[Spotlight] The world of 8-bit enthusiasts

Here’s a follow-up thread to today’s spotlight session, where I tried to explain the various facets of my 8-bit life, which I keep saying is the main tech thing I’ve done in the week. Questions and answers welcome!

This is, approximately, what I said:

8 bits - what’s it all about for me?

  • history
    • where we came from, how we got here (18 bits, 36 bits, 60 bits, 8 bits), the first mass-market computers
  • nostalgia & collecting - reliving experiences
  • social - online forums, meetups, very collaborative and supportive community, games, music, creating things, fixing things, discovering things
  • simplicity - machines you can understand top to bottom, hardware and software
  • hardware
    • green PCBs, through-hole parts, 5V logic, MHz speeds, very accessible
    • repairs, debugging of faulty machines, reconditioning
    • new developments: expansions, accelerators (adding sprites, colours, blitters, faster CPUs, more RAM, networking)
    • solid state storage a game-changer for speed and reliability, compared to the authentic audio cassettes and floppy disks
  • software - again, simple, but can be quite sophisticated, can be very ingenious
    • OS-legal applications, languages such as Lisp, Forth, BCPL
    • bare-metal projects, games and demos
    • reverse-engineering, games and copy protection schemes
    • emulators, written in today’s languages and today’s machines, but needing to replicate so many quirky aspects of the original hardware, at full speed

A nice 30 min video came out today, explaining the genesis of the BBC Micro Bot, which responds to tweets with screenshots resulting from running tweet-sized Basic programs on a (fast) emulator in the cloud. Some 10 thousand programs have been run!

BBC Micro Bot homepage explains some of the background.

There’s a technical history of Acorn here (via this thread).