Linked by killermike on Wed 18th Apr 2007 10:07 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems In this article, I'm going to explore the idea that the 8 bit home computer not only had a great deal to offer the prehistoric early-humans of 1985 but that it may also have a place in the modern world; perhaps, there is something that we can learn from it. Having identified the laudable, worthwhile elements of this class of machine, I'm going to make some suggestions towards a scheme that would embody these characteristics in the form of a machine that would have a place within the modern world.
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Hmmm ...
by haiqu on Wed 18th Apr 2007 11:11 UTC
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I've got a car boot (trunk, for Americans) full of used 8051-based mobos if you get serious. But by the sound of it you want to re-invent the Internet Appliance. Good luck, it died.


Casio synth? Sheesh, I used to connect my Stepp synth guitar to a modified Fairlight Series II and play the sound of elephants through it. Weirdness is.

Reply Score: 1

RISC OS rising.
by alban on Wed 18th Apr 2007 11:40 UTC
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It is still amazing what a RiscPC can do with less storage and slower processors than say an iPod.

Some people see an eco-positive in the slow processor speed and it is a fair point.
It certainly makes for a cool 'N quiet computing experience.

This is not always how RISCOS users felt, they had their glory days when the StrongARM was first released going from 25Mhz to 200Mhz in a single bound.

This is something you can still experience by purchasing a StrongARM RiscPC on ebay and running it for a month with the CPUs cache turned off. (F12 followed by *cache off) Then just turn it on and feel the raw power.

This is why I think that the RISCOS machines would be even more fun, if the ARM processor was a lot faster.

Reply Score: 1

Interesting concept
by DeadFishMan on Wed 18th Apr 2007 11:41 UTC
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While I personally wouldnŽt use such machine in any shape or form, I could see my parents learning their way into computers using something like this. I definitely liked the special keyboard buttons to swap "applications" and those tied to the webbrowser thing.

But IŽll have to agree with the first poster that something along these lines has been tried before with little to no success and therefore you would be hard pressed to find investors willing to put some cash into a project around this concept.

But it was a good read nonetheless. Thanks a bunch!

Reply Score: 2

hmm.. 8 bit computers..
by marcof on Wed 18th Apr 2007 12:00 UTC
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Let's see what's available at the moment:

there's the OneChip MSX:

essentially an MSX computer, but with OS hardware, using VHDL to implement most stuff. Still 100% MSX compatible in its basic form. But with VHDL this could turn into a superMSX (or any other machine that is developed in VHDL of course)

Then the OS.. hangon, there's something brewing in the 8bit world as well. and it's called "SymbOS":

A very nice window like environment.

And oh, wait.. yes, you CAN play MP3s already. oh wait, internet is also possible, there's only a lack of a good browser. And other stuff as well.

You may be surprised how far people have come, with just 8 bits. The saying is still true: Big fast computers breed lazy fat programmers. 8 bit rules :-)

Edited 2007-04-18 12:01

Reply Score: 5

RE: hmm.. 8 bit computers..
by load_mic on Wed 18th Apr 2007 12:19 UTC in reply to "hmm.. 8 bit computers.."
load_mic Member since:

Yeah... I guess this proves that its not the size of your data bus that counts but how you use it ;-)

Reply Score: 3

RE: hmm.. 8 bit computers..
by brewmastre on Wed 18th Apr 2007 12:23 UTC in reply to "hmm.. 8 bit computers.."
brewmastre Member since:

Let's see what's available at the moment:

there's the OneChip MSX:

essentially an MSX computer, but with OS hardware, using VHDL to implement most stuff. Still 100% MSX compatible in its basic form. But with VHDL this could turn into a superMSX (or any other machine that is developed in VHDL of course)

Then the OS.. hangon, there's something brewing in the 8bit world as well. and it's called "SymbOS":

A very nice window like environment.

And oh, wait.. yes, you CAN play MP3s already. oh wait, internet is also possible, there's only a lack of a good browser. And other stuff as well.

You may be surprised how far people have come, with just 8 bits. The saying is still true: Big fast computers breed lazy fat programmers. 8 bit rules :-)Edited 2007-04-18 12:01

Your bring some very good points to the table. Next time let's try it without the sarcasm ;)

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: hmm.. 8 bit computers..
by marcof on Wed 18th Apr 2007 13:33 UTC in reply to "RE: hmm.. 8 bit computers.."
marcof Member since:

I wasn't actually being sarcastic on purpose. Now I read my own post, and see it can be read like that indeed. Not intended. The "oh wait" was more an exclamation on "look, this is possible as well... hangon, look a bit deeper.. that too" etc etc ;)

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: hmm.. 8 bit computers..
by CowMan on Sat 21st Apr 2007 22:41 UTC in reply to "RE: hmm.. 8 bit computers.."
CowMan Member since:

hmm. On so little pixels, they really should not have tried to emulate the Win9x+ style GUI. Perhaps more familurarity than anything, I way prefer the more appropriate interfaces of Epoc-based systems or the PILI/etc. OS that the Sharp ZR-3000/5700/etc. ran. Windowing is mostly futile, sufficient cut-paste support basically eliminates the need on such cramped space.

Reply Score: 1

RE: hmm.. 8 bit computers..
by Kochise on Wed 18th Apr 2007 13:10 UTC in reply to "hmm.. 8 bit computers.."
Kochise Member since:

Oh wait, now you have a messed up OS with overlapping windows, complex UI, all like in modern OSes, but on 8 bits computers !

Still, where are the DVD playback facilities, USB printer, digital photo editing ?


Reply Score: 0

RE[2]: hmm.. 8 bit computers..
by Accident on Wed 18th Apr 2007 13:29 UTC in reply to "RE: hmm.. 8 bit computers.."
Accident Member since:

Hell, the Commordore 64 w/ GEOS can do all the that.
Has all that ex/ DVD playback. Damn I miss the old days!

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: hmm.. 8 bit computers..
by truckweb on Wed 18th Apr 2007 18:32 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: hmm.. 8 bit computers.."
truckweb Member since:

All that is called the RISC OS PC... From Castle.

Okay, with a couple of change, all-in-one design and remove the HDD and put SD slot, remove the optical drive.

Or a Commodore 128 with built-in GEOS with network, browser and mail. Add USB and SD slot.

Reply Score: 1

RE: hmm.. 8 bit computers..
by obi_oni on Wed 18th Apr 2007 16:03 UTC in reply to "hmm.. 8 bit computers.."
obi_oni Member since:

Wow, that looks fun. I started out on MSX in 1983, brings back memories. Well, maybe those memories are a bit pink-tinted in retrospect, but still.

It's a nice bit of retro-computing, but a bit expensive though.

Reply Score: 1

RE: hmm.. 8 bit computers..
by ml2mst on Wed 18th Apr 2007 20:05 UTC in reply to "hmm.. 8 bit computers.."
ml2mst Member since:

Funny, I was pretty curious about this article until the author started his proposal. That' s when I gave up, because these where my first thoughts:

Let's see what's available at the moment:

there's the OneChip MSX:

Probaply the author has no clue what a MSX is, so let' s check out Wikipedia:

Never too old to learn (even about retro computing) :-)

Reply Score: 1

Sounds like a modern Newton :-)
by double_mint on Wed 18th Apr 2007 12:45 UTC
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Of all what you described, an eMate would have fitted the bill quite nicely. The newton OS was very easy to use. With modern enhancements, it would have been a killer simple computer. Maybe an open source Newton OS would be cool, running over a linux kernal.

Why oh why Steve??!!!

Reply Score: 3

RE: Sounds like a modern Newton :-)
by helf on Thu 19th Apr 2007 18:14 UTC in reply to "Sounds like a modern Newton :-)"
helf Member since:


sorry. pet peeve ;)

Reply Score: 2

That compuetr exists !
by Kochise on Wed 18th Apr 2007 12:46 UTC
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It's called mini-ITX VIA Epia (all integrated hardware, no driver conflict, well supported) with a Knoppix distro (stable, reliable, multitask, simple GUI, uncorruptible)...


Reply Score: 2

RE: That compuetr exists !
by happycamper on Thu 19th Apr 2007 06:42 UTC in reply to "That compuetr exists !"
happycamper Member since:

/* It's called mini-ITX VIA Epia (all integrated hardware, no driver conflict, well supported) with a Knoppix distro (stable, reliable, multitask, simple GUI, uncorruptible)...

, they make good computers for cars; I have one insatalled in my dashboard running linux.

Edited 2007-04-19 06:43

Reply Score: 1

I'd use that
by alexandru_lz on Wed 18th Apr 2007 12:51 UTC
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I think I'm one of the few who would actually use such a machine. It would make a fun change from my Mac right now, especially in terms of development. Writing programs for these tiny things is so much more fun than browsing the Cocoa or Qt documentation to see which overloaded function to use.

Reply Score: 3

by frood on Wed 18th Apr 2007 12:57 UTC
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I'll listen to some MP3 music: not a chance.

MP3's? You can use the tape deck!

Edited 2007-04-18 13:03

Reply Score: 5

RE: MP3s?
by Cass on Wed 18th Apr 2007 21:53 UTC in reply to "MP3s?"
Cass Member since:

>>MP3's? You can use the tape deck!

Haha nice one .. though can you actually buy a cassette tape these days, cant remember the last time i saw a C90 in the stores..

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: MP3s?
by Mellin on Wed 18th Apr 2007 23:21 UTC in reply to "RE: MP3s?"
Mellin Member since:

how many do you need ? ;)

Reply Score: 1

We can learn
by Doc Pain on Wed 18th Apr 2007 13:21 UTC
Doc Pain
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To quote from the article's introduction:

In this article, I'm going to explore the idea that [...] to there is something that we can learn from [8 bit home computer].

Oh, we can always learn, from any "obsolete" or "archaic" device, especially basic knowlegde, but we can also see the value of the devices we use today (and tend to treat them very quickly like garbage). The question is: Do we want to learn something? As most of the OSNews reader surely know, investing time to learn something is considered a burden, especially if it's about anything that has to do with computers, how they work and how you use them.

Having identified the laudable, worthwhile elements of this class of machine, I'm going to make some suggestions towards a scheme that would embody these characteristics in the form of a machine that would have a place within the modern world.

We often do concern things "modern" that have been invented in and used since the 70s... multiprocessor... ECC RAM... direct access storage device... serial bus... oh yes, oh joy so very modern... :-)

Reply Score: 2

RE: We can learn
by Cass on Wed 18th Apr 2007 21:59 UTC in reply to "We can learn"
Cass Member since:

>>As most of the OSNews reader surely know, investing
>>time to learn something is considered a burden,
>>especially if it's about anything that has to do with
>>computers, how they work and how you use them.

I dont know if i agree with that, Surly an OSN reader would find the learning aspect of something not previously known a pleasure or excitement and not a burden, or indeed they would not be here in the first place as we are all techies that thrive on new stuff .. or if you meant the average Joe user that OSN readers know then probably agreed, i have met too many users in my time in my profession that huff and puff when you try to teach them something ....

Edited 2007-04-18 21:59

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: We can learn
by Doc Pain on Thu 19th Apr 2007 00:06 UTC in reply to "RE: We can learn"
Doc Pain Member since:

"[...] or if you meant the average Joe user that OSN readers know then probably agreed, i have met too many users in my time in my profession that huff and puff when you try to teach them something .... "

Yes, I targeted my statement towards these friendly types of human being. :-)

Most average users (such as Joe Q. Sixpack and Jane Average) assume others to have every special knowledge available possibly needed in any situation. They do not conern reading something by theirselves, such as man pages, howtos, procedures or even a list of commands you type. So, they do not learn basics. If something changes in program layout, they're lost, for example, if the menu bar is a different colour. Even if one of us (wearing the famous t-shirt that says "No, I won't fix your computer!") take the time to teach them to help theirselves, they don't want to listen or to read. The reason seems simple: it needs time, their time, but they do not consider the knowledge they can get as important to fill this time. In most cases, the time needed to learn something and then to use it is less than the time needed (by others!) to workaround the knowledge not present. In my opinion, this was different in the "dark ages of computing". There it was completely normal to learn things in order to solve a certain tasks. As you know from reality, and because people like car analogies, you need to visit the driving school in order to gain basic knowledge about how to drive the car (practical elements) and which rules apply in the public traffic (theoretical elements). This enables you to get more and more experienced, driving more safe, more efficient, better. And now I may translate this to today's Joes and Janes: They sit in their cars, don't know how to start it, and shout they want to drive to a certain place. If you show them how to drive, they complain about having no time. :-)

Usually, this won't apply to OSNews readers because I consider them educated enough to know the value of learning; this is why they visit OSNews, I assume. In other cases, they would read ComputerBILD. :-)

Reply Score: 4

by philicorda on Wed 18th Apr 2007 13:27 UTC
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"Compare this to the experience of a person using an an 8bit micro computer: On such a machine, launching a program might consist of switching the machine on with the appropriate cartridge inserted, or pressing a key combination with the right software tape in the tape drive."

My 8bit was a Morrow Designs "Micro Decision", with a 4Mhz Z80, 64KB of ram and floppy and hard drives.
It ran a special multiuser version of CPM, and could run three WYSE character terminals at once!

I'm saying that to make the point that there is nothing intrinsically simple about 8bit. Make a new 8bit computer with lots of memory and people will add multitasking OS, GUI, drivers, H264 playback ;) , and it will be no 'simpler' than any other.

What I would like to see is a *very* low power portable 8bit with a black and white lcd screen, a bit like the Tandy 100. The Tandy had 20 hours battery life and was very reliable. I'd like to see how efficient a computer built with the same simplicity and low clock speed would be today. Perhaps a modern version would have a battery life in the order of weeks....

Reply Score: 1

by hobgoblin on Wed 18th Apr 2007 13:40 UTC
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glad to see that im not alone in my thinkings. maybe i should trow the author a mail or something so that we can share toughts...

Reply Score: 3

Nice article
by Nycran on Wed 18th Apr 2007 14:31 UTC
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That was a fun read killermike - thank you. I'd certainly be interested in such a computer.

As I was reading the article I was thinking "he's describing Palm OS", and then you drew the analogy yourself :-)

I agree that there's something to be said for:

* Instant on / off (no 20 secs to boot).

* The simplicity of full screen apps.

* The simplicity of being able to launch applications via hardware buttons, clearly labelled.

* The benefits have having an incorruptible OS in a ROM chip.

So long as such a device was cheap, had a decent size screen, and a good input modality (keyboard plus mini joystick like you said), why the hell not?!

If you could work in integrated wi-fi, a good web browser and email client, it could be cool.

Reply Score: 4

C64 can do more..
by csynt on Wed 18th Apr 2007 15:16 UTC
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* I want to go on-line to look something up and check my email: just about impossible.
* I'll listen to some MP3 music: not a chance.
* I'll write an article: just about possible. I hope that they accept submissions on 5.25inch floppy disk.

There is a cartridge called MMC64 (SD/MMC interface) that can accept Ethernet module [RRnet] or MP3 player module

Now, the MMC64 has its own interface, you can read text files, maybe its possible to edit them (and save directly to mmc).

As for the email. there is CONTIKI

Reply Score: 2

RE: C64 can do more..
by alexandru_lz on Wed 18th Apr 2007 15:34 UTC in reply to "C64 can do more.."
alexandru_lz Member since:

Indeed it can. In fact there are operating systems written for C64 which can do just about everything mentioned in the article.

The problem with the C64 is that it's not manufactured anymore afaik (though there is a diy guide floating around the net) and the fact that it's no longer supported [I don't mind that, but I do mind having to dig through e-bay to find a power supply].

There's a good point in the article, as in -- a lot of things could be done on an 8-bit CPU, only so much cheaper. I've seen the description of Palm OS in there, too, but an 8-bit laptop would come at a fraction of the price of a PDA. And think of the battery life, too.

I really meant it when I said I'd use such a thing. I never thought laptops would need to be some sort of a home cinema -- allowing me to edit text, check my e-mail and write dirty little hacks would be enough, and hell, I can already do that on a 386.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: C64 can do more..
by Kroc on Wed 18th Apr 2007 16:09 UTC in reply to "RE: C64 can do more.."
Kroc Member since:

Those C64 DTV's (joysticks with built in C64), are a full C64, you can open it up and there are solder points to add a keyboard, disk drive and everything else. :3 It's a ready-to-hack box.

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: C64 can do more..
by helf on Thu 19th Apr 2007 20:10 UTC in reply to "RE: C64 can do more.."
helf Member since:

I do most of my work away from my main PC on a NEC Versa P/75 with 24mb of ram, 800x600 screen, running debian linux on a 850mb hdd ;)

who needs speed ;D

Reply Score: 2

by smilie on Wed 18th Apr 2007 15:34 UTC
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Then we could go to 8-bit bit slice and build machines based on multiples of 8 bits. Just like in the 1980's with the 4-bit bit slice machines.

Reply Score: 1

The c64 CAN do more
by mbpark on Wed 18th Apr 2007 15:54 UTC
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The scary part is that:

1. With the IDE64 (up to 128GB I believe), you can hook up a CD-ROM and a hard drive to a C64 at a low price. I hope the V4 comes out soon so I can use REL files and run a BBS with it with TCPSER.

2. With TCPSER (from Jim Brain) or TCPSER4j, you can hook a C64 up to a PC and have it "dial out" via Telnet to other systems.

3. With Contiki, you can have access to a web browser.

4. There's also the Singular web browser (linked from that has CSS support.

4a. There's also HyperLink for the c64 which can read WAP/Mobile web pages.

5. If you expand the scope to include accelerated C64 systems running the SuperCPU, you can include POP3/SMTP mail, IRC, text-mode browsing from a Linux box, and a few other nice things using WINGS ( I believe you can also save files to .PS or .PDF format, and I know for a fact that you can print to a laser printer from Wings (one of my old friends had it set up to use LPD).

5a. I believe you can do text-mode IM from a Linux box as well and have it show up on a Wings box via a terminal.

6. The only truly modern uses I have seen for the 8-bit systems that don't look like a Medusa when you're done have been the Cidco MailStation (which runs a Z80 chip), and the TRS-80 Model 100 Series with a ReMem ROM ( that allows for task switching, 2MB RAM, and file transfers with a Linux or Windows PC (John Hogerhuis is an amazing developer who has written all of this code!).

They don't surf the web easily, but they can do mail, and the Model 100 or WP-2 can write articles which you can submit in .RTF format by hooking up to your PC.

Unfortunately, Web Browsing isn't going to be anything less than painful on an 8-bit machine due to the increased use of graphics. However, emailing, mp3, and article writing are possible

Reply Score: 1

Ever heard of OLPC
by apoclypse on Wed 18th Apr 2007 16:10 UTC
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What he describes here is very similar to what they are doing with the OLPC project. The UI that he is describing is nothing new and Sugar is pretty close to what he is looking for.

Reply Score: 5

What about a touchscreen?
by Moochman on Wed 18th Apr 2007 16:41 UTC
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Great article. The only thing that stuck out to me is that this thing would be a lot easier to use if it had a touchscreen built in as opposed to a pointer stick on the keyboard. I know, I know, large touchscreens are supposedly expensive, but they're coming down in price all the time and I think they're the wave of the future, esp if we're talking about intuitive-to-use devices.

Of course, at that point what you've basically got is something like the OLPC....

One more thing--1 meg of built-in flash to contain the entire modern operating system and all apps? Are you sure you wrote that right??? Flash memory is dirt cheap at the moment, might as well give em at least a gig (not to mention you'll probably be able to make good use of it).

Reply Score: 2

RE: What about a touchscreen?
by rhyder on Wed 18th Apr 2007 18:23 UTC in reply to "What about a touchscreen?"
rhyder Member since:

Ooops, a small mistake. Obviously, that was supposed to be 1 gig.

Reply Score: 1

Re: The Return Of The 8 Bits?
by curts on Wed 18th Apr 2007 17:39 UTC
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I'm going to argue that it should be an extension of today's PDA platform. I'm thinking of a single box that would have a laptop style keyboard and pointer device(s), the suggested video output options, PDA dock, and the OS divided into the mostly-permanent core OS and field upgradeable modules. In addition, printing must be included in the USB support for this to be a viable product.

Bending the 8-bit methodology a bit, this device could include one PCIe x16 slot for a modern video card, with some of the new GPGPU capability harnessed to augment the base CPU for rendering rich web content. In the late 80's I often dreamed of doing something like this with my venerable Apple II+ and a Mac video board.

My perception is the email appliances and web TV boxes of the 90's failed largely because their application support was frozen in time. The web is not standing still. Flash must be upgradable. The PDF reader must be upgradable. Addition of a new music format (perhaps at the expense of an older format selected by the user) would be beneficial.

In my volunteer work, I refurbish trailing edge Windows PCs to give to refugee families newly settled in the USA. Win95/98 was not good for this. Each of those computers was accidentally trashed at least once or twice as the family learned how to use it, even when they had a technology savvy teenage boy in the household. It's better now that I am using Win2K, but it's still not as robust as I would like. A simple, low-cost home computer appliance similar to what is being described here could be very useful. I'm following the OLPC effort for just this reason.

P.S. Here is wild idea that would add more value to this product. Include an over-the-air DTV tuner/converter, which will be needed by many lower-income homes in the not so distant future. In this variant, you would want a detached keyboard & pointer device (preferably not IR - too clunky in my experience).

Reply Score: 1

RE: Re: The Return Of The 8 Bits?
by rhyder on Fri 20th Apr 2007 00:51 UTC in reply to "Re: The Return Of The 8 Bits?"
rhyder Member since:

Some nice counter ideas there. I seem to spend a fair my time amount of fiddling with old machines and trying to make them into workable solutions too.

The problem with the graphics card slot ideas is that it adds cost and complexity compared to integrated solutions. This machine isn't going to be able to compete with a current level console or a PC.

I forgot include an idea about making the motherboard replaceable by a service engineer. This means that when the MK II of the device is released, it can be returned to the manufacturer to have a new MB added. This is to limit the environmental impact of upgrading something that isn't inherently modular.

Quite frankly, a PII 233mhz with a stripped down, reliable OS, IE5 and broadband internet access would still suit many people. I can't see any huge developments on the horizon that would require a machine like the Neomicro to be upgraded within the next 5-7 years.


Edited 2007-04-20 00:54

Reply Score: 1

by gleng on Wed 18th Apr 2007 17:44 UTC
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It sounds like you're looking for hardware such as the Efika. (

That should run the kind of OS you're looking for nicely. It already runs Linux, and there are ports of AROS and MorphOS on the way.

Reply Score: 1

1 Meg Storage?
by MattK on Wed 18th Apr 2007 18:12 UTC
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" We will give the machine 1 meg of internal flash based storage. This contains the OS and a small amount of user storage space."

1 Meg, wow that would be a small OS. I guess you could use Menuet.

Reply Score: 1

by Cutterman on Wed 18th Apr 2007 18:28 UTC
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20 years ago the Sinclair Z88 wasn't too far off these specs - imagine what could be done now!

Mine still works and I still tote it in my case for notes, drafts and text writing - with 20 hrs on 4AAs power is never a problem.

The silent keyboard is perfect for making and referring to notes in meetings.

When it dies I'll be bereft!

Reply Score: 1

by Bit_Rapist on Wed 18th Apr 2007 18:41 UTC
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Load "",8,1

Reply Score: 5

RE: ...
by jrlah on Thu 19th Apr 2007 18:05 UTC in reply to "..."
jrlah Member since:

Naah, that is for the good ol' 1541. Too advanced - replace 8 with 1 to show the "PRESS PLAY ON TAPE" prompt ;)

Reply Score: 1

The alternative OS
by DigitalAxis on Wed 18th Apr 2007 19:39 UTC
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I think this is more about the simplicity that epitomized the microcomputer back when 8 bit machines were in vogue, not so much the 8-bit processor.

That said, there ought to be room for simplicity here too. The OLPC Sugar concept may not be such a bad way to go.

As a thought experiment I tried to come up with another user interface that wasn't the standard WIMP design (Windows, Icons, Menus and Programs) or the Command line (Programs). I seem to recall I came up with the idea that the easiest thing to get rid of was the Window.
Make all applications full-screen, impliment some good mythical way of swapping between screens either as virtual terminals or (better) the OLPC way of having an omnipresent bar at the bottom with running applications on it...

Downsides would be no more drag'n'drop (unless it could be done with a simple 'drop into program on the bar below), and no comparing side-by-side. Although perhaps a modifier+click on the bar below would do split-screen, but then that defeats the whole purpose of not having ambiguity about what's in focus.

Actually, I think it might be easier to do away with the 'Program' part and just scatter 'create new' buttons and a folder of documents somewhere. We can already launch programs by just opening the document associated with that program...

Reply Score: 2

RE: The alternative OS
by hobgoblin on Thu 19th Apr 2007 19:35 UTC in reply to "The alternative OS"
hobgoblin Member since:

true, dropping programs (or rather turning them into a kind of plugin/toolbox style system) would make for something more useful...

as for comparing. make it slide in in a temporary way. maybe by hitting a hotkey or something.

there are programs out there that allows one to peel back windows to look at the windows below. something similar could work for comparing stuff. didnt amiga use a system of slideable desktops?

Reply Score: 2

by tony on Wed 18th Apr 2007 19:57 UTC
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We must be vigilant of the Cylon threat. The more complicated our software becomes, the wider the door the Cylons have to infiltrate our systems. Simple, 8-bit systems are capable of calculating jump coordinates, yet are simple enough for a programmer to have a good grasp of any back-door implications.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Cylons
by diskinetic on Wed 18th Apr 2007 20:25 UTC in reply to "Cylons"
diskinetic Member since:

Dude, you like, SO posted what I was going to say!

Reply Score: 1

1 meg
by alexandru_lz on Wed 18th Apr 2007 20:18 UTC
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1 MB of flash memory is absolutely, way more than enough to store an operating system AND its apps. Try to move past the current trend where an app needs several KB of code just to start up, let alone do anything useful. If I remember well, GeOS for C64 came on... two or three disks, which meant about 200 KB and it had quite about everything Windows 3.1 had.

The only problem here would be with personal file storage and data caching, but still, at 128 MB of flash space, most users of such a machine would instantly become agoraphobic.

The end result would greatly depend on what you expect as an end-user, but to be fair, there are a lot of users who wouldn't mind *some* limitations. I could still do some bloody good work on something like the Mac Classic -- and if it were to be manufactured again, it would be really cheap.

Reply Score: 1

Not quite what it used to be...
by tbutler67 on Wed 18th Apr 2007 21:46 UTC
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From the standpoint of someone else who lived through the era, I think the author gets a number of things wrong. ;)

* For starters, as another poster noted, the author isn't really talking about '8-bit microcomputers' here. His description doesn't apply at all to the CP/M S-100 machines that started the whole microcomputer revolution; and while it may technically be true of major influences like the TRS-80 and Apple ][, both machines (especially the Apple ][) were used far more often with disk drives and a DOS than without. (I can just imagine an anthropomorphized TRSDOS or DOS 3.3 looking down at MS-DOS and saying, "Sonny, in MY day..." ;>) I'd say 'home computer' (which was a fairly-well defined term at the time to refer to machines like the Atari 800, C-64, CoCo, TS/1000, TI 99/4A, Coleco Adam) is a lot closer to what he's thinking of.

* Saying that home computers were somehow more 'user-friendly' because of their simplicity is at best an exaggeration. The whole reason GUIs *became* popular is because people found them more obvious and intuitive to use. Remember the sensation caused by Pinball Construction Set, one of the first (if not the first) mass-market GUI programs? I do, and in a lot of ways it was a major revolution.

(As another example, the Epson QX-10 came out a little earlier than the original Macintosh and tried a different road to user-friendliness, using a special keyboard with dedicated task-oriented keys and a bitmapped mostly-WYSIWYG display for its word processor. It also failed, though part of that may have been trying to run its system - called HASCII, IIRC - on an 8-bit Z-80, resulting in several complaints about its speed.)

* I won't even get in to the hassles of finicky tape drives, CLOAD, or typing in BASIC listings here. ;) Let's just say I welcomed disk drives with open arms. ;>

Fast-forwarding to the present day...

Yes, the idea of a dedicated 'computer appliance' does have its appeal, and PDAs show a possible path to follow, as does the Internet Appliance. WebTV is another take on the idea. However, PDAs are (unfortunately) a dying breed, the smartphones taking their place are getting right back into that 'overcomplex' territory, and Internet Appliances and WebTV all flopped. A potential computing appliance would have to avoid the same pitfalls.

Also, there would need to be some way to upgrade the software to deal with a changing computing environment; the web browser in particular would just about HAVE to be upgradeable, as often as the tag soup gets changed.

Edited 2007-04-18 21:57

Reply Score: 4

Has anyone used a Newton?
by double_mint on Wed 18th Apr 2007 23:30 UTC
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I keep reading about Geos and the like, but it was essentially what we have today - a desktop gui that relies on either keyboard shortcuts or using a mouse.

If you want to simplify computing you have to start with simplifying the input. The keyboard and mouse aren't natural means of input, but your fingers and speech are. You should be able to point with your finger at what you want on the screen ie. press the "globe" icon for the Internet, the "envelope" icon for mail etc. Also, at the very least the computer should speak back to you. Rather than reading pages of emails, just let the computer read them to you. My Newton 2000 does this with 4meg of ram, 4 meg of OS ROM and a 200Mhz StrongARM.

What the 8 bit era showed us was simplicity. It can still be achieved, but with the enhancements in technology that is available today.

Reply Score: 1

limitation of 8-bits
by funny_irony on Thu 19th Apr 2007 05:21 UTC
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Eight-bit CPUs normally use an 8-bit data bus and a 16-bit address bus which means that their address space is limited to 64 kibibytes.

The author don't really want a 8 bits computer. He just want a SIMPLE STRAIGHTFORWARD TV that can work like computer.

Reply Score: 2

Correction needed
by shinytoaster on Thu 19th Apr 2007 06:57 UTC
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Sixteen bit home computers such as the Commodore Amiga

The Amiga was base on the 68000 series from Motorola. All are all 32 bit CPUs.

I think you meant the Commodore 64?

Reply Score: 1

RE: Correction needed
by rhyder on Fri 20th Apr 2007 01:13 UTC in reply to "Correction needed"
rhyder Member since:

No. Within the computer industry the terms 8, 16 and 32 bit computing took on colloquial meanings which are still in widespread use.

True, the 68000 offers the programmers 32 bit data registers, but bear in mind that a processor such as the 6502 series has 8bit X and Y index registers along with a 16bit accumulator. Also, machines of that 6502 or z80 machines had a greater than 8 bit addressing range (that would be 256 bytes). However, I doubt that many people would refer to machines like the ZX Spectrum, Apple II or C64 as being "16 bit machines".

To see my point, try searching for "16 bit computing" on google or the wikipedia. Such a search returns hits for machines such as the Sega Megadrive (Genesis), Amiga and Atari ST.


Edited 2007-04-20 01:18

Reply Score: 1

Member since:


Killermike wrote:

(as taken from the first page)

Sixteen bit home computers such as the Commodore Amiga and early PCs also occupy a now extinct link in the evolutionary chain.

You expressd a very strange strange concept here.

Because ONLY early PC's were 16 bit CPUs!!!

Amiga, Atari and Apple Macintosh share the same Motorola 68000 CPU.
68000 CPU were externally at 16bit and internally calculated at 32bit.

So there were no 16 bit era for Motorola.

There were double trees, one for 8086 8bit->16bit and another evolutionary tree for 68000 16/32->full32.

8086 tree then evolved into 16bit 8088 80826, and 32bit 80836, 80846, that are at 32 bit, but are a direct evolution of 16 bit.

There are evolution relicts in these CPUs which proof they are a direct evolution from 8086:


Limits of Interrupts are also buried in the guts of PENTIUM processors.

Pentium family it is a totally new concept.
But it has some relicts of 8086 age hidden into its guts as long as it could be in us humans a sort of APPENDICITIS or COCCIGIS bone (the last bone of the spine) which is a relict of the age in which humans had tails like other little mammals.

PowerPC family for example was a total new concept CPU design.
It had nothing in common with 68000 family. but now PowerPC family has been almost extinct.

Only "actual" Amiga still are on the market and farithful to PPC design.

From this point of view seems my dear Killermike you are stucked with 8bit, you are a really 8bit CPU lover but know nothing of real history of computing.

From your statement seems that CLASSIC PC or classic Amiga was extinct as long as 16 bit PCs...

But along with Amiga are now extinct also Atari and CLASSIC Macintosh...

And I can sure affirm this because actual Macintosh is not a direct evolution of 68000, nor from PPC version.

So Macintosh have extincetd twice.

The first generation Macintosh to die was 68000 design ones.

The second generation Macintosh built on PPC has nothing in common with ANCIENT Macintoshes.
They were built around PPC and have programs to EMULATE 68000 There is nothing of 68000 in second generation macintoshes.

There are no relicts of ancient Motorola 68000 family structure into PPCs.

Actual Macintosh and MacOS it is only a INTELX86 OS, born on top of X86 hardware running into a modified FREEBSD Unix like OS, which of ancient Macintosh has only the GUI design.

So it is a newly concept OS, born on top of most vital tree of evolution.

It just shares AND PREDATES the aspect of old Macs just for a sort of ADAPTATION to the same abient, as long as all flying animals share the wings (birds, bats, insects, pterosauri)...

But sure old Motorola 68000 Macs are extinct, and PPC mactintoshes are also extinct.

I hope you all and Killermike could understtod my point, and the concept I explained.

There is no real EVOLUTION from old MACs to modern ones, just a parallel re-design implemented on different processors.

To share an example also actual Amigas have nothing in common with their predecessors.
Again old Amiga 68000 programs run into new Amigas just under EMULATION.
It is the same situation as old Motorola MAcs were emulated into PPC Macs, and now PPC Macs were emulated into INTEL CORE DUO macintoshes.

It is only the BRAND NAME which remaions equal, and the GUI ASPECT...

Any legacy with eleder machines it is ALWAYS DROPPED at any new hardware generation.


Please study history and re-write your article, if you desire to receive attention.

Edited 2007-04-19 09:43

Reply Score: 0

Member since:

@ ALL @ Killermike.

Be happy! Your prayers about MODERN PC 8bit processor based are been answered by God!

There is a beautiful woman who is a talented hardware geek! Her name is Jeri Ellsworth.

She also created in 2000 the first 24bit graphic card for C64:

Then she created two great products.

The first is C64DTV embedded in a Joystick chassis and sold by the new Commodore International from Holland.

The second product it is an evolution of C64, and it is called CommodoreONE.

It is sold as concept computer.

You can find it at this store:

Or directly at site:

Features of C=ONE

The C-One computer is a 2003 enhanced adaptation of the Commodore 64 -while retaining almost all of the original's capabilities the C-One adds modern features, interfacing and capabilities and is a sorely needed fill for a gap in the hobbyist computer market.

The price is 269,- EUR with 65816 CPU (including German sales tax.
(user need to supply ATX case and power supply, drive(s), PS/2 keyboard, mouse, memory and SVGA monitor.)


· The CommodoreOne is a motherboard ready to mount into an ATX style computer case. Ports match the holes of the case, except for audio connectors, which do not fit without mechanical modification of the case.


· Connectors on the C=One are ATX style. The C-one board is designed for an ATX power supply. Ready to be 'laptop/portable capable', such as startup of the machine from two voltages only (3.3V and 5V), and diskless operation.

· ATX 'powerdown' can be controlled by software.


· The processor of the C1 is a 65c816 processor running at 20 MHz. The 65c816 is a 6502 compatible processor with a 24 bit address range and extra instructions that access the full memory range.
The C-One has a processor slot for any other 8-bit CPU such as a real 6502, Z80, 6809 or even the Z8S180.

· Software throttle to match 64 speed.

· The system bus runs up to 105Mhz, the 50/60 hz CIA clock of the system is provided by internal circuitry.

SuperVIC Video Capabilities

· VGA monitor output

· VIC-II compatible in all video modes 60hz/50hz emulation is software selectable.

· Classic Emulation & SuperVIC Mode is software selectable

· Extended video modes as well as combination modes with classic VIC-II modes are possible.

· Memory addresses of features (character matrix, screen memory, color RAM, etc.) are each 24 bit addressable (except for the color palette which resides inside the chip's memory)

· up to 128MB multimedia memory for graphics, music and copper data

· Max Resolution 1280x1024 Sync settings from 60hz-? (depends of resolution)

· Maximum of 256 colors out of a palette of 65,535

· Video expansion connector for digital and analog video expansions

MonsterSID Audio

· Classic SID Emulation (including address mirroring)

· Monster SID Mode

· 16 stereo SID voices (1-8 left, 9-16 right)

· Extra voices mapped in order after the first three

· DMA audio

· 8 Stereo voices (4 left, 4 right)

· up to 128MB multimedia memory used for sound or instruments, as well as access to main CPU memory for playing DMA clips.

· Variable sample playback rate.

· Audio resolution of 16 bits (CD quality oversampling DAC)

· DMA segment playback can be either continuous (loop) or one-shot (note/segment)

· two sockets for classic SID chips, Monster SID audio can be routed through their analog filters (prpared for more analog audio routing)


· Computer Memory is a standard SD-Ram module of up to 1GB size, multimedia memory of up to 128MB is a standard SIMM module. Minimum is 4MB of multimedia memory and 16M main memory.

· complete multimedia memory can be used for Monster SID (DMA Audio or Instrument clips.)

· The System has a boot ROM of 512K which contains the early startup procedure divided into 128k and 384k user space for one main core and OS

· Main OS storage can also be Compact Flash media or harddrives to hold the C-One operating system(s) as well as cores and rom images. There is no limit to card capacity. FAT filesystem is supported, so simple data transfer from PCs is given.

Internal I/O

· 3.5" floppy drive connector with 1581 emulation (using PC drive) with 64k RAM

· Capable** of supporting MFM 720/1.4/2.8 capacity drives via software (WD1772 compatible)

· IDE Interface with DMA support**

· Compact Flash Media Slot (see 'Memory' above)

· TTL level digital video interface (for example to drive an LCD screen)

Internal Expansion

· C64 compatible Cartridge Slot

· Up to two PCI connectors (factory-stuffed only one)

· Capability to configure C1 system chip settings externally

· two Amiga 1200 compatible clock-ports for expansion

· Geek Port (Whatever spare lines are left)

External Interfacing

· PS/2 Keyboard port with either Commodore-64 matrix emulation (configurable) or raw data access

· Joystick lines can also be emulated via keyboard

· PS/2 Mouse with 1351 emulation and bi-directional communication support.

· IEC Serial Connector supporting Commodore VIC/64/264/128 drives and printers.

· 2 Joystick Ports (Paddles supported with classic SID chips installed)

· PC-style DB25 Parallel port (can act as C64 userport with adapter)

Image of C=ONE

The new processor at 20 MHz, the monster SID for audio, 256 colors out of 65000, quite normal PS2 keyboard and mouse, IDE interface, 2 PCI slots.

And in the recent it also gained FPGA co-processor, completely programmable. The fact you can run it as C64, C 128, or emulate a vaste number of elder 8bit machines makes this machine really incredible.

It also runs a vaste number of OSes, such as GEOS, Contiki, AND EVEN WINDOWS CE!

Edited 2007-04-19 12:04

Reply Score: 3

Denator Member since:

Also a very nice, cheaper and more modern alternative to the C-ONE is the CPC-TREX computer:

It's much cheaper than the C-ONE and the OCM (new MSX), provides all modern important connectors and includes a complete working 8bit-computer core.
It is even optimized for the SymbOS windows 8bit operating system and can run in a special turbo-mode.

The C-ONE is completely outdated and too expensive. Jerry made its deathblow by releasing the DTV64.

Reply Score: 3

Raffaele Member since:

@ Denator

You wrote:

The C-ONE is completely outdated and too expensive. Jerry made its deathblow by releasing the DTV64.

C64DTV has no expansion slot, no keyboard, and no capabilities to run any external drive.

At least a modern and modified version of it then it could, but has never being released into the market...

CPC Trek you signalled is not so expandable as CommodoreONE.

(perhaps a second version of CPC-Trek it will overcome C=One, but actually it can't)

If you read it well C=ONE has:

- standard C64 cartridge slot (can connect ehternet and other thingies)

- Amiga clockports (are so efficient to allow to connect expansion cards)

- 2 PCI slots (this is very interesting)...

- C=ONE also uses standard ram slot and could mount RAM modules upto 128 megabytes

- And finally has connectors adapters to mount various original 8 bit CPUs...

I think this all bonanza it is worth the price...

Edited 2007-04-20 18:00

Reply Score: 1

rhyder Member since:

There is a beautiful woman who is a talented hardware geek! Her name is Jeri Ellsworth.

Some nice links there and some nice info.

Yes, I had read about Jeri before. She may just be my dream woman ;-)

Another advantage of the sort of this sort super C64 hardware is that features such as SID sound bring with them a lot of character.


Edited 2007-04-20 01:37

Reply Score: 1

Already done.
by dmrio on Thu 19th Apr 2007 15:17 UTC
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Buy a Playstation.

Reply Score: 1

Why limit oneself to 8-bit?
by MadRat on Thu 19th Apr 2007 23:54 UTC
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Seriously, 8-bits? FLASH is already coming out in 16GB sticks! The memory limit comes to mind as a show stopper. There is absolutely no reason one couldn't aim for 16-bits and use a true multi-processor core. It would be absolutely trivial for them to come up with a variable frequency front-side bus, low stage count 1.0 GHz+ 16-bit core containing 4 cpu's, software-emulated sound and video processor functionality through the cores, and a multiple channel 16-bit memory controller.

It could aim for simple pda buttons to keep costs down. Need more? Then add mouse and keyboard with blue tooth. The only wire connector could be mini-usb. Why re-invent the wheel here?

Edited 2007-04-19 23:58

Reply Score: 1

by aliquis on Sat 21st Apr 2007 02:01 UTC
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Genesis Efika + keyboard + psu + case + morphos?

Reply Score: 1

Interesting article
by Serenak on Sat 21st Apr 2007 23:39 UTC
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I think there are many good and relevant thoughts in this article but to be fair I agree there is not really a need to go back to 8 bit...

The really interesting points are in the "easy to use and understand" OS/GUI - RISC had a lot of that and would be a good base to work with... OS in ROM or perhaps here Read Only Flash (or read only to the user... perhaps writable for system updates from the server?)

The biggest problem many beginners and "don't care to learn" sorts have is correctly identified as the multitasking multiwindow GUI environment where they often cannot understand the "focus" idea.

Just an aside here - my 6 year old daughter has grown up using Mac OS X and has no problem with grasping the mulitwindow environment or the focus, I have never bothered to make use of the "Simple Finder" which pretty much makes the Mac into a one application full screen at a time OS/GUI in in the manner of System 6 or earlier Macs. My other daughter is 2, she still can become confused if the window she is using loses focus - but when she is playing I am there and simply help show her how to get back the window she wants - very soon she will be as competent as her sister...

So to be fair Mac OS has options to make this irrelevant already - but we are talking ultra cheap here right? Not taking a premium workstation and dumbing it down. I like the reversion to the old "one box" C64/Amiga/Spectrum idea for a machine of this type, but mucking about connecting to a TV? Please...

In many ways I see the form of the emate or early laptops here - most of OS News' readers could make up something like this out of some old kit and a simple low power OS... but they don't have the nice modern connections or the use of flash memory etc.

But here is the rub that all us computer loving geeks have conveniently overlooked - I know lots of families who "would really love a computer for the kids and that..." and I have often offered to give them free and gratis a workable Celeron or PIII (or the like) in the 700-900MHz range with a nice easy Linux as a starter to find their feet on and frequently even offered to install it and show them how to use it for a couple of bottles of wine. After the initial interest they usually decide to trek off to PC World (read Comp USA or Best Buy I guess) and hock themselves up to the eyes to buy a Dell or something that has more bells and whistles than they have any idea what to do with. Why do they do this? Because the TV and the man down the pub and the salesperson tells them they need the latest thing... Until you can undo that "consumerist" ideal then the idea of a set top box/cut down console/internet appliance PC will fail commercially just like all the previous ones...

Me - I want a DS Style Apple internet appliance that I can use to connect with my desktop machines from pretty much anywhere (and no the iPhone is not it)...

Reply Score: 1

A few suggestions
by torbenm on Mon 23rd Apr 2007 15:20 UTC
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I think such a neo-micro could have a market, but it would need real mass production to get the cost sufficiently down, probably around 100K units minimum. The reason is that the initial development cost far exceeds that of yet another Windows laptop.

In some ways, the neo-micro shares goals and features with the $100 laptop project: It as about a cheap, robust, easy-to use computer that has only the most essential features. The main differences are that the neo-micro can assume you have mains power and a TV, so you don't need a buil-in screen, battery and crank handle.

A few suggestions about the design:

- There is no need for a memory card slot if you have USB: You can use USB flash keys for storage. They are cheap and ubiquitous and you are more likely to be able to transfer to or from a "normal" PC.

- Don't have a laptop-style tiny joystick in the middle of the keyboard. Use a somewhat bigger (rheumatism-friendly) flat joystick-pad (sort of like on the iPod) and put it below the space bar. And make room enough below the space bar for hand rest.

- Base text editing on HTML as internal format. This is very portable and has enough features for even semi-advanced texts. And it allows editing of simple web content.

Reply Score: 1