Stepping Back in Time

Retro Computing

Back in the 1980s, I purchased a Tandy Color Computer. The choice of the Coco over the Commodore (which was the more popular at the time) was due to its more advanced Motorola 6809 CPU. The ’09 was much more advanced than the 6502 found in the C64 and other popular computers of the era. It contained more registers, more addressing modes, and more complex instructions.

When I purchased the Coco I planned on using it as a platform for hardware projects, and indeed I completed many hardware projects using it. Such as a computer-controlled environmental test chamber, Universal EPROM programmer, 6809 emulator, Paper-Tape terminal, and many other hardware-focused projects. It was also used as a serial terminal for an Altair 8800b.

Soon after purchasing the Coco, however, I began to gain an interest in programming, and programming games specifically. I wrote a few games for the Coco and ported some of them to Commodore BASIC and 6502 Assembly language for a friend who owned a breadbox C64. I only ever learned a tiny bit of Commodore BASIC and 6502 Assembly. But I was always in awe of the C64s graphics and sound abilities. Games on the C64 could offload the heavy lifting of sprite management and sound generation to the hardware. On the Coco, the CPU had to handle this. This really limited Coco’s graphics capabilities. Still, you could do a lot with the 6809 and Assembly language routines.

Recently, I’ve been seeing a lot of interest in Retro Computing and Retro Gaming, as many of us baby boomers are finding ourselves with more time on our hands now. Many of us have retired and are looking for something to do. Others have found themselves stuck at home and socializing much less due to the Covid outbreak. This has caused many of us to dig out our old dusty computer systems and begin re-living the magical adventures we had when the web was still the future, BBSs were the rage, real programmers used assembly, BASIC was for everyone, and nerds knew every detail of the hardware they used!

This nostalgia hasn’t missed me either! I’ve been bingeing on Old Sckool Coder, 8-Bit Show and Tell The 8-Bit Guy, and many other YouTubers providing information on retro computer systems and retro programming. I’ve downloaded emulators, assemblers, utilities, and IDEs such as CBM Prg Studio and TRSE. I’ve been reading books found on the various system-related sites and It has been a joy! And, I am still learning, still coding, and still passionate about my craft.

In the near future, I may start to post some articles here on retro computing. Perhaps articles on programming these systems and hardware projects. Perhaps a “Learn with me” series? You can still do a lot with an 8-bit processor running at ~1MHz. After all, that’s still a Million Cycles per Second!

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