Just the signal, not the noise

Hello 8bit'ers,

It's 2023, it's April, it's Friday. And so – as we do every two weeks – we get to present you with the best topics around AIMLLLMsGPTdiffusion models and pretty much all other related topics, as the news is seemingly dominated by nothing else. As if no one would dare to publish anything else at this stage. (Which honestly would even be understandable.)

Of course(!), pretty much nothing really revolves around AI & Co. for us – and it will stay that way. But we're still happy that in the coming weeks a few more of our favorite topics will find their way into the public, so we can find them.

For those who don't want to get caught up in the current hype, however, we do have a few slightly backward-looking topics below. One or two of which we hope, will be a perfect match for the coming weekend.

Enjoy Issue #76.


ATARI 800XL Remake

ATARI 800XL Remake
Imagesource: https://revive-machines.com/

When the Atari 800XL was released in 1983, I was still (almost) running around the Christmas tree with a drum. 40 years later, the machine's specs aren't necessarily impressive anymore, but in 1983, equipped with 64 KB of RAM and a special version of the 6502, the machine was way out in front.

Although the computer was not available in sufficient quantities due to production problems during the 1983 Christmas season, and lost market share to the Commodore 64, price cuts made it the lowest priced computer in its performance class.

Time has passed. The 80s are history. But a small unknown team from Gdynia in northern Poland turns the wheel of time backwards anyway, and revives the small Atari.

The RM 800XL is a modern version but in the fancy, original design. Inside the machine a RISC CPU and an FPGA will do its work – the FPGA most likely simulating the MOS6502 Sally variant. Exciting!

Ports are all classic ones announced – quite an interesting plan – but USB, USB-C as well as HDMI will be added, in case the inclined buyer doesn't have 40-year-old input and output hardware readily available.

So far revive-machines.com – the company behind the stunt – does not give any details about the release date or price. But the name of the company gives at least a glimpse in which direction this project will go.

In any case, we are already ... quite excited.

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Deluxe Paint Reloaded

Deluxe Paint Reloaded
Imagesource: https://www.stef.be/

If the name Deluxe Paint rings a bell, then we've got something for you❗️

For me personally, Deluxe Paint III on the Amiga was the tool for logo and graphic design. If you ever tried to create your own logo with a glossy mirror effect sometime around at the end of the 80s or beginning of the 90s, you will understand how easy modern tools make such a task today.

If you on the other hand love a (pixel-by-pixel-)challenge, but don't have access to that ancient hardware or software anymore, @Steffest has got you covered.

His javascript based remake of Deluxe Paint is called Dpaint.js, runs in every modern browser and invites you to pixel-pushing right away.

Deluxe Paint users of the old days will immediately feel at home. And if you want, you can test your own creation directly with one click in an Amiga emulator, which opens the wonderful work in DP II.

Stable implementation of a great idea.

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New Mini VIC

Brandnew Mini VIC
Imagesource: http://blog.tynemouthsoftware.co.uk/

Dave Curran aka @tynemouthsw is quite a name in the scene. Those who don't know him by those two names may be familiar with his label TFW8b. (Bam? Dang!)

Dave is always good for interesting hardware innovations, that are technically a perfect fit for retronostalgics. And one of his long announced projects is a remake of the VIC20 called MINI VIC.

But since Dave plans to use only currently available hardware for this project, he faces the same challenge, as so many of his peers: How to replace the VIC chip?

In his search, he stumbled across a software implementation for the ATmega328P in the Arduino Nano, and is using that as the basis for his own experiments. Whether and how all this will actually lead to a functional product, remains to be seen. But Dave's approach might be interesting for the one or the other hardware enthusiasts.

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Space Invaders - The Story

Space Invaders Story
Imagesource: Axel Pixel, Vector: OmegaFallon, TilmannR and Cmglee, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

How about a bit of nostalgia disguised as a wonderfully researched article about Space Invaders? 👾 (Finally – two years in – a suitable usecase for emojis!)

How about winning the lottery for 10 million? 💸

Can't help with the second, but the Space Invaders article is more fun anyway! In fact, it's been 45 years and a few days since the first Arcade version of the game made the integrated CRTs glow in Japan. The game was the Arcade hit, and the 1980 version for the ATARI VCS / 2600 quadrupled its sales! What other later console saw a growth pattern like that?

Craig Grannell writing for WIRED and tweeting as @CraigGrannell has delved into the history of the game, and rehashed the original story for us, coming from WIRED Japan.

There's nothing groundbreakingly new here for the retro-connoisseur, but a nice story for a few relaxing minutes of reading.

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Mac SE Video Converter

Mac SE Videoconverter
Imagesource: https://www.mac-museum.com/

The following project by Fred aka @theguruofthree can be summarized quite simply:

Convert the video output of a Mac Plus/SE/Classic using a Raspberry Pi Pico to either a VESA compatible VGA signal or a monochrome composite video.

Excited? If not, then you are probably not one of the lucky ones who still owns a working Plus, SE or Classic.

But if your attic, basement or teenager's room still gives this good piece of Apple hardware a home, but it just doesn't work anymore, then this project could be exactly your solution.

The idea is simple, but the implementation is not trivial. In the end, you can revive your beloved Apple with the help of the small RasPi, should the CRT simply have passed away. Alternatively, you can use the solution as a perfect video capture interface in hardware.

Very special, but so nice in it's implementation, that it may serve as inspiration or at least as a learning source for other, similar projects.

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C64 Fullsize Images

C64 Fullsize Images
Imagesource: https://www.luigidifraia.com/

The following project strikes in the same notch, only in a different piece of wood.

The wood in this case is the Commodore 64, and the notch is defined by many colorful pixels, which together want to represent a whole pictures. Luigi Di Fraia tweeting as @difraialuigi has tinkered with this, but it wouldn't be anything special as a graphics editor for the little Commodore, if there wasn't a small but fine detail:

The current version of his project Albert allows the design of pictures that extend into the right and left border of the 64! Oversize, so to speak.

Albert is currently available for Intel Macs (and thus also for those with Apple Silicon via Rosetta) as well as for 64 bit Windows versions.

Very specialized, but also very cool!

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BE6502 Update

BE6502 Update
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/oLYLnb7kpLg

Ben Eater aka @ben_eater delivers again. And judging by his current more than pleasant frequency of releases, he has either found his motivation again, or ... is happy about two or three sales of his new kit. 👹

But you can't blame him for the latter, because as always he includes his wonderful full documentation in the form of currently two new videos for free for everyone.

In his video from March, he replaces his transistor-based approach to serial communications with a robust chip, designed to do just that – the TI MAX 232.

In the more recent follow-up video, Ben takes the next logical step, adding a UART interface to his BE6502. (I don't know, how you one come up with such a crazy idea ... 🤔)

As always best-in-class learning material on the subject, and we are honestly already looking forward to the upcoming videos, which will then make Sixty5o2 completely obsolete!

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BE6502 Extended

BE6502 Extended
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/e65qVK7zNGM

And if you don't have enough of Ben Eater and BE6502 inspired projects in your to-watch-playlist, you should check out the video by Eric Badger aka @TheCodeSorcerer which was released 3 months ago.

Eric's approach is rather less to go step-by-step through all the implementation details. Rather, he tells his own story, and that of his own BE6502 based development. All good for inspiration, as Eric not only gets WozMon running on hardware (nice if you don't have any serial interface), but tries his hand at a reimplementation of Loderunner. Which of course requires a hardware module for the graphics output.

But without giving away everything – Eric is fun to watch, even if some of the details are unfortunately lost in the shortness of the video.

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Apple //e Retrospective

Apple //e Retrospective
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/KCbGsZHdjds

Every now and then, a new hero appears in the firmament of the YouTube universe, and digs up a few new aspects of a thoroughly older piece of hardware. If the whole thing is entertainingly packaged, produced to a high quality and presented at least as nicely, then you know you won't waste the next 22 minutes of your life.

The hero of this short story is Savvy Sage from the @SavvySageShow. And the slightly aged hardware is the Apple //e.

The last version of the Apple ][ was actually produced until 1993(!), and – not without reason – has countless fans today. Lucky, who owns such a working piece of hardware.

If you're thinking about a purchase, want to be inspired, or just fancy some 8-bit entertainment, Savvy's latest video is more than a perfect fit.

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All New ZX81

All New ZX81
Imagesource: https://www.youtube.com/@iNimbleSloth

Buying vintage hardware is one thing. Building it yourself is another. But to assemble a machine of the past exclusively from available, brand new components is a completely different slice of bread.

Adam aka @iNimbleSloth should be known to some, and he has dedicated the last months to rebuilding a ZX81. Successfully! 🍾

The number of related challenges is not necessarily small. Adam's solutions, however, are quite creative. And if you have some space in your basement and a bit too much of the colored bills in your wallet, a replication of the project might be a possibility.

The motivation for such a move can be found in the project's playlist, which consists of 5 beautiful and entertaining videos.

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Logo Art Hardcover

Logo Art Hardcover
Imagesource: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/demoscene-the-logo-art

Last but not least, there's something for the lover of colorful pixels on the living room table – in case guests come over and you want to make an impression.

But to be honest, the following (though depending on taste and personal orientation) is way cooler than a Kokoschka. (and cheaper btw.)

Subject: Logo Art of a very special kind – namely demo logos from 1986 to 2022. Edited and digitally brought into print by Boucourt Christophe from indy french publisher @editions64K.

On 400 A4 pages you find logos from demos for pretty much all machines from the period. And if you a) know your way around the demo scene, or b) want to give the Kokoschka a run for its money, you'll find just the right product in the project's current Kickstarter campaign.

As always - we're not sponsored or affiliated with the project in any way. But this book shouldn't be missing from an enthusiast's collection.

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Virgil out.

As a disclaimer, it should be mentioned that the regular rants about AI are – of course – attitude.

The technology is exciting, and the discussion around it as controversial as it is misleading as it is interesting. Like pretty much everyone, we're looking forward to the coming months, but eventually we'll have reached peak ai, and as of now the SPAM war regarding prompt injection goes into the first of very many rounds.

But that's exactly why we see it as even more important, that our content is not researched by bots but by humans. That every word is written by hand, and (almost) every one of our editorial images is created by a human. We think that this handiwork will have a real value in the future, in a world where you don't know, who really wrote the content you are reading.

With that in mind, none of our standard outros today - but we hope Issue #76 had something for you.

Issue #77 is coming. Pretty sure in exactly two weeks. Until then - build something, and speak about it.

[Please write a cool signature phrase here] 😜

J. & B.

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