Retro Computing Coding Competition Still Open

There’s still time to enter Octojam 10, a competition to write a new program for a rather old (and virtual) machine: the CHIP-8. This interpreted language on a virtual machine was used in the 1970s and 1980s to write games that could run on several consoles, such as the COSMAC VIP. Since then, a community of tinkerers has grown up around CHIP-8 and figuring out how to get the most out of the minimal resources the machine gives you.

The CHIP-8 offers 4096 bytes of memory, but 512 Bytes is taken up by the CHIP-8 interpreter and another 96 bytes by the display. So, it’s an exercise in carefully packing as much as possible into a small space. If you prefer, entries for Octojam 10 can also run on SuperChip, a CHIP-8 version for the HP-48 graphing calculator, or XO-Chip. This extension makes some of the routine tasks of programming a primitive platform more accessible, like drawing on the screen and playing annoying buzzing music.

The competition is open until 1st November, so you’d better get a wiggle on. If you want inspiration, check out the CHIP-8 archive, which contains entries to previous Octojam competitions and other programs.

If you are looking for the ultimate hacker street cred, you could try writing a CHIP-8 game on a Nintendo Switch running a Playstation Vita emulator, which is running VITA-8, a CHIP-8 emulator for the PS Vita. Alternatively, you can use Emma_02, an emulator that creates a virtual COSMAC VIP or a range of related consoles on several platforms.

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