Just the signal, not the noise

Hello 8bit'ers,

Boom 💥 - Two weeks have flown by and it's already Friday again. At least here in our region, summer has finally taken full control, it's vacation time, the holiday calls and it's finally time for the things that really matter: Retrocomp projects!

In this spirit, we've put together a little weekend package for you, in which, as always, you'll find a colorful mix of suitable projects and videos. Hardware, software, coding, gaming... this time pretty much everything is represented.

If you haven't found a candidate for a DIY summer project yet, then your search might finally come to an end with this edition.

Enjoy Issue #82.


MYST Demake

Imagesource: http://deater.net/

Vince Weaver, found at deater.net, is an Associate Professor for Electrical & Computer Engineering at the University of Maine. Apparently, he has not only ample time but also a great affection for running more or less modern software on more or less modern hardware.

Keyword: Demakes

In Issue #44, we marveled at Vince's magic, and since then, he has been anything but idle. His current project is nothing less than a version of MYST for the Atari VCS.

The blockbuster game is not yet complete – however, you can already wander through the MYST world, renowned for its high-resolution and richness of color – a delight for big pixel enthusiasts, you could say 😜.

But Vince's work should not be understated here. His demake for the Apple ][ is legendary, and that gives hope for the VCS version. The game, released between 93 and 96 for various platforms, was a real hit at the time. Personally, I never managed to complete it, but perhaps it's time to warm up the VCS emulator.

Share the signal:

Dragon BASIC

Dragon BASIC
Imagesource: http://www.8bit-homecomputermuseum.at/

This past August, it was a whopping 40 years since Dragon Data Ltd. positioned its flagships, Dragon 32 and Dragon 64, on the market. The machines powered by the Motorola 6809 certainly played a role, particularly in the European market, but it was likely the somewhat limited graphical capabilities compared to the competition that kept the systems from becoming a mega-hit. 🤷

Regardless, there are many Dragon enthusiasts, frequent meetups, and every now and then, a few fascinating stories around the Dragon see the light of day. Recently, David Linsley, aka @DavidLinsley11, was responsible for such a tale. At the latest Dragon meetup in Port Talbot, he and a group of collaborators had the pleasure of scanning the source code for Microsoft BASIC for the Dragon 64 from a dusty paper listing and running it through an OCR process.

Unfortunately, the result isn't 100% complete – but what isn't now, can still become. In fact you can learn a lot from the source, given you enjoy tinkering with handcrafted assembly for the 6809. (Not that I could imagine anything more enjoyable... 🙄)

Fancy a bit of British history? Here you go.

Share the signal:

Mobile ZX Spectrum

Mobile ZX Spectrum
Imagesource: Peter Misenko

Creator Peter Misenko, aka @bobricius, has already been our guest. A rather bright star in the 8-bit hardware firmament with consistently new projects. One of his recent creations nearly slipped by us without us getting a glimpse.

It's a good thing that didn't happen, because personally, I can't imagine a world without the Portable ZX Spectrum. Really, I can't, but 🤫. Feel the same way?

Then you can find some details about the project thanks to Rob Beschizza, aka @Beschizza, on boingboing.net, but you can also directly enjoy Peter's video introducing the machine.

The whole thing is built around a Raspberry Pi Pico, featuring a fully functional keyboard, a small display, a joystick replacement, all necessary buttons, and (Ta-daa) VGA Output. With an 18650 battery, the device becomes portable, and in terms of coolness factor, it can compete with any modern mobile console.

Fancy a DIY project?

Share the signal:


Emulator Dev Howto

Emulator Development Howto
Imagesource: https://unsplash.com/

When someone has written emulators for systems like MSX, Gameboy, NES, Master Gear, Coleco Vision, Speccy, and the TI-81 Calculator, it's reasonable to assume that this person knows a thing or two about emulation.

So, it's a logical conclusion: Marat Fayzullin, probably tweeting as @GarageResearch, knows … a thing or two about emulation.

This fact in itself wouldn't necessarily be particularly interesting, if not for Marat's willingness to share his knowledge in a more condensed form for everyone else's benefit. Gratefully, he has chosen his website as the medium of communication, and his Emulator Dev Howto is not only fun to read, it also helps budding emulator programmers grasp the fundamental concepts.

It's worth taking a look around Marat's space. While some of his emulators are sold by him, others are freely available – after all, we all have to earn our bread and Teslas, don't we?

Speaking of pay: Priceless resource if you plan on building an emulator yourself this summer!

Share the signal:

Pixelperfect Retrogaming

Pixelperfect Retrogaming
Imagesource: https://blog.gingerbeardman.com/

There are a whole lot of boxes into which one can put oneself, but two of these boxes are the following:

a) You own that really great old 8-bit hardware, admire its capabilities, the genius of its creators, and worship the cult by joyfully programming, debugging, and burning the midnight oil creating your own software and games for the beloved device.

b) You're a retro gamer.

Is there anything in between❓

If you fall into category b, then Matt Sephton aka @gingerbeardman has something for you. Namely, a nice collection of LCD monitors that can perfectly display the output of your cherished machine without needing to scale the pixel stream (which typically represents a "head-off" scenario). Although Matt's post is already two years old, it resurfaced on HN in recent days, and we've completely missed it until now.

So, for those who might be in search of an LCD screen...

However, one should keep in mind that LCDs are generally less recommended for retro gaming, as the GFX has mostly been adapted by developers for CRT screens, and the eye-candy effect gets lost when you switch to an LCD instead. This is nicely illustrated here.

But for those who won't let this deter them, Matt has the perfect eBay shopping list.

Share the signal:

RISC-V Assembly Intro

Offtopic is offtopic, but RISC-V is one of those subjects that we simply can't avoid, even if we're talking about 32 or 64 bits here.

Those who have worked on their own CPU, their own Instruction Set Architecture, their own simulator, the associated hardware, and their own divorce, will appreciate RISC-V.

The different incarnations of the open ISA range from I-can-still-fit-this-all-in-my-brain™ to actually-performant, and particularly the first variant is (for obvious reasons) interesting for hobbyists. Especially since, thanks to the compiler and linker chain, high-level languages like C and C++ can make their way onto the own creation.

Feeling like learning this summer? ☀️

Antonio Guimarães, to be found on github, is certainly not the only mind behind the following project, but at least the one who offers his github account for issues.

The introductory book on RISC-V Assembly by Prof. Edson Borin can be found completely free of charge on riscv-programming.org/. Additionally, there is a simulator that runs in the browser, and two examples, whose code you can compile and link locally with the appropriate clang and ldd, and then run in the simulator.

The whole package is convincing. Not only due to the quality but especially because you pay for this wealth of knowledge with nothing but a little of your own time.

Share the signal:


Amiga Live

Imagesource: https://www.amigalive.com/

If you are among the lucky ones who still own their original Amiga - Congratulations! 🎰

Luckily, for everyone else, there are a whole range of emulators available that emulate the machine(s) in every detail to perfection. But what if you want to play one or more of the classics on the girlfriend with friends?

A valid option is FS-UAE, as it comes with online capabilities. However, the entire setup is left up to you. This can be improved. Obviously also a thought of the team behind the project tweeting as @amiga_live and so they provide: amigalive.com. 🚀

Although the project has existed since 2013, it has always passed us by without ever tapping us on the shoulder to say hello. The software is available for all 3 major operating systems, is quickly set up, and within a few minutes, you find yourself in an online battle against friends of the machine from all over the world. The community is quite active, and for most games, you can always find fellow players.

So, if you feel like playing one or more of the classics against real competition, you should take a closer look.

Share the signal:

How Woz's Code works

How Woz's Code Works
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/SpG8rgI7Hec

In Issue #80, we wished that Ben Eater would delve more into detail of his port of WozMon for the BE6502. And voila: it has happened.

Ben seems to be back in full force and has once again delivered. In his current video, he does just that, digging line by line through almost the entire original source. Woz's code – due to it's level of optimization – is not always straightforward and easy to read, but Ben, as always, excels at dissecting the details for us and explaining them perfectly in his usual manner.

By the way, you also learn a few tricks for low-level assembly programming for the MOS 6502.

Only Ben himself knows how this story will continue. As always, one can look forward to what's coming. Hardware expansion, or another step towards software?

We are eagerly waiting for the next update.

Share the signal:

Breadboard Gameboy Emu

Breadboard Gameboy Emu
Imagesource: https://youtu.be/ThmwXpIsGWs

Rebuilding Gameboy hardware completely on a breadboard is certainly an interesting challenge, but the time commitment for it is probably more suited for retirees or privateers.

But what if you climb a step higher in the abstraction tree, let the Gameboy itself be simulated by a Raspberry Pi Pico, and indulge in the fun of assembling all I/O components like buttons, display, and speaker on a few breadboards yourself?

Sound interesting? Vincent, maker and creator of the YT channel @YouMakeTech, has done exactly that and recently documented his approach in its entirety in a video.

Since the practicality of pushbuttons on a breadboard (let's say) leaves a lot to be desired, Vincent, in a follow-up video, built everything into a self-printed housing. With that, we return to the beginning and the topic of retirees or privateers. 😉

But decide for yourself.

Share the signal:

After more than two years, every farewell from you still brings tears to our eyes 😢. Same for you?

No worries, we'll be back in two weeks and hope that the upcoming edition doesn't fall into a summer slump. Fingers crossed.

If you're working on a project that you'd like to introduce to the world, feel free to let us know - a short email via Reply always gets a response from us.

We're also grateful for every new subscriber. Should you know anyone who hasn't subscribed to 8bitnews yet (however unlikely that may be 😄) - a Forward of this edition should be sufficient, we'll take care of the rest.

See you in two weeks - build something and speak about it.

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.