Tuesday, March 22, 2016

First community developed title with MEGA65 support?

We recently found out about the following release: http://csdb.dk/release/?id=142464



This is basically a Wolfenstein-like ray-tracing engine for the C64, which seems to be amazingly memory efficient and rich in functionality. In fact, it seems to be capable enough to make an actual Wolfenstein-style game on the C64.

It is also EXTREMELY slow on a real C64. In fact, even on a SuperCPU, or in VICE running in warp-mode on my i7 Mac, it is still quite slow.

What is very nice is that the author appears to have added support for the MEGA65.

Here is a video of it running on the MEGA65 at 48MHz.  Compared to my 2.7GHz i7 Mac running VICE, the MEGA65 is somewhere between 2x and 5x faster, as far as I can judge.  It would be great if the demo included a frames per second measure, so that we can benchmark more precisely.  It would also be great if someone with a Chameleon could test it on there, so that we can get a sense of the relative speed between the Chameleon and current MEGA65 state.




Prototyping the keyboard

We have just received a prototype keyboard that we have had WASD Keyboards build for us. This keyboard is based on a normal 87-key keyboard layout, and is intended to be a design that can be used for people building their own MEGA65 using the Nexys4 FPGA boards.

As the keyboard layout doesn't exactly match the C65's keyboard, we have had to make some adjustments, which I will explain in a moment. But first, the pictures:







First up, we think that WASD have done a great job, and made a very beautiful keyboard. We thought quite hard about the keyboard layout, to make it both useful and as true as possible to the original keyboard layout, and preserve the "8-bit" feel.

First, the top line from RUN/STOP to HELP match the C65 keyboard exactly. We then also put CLR/HOME and RUN/STOP on two of the three keys to the right, so that it would be easy to find those keys using muscle memory, to overcome the interference of the six key block below these three keys.  The pound key is also put on that row, because there wasn't room for it in the main block. This is also why the up-arrow and equals keys are moved to the key blocks on the right.

We then used the remaining four spare keys there for some common ASCII characters that were missing from the original keyboard, to make the MEGA65 keyboard more useful.  We also added a FAST/SLOW key for changing the CPU speed more conveniently.

The other most obvious changes are to have duplicated the C= / MEGA key, so that there is one on the right as well as left, and the inclusion of the FIRE and JOY LOCK keys.  Those two keys allow use of the cursor keys as a make-shift joystick.  The FIRE key simply mimics the fire button on a joystick, and by pressing the JOY LOCK key, the cursor keys toggle between acting as normal keys or as a joystick. SHIFT or one of the other modifier keys (yet to be decided) will be able to toggle which joystick port is to be controlled in this way.

We are still working on having a completely custom keyboard made, which would also have symbols printed on the front of the keys like on a real C65, instead of just on the top of the keys, and would exactly match the C65 keyboard in key layout.  More on that as we make progress.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

We're still alive / Wir leben noch

English:

Just a short post to break the radio silence, and let you all know that after a quiet period over Christmas and start of University semester, we are picking up steam again.

First, we now have a couple of students working on VHDL and other aspects of the project, together with another volunteer.  So we have gone from having just me working on all the VHDL alone to having a lovely team now! I am extremely glad of this, partly because I know there are plenty of better VHDL coders than me, but also because tracking down bugs in VHDL code is best done with plenty of time and focus, which I haven't had at my disposal lately.  Thus we will hopefully get the known CPU bugs fixed over the next few weeks, and progress forward with implementing 6502 illegal opcodes, improving the CIA implementation, adding bitplanes and doing all the other stuff that needs to happen on the VHDL front.

Second, we have been making some nice progress on the keyboard front, including with some really great volunteer assistance, for which I am also very grateful.  We are simultaneously exploring options ranging from custom key-caps on a standard 87-key USB keyboard, through to full custom manufacture of a keyboard. We have no firm idea of the costs at either end of the spectrum, but we do have some clear paths now to get to that point.  Hopefully I will be able to share some images of the keyboard designs, so that we can have some nice pictures instead of just text in the next blog post.

So, that's about it for now, just, as I said, to let you know that we are still alive and working on stuff.

Deutsch:

Vielleicht  wissen schon einige von euch, dass ich Deutsch lerne. Deshalb werde ich einige Posts auch auf deutsch schreiben.  Natürlich ist mein Deutsch noch nicht sehr gut. Aber ich werde es versuchen.

Es hat eine ganze Weile gedauert, seit dem letzten Post.  Weihnachten und Sylvester ist vorbei und auch der Anfang des Universitätsjahres.  In Australien beginnt das Universitätsjahr im Februar und im November ist es zu Ende.  Inzwischen habe ich nicht viel Zeit gehabt, aber jetzt habe ich ein bisschen. Viel besser, wir haben neuen Studenten und Freiwillige, die dem MEGA65 Projekt helfen. Wir haben zwei Studenten und einen Freiwilligen, um mit dem VHDL zu helfen und einen Freiwilligen mit der Tastatur zu helfen. Deshalb sollten wir bald neue Bitstreams und auch interessante Fortschritte mit der Tastatur haben.  Ich freue mich sehr darüber, dass wir die CPU Fehler endlich reparieren und die andere VHDL Sache abhaken können. Das braucht natürlich seine Zeit.

In Bezug auf der Tastatur, schauen wir um verschiedene Optionen an. Auf der einen Seite, denken wir über eine 87-Taste USB Tastatur Lösung nach. Das wir natürlich billiger sein, aber nich so schön wie eine ganz maßgeschneiderte Tastatur. Aus diesem Grund kommen auch maßgeschneiderte Tastaturen in Frage. Er wird mindestens ein paar Wochen brauchen, bevor wir eine genauere Vorstellung von den Kosten haben. Unser super Freiwilligen helfen bei dieser Sache sehr.