KIM-1 Text Adventure
Imagesource: Stable Diffusion

In our 8bitnews lab we still don't have a real KIM-1 ... so we always have to use an emulator for experiments. Thanks to netzherpes we were able to play a Zork-like text adventure for the KIM-1 this week using this emu. What looks like a crazy stunt first, totally starts to make sense, if you look at the source code of the underlying game engine.

This piece of code comes from Kaveen Rodrigo and is called Abirahasa Game Interpreter.

Andreas aka webdoctor aka netzherpes took the release of the engine as an opportunity, to create the little text adventure in question. 6502 assembly meets creativity, and independent of the gaming fun the implementation of the engine is quite interesting. 

Never thought, to see something like this for the KIM-1. Well done. 👍

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Ben Eater: RS-232

Ben Eater: RS-232
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/AHYNxpqKqwo

Ben Eater is back! 🥳

After almost a year of abstinence, he reports back with his latest video. And that makes the direction for the BE6502 foreseeable, at least for the next steps. After the excursions in the direction of the VGA graphics card, USB and SPI protocol, the next step is to equip the 6502 proven machine with a serial terminal via RS-232.

The protocol implementation will be exciting, since there are several possible solutions, especially for the fundamental issue of correct timing. Spoiler alert: We’re counting instruction cycles again. 

Where Ben's journey is heading right now, we don't want to anticipate, but his latest video maintains both style and information transfer at it’s best.

Let's hope, we get to hear from him more often again. 🤞

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DIY Serial Interface

DIY Serial Interface
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/ssiBkOq1tLE

Whether the basic mechanics of our universe is based on a RNG or PRNG will probably remain a philosophical rather than a scientific question for a long time. But it is a coincidence that Ben Eater presents the first video of a RS-232 series these days, and George Foot is building a DYI serial interface for debugging purposes with his 6502 project. 

Anyway. Serial protocol implementations are always useful, no matter if you follow a standard or cook your own soup. And since George's soup has set real standards in quality of content in recent months, his latest video on the subject can only be recommended.

Just fun to watch.

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Spintronics Again

Spintronics Again
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/QrkiJZKJfpY

In our very first issue many, many, many moons ago, we mentioned Paul Boswell’s project SpinTronics. The approach to representing electrics via kinetics is ingenious even not adequate. And the imaginative implementation of the project also brought the deserved success on Kickstarter.

But since it has become a bit quieter around the project, it is all the more pleasing, that now Steve Mould has ordered a kit for his latest release and played with the most important components in depth.

Those who know Steve, know what to expect. For all others: Watch it, it’s worth it.

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Rebuild a ZX81 in 2022

Rebuild a ZX81 in 2022
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/6a8wxj9vJjU

The ZX81 is an extraordinary piece of contemporary history, that's for sure. Fortunately, enough units were produced, so that even today - 41 years after its introduction - you can still buy a used one, that should run for the next 40 years, given you give it a little refurbishment.

But can you completely rebuild a ZX81 with components available today? 🤔

Adam aka iNimbleSloth investigates this question and documents the result in his latest video.

The actual base project comes from Mahjongg. And the real challenge is the ULA chip - uncommitted logic array - which combines a number of functionalities, that would otherwise require a larger number of simpler ICs. To reproduce it nowadays you need ... a larger number of simpler ICs.

A quite interesting walk through.

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Fast Fourier Transform

Fast Fourier Transform
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/nmgFG7PUHfo

We are clearly avowed fans of Derek Muller and his channel Veritasium. The quality of each and every one of his productions is outstanding, the topics are exciting, often off the mainstream and not infrequently trigger fierce reactions.

Derek's current video will probably cause less controversy, but that doesn't make it any less interesting. His topic is the Fast Fourier Transform.

An algorithm that is so ubiquitous, that our modern life is hardly imaginable without it. If you haven't heard of FFT yet, this video will definitely make you smarter. But also those who have already worked with an FFT implementation, will understand how the fast part actually comes about. Off-topic but as always super interesting and the official tip-of-the-week™.

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#65 was the first issue, that was not created in the currently cold and wet Berlin. The upcoming issues will have a slight Spanish accent for at least a few weeks, and we hope that the coming travel activities won't get in the way of a regular release of new issues. Let's see.

As always, we're happy to hear about content that would make one of the upcoming issues. And if you still have some energy left, please send this issue to interested friends, acquaintances, relatives ... we will take care of the rest.

It's getting cold up north. Take care, build something, and speak about it.

Que tenga un buen día!

Jan & Bastian

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