August 11, 2009

Awesome C64 visual debugger

Filed under: C64,Hacking,Retrocomputing,Reverse engineering — Nate Lawson @ 2:46 pm

I recently ran across a new visual debugger for C64 emulators called ICU64, written by Mathfigure. It will be released later this year and provides some amazing visualizations of both memory access and memory-mapped devices like the video and sound chip. See the video below for how it works.

There is also another video showing how the classic game Boulder Dash can be expanded to span multiple screens. He implemented this by grabbing graphics from the same RAM areas the game uses and displaying them on a custom screen. On this forum thread, the author discusses his goal of allowing more graphical expandability for classic games.

Learning to program on a small machine with a full view of every memory location is something I’ve always seen as a great way to start. I got a lot of insight into how my computer worked by running a background task that continually copied pages of RAM to screen, so you could “scroll through” memory. For example, the tick counter showed up as a blur.

I’ve always said that my kids would have to learn to program a C64 before they got a more modern system. Wouldn’t this be a great tool for teaching anyone new to low-level computing how assembly language and memory-mapped devices work? What about adapting some of these techniques to fuzzing or modern debuggers?

[Edit: added a link to the project now that it has been released]

June 22, 2009

Vintage Tech needs help moving

Filed under: C64,Retrocomputing — Nate Lawson @ 10:55 am

If you’re in the Bay Area and are interested in computing history, you should know about Vintage Tech. Sellam has put together a warehouse with the world’s largest private computer collection. He also put on the VCF computer fairs. However, now he is moving to a bigger warehouse in Stockton and needs help loading the truck in Livermore.

I was out at his place last week to help with the move. The sheer size of the whole thing is astounding. It feels somewhat similar to the last scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark, where the crate with the ark in it disappears into a giant warehouse full of boxes. There are shelves stacked high with all kinds of computer equipment, manuals, and disks. I saw IMSAI 8080s and a Be workstation, among thousands of others I couldn’t identify.

Sellam needs help moving. Work consists of loading computers and boxes onto a pallet or disassembling shelves so bring gloves if you have them. The heavy work is done with a forklift. If you’d like to help out and do a good deed, he is out there all day, every day. Sellam is a lot of fun to talk with. You can contact him here, phone or email.

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