Strange Adventures: a film list
Presenting the list I mentioned earlier in which I highlight a number of worthwhile science-fiction films (also some TV productions) that aren’t the usual Hollywood fare. I’ve spent the past few years watching many of these while searching for more. This isn’t a definitive collection, and it isn’t filled with favourites; I’ve deliberately omitted a number of popular films that would count as such. It’s more a map of my generic tastes, and an answer to a question that isn’t always spoken aloud in discussions I’ve had about SF films but which remains implicit: “Okay, if you dislike all this stuff then what do you like?” I tend to like marginal things, hybrids, edge cases, the tangential, the unusual and the experimental.
Just the stills make for interesting browsing.
TVA Multifunctional Computer
Lotus 1-2-3 For Linux
I’ll cut to the chase; through a combination of unlikely discoveries, crazy hacks and the 90s BBS warez scene I’ve been able to port Lotus 1-2-3 natively to Linux – an operating system that literally didn’t exist when 1-2-3 was released!
Porting Zelda Classic to the Web
I spent the last two months (roughly ~150 hours) porting Zelda Classic to run in a web browser.
I hope my efforts result in Zelda Classic reaching a larger audience. It’s been challenging work, far outside my comfort zone of web development, and I’ve learned a lot about WebAssembly, CMake and multithreading. Along the way, I discovered bugs across multiple projects and did due diligence in fixing (or just reporting) them when I could, and even proposed a change to the HTML spec.
Weird how there’s bugs everywhere one looks.
The digital ranging system that measured the distance to the Apollo spacecraft
The basic idea was to send a radio signal to the spacecraft and determine how long it takes to return. Since the signal traveled at the speed of light, the time delay gives the distance. The main problem is that due to the extreme distance to the spacecraft, a radar-like return pulse would be too weak. The ranging system solved this in two ways. First, a complex transponder on the spacecraft sent back an amplified signal. Second, instead of sending a pulse, the system transmitted a long pseudorandom bit sequence. By correlating this sequence over multiple seconds, a weak signal could be extracted from the noise.
In this blog post I explain this surprisingly-complex ranging system. Generating and correlating pseudorandom sequences was difficult with the transistor circuitry of the 1960s. The ranging codes had to be integrated with Apollo’s “Unified S-Band” communication system, which used high-frequency microwave signals. Onboard the spacecraft, a special frequency-multiplying transponder supported Doppler speed measurements. Finally, communicating with the spacecraft required a complex network of ground stations spanning the globe.
The Applesoft Compiler (TASC): We have the source code, in a sense
Chaining was a common technique when your program got too large to fit into memory all at once, so you broke it into multiple programs that each handed off control to each other.
As the author added features, he kept hitting the Apple ][‘s 48KB RAM limit and was forced to delete all the comments from the code, and when that wasn’t enough, he resorted to shortening all the important variable names to one character.
The games Nintendo didn't want you to play: Tengen
Recently, I took a look at Nintendo’s MMC line of mappers, and some other boards. All boards for the NES’ western releases had to be manufactured by Nintendo, and so they generally met certain standards set by Nintendo. But these rules were enforced by technology, not by law. And the company that had previously killed the American game industry decided to break those rules. Madness? No. This… is Tengen.
Lots of custom cartridges here.
Some additional info: https://hackmii.com/2010/01/the-weird-and-wonderful-cic/
U+237c ⍼ Right Angle With Downwards Zigzag Arrow
Known as right angle with downwards zigzag arrow, angle with down zig-zag arrow, \rangledownzigzagarrow, and ⍼, no one knows what ⍼ is meant to represent or where it originated from. Section 22.7 Technical Symbols from the Unicode Standard on the Miscellaneous Technical block doesn’t say anything about it.
Harder Drive: Hard drives we didn't want or need
Lotus 1-2-3 reversing
A ton of hacking later, and I do now have a usable driver for dosemu that supports arbitrary resolutions, just look at all those columns!
Modern Retro Computer Terminals
The goal for this project is to design, 3D-print and assemble the enclosures for several small desktop computers.
Ditherpunk — The article I wish I had about monochrome image dithering
1963 Chrysler Turbine: Ultimate Edition - Jay Leno's Garage
1963 Chrysler Turbine: Ultimate Edition. It’s the amazing car Jay’s lusted after since he was 14 years old, and today’s episode is packed with all kinds of amazing footage! We’ve got a book review, a road test, and Chrysler’s original promotional video.
Booting from a vinyl record
So this nutty little experiment connects a PC, or an IBM PC to be exact, directly onto a record player through an amplifier. There is a small ROM boot loader that operates the built-in “cassette interface” of the PC (that was hardly ever used), invoked by the BIOS if all the other boot options fail, i.e. floppy disk and the hard drive. The turntable spins an analog recording of a small bootable read-only RAM drive, which is 64K in size. This contains a FreeDOS kernel, modified by me to cram it into the memory constraint, a micro variant of COMMAND.COM and a patched version of INTERLNK, that allows file transfer through a printer cable, modified to be runnable on FreeDOS. The bootloader reads the disk image from the audio recording through the cassette modem, loads it to memory and boots the system on it. Simple huh?
A handy diff argument handling feature that's actually very old
If only one of file1 and file2 is a directory, diff shall be applied to the non-directory file and the file contained in the directory file with a filename that is the same as the last component of the non-directory file.
'A Million Random Digits' Was a Number-Cruncher’s Bible. Now One Has Exposed Flaws in the Disorder.
A 1955 Rand Corp. book had a reputation as the go-to source for figures used by pollsters, analysts, researchers; engineer Gary Briggs has ruined it
I would say ruined is more than a bit strong, but good story.
Mr. Briggs hypothesized a technician dropped cards and put them back in the wrong order. He envisioned running computer simulations to re-create the error by moving a card or two out of place.
Non-POSIX file systems
Operating systems and file systems have traditionally been developed hand in hand. They impose mutual constraints on each other. Today we have two major leaders in file system semantics: Windows and POSIX. They are very close to each other when compared to the full set of possibilities. Interesting things happened before POSIX monopolized file system semantics.
Exploring mullender.c - A deep dive into the first IOCCC winner
I will discuss the code, how I got such old and obscure code to run, as well as include snippets from my conversations with one of the original authors (who was very helpful in figuring some of this out). If all that wasn’t enough I managed to obtain the original PDP and VAX source code, it will be hosted here with permission. I want to give a huge thank you to Sjoerd Mullender and Don Libes for their assistance and permission in reproducing some of this material.