Continuum 93 - an emulator that exists before its hardware

Hi again!

Pretty happy to share this with you. Last year I started writing this emulator that doesn’t emulate anything you might be familiar with, rather impersonates a fictional retro-hardware with its own assembly architecture, registers, interrupts and video layers. It is aimed at allowing people to write retro-like games on a platform meant for specifically for that, with the limitations and particularities of such a “new” old machine. It is built out of nostalgia while trying to connect the old with some modern advantages such as (eventually) wrappers allowing you to develop and publish games.

It is a project in progress that will probably take over a year to mature nicely, so I am open to any critique you may have. I did took a look at the introductions page and noticed quite a few of you have an impressive experience with assembly for several hardware frameworks.
But I also hope you will like it at least in part. It will get better.

Right now it’s published on itch (just take the slider down and you can download it for free!). Also you’ll find there a presentation video and if you’re curious, take a look at the manuals provided in the download.

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I have toyed with similar ideas from time to time, but I had a hard time coming up with limitations to torment myself with. :slight_smile:

(As the fun is often about working with and around the limitations and not so much about what a vintage platform can gloriously do, to me, a fantasy platform should be not so much about wishful thinking, but about actually fearful thinking. Which is, admittedly, quite an odd place to begin with.)

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It reminds me of the Pico-8 system…

And there is (still) the good old Red Code / Core Wars

-Gordon

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Ah, yes! The PICO-8! I didn’t knew about it until I showed part of my work to a colleague who pointed to it last year. I like that one, though it’s not exactly my flavor. I think it uses some form of high-level programming language directly, but I haven’t kept track recently. I like it’s a pretty well matured project.

But this code war game looks quite intriguing. I’ll definitely look it up. Thanks for this!

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Yeah, I know what you mean. Limitations kind-of lead you nicely in a specific direction while making you also feel clever. Modern systems basically place you in the middle of a desert with a replicator in hand. You can do absolutely anything, and that’s sometimes overwhelming.

In a contrasted exageration, some retro systems are like you’re thrown in the depths of a cave filled with water that floats inexplicably and you are holding a knife. Even by itself it’s a great adventure. :slight_smile:

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There’s actually quite a number of fantasy consoles and computers, compare this curated list:

(It may be worth contacting the author, @EnthusiastGuy, in order to get Continuum 93 included.)

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Hm. Looking at that list, and CHIP-8 is there - something I sort of look at, think I’ll write an emulator for it, then quietly forget it… for a while.

But it also strikes me about what others might be out there?

2 systems I do know of, because I’ve written emulators for them (in BASIC) are CESIL and LMC. They’re not quite aimed at games, graphics, etc. mechanics though…

These might fall into the esoteric programming language category though and before we know it, we’ll end up in a BF hole …

-Gordon

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And, certainly, there’s a BF console on the list… :slight_smile:

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That is quite a list! Thanks for this. I created my PR for the author to review at any time.
I never really thought of Continuum as a fantasy console, but you’re right. That’s the best term for it. :smiley:

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Mind that the list is for fantasy consoles/computers – you’re spot on, anyway… :slight_smile:

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Interesting list. I don’t see the BytePusher there, which is a fantasy console with a OISC (one instruction set computer) processor. It is an example of how simple things can be instead of something that is actually nice to program in.

I have my own design that I haven’t yet published, 1pvm (one page virtual machine), where the goal is to fit the complete description in at most 66 lines of 80 columns each. That leads to a different set of tradeoffs.

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Simple also means you don’t have to fight verbose hardware and software.

Hello all!

Here’s me with another major update on the Continuum 93 emulator I’m working on.
The main points of interest of this update are:

  • the highly improved debugger/disassembler/memory viewer separate applications used to debug Continuum programs through the TCP/IP connection by connecting to the actual emulator;

  • a new simple operating system for Continuum, called Q.

  • ability to spread the code over multiple files (for better project management), working with Visual Studio Code to program in Continuum Assembly;

  • lots of other small updates/fixes on the CPU architecture.

Here’s also the presentation video I just finished editing.

Cheers to you!

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Hey guys!

Last night I wrapped up and released version 0.6.8 of Continuum. I also published an updated development log there but in general lines this update is about:

Emulator

  • Video card improvements;
  • Multi-platform (right now, aside from Windows this can be brought to Raspberry Pi 3, 4, 5, 400 and Zero 2W) and Steam Deck;
  • Signed values support for regular registers + new instructions in that sense;
  • Floating point registers and a lot of instructions that make use of them;
  • Improved and added interrupts;
  • Added more instructions for logic, flags, trigonometry, general math;
  • Gamepad support (though a bit shady on Linux);
  • Accelerator interrupts to load png tilemaps to memory and draw from them;

Debugger

  • A 3D visualization of the video memory that also looks cool;

  • Showing flags, history;

  • … and a lot of fixes, small improvements etc…

I also wanted to present this differently, so for the first time I made an actual trailer for it. Here it is:

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