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CHIP-8 emulators for games
Posted by Xavier on 1 September 2019, 09:44 GMT

In 2018, another implementation of a CHIP-8 emulator for a TI graphing calculator was uploaded into our archives. CHIP-8 is the combination of an interpreted programming language and the corresponding virtual machine for playing the corresponding binaries, introduced in the 1970s. The virtual machine is lightweight (in the original version: 4 KB addressing space, 2 timers, 64x32 graphics area, 16-key hexadecimal keyboard), and therefore, since the late 1970s, CHIP-8, and variants thereof - some of which even support color graphics - have been implemented on a wide range of general-purpose and special-purpose computers, whether they use CPUs or FPGAs. Among the variants is the popular SCHIP(-8), pioneered on the HP-48 in 1990, which spawned a set of new games taking advantage of a dozen additional instructions and double the number of pixels in each direction. You can easily find more information about the CHIP-8 family if you wish :)

So... let's introduce Chip-84, a CHIP-8 emulator/interpreter for the TI-eZ80 series, by Christian "ckosmic" Kosman, open source on Github. It's his first, and so far only, file on ticalc.org. Like most emulators made in the past three decades, it supports SCHIP-8 improvements, and some aspects of emulation can be tweaked at runtime.

I went looking around in our archives, and it happens that they contain at least 4 other implementations of a (S)CHIP-8 emulator for other generations of our favorite graphing calculators, all of them being native code, unsurprisingly. For most of them, the source code and converters (c8 to computer-side format suitable for calculators) are provided; 3 even provide converted ROMs. In chronological order:

Be aware that the keyboard layout of the CHIP-8 is slightly peculiar, and worse, that there are no standardized keyboard bindings across ROMs. Living the original (S)CHIP-8 playing experience by discovering the inconsistent key bindings by yourselves is of course an option, but maybe you'll enjoy the games more if you try to find documentation about the relevant keys before playing? Beyond that, happy playing :)

Article written by Lionel Debroux, with input from Adrien "Adriweb" Bertrand.

  Discuss (5 comments)  

Matching colors and symbols on mid-range color calculators
Posted by Xavier on 21 August 2019, 22:41 GMT

RubEX Mahjong CE

Here's more goodness for mid-range models equipped with color screens - these programs got into the news queue a while ago :)

Are you a fan of the Magic Cube (Rubik's Cube), but you can't carry the actual cube around with you? Well, if you've got a TI-eZ80 model (83PCE, 84+CE and variants thereof), you can hone your vision, logic, and swapping skills using RubEX by LogicalJoe. It was originally written using ICE, then ported to C (source code no longer provided publicly), and it uses the community libraries, as is the norm for a TI-eZ80 native code program. Whether you let the program scramble the cube, or you scramble it yourself, the puzzle won't be solved for you, you'll have to do it under the pressure of the move counter. There's a "teacher key" triggering state save and exit, a single-level undo, built-in help, and other features. As often, be sure to peruse the README for information getting started, and key bindings. All in all, a solid game :)

commandblockguy made a colorful implementation of Mahjong Solitaire, namely Mahjong CE. The goal is to match pairs of tiles (among those directly accessible) in the right order, so as to remove all 144 tiles from the board, without the number of possible moves falling down to zero until all 144 tiles have disappeared. The game's life is pretty good, as the built-in set exceeds 100 levels (!), and a converter for levels (layout files) suitable for the Windows Kyodai game is provided. In addition, the game, programmed in C, is open-source. You can find its repo on Github. Note that it may contain releases newer than in our archives.

Article written by Lionel Debroux, with input from Adrien "Adriweb" Bertrand.

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TI-Boy CE Alpha released!
Posted by Xavier on 3 June 2019, 20:06 GMT

TI-Boy CE Options TI-Boy CE

Brendan "calc84maniac" Fletcher has been featured here on ticalc.org many times in the past, and today he's back with a brand new Game Boy emulator (that will surely distract you from math class?), this time written in assembly for the TI-eZ80 series!

TI-Boy CE brings familiar Game Boy games to your TI-84 Plus CE or TI-83 Premium CE calculator. As an emulator, this program is designed to perfectly imitate the original hardware: in this case the classic Game Boy, first released in 1989 (Game Boy Color games are not supported, and Game Boy Advance will never be). When testing this program, I found that it ran games very quickly and accurately, and it can even go faster than the original hardware when utilizing the turbo mode feature. Using the included ROM converter, you will be able to play any game with a .gb file extension, including games such as Pokémon Red and Blue, Donkey Kong, Super Mario Land, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, and, of course, Tetris. Along with full emulation of Game Boy hardware (besides audio and linking), it has a ton of great features such as:

  • Save states
  • Skin and palette options
  • Turbo mode and frameskip
  • Customizable controls

The download also includes a ROM and save game converter, which can also be used via the emulator's website.

Please note that while this program is in a fairly completed state, it is still an alpha release. It is therefore highly encouraged to keep any important files on your calculator in archive memory (which you should really do anyway) to protect them from potential crashes. That being said, this project is open source and is hosted on GitHub, where you can post bug reports, make suggestions, look at the source code, and see what some of the future plans for this emulator are. Don't let this scare you from trying it out though, as it really is an excellent program which will lead to hours of fun!

Article written by Jeff "Jeffitus" Anema, with input from Lionel Debroux.

  Discuss (5 comments)  

Laying pipes and pixels
Posted by Xavier on 25 May 2019, 20:37 GMT

Flow CE PaintShop CE

Looks like we're back to highlighting programs for color screens, with assembly programs this time, even ;)

jonbush's FlowCE is a "pipe-laying" game for the CE series, where the player needs to connect inputs and outputs through colorful pipes, without leaving empty spaces on the grid (even if some levels can sometimes be solved with shorter, straighter pipe trajectories). Loops for a pipe of any given color, or intersections between pipes of different colors, are forbidden.
The game's potential playing time is fantastic, thanks to the built-in set of 600 (!) levels of varying sizes, ranging from small, easy 5x5 ones to extremely challenging 14x14 ones... We can wonder who even finished all levels? 10x10 levels with 10 flows can already prove to be a challenge, even if it probably eases with experience, but still... it takes some thinking to fill a nontrivial 14x14 grid entirely with 15+ non-intersecting flows, so dozens of these, ouch :)
Maybe a (semi-)random mode could expand the game's life even further? Levels could be programmatically checked for playability before being handed to the user, using some more or less classic pathfinding algorithms. I'd guess that the built-in set of levels was at least partially generated by a computer. On large grids, a pure random + check approach might be too computationally expensive for a mid-range calculator, though.
This game is open source, under the GPLv3, and hosted on Github if you want to take a look. It currently represents jonbush's only assembly program in our archives.

PaintShop CE, by our young and talented member Ben "calclover2514" Pryor, is a graphics/drawing program he developed in ICE for the TI-eZ80 series calculators, and uploaded here recently. The README states that it's his first native code program. It features what you would expect from a simple editor, with several niceties. There's more than setting foreground and background color, drawing individual pixels and lines of width 1, erasing and filling rectangular areas: configurable line width is supported for some operations, rectangles and circles (both outline and filled) can be drawn, as well as text, and there's a single-level undo/redo operation. The large set of available key bindings described in the README duplicates functionality accessible through the mouse, but in a faster way. Note that the program received fixes shortly before this news item was written, so if you downloaded it earlier, you should use the newer (>= 1.2.0) version. The source code is provided alongside the program.

  Discuss (5 comments)  

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