Saturday 12 December 2020

Announcing the MEGA65 Developer Support Programme

Howdy folks! We thought it was time to (very slightly) formalise our MEGA65 Developer Supporter Programme (M65DSP).  We have already been informally finding solutions to help people get access to MEGA65 development hardware, for folks who don't have an official DevKit.  We now want to make it clear that we are keen to support folks who would like to develop software, games, tools, documentation, promotion or other goodies for the MEGA65 platform.

What are the eligibility requirements for the MEGA65 Developer Support Programme?

Unlike some developer programmes, we don't require you to have a promissory letter to the value of US$4.7M, a private island or a double-degree in rocket science and underwater basket weaving! All you need to do is to have a clear idea of what you intend to do or to create, and explain that to us.

To be clear: If you can't afford any hardware, this is not necessarily an impediment. We have some R2 PCBs, Nexys4 development boards and other bits an pieces that we can potentially make available.  But if you are able to afford your own development hardware, that will make it easier for us to support more developers, and thus help even more cool goodies come out for the MEGA65 sooner.

I'm convinced. So where and how do I sign up?

You have several options:

1. Carry your One Ring of Windows 98SE Installation (CD or DVD) to the summit of Mount Doom and throw it into the Schicksals Kluft, and await pickup by the first cooperative oversized avian.

2. However, recognising the difficulty of definitively locating Mount Doom on modern maps, you may instead simply fill out the contact form on the MEGA65 website, explaining that you would like to be considered for the MEGA65 Developer Support Programme, and what you would like to make for the MEGA65 (or if you prefer, volunteering to work on whatever we think is most needed at the time).

3. Attempt to convince an existing DevKit owner to temporarily or permanently part with their MEGA65 DevKit in return for some object of mystical value*.

4. Move house to live conveniently near to a known MEGA65, and dig a secret tunnel that allows you to access the MEGA65 when its owner is sleeping.  Be sure to mend and polish the shoes of the owner, so that they think it's just fairies, and don't become suspicious.

5.  Enrol in a PhD programme related to the MEGA65 or MEGAphone, and maybe even get paid to do awesome 8-bit goodness for three years.  In this post-COVID world, it probably isn't even necessary to move to Adelaide to do this (although we have basically eliminated COVID, and have awesome beaches and stuff that we are all free to use again). In case you think I am joking about this, I'm not: There are opportunities to study the education of students in CS using 8-bit systems, the development of resilient and secure communications systems around the MEGAphone hand-held, including hybrid space-terrestrial mesh networks, FPGA-based cryptography and all sorts of other fun and interesting things.

* We cannot guarantee success of this method.  We recommend MEGA65 owners verify the actual value and function of such mystical value before accepting a trade. The origin of any Palantíri should be subjected to particularly thorough scrutiny.

I'm not convinced, yet. What should I do?

Hmm.... Look closely at this watch swing on it's chain... Closer... Deeper...

Tuesday 1 December 2020

DevKits are appearing around the world!

 It has been a sheer delight the past few days, as people have begun receiving and assembling their MEGA65 DevKits, and even started to create things using them!

In case you missed the action, there are now several first impressions / assembly videos up on youtube:

That first one is from Shallan, who does regular twitch feeds, including writing C64 games -- and now that he has a MEGA65 DevKit, on coding for the MEGA65.  He has already made his own 256-colour image loader, and started working on using the MEGA65's Raster Rewrite Buffer (RRB) to do a thousand hardware drawn 256-colour moving bullets over the top of a 256-colour background, and using only about 10% of the CPU to do it. You can see what a busy 320x200 screen with 1,000+ blobs looks like here:


You can hardly even see the background.  This is just one of many uses of the Raster Rewrite buffer -- so expect to hear a lot more of "RRB" being thrown around.

So hop onto Shallan's live twitch feeds or playlist of videos he posts after for the low-down on how to make the MEGA65 do amazing things.

There is also plenty of action elsewhere. For example, there is a CSDB C64 sprite graphics competition, offering a MEGA65 DevKit as a prize, thanks to the generosity of the community!

Anyway, we are just so happy that people are having a great time with the MEGA65, and re-experiencing that joy of Christmas 1982 of receiving their first C64 (or VIC-20 or other home computer), and then diving in to explore the machine, knowing that they were entering exciting and uncharted territory.  

One great point of satisfaction for everyone involved, is how amazingly nice the keyboards have turned out.  We put a huge amount of effort into making the best possible keyboard for the MEGA65 -- from Cherry MX mechanical keys to the double-shot top and front-marked key caps and space bar long enough to land a fully laden A380. And so it has been sheer delight to see people fall in love with the keyboard, and experience sitting down at a device that _is_ a brand new 8-bit era computer for the first time in decades.

I am sure that there will be lots more interesting videos and material coming out, as people get their DevKits setup, and start tinkering.  We hope you enjoy the journey as much as we are!