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Someone Got YouTube Playing on a 40-Year-Old Computer

Some of the best hacks don’t solve any real world problems or change the wheel. They usually are nothing more than an exercise in trying to do something that seems impossible or useless: such as working on YouTube on a 40-year-old computer with a old display.

Although best known for being incredibly famous Commodore 64 8-bit computer which will continue to sell more than 12 million units worldwide, The Commodore was actually built in 1958, long before the C64 arrived, and was partly responsible for the personal computer revolution in the late ’70s and early’ 80s. In 1977, Commodore releases the PET computer (named in an attempt to make computers feel part of the family and less intimidating) which looks ridiculous now but sold for over $ 3,500 when introduced 45 years ago.

Thorbjörn Jemander got a unique Commodore PET 600 with it became a secret model of the Commodore 8296 SK (with SK referring to a separate keyboard that can be removed) was rebounded for the Swedish market a few years ago with a surprisingly decent 128 KB in memory. The machine is the most unique The feature is a monochromatic bright green CRT display with the ability to display a stunning 80×25 grid of characters. To say it’s ugly on today’s screen The standards are a bit of a statement, so what better way to use this relic on early desktop PCs than to get YouTube videos to play on it?

Watch YouTube on a Commodore Pet

Not only is the PET 600’s screen limited to only displaying characters (letters, numbers, punctuation, etc.) but the engines behind it are extremely slow, often taking a few seconds to load and display. in lists of files or other data. There has never been a time when a dedicated YouTube app is possible for the Commodore BASIC powered by the PET 600, so Jemander had to follow the long road.

They make a combination of hardware and software they call BlixTerm taken in the form of a cartridge connected to one of the the PET 600’s expansion ports on the back. Inside the cartridge is a Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W that connects to YouTube via wifi, loads a requested video, and then converts 640×200 grayscale stream to 80×25 grid of ASCII characters from PET’s internal ROM.

The second interface card loads the generated frames from the Raspberry Pi into PET’s video memory, which is the process bottleneck given the antique PC’s limited processing power, but by optimizing, Jemander was able to achieve a watchable 30 FPS playback speed. Watching YouTube on a 45-year-old desktop PC isn’t easy on the eyes, but the fact that it might even be not surprising.

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