Developing In Pascal On The Commodore 64 With Abacus Super Pascal 64

Abacus Super Pascal 64 for the Commodore 64.

Most people associate the Commodore 64 with Commodore BASIC and precompiled applications, but it also had a number of alternative development environments produced for it. One of these was Super Pascal 64 by Abacus. A solid introduction to this software package is provided in a video tutorial by [My Developer Thoughts] on YouTube. This uses the Abacus Super Pascal 64 software and manual from the [Lyon Labs] website, which incidentally has a lot more development environments and operating systems for the C64 listed for your perusal.

Abacus’ Super Pascal supports the official Pascal language, requiring nothing more than a Commodore 64 and two Commodore 1541 floppy disk drives to get started. One FDD is for the Super Pascal software, which boots into the development environment, the other FDD and the disks in it are the target for the current project’s source code and compiled binary. Although the lack of support for FDDs other than the 1541 is somewhat odd, this comes presumably from the operating system nature of the development environment and the 1541 being by far the most common FDD for the C64.

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Shuji Nakamura: The Man Who Gave Us The Blue LED Despite All Odds

With the invention of the first LED featuring a red color, it seemed only a matter of time before LEDs would appear with other colors. Indeed, soon green and other colors joined the LED revolution, but not blue. Although some dim prototypes existed, none of them were practical enough to be considered for commercialization. The subject of a recent [Veritasium] video, the core of the problem was that finding a material with the right bandgap and other desirable properties remained elusive. It was in this situation that at the tail end of the 1980s a young engineer at Nichia in Japan found himself pursuing a solution to this conundrum.

Although Nichia was struggling at the time due to the competition in the semiconductor market, its president was not afraid to take a gamble on a promise, which is why this young engineer – [Shuji Nakamura] – got permission to try his wits at the problem. This included a year long study trip to Florida to learn the ins and outs of a new technology called metalorganic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD, also metalorganic vapor-phase epitaxy). Once back in Japan, he got access to a new MOCVD machine at Nichia, which he quickly got around to heavily modifying into the now well-known two-flow reactor version which improves the yield.

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FLOSS Weekly Episode 770: 10% More Internet

This week, Jonathan Bennett and Doc Searls talk with David Taht about the state of the Internet and, specifically, IPv4 exhaustion. We’re running out of IPv4 addresses! But we’ve been running out for something like ten years now. What gives? And why are nearly 20% of the world’s IPv4 addresses sitting unused? David has a hack that would give the world 10% more Internet, but Amazon might have something to say about it.

There’s even more, like Kessler Syndrome, some musing on what the Interplanetary Internet will look like, the worth of real paper books, and a long-term bet for some IPv4 addresses to come to fruition in 2038.

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Ring Around The Inverter

[Dr. Shane] asks the question: what happens if you connect the output of an inverter logic gate back to the input? In theory, it doesn’t make sense, but depending on the gate’s physical construction, you’ll get into a strange state. The transistors within the gate will behave differently than they normally would, and you’ll wind up with an amplifier or an oscillator. You can see the results in the video below. In the second video, you can see what the odd connection does to the thermal properties of the inverter, too.

The CMOS inverter becomes biased in the active region, so it makes sense that it settles at the halfway point. The TTL inverter is slightly different, but the delay through the gate isn’t enough to produce a good oscillation. However, an odd number of inverters connected in a ring like this is one way to create a simple oscillator.

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How Different Are SpaceX Thermal Tiles From The Space Shuttle’s?

When SpaceX first showed off the thermal tiles on its Starship spacecraft that should keep it safe when re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere towards the loving embrace of the chopsticks on the launch tower, some similarity to the thermal tiles on NASA’s now retired Space Shuttle Orbiter was hard to miss.

Electron microscope image of the fibrous part of a Starship thermal tile, showing very large fibers. (Credit: Breaking Taps, YouTube)
Electron microscope image of the fibrous part of a Starship thermal tile, showing very large fibers. (Credit: Breaking Taps, YouTube)

Yet how similar are they really? That’s what the [Breaking Taps] channel on YouTube sought to find out, using an eBay-purchased chunk of Shuttle thermal tile along with bits of Starship tiles that washed ashore following the explosive end to the vehicle’s first integrated test last year.

To answer the basic question: the SpaceX engineers responsible for the Starship thermal tiles seem to have done their homework. An analysis of not only the structure of the fibrous material, but also the black IR-blocking coating, shows that the Starship tiles are highly reminiscent of the EATB (introduced in 1996) tiles with TUFI (toughened unipiece fibrous insulation) coatings with added molybdenum disilicide, which were used during the last years of the Shuttle program.

TUFI is less fragile than the older RCG (reaction cured glass) coating, but also heavier, which is why few TUFI tiles were used on the Shuttles due to weight concerns. An oddity with the Starship tiles is that they incorporate many very large fibers, which could be by design, or indicative of something else.

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Inputs Of Interest: The Svalboard Could Be Your Salvation

You know, sometimes dreams really do come true. When I told you about the DataHand keyboard almost four years ago, I never imagined I’d ever get to lay my hands on anything even remotely like it, between the original price point and the fact that they really, really hold their value. But thanks to [Morgan Venable], creator of the Svalboard, I can finally tell you what it’s like to type with your digits directionalized.

If you don’t recall, the DataHand was touted to be a total revolution in typing for RSI sufferers. It debuted in 1993 for a hefty price tag of about $1,500 — pretty far out of reach of the average consumer, but well within the budgets of the IT departments of companies who really wanted to keep their workers working. You want minimum finger travel? It doesn’t get more minimal than this concept of a d-pad plus the regular down action for each finger.

The Svalboard aims to be the new and improved solution for something that barely exists anymore, but still has a devoted following. Although the DataHand was built on a gantry and adjustable using knobs, the smallest fit possible on the thing is still rather big. Conversely, the Svalboard is fully customizable to suit any size hand and fingertip.

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How Many Time Zones Are There Anyway?

Nowadays, it’s an even bet that your newest project somehow connects to the Internet and, thus, to the world. Even if it doesn’t, if you share your plans, someone might reproduce your creation in some far distant locale. If your design uses time, you might need to think about time zones. Easy, right? That’s what [Zain Rizvi] thought until he tried to deploy something that converted between timezones. You can learn from his misconceptions thanks to a detailed post he provides.

You might think, “What’s the big deal?” After all, there’s UTC, and then there are 12 time zones ahead of UTC and 12 time zones later. But that’s not even close to true.

As [Zain] found out, there are 27 hours in a full-day cycle if you count UTC as one hour. Why? Because some islands in the Pacific wanted to be on the wrong side of the International Date Line. So there are a few extra zones to accommodate them.

You can’t even count on time zones being offset by an hour from the previous zone. Several zones have a half-hour offset from UTC (for example, India’s standard time is 5.5 hours from UTC). But surely the offset is always either a whole number or a number where the fractional part is 0.5, right?

Um, no. Nepal wants the sun to be directly over the mountain at noon, so it offsets by 45 minutes! [Zain] wonders — as we do — what would happen if the mountain shifted over time? Until 1940, Amsterdam used a 20-minute offset. Some cities are split with one half in one time zone and another in the other.

Of course, there are the usual problems with multiple names for each zone, both because many countries want their own zone and because the exact same zone is different in different languages. Having your own zone is not just for vanity, though. Daylight savings time rules will vary by zone and even, in some cases, only in certain parts of a zone. For example, in the United States, Arizona doesn’t change to daylight savings time. Oh, except for the Navajo Nation in Arizona, which does! Some areas observe daylight savings time that starts and ends multiple times during the year. Even if you observe daylight savings time, there are cases where the time shift isn’t an entire hour.

Besides multiple names, common names for zones often overlap. For example, in the United States, the Eastern Standard Time zone differs from Australia’s. Confused? You should be.

Maybe we should have more respect for multiple time zone clock projects. We’ve noticed these problems before when we felt sorry for the people who maintain the official time zone database.