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A modern toolchain for Vectrex development

Last updated on 2021-05-31

Recently i read an article about the Vectrex game console. I kew the system a bit, also played it when it came out in the early 80s at a friends house. But i never really hat a connection to the system, like i have for the SNES or the Amiga computer.

Since writing an emulator is on my programming bucketlist, i recenlty took a look at simple platforms that i could start to write an emulator for. I looked into stuff like Chip8 and the GameBoy that seemed easy to emulate, in comparison to a PS1 or N64.

So the Vectrex got interested. I started reading its specification. It all seemed straigth forward to me. The Vectrex uses a Motorola 6809 CPU, which is not a super common 8bit CPU, but was used in the Dragon home computers. Otherwise there is an AY-3-8912 for the sound and 1KB RAM and 8KB ROM.

To get started i took a look into homebrew scene, to figure out getting own code runing on the machine. As usual for systems from that time it was mainly programmed using machine code. Which i kind of like, but also implicates a higher learning curve. There is typically no middleware or frameworks that helps you with anyhting, so you have to learn all the HW registers and figure out how to stuff.

So i was surpised to find a of modern c toolchain with some libc and bios support. I ended up following the instructions for a modern c based toolchain.

The toolchain basically consists of a c compiler, assmbler & linker and a emulator. It also came with and SDL based Emulator, but it would not run on current MacOS because of the unmaintained/bugfixed SDL library. So i decided to port the the emulator to SDL2, which was fun learning the render contexts of SDL2.

So thats what iam using

  • CMOC – The C compiler
  • LWTOOLS – Assembler and linker for the 6809
  • VecX – Vectrex emulator

I started off modifying the c examples that came from Johan who ported the CMOC compiler suite to the Vectrex system.

This is what i came with, you can find the code in my sample repo.

VecX Emulator

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