Thursday, 22nd May 2008
I've started working with the actual BBC BASIC interpreter. As it won't run in its current state on the TI calculator (it relies on a jump table at &FF80..&FFFF to interact with the host, which is protected) I'm using the Z80 emulator I wrote for Cogwheel to try and puzzle out what the host interface should be doing from the relative sanity of C# code (the jump table is populated with OUT (n), A instructions which are subsequently trapped and handled by the emulator).
One thing I hadn't realised is that the graphics operations that BBC BASIC offers are actually implemented via the OSWRCH handler (OS WRite CHaracter), which means that BBC BASIC's PLOT, MOVE and DRAW commands will also be available, as well as any commands that use them indirectly (such as CIRCLE).
Monday, 19th May 2008
This is a project I initially attempted to get off the ground about four years ago, but never did. Anyhow, I've started work on it, and thanks to help from Richard Russell (the original developer) and J.G.Harston (who comparatively recently developed the Sinclair ZX Spectrum port) it looks like it should be possible this time around.
BBC BASIC was the native programming language on Acorn's BBC Micro. It's a structured BASIC dialect and supports procedures and functions, permitting far nicer code than the line-numbered GOTO and GOSUB code on other contemporary machines. It also has a built-in assembler, for inline assembly.
There is no source available, which is where the problems start to come in. Fortunately, J.G.Harston has developed a utility that permits the platform-agnostic BBC BASIC interpreter to be relocated. However, it assumes that the system has a jump table in RAM from $FF80..$FFFF (this jump table would be used to call platform-specific code); this memory range is not executable on the TI-83+. Execution protection in the $C000..$FFFF range may also cause issues for inline assembly code (which is, naturally, executed from RAM).
The TI-OS does not offer an especially suitable environment for BBC BASIC either; it is mainly menu driven (a command-line driven environment is preferable), does not have a plain text editor and does not use ASCII. To resolve this issues, I've concentrated on developing a suitable environment for BBC BASIC to live in, including a command-line interface and text editor.
Text files are stored as AppVars with a TEXTFILE header, and I've developed a Windows-based notepad clone for editing them (it saves and loads directly to and from .8xv). The following commands are currently supported (see here for a reference from the Windows verion): BYE, COPY, DELETE, DIR, ERASE, EXEC, QUIT, RENAME, TYPE, |.
To enter the editor, EDIT can be used. This presents a full-screen editor a little like the TI-OS program editor, but edits plain text files.
The interface transparently supports AT keyboards (which are rather easier to type on than the TI's keypad). The character resolution is 24 columns in 10 rows (4x6 pixel characters), giving you quite a lot of room to see what you're working on.
I intend on the final program being a 2-page Flash application; one page for BBC BASIC, and one page for the environment and OS interface. This unfortunately makes this a TI-83+ only project.
Even if I don't manage to shoe-horn BBC BASIC onto the TI-83+, the interface code (which uses direct hardware access for everything but opening and editing AppVars) could be useful for other projects.
Monday, 5th May 2008
One way of constructing solids is to use a method named constructive solid geometry (or CSG for short). I added two simple CSG operators - intersection and subtraction - that both take two surfaces and return the result.
In the above image, the surface that makes up the ceiling is created by subtracting a sphere from a plane. Of course, much more interesting examples can be created. For example, here is the surface created by taking a sphere and subtracting three cylinders from it (each cylinder points directly along an axis).
One problem with the camera implementation was that it couldn't be rotated. To try and aid this, I used a spherical to cartesian conversion to generate the rays - which has the side-effect of images with "fisheye" distortion.
The above left image also demonstrates a small amount of refraction - something that I've not got working properly - through the surface. The above right image is the result of the intersection of three cylinders aligned along the x,y and z axes.
To try and combat the fisheye distortion, I hacked together a simple matrix structure that could be used to rotate the vectors generated by the earlier linear projection. The result looks a little less distorted!
The final addition to the raytracer before calling it a day was a spotlight. The spotlight has an origin, like the existing point light - but it adds a direction (in which it points) and an angle to specify how wide the beam is. In fact, there are two angles - if you're inside the inner one, you're fully lit; if you're outside the outer one, you're completely in the dark; if you're between the two then the light's intensity is blended accordingly.
In the above screenshot, a spotlight is shining down and backwards away from the camera towards a grid of spheres.
If you're interested in an extremely slow, buggy, and generally badly written raytracer, I've uploaded the C# 3 source and project file. The majority of the maths code has been pinched and hacked about from various sites on the internet, and there are no performance optimisations in place. I do not plan on taking this project any further.
Building and running the project will result in the above image, though you may well wish to put the kettle on and make yourself a cup of tea whilst it's working.