Recently we passed a milestone that far surpasses our stretch goals. Originally we said we’d be content if were to ship 50 kits and call it a day. Our tongue-in-the-cheek stretch goal was 200, because that’s the number of Apple 1’s ever produced. Now, a little over one year later, more than 500 Gigatron kits have shipped to over 40 countries. Recipients include the headquarters of Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple and … ARM. Thanks to all buyers for your greatness, kindness, feedback and support! It has been a blast for us, and we’re not done tweaking yet…
The 8-Bit Guy’s new review of Pluggy McPlugface (our PS/2 keyboard adapter), Tiny BASIC v2 and the new games in ROM v3.
It’s the same as we exhibited at the Hackaday Supercon last week. Speaking of which, the conference badge was screaming for this hack:
It’s in fact a cycle-exact emulation of the TTL circuit based on gtemu.c. The emulation runs at 3 frames per second instead of 60 frames. It still manages to play Racer. Typing in Tiny BASIC v2 goes remarkably well.
Today, a circle closed at the Centre for Computing History in Cambridge, UK.
How? Well, one week before this project started on Hackaday, I was at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, US, and jokingly posted the following remark on Facebook:
That’s an original Apple-1. The Apple-1 next to the Gigatron is a beautifully done replica. It’s fully functional, complete with cassette interface. The PCB is drawn in the same way and the chips even have 1970s date codes on them. It’s on display in an operational state. I could play around and type commands in the original Woz Mon to verify that the Gigatron version works the same.
Many thanks to David Williams for the great opportunity!
Oscar brought his Gigatron, with our prototype keyboard adapter and Tiny BASIC, to VCF West 2018 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. He came back with the “Judge’s Special Choice Award”. How cool is that! Utterly flattered…
Now is the time to standardise on a file format for vCPU programs. Most hackers will start at the 16-bit programming level because it is easiest. Programs can be loaded into the system with the Loader application, without reprogramming the EPROM.
After some discussion with the emulator guys, we have agreed on a file format for both real boards and emulators: GT1 files. At67 quickly coded some demos in his vCPU assembler and produced GT1 files for them. These work in his great emulator. But his kit hasn’t arrived yet, so I tested it for him. See here “life3.gt1” and “lines.gt1” loaded on my development board with ROM v1.
It works! We have a standard for exchanging Gigatron programs!
Edit: Check out this video for what is brewing in emulator land. Sprites!
Woke up this morning and wondered where those new kit orders suddenly came from. It turned out that right at that moment Dave Jones (EEVblog) was building a board in a Youtube live stream with many hundreds of viewers looking on. I caught the last half hour or so. I couldn’t stand the suspense when he was searching for a cable. He didn’t use the manual, skipped all tests, still it worked 1st time. “This is disappointing, there is nothing to troubleshoot!”. Greatest compliment ever! THANK YOU!
Edit: the live soldering turned out to be a prelude to more to come. The Gigatron is now honoured with an official EEVblog episode! We’re truly and utterly flattered.
Before refurbishing his cat house, the 8-Bit Guy made time to do an episode on our kit. Needless to say this we think this is his best episode ever 🙂 . Approaching 300,000 views so far, but 100 of these must be our own reloads. Thank you David and we’ll get you an updated Snake later that doesn’t require color vision.
The video shows how an Arduino can be hooked up and pretend to be an ASCII keyboard. No EPROM change is needed. After powering the Arduino, it takes over control by resetting the Gigatron, navigating the menu and starting Loader. It fakes game controller signals to do that. Then it pushes a tiny precompiled Terminal program into the RAM. From there on, it sends simple ASCII codes which the board dutifully displays. This is step 1 towards interacting with the system for direct hacking.
The source code for the sketch is in GitHub. Hookup is with 4 male-to-female jumper wires, as explained on the Tutorials page.
Edit: The Arduino in turn can interface with a keyboard. Here an example with a PS/2 keyboard, using a standard library to handle the protocol.
The Arduino is a bit of an overkill here. A simple ATtiny85 will do the job just as well.