BASIC in 2020 – DIY microcomputer w/ early 90's graphics – Colour MaxiMite 2 (build/test)


I’ve coded BASIC since I was 5 : C64 then QBASIC then VB – so when a sub-100USD boot-to-BASIC touting 16-bit graphics appeared, I decided to build one (aka 5) from beta plans. Anyone who struggled with QBASIC on a 386 or AMOS on an Amiga and just wished it was faster (without poke commands) will probably love this box. It seems promising for late 80’s / early 90’s sprite based games (like Turtles / SF2) and being BASIC, it’s simple and fun to code.

The CMM2 is purely a DIY hobby box for BASIC lovers and not designed for pro use. It creates a world similar to the C64 / MSX / QBASIC / BLITZ days. It natively plays Amiga MOD files, imports PNGs for sprites, fast decodes JPEG, and plays WAV files making it easy / fun for collaboration, game jams, VJ’ing or just noodling about. It’s the BASIC that any early 90’s programmer wished they had “back in the day”!

To make one you can source all the parts manually (like I did here) or build it as a kit from numerous places (coming July/Aug). I’ve seen a prototype a with surface mount STM (no WaveShare) which may even knock the price lower. The BASIC is still just-about-slow-enough that you have to work within a SNES / Megadrive (looking) limit, but that is a fun limit to work with and causes the programmer to write some legitimate looking and feeling retro-games / demos. Personally I still find BASIC the most fun language I’ve ever come across; and it’s easy to show newcomers. For collab, even though it’s offline, the fun of syncing your SD cards and working on routines / resources separately then combining powers in a sit-back-and-test session brings back those old days.

Massive thanks to Peter Mather and Geoff Graham for their fantastic design and dev work. Cheers to Mauro Xavier for some great demos.


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  1. If you boot a raspberry pi using riscos then you effectively have a 1980s Archimedes home computer running super fast. Writing old school games for this platform using c is easier that it would be under raspbian Linux on the same hardware

  2. My board (prebuilt) should be shipping out tomorrow. Would LOVE to get a copy of your code to play with and learn from! Any plans on posting it anywhere?

  3. Okay but how did they get from assembly to BASIC? Did they write a BASIC assembler in assembly? Or was it a hardware assembler like that box you mentioned?

  4. You can create a game console for that, sell it and make a good game for that. adventure game or role playing cute anime game. Or develop an AI game.

  5. I own an original color maximite, was into automation, controling relays and reading sensors for an application, but I think this color maximite 2 could be the one to revive Basic programming. I have a few old machines like vic-20 etc… and the maximite does offer the same @feel@ it's quite remarkable.

  6. By the Amiga days, BASIC had had its day. The lack of functions, modules, structures and pointers were just too primitive for any decently sized project. I quickly went from C64 BASIC to 6502 assembler, to A68K and then on to C (because Intel's assembler was so bad).

  7. Great video, but as someone who started programming in 1970's (8-bit micros up to ICL 2966 mainframe) allow me to set the record straight. Early domestic computers were 8-bit CPUs running at merge clock speeds such as 1 or 2 MHz. The BASIC language pre-dates these domestic computers. The implementation of BASIC on early domestic computers was quite crude. The program was stored as seen on the screen (character by character) and then run by an interpreter. Thus the CPU had to both interpret the program and run it. The BBC micro was an advancement in that it tokenized the BASIC language. This reduced program storage and reduced the overheads of the interpreter. The Acorn (Atom, BBC and Electron) computers also allowed Assembler to be mixed with BASIC to provide maximum speed when needed. Programs written in BASIC and then COMPILED will run just as fast as any other compiled language such as C or C++ (although the language structures might enable subtle performance advantages.) The point being that the poor performance was not the fault of BASIC but the way in which the language was implemented on very modest hardware.

  8. Good presentation. For the build I would feedback supplying a board that already has that big connector factory soldered and maybe smd components for the video DAC. The kind of people who would buy these want to spend more time programming and less time making messy soldering jobs. Not everyone is good at soldering and an overly complicated soldering job could kill motivation if the result does not work.

  9. Erg… I love coding for really limited systems, but I don't think I could handle BASIC again. Part of me really wants one, but it would just distract me from my current projects. It looks like so much fun though. Great video 🙂

  10. I said: "Do you speak BASIC-language?",
    and he just smiled and showed me MaxiMite-Assembly."
    And he said: "I come from a land down under…"

  11. If you have 16-bit color registers I prefer 15-bit DAC with an extra bit of intensity (drives LSB of all DAC color channels). This gives you real grays, and an extra step in the grayscale.

  12. I am trying to make one but it's hard to find the resistors. I spent a whole hour trying to find the right resistors. Here are some links:

  13. Used to love GFA Basic on the Atari ST. It would run superfast in interpreted mode but if that wasn't fast enough it had a full blown compiler to create machine code that ran pretty much as fast as assembler. Wonderful days. I miss them.

  14. According to a couple devs making games for the CMM2 on the Maximite forums, while it is as fast or faster than 6502 assembly in regards to anything graphical, computationally it's only about 50 to 75% as fast as assembly on a 1MHz 6502, which will limit the sort of games that can be made. As an example, someone on the forum was making a Boulder Dash clone, but found that he couldn't really expand the scope of the game beyond what the original could do on a classic 8-bit, as otherwise the framerate would drop to the point of being unplayable.

  15. I thought I might be able to build this myself, then I watched you solder that component on and I realized "Nah. I'm not THAT good."

  16. What do computers boot into today? Twitter… Facebook… are those things improving the human race? Makes ya wonder what the hell are we doing, what’s the point anymore.

  17. I love this, especially since I grew up programming the 8-bit machines in BASIC, and I am a hardware buff and enjoy using my soldering iron too. I own a bunch of classic 8-bit computers and I love using them. But, don't forget that you don't need a Colour Maximite to do any of this today. That PC or Mac you own is more than powerful enough to do all of this in one of the various flavors of BASIC already available. Just Google easy BASIC programming or some similar search term


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