Monday, November 20, 2006

Computing is fun again!

Ok folks, I've gone off the deep end. Here's the deal. I've come to the realization that I really enjoy either big computing or small computing. The average run of the mill PC computing scene is pretty stale where my interests are concerned.

I've already blabbed enough here about Unix, X and all the neato stuff that brings to the table. Nothing has changed really --still love that stuff and always will. Having said that, I've also been getting back into classic computing through the wonderful community at AtariAge. Wonderful bit banging, right to the hardware stuff. Great homebrew scene as well. It's hard to point to a core group with more talent than the movers and shakers at AtariAge have combined.

For me however, the focus is a bit narrow. I want to get to the metal, but also want some relevance too. Enter Parallax, stage whatever!

These guys produce a fine set of products that are both educational and very practical to boot. Just the thing to start off on some new directions, while feeding that down and dirty to the metal urge coming on strong right now. Please visit them at

I've jumped in and purchased a Propeller Demo Board. In a 3 inch square package that's just a shade over half an inch high, you get the following goodies:

-propeller CPU 8 32 bit multi-processing core @ 80Mhz for a total of ~160MIPS parallel thoughtput
-ps2 keyboard and mouse input
-audio input from on board mic
-composite (baseband) video output NTSC or PAL
-VGA output with resolutions up to 1024x768 (and that may not be the end of it)
-onboard 32Kb EEprom for program storage
-USB programming interface for use with your standard win32 PC
-8 free i/o pins, ground clamp and two power sources 3.3v & 5v

Aside from the small memory footprint, this little system is a very capable general purpose hobby computer. The included software tools feature an assembler and SPIN higher level language, along with a collection of core hardware drivers and source code.

Parallax has just released a DYI game system, called the Hydra, that is based on the demo board I've been learning on. It has Nintendo compatable game connectors, a controller included, 128K memory expansion and a host of other hardware elements that are more specific to gaming. I fully expect a thriving demo and home brew gaming and project scene to evolve around these two products within a year.

The tech is accessable, supported by a fun community of like minded people to be found at: The necessary software tools are free for the download and open where it makes sense to boot. What's not to like?

Needless to say, I'm basically stoked! Plenty of speed, lots of hardware options in a small and portable package. I'll have more to say later on, but it's gonna be a fun ride.