Just the signal, not the noise

Hello 8bit'ers,

It's almost magical, it's Friday and somehow - at least in Western Europe - these days seem to be all about chicken eggs and bunnies. 🐇 Whether this is a good thing or not, we don't want to judge, but in those parts of the world, where eggs and bunnies represent a seemingly completely unrelated tradition, there are at least 4 free days ahead.

And they want to be celebrated properly. Maybe we can help with that. The topics of the last 2 weeks are no blockbusters, but one or the other could well provide for increased pulse and bllod preasure.

Have fun with Issue #75.


Infinite Mac

Infinity Mac
Imagesource: https://infinitemac.org/

Almost a year ago Mihai Parparita – to be found on mastodon as @mihaip – was already in our news. In Issue #44 we reported about his browser-based versions of System 7 and Mac OS 8.

Now, almost exactly a year later, Mihai has followed suit - and adds on top … a lot!

At infinitemac.org he has put almost all classic Mac OS versions into a JS emulator dress, and made the majority of versions of the operating system from System 1.0 to Mac OS 9.4 directly usable in the browser. We're talking a whole 35(!) fully functional releases, and every single one of them boots directly into the browser of your choice.

8 official versions are still missing, but I'd almost bet, that it won't take another year for those to be available online as well, thanks to Mihai's work.

Of course, a piece of real hardware on your desktop is something else entirely – but if you just want to try out some software, revive a piece of your gaming past, or just indulge in nostalgia, this is the perfect place to be.

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British Micros

British Micros
Imagesource: https://8bitnews.io/

Benj Edwards aka @benjedwards has – at least as far as I could read – officially withdrawn from the topic of retro technology and is now devoting his time to more minor topics like machine learning and AI. 👹

As it seems, however, he can't really break away from our favorite topic. And that's a good thing!

Because that's how, another collection of properly strung together words can be found in the form of an article about UKs micros of the 80s over at arctechnica.com. And all of that completely without next-token calculation ... how could that have happened? 🤷 Anyway.

Benj is dedicated to the 7 most widely used 8-bit micros of the 80s in the UK. If you know your way around, you won't find anything groundbreaking or new here. But at least an as always competently researched article about Sinclair, Amstrad Acorn & Co.

Nice reading material for sure.

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Pixel Vision 8

Pixel Vision 8
Imagesource: https://pixelvision8.github.io/

Sometime you might reach a point, where yet another new piece of 8 bit hardware is either incompatible with family planning or with the volume available in your homeoffice. Both are unfortunately as real as they are fatal - but there is a way out.

Software – because that at least doesn't need any real volume, albeit a bit of storage space, but that is – in contrast to a potential divorce or a move to the basement – rather cheap after all.

8 bit fantasy consoles (the software) don't really want to be a substitute for real hardware.

Rather they are idealized playgrounds where you can build everything in software, that you would have liked to have in hardware in terms of ISA, memory, graphics and sound capabilities as well as IDE and tooling – back in the days, when times were better. And there are some of those options.

Besides the classics like PICO-8 and TIC80 we have already presented Pixel Vision 8 in the past.

Earlier this year, author Jesse Freeman alas @jessefreeman made the latest release 1.3.0 available, hangs a bit behind his own roadmap, but delivered the full package. 📦

PV8 comes with everything you need. Code- and font-editor, tracker, sound generator, spritesheet and tilemap manager ... and nothing stands in the way of your own blockbuster game development – except Lua or C#.

If you don't know the project yet, v1.3 is stable and fun - and is a serious alternative for PICO-8, TIC80 & friends.

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NESFab Explained

NESFab Explained
Imagesource: https://pexels.com/

In Issue #73Patrick Jordan Bene going as pubby on github made some drastic claims regarding the performance of his project NESFab.

In his own words: It's possible that NESFab is the best performing 6502 compiler in existence.

Now Patrick is attemppting to prove it. In his latest post on the subject, he goes into the implementation details that seem to give binaries, built with his compiler, a not inconsiderable advantage over competitors like LLVM, KickC, VBCC, GCC or CC65.

Exciting and interesting to read - and above all with depth, which is really refreshing in times of automatically generated texts.

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Imagesource: https://ugbasic.iwashere.eu/

If there's one language that just can't be killed, it's BASIC. Not that there aren't others, but BASIC has a very special status.

Probably this is due to the fact, that the majority of the 8 bit systems, that most of us grew up with, had a BASIC interpreter directly in ROM. And after switching on the beloved hardware you ended up in a BASIC REPL within a few seconds.

But you don't have to be old as a rock, to appreciate the benefits of the language. Even today, modern flavors of BASIC are available, and they are anything but incompetent.

New to us this week was a variant by Marco Spedaletti tweeting as @spotlessmind75.

The special thing about his project is, that besides the 6502 and the 6809 also the Z80 is supported. And with only a little bit of sourcecode you can produce working machine code for at least 11 different target systems.

Amstrad, Atari, ColecoVision, Commodore, Dragon, MSX, Olivetti, Radio Shack, Thomson, SEGA and ZX Spectrum – that's quite an announcement!

ugBASIC has it all. Not only because the project comes with a modern IDE, but also because (beside different interesting optimizers) also multithreading via protothreads arrives on our 8 bit machines.

Fancy something new? Here you go.

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Imagesource: http://mynor.org/

The number of DIY-homebrew-I'm-building-my-own-computer™ is probably in the ... thousands at least. But every now and then there's a machine that causes a stir.

At least in the space between the monitor I'm currently sitting in front of, and the back of my chair. The reason for the slightly elevated pulse and blood pressure is the latest work by Dennis Kuschel known to most for his mynor project.

Dennis just added a third design after his second work – TraNOR a purely transistor based box:

My4TH accommodates a simple yet effective design on its 10cm x 10cm PCB. Driven by Dennis' 1 bit NOR based ALU with access to 32kB ROM and 32kB RAM, you'll find a FORTH interpreter, a source code editor, a compiler and on top of it fully functional I/O routines. So you have a complete FORTH system.

The cherry on top are 6 digital inputs, 5 outputs, a RS-232 interface and a speeds between 8 and 14MHz which allow up to 6300 8 bit additions per second. 💥

(Not enough for LLM inference - but who needs something like that? 🤓)

The MyNOR based machine comes with just 16 CMOS chips, and if you feel like soldering, you can find BOM and all necessary software on Dennis' project page.

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8 Bit Emulators

8 Bit Emulators
Imagesource: https://unsplash.com/

If you've been following our publication for a while, or if you know the secret link to our archive, you'll know, that we've reviewed just about every 8 bit emulator we've somehow come across over the last almost 2 years.

Chip Loder – writing for appleinsider – has now done something similar, and taken a closer look at a number of emulators for ATARICommodore and Sinclair machines.

In his latest essay – however – he not only goes into these fine bits of software, but mixes in history and personal experience right along with it.

Real hardcore enthusiasts may already know every single emulator mentioned. But maybe there is still one or the other surprise – especially with the online versions.

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Retro Book Scans

Retro Book Scans
Imagesource: https://www.retro-commodore.eu/

There is little to nothing like archive.org when it comes to printed digital history.

Books, magazines, games – not everything but a lot from the golden age of microcomputers can be found there. But finding means searching in the first place. And before searching often stands the you-don't-know-what-you-don't-know-problem™.

Therefore it is helpful, when someone (in this case an unknown author / team) has taken on the task of curation, and – with equipped with their own knowledge and experience – has put together a comprehensive collection of booksmagazinesmanualstutorialsarticles and box scans on 8 bit and 16 bit machines of the 80s.

The result of such efforts can be found at www.retro-commodore.eu.

We must assume, that none of the availble book and magazine scans violate applicable law, and may legally be offered for download. In any case, the offer is as remarkable as it is well structured.

At least you know very quickly, what you didn't know before - and that's a start. 💡

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DOOM on Mac SE/30

DOOM on Mac SE/30
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/63WcU7LBKFg

Can you play DOOM on a 34 year old Macintosh SE/30? Absolutely not! Neither the CPU requirements nor the graphics output (1 bit black/white) are even remotely sufficient.

But is there an option?

The creator behind the Action Retro YT channel aka @ActionRetro1 dared the experiment, and tuned his SE/30 for all it's worth.

The result is not only impressive in terms of looks, but also the performance of the legendary box increases, and a real, integrated 256 grayscale display helps the little Apple to produce some beautiful, digital imagery - even if without color.

But will Ultimate DOOM for Mac be playable with it? Well, that depends primarily on the definition of playable, but from a purely argumentative point of view, one could already say yes.

Curious? Check out the video.

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Imagesource: https://youtu.be/tG2TMkBB6JU

We stay with DOOM, but change the fronts ... um, platforms.

DOOM on the C64 is a topic that we have already discussed several times. An official DOOM version doesn't really exist (to our knowledge), but there are quite a few POC implementations, each of them really impressive.

Now there's an update on this topic, as DOOM on the breadbin is finally coming within reach. However, even this time only with the help of a cheat in the form of additional hardware.

An individual – only known as @knibbelbild – took a closer look at the RAD Expansion Unit and equipped his little 64er with it. As expected, the extension gives the little Commodore a run for its money. RAD DOOM is amazingly smooth and more than playable.

19 minutes and 19 seconds of real gameplay can be witnessed in knibbelbild's video. And if that's just whet your appetite, you can find PCB, BOM and assembly instructions for the RAD extension for free on github.

Happy shooting!

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Imagesource: https://youtu.be/seyHAFpsoP8

If you know Ben Eater's World's worst Videocard, or have built one yourself, then the combination of VGA controller and EEPROM makes perfect sense.

If that's not the case, then you might be interested in the latest video from Dr Matthew Regan.

Matt is a frequent guest of ours, his video series Apple ][ wire-by-wire and Turing 6502 are not as legendary as Ben Eater's series, but are in no way inferior to them in terms of competence and content.

In his latest video Matt builds a VGA controller with the help of an EEPROM and at the same time reveals the secret of what his personal past has to do with the company NVIDIA.

Both exciting and informative. In any case, a wonderful entertainment for all those who always wanted to generate a VGA signal themselves, but could not.

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Commander X16 Update 2023

Commander X16 Update
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/nyByDNQuMMI

David Murray aka The 8-Bit Guy is not necessarily a non-controversial figure in the scene. The same goes for his project Commander X16 - which wants to be a modern 8 bit machine.

Regardless of the discussions that go along with it, we don't want to hide the long-awaited update on the production status of the machine by any means. David and his community around the project have faced a number of challenges, that were not factored into the initial pricing for the Commander.

Risk management is a discipline, that will certainly become part of the planning for the next project. Anyway, in his latest video David transparently addresses all the challenges in detail, and we're excited to see when and with what price tag the machine should actually become available.

If you don't feel like waiting, you'll find plenty of alternatives.

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To all those for whom Easter doesn't matter, have a protein allergy, or just hate bunny fur on the couch or between the teeth – we wish you a relaxing few days. Maybe one of the above topics will contribute to your personal entertainment factor in the coming free days.

For everyone else: Happy Easter! 🐰

If you still have energy after the egg hunt - please help us to push 8bitnews a little further. New subscribers are always welcome. Just forward this issue and enjoy your fresh new karma points.

Criticism and suggestions are welcome as well. Just click on Reply, hit the keys and send it off.

In exactly two weeks from today, Issue #76 should show up in your inbox. We look forward to it! Until then – build something, and speak about it.

Take care.
Jan & Bastian

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