C64 Programming - Invader Fractal

:: C64, 6502, retro

I have recently been getting into programming the Commodore 64! It’s lots of fun to work in such a restricted environment, where you have to use various hardware tricks to achieve your goals. Every machine cycle and byte of memory counts!

I have not programmed in 6502 assembler or the C64 before. I am using the popular C64 emulator WinVice and an assembler called DASM. Having messed around a bit and learnt the basics of the instruction set and the hardware/memory layout, I programmed a couple of effects such as the basic text scroller. I have an idea in mind for my first demo, and part of it revolves around the invader fractal. I have implemented this in various langauages (F# and D being the most recent) and figured it would be a nice fit for the C64.


The invader fractal is a very simpe idea, based on the observation that the classic space invaders are symmetrical. Given a 5x5 grid, we can observe that the middle column is static, whilst columns 4 and 5 are columns 1 and 2 flipped around:

This means we can store the information for each row in just 3 bits, multiplied for each row gives us 15 bits to encode an entire invader. 15 bits gives a total of 2^15=32,768 unique invaders. “Real” space invaders are a little bit bigger than 5x5, but we will stick with their smaller cousins.

Programming in Racket #1

:: racket

Over the last few days I have been learning Racket, a language derived from Scheme.  The main selling point of Racket is its extensive macro system that lets you do everything from the simplest macros through to redefining the entire language (yes you can even get rid of the parens!).  It is a programming language programming language. In fact, Racket is more of a customisable programming language infrastructure / engine with a default language on top of it.

Secret Santa challenge in D

:: D, metaprogramming

I attended the first London meetup group for the D programming language last week with my friend David. Near the end we had a chance to try and solve a cool programming problem called the secret santa challenge.

disclaimer – I am a complete D 'lol newb' so there might be nicer stuff I could do with syntax etc! Also I have not yet fixed my syntax highlighter to include auto, mixin, assert, and others

The North Pole Type Provider: Escape from Santa’s Grotto!

:: fsharp, xmas, type providers

This post is part of the F# advent calendar, which is filled with all sorts of other cool blog posts, be sure to check it out. Thanks to Sergey Tihon for organising!

It’s Christmas!

Happy Christmas everyone! I have the honour of the Christmas Day F# advent calendar post

Thanks Tomas, ha!. I had a whole bunch of different ideas, and typically, I decided to choose the largest, most complicated one. Because of this, there is a lotof code written in just a couple of evenings. It is for the most part, badly designed, horribly written, nowhere near finished and should not be used as an example on how to write anything approaching nice F# code! /disclaimer

2048 – Type Provider Edition

:: fsharp, type providers

I’m sure you would have all seen the highly addictive and annoying game 2048 by now (if not, follow the link and have a go now, don’t forget to come back here though! ). Fellow F#er @brandewinder wrote a bot that wins the game for you, subsequently turning it into an cool F# dojo. It is London’s turn for this dojo next Thursday, so I figured before then I would have a go myself and do the obvious thing which is to turn it into a type provider :)

2048 TP Edition is available as part of my type provider abstraction the Interactive Provider. You will want to set your tooltips to a fixed-width font for this to render for you properly. Here is a picture of it in action !


Some of my favourite tech books!

:: books

I thought it would be nice to share some of the technical books that I have learnt most from, and still love to look through or use as reference to this day. These are in no particular order and cover a variety of technical subjects, and some are far from recent. If you are interested in any of these areas and have not read these books, I cannot recommend them highly enough! I have many, many many books and have read countless over the years, many of them are awesome but are not making this list as it would just be too long. I also have lots of books that are simply terrible (and I still have most of those too…!)