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Hi, I'm Iljitsch van Beijnum. These are posts about retrocomputing and other old stuff.

First impressions: THEA500 Mini

On friday, I received my preordered THEA500 Mini. This is smaller and modern version of the Commodore Amiga 500 computer from 1987. By the same company that makes a similar version of the Commodore 64.

After exploring the A500 Mini for a few days, I can't really make up my mind on whether I like it, or it's too limited. So here some first impressions, I'll probably do a more complete review later.

Full article / permalink - posted 2022-04-10

Making 8-bit computers load from "tape" super fast

Back in the early 1980s, kids such as myself had their first computing experiences with 8-bit home computers such as the ZX Spectrum and the Commodore 64. And the only way, or in Europe in those days, the only affordable way to load games and save/load your own programs was from cassette tape. And boy was that slow.

If we suddenly had a perfectly-reliable cassette tape, how fast could we possibly load data from it? This is a question I started pondering a while ago. To answer it, I had to do look into how data is stored on tape and how exactly we load it. Along the way, we'll find several limits and assumptions we have to work around on our quest for the fastest-possible loading.

Read the article - posted 2022-04-03

The Battle Royale: benchmarking old computers

On his Youtube channel, Matt Heffernan has a series of 8-bit Battle Royale videos to see which 8-bit computer is fastest. For this, he uses a simple program to calculate the world's lowest resolution mandelbrot set. Still, the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum take minutes to do this in BASIC. It's much faster in assembly.

Watching the videos, I started wondering how 16 or 32 bit computers like the Amiga would perform. Or even the C64 with a C version of the same program. So I made a C version.

Full article / permalink - posted 2022-03-29

Making of the PETSCII typer

I thought it might be interesting to talk a bit about how my PETSCII typer web tool came together.

It all started with the Drop + Matt3O MT3 retro keycap set. I ordered this set because I like the old style key shape that's replicated here. And then as a bonus you get the PETSCII characters we know and love from the Commodore 8 bit computers printed on the front of the keycaps.

Not sure how I ended up there, but I found the Style64 C64 TrueType fonts, which replicate Commodore's take on the ASCII character set, usually referred to as PETSCII because the Commodore PET computer from 1977 introduced it.

So now I can have PETSCII graphical characters on my keyboard and PETSCII on my screen. The one missing thing: pressing a key and having the PETSCII character on that key show up on the screen. That's what the PETSCII typer does.

Full article / permalink - posted 2022-03-26

PETSCII typer: type your favorite C64 characters

A few months ago, I ordered the Drop + Matt3O MT3 retro keycap set:

These keycaps have the cool/retro "PETSCII" characters printed on the front. But how do you actually type those PETSCII characters?

Full article / permalink - posted 2022-03-23

The (dark) magic of Unicode

I thought it was time to ramble on about Unicode and UTF-8 a bit, inspired by the need to convert old Amiga text files that have accents in them that won't display properly on my current Macs. Also some food for thought for programmers.

Read the article - posted 2022-01-30

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