Low-Level Academy Gets Into Details

We often say that you don’t have to know how an engine works to drive a car, but you can bet that every driver at the Indy 500 knows exactly how it works. You could say the same for computers. You don’t need to understand the details, but it really helps, especially if something goes wrong. [Low-Level Academy] has an online class where you can program in Rust inside your browser to learn about low-level TCP and UDP networking details.

Just how low it goes, we aren’t exactly sure, yet. There are three of eight modules ready to go. The first three cover number encoding, exchanging messages with UDP, and fragmentation. Reliability, routing, server programming, TCP, and HTTP are not out yet, but the ultimate project is a web server. In addition, new modules are released to sponsors first, so the fragmentation module for example won’t be available for a few more days. While that seems unorthodox, it is no different than having to wait for an HBO show to show up on basic cable in reruns.

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Boot Sector Pong As A Crash Course In Assembly

Have you ever wanted to develop a playable game small enough to fit into a disk’s 512 byte boot sector? How about watching somebody develop a program in assembly for nearly two hours? If you answered yes to either of those questions, or ideally both of them, you’re going to love this project from [Queso Fuego].

Whether you just want to check out the public domain source code or watch along as he literally starts from a blank file and codes every line for your viewing pleasure, chances are good that you’ll pick up a trick or two from this project. For example, he explains how all of the “graphics” in the game are done in 80 x 25 text mode simply by setting the background color of character cells without printing any text to them.

We really like the presentation in the video after the break, which was recorded over the course of multiple days, judging by the changing light levels in the background. As he types out each line of code, he explains what its function is and gives any background information necessary to explain how it will fit into the larger program. If you’ve ever wondered if you had what it takes to program in ASM, watching this video is a great way to decide.

[Queso Fuego] mentions that this project, and his research into this sort of low-level programming, came about due to the social distancing boredom that many of us are feeling. While we’re certainly not advocating for him to kept locked in his home permanently, with projects like this, you’ve got to admit it seems like a win for the rest of us.

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Low-Level Computing With Entry-Level Difficulty: DUO Light

The hardware can’t get much simpler. The DUO Light uses an ATmega328 (commonly found on Arduino boards) along with an external SRAM chip to provide a low-level computer programming experience that will suit those new to programming and some more experienced tinkerers.

At the time of writing the modest Kickstarter goal of $1100¬†was just $18 shy of success. We’d wager that this is partly due to the availability of so much support material on [Jack’s] website. (fyi- a lot of the links on that page are zip files)

The SD card slot accepts a FAT16 card with byte code for the programs. The available Psuedo C compiler, and assembler let you pick your poison, or you can simply dig into the byte code directly. We didn’t see a schematic, but the firmware and BOM are both available. You should be able to easily figure out connections from those.

We’ve been a fan of [Jack’s] work for quite some time. His TTL computer and 16-core ATmega-based offerings are sure to delight, even if you remember seeing them go by the first time. This isn’t his first stab at educational models either. Though we still found his logic chip computer a bit daunting.