by Stefan Tramm
There are a lot of web-based computer emulators out there for ancient machines – the Commodore 64 and MSX home computers or the more exotic Space Invaders arcade machines. Such emulators are nice to play with but they are incomplete – they lack an Input/Output subsystem.
Want to try out? Use Chrome6+ (or Safari5) and visit http://www.tramm.li/i8080
Now you are working inside a classical machine monitor for an 8080 microcomputer from the 70’s. Available commands are:
- m to modify memory
- d to dump memory on the screen
- l to disassemble a program (in Z80 Syntax)
- g to start execution
- <Enter> to perform a single step
- x to show and modify CPU registers
- h for help
So far this is pretty normal machine emulation.
The first important command is “r”. Without any parameters, it lists the available files on the tramm.li server. “r file” reads an Intel HEX file into memory, for example “r basic” will load the well-known Microsoft 8K BASIC interpreter for the Intel 8080.
But as already mentioned, a disk subsystem is also available. The first step in using it is to either insert a pre-formatted disk or to format an empty disk. To insert a pre-formatted CP/M disk, issue a “r 0 cpma” command.
This command expects the image of an 8-inch IBM formatted SS/SD diskette and writes it sector-wise into the browser-local WebSQL database. This needs to be done only once, causing the disk to now be loaded into your browser as Emu8080 drive 0. With the “b” command, the boot sector is loaded into “main memory”, starting at address 0. Now issue a “g” command to start execution. Ta da!, CP/M 2.2 has been loaded and started!
To go back to the monitor, you have two choices: Ctrl-. or via the “bye” executable.
Now you can mount disks and boot CP/M. You can edit files with ED.COM or Wordmaster, or write programs in 8080 assembler. But how to get the modified disk images out of the emulator again? The “dsk [n]” commands opens a new window, which allows to post the binary disk image to an arbitrary web server, e.g. localhost. (btw: there is no FileWriter API in HTML5). Just change the target URL and the form will post it where ever you want.
Sometimes mounting and posting whole images is overkill, transmitting a single file into the CP/M machine or getting it out may be all you want to do. And here comes the emulated paper tape device to rescue. Just drag a file onto the terminal’s main window and it will be mounted. Inside CP/M, just use the PIP command: “pip file.txt=rdr:” and you will have the tape’s content in FILE.TXT. Please keep in mind that CP/M is not 8-bit clean.
To get a single file out of the emulator, the paper tape puncher is used. Inside CP/M just use PIP again: “pip ptp:=rew.asm” to punch the file out. Then enter the monitor again (Ctrl-. or “bye”) and use the “ptp” command, which opens a window, where you either post the tape content to an arbitrary web server or simply copy-paste the content.
The final device is a line printer. It just opens a separate window where every character is shown. No escape sequences are implemented – therefore no bold or underlined characters.
In the unlikely case that the user has no clue about CP/M and its commands, the emulator includes a PDF of the original documentation by Digital Research.
Now, lets take a short look into the technical details:
- WebSQL: The emulator uses the browser local SQL DB as block storage for the four disk drives. The storage is persistent and writable.
- Drag-and-Drop / FileReader API: The emulator uses drag-and-drop and the FileReader API to read paper tape or disc images from your local machine.
- HTML5 manifest: The emulator supports the browser local database and browser local file reading. To make it also runnable without an active internet connection, it is built as a HTML 5 App by providing an emu8080.manifest file. This file tells the browser which resources (HTML, JS, CSS, PNG, HEX, CPM, PDF files) must be cached. This means that if you bookmark http://www.tramm.li/i8080/emu8080.html, you can start the emulator and access the disk drives even without an internet connection — just like a local application.
- ShellInABox: Without the fabulous VT100 emulation of ShellInABox, this emulator would not have been possible. The provided example of a BASIC interpreter was the starting point for the 8080 emulator.
- z80pack: The C based implementation of a Z80 machine was the basis for the IO-subsystem implementation, the custom BIOS, and the boot disk image. The trick for reducing host CPU cycles in tight IO-Loops (eg. when CP/M is waiting for a key press) was taken from this package.
- js8080: The Space Invaders emulator js8080 gifted the core CPU emulation.
And for Microsoft BASIC fans, try “r basic” and “g” afterwards instead of booting CP/M – welcome to 8K BASIC. Use “SAVE” to save your programs on the paper tape :-) and “LOAD” to read saved programs.
Neozeed provided the Zork adventure game disk image.
And now — happy hacking.
- Neozeed blogged about the emulator, he also provides a very clear Howto, please take a look at: http://virtuallyfun.blogspot.com/2010/10/cpm-zork-in-java-script.html
- Emu8080 is also mentioned on the Z80 Info Pages (many thanks to Gaby from gaby.de for the reference!): http://www.z80.info/z80emu.htm#EMU_CPU_VAR