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- Last updated February 2023
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This course is a gentle introduction to the fundamentals of computer architecture and 6502 assembly language. We'll learn how to program games for the Atari 2600 console and understand what makes digital machines tick. The minimal hardware of the Atari 2600 is a perfect sandbox for us to learn more about low-level programming.
At the end of the course, you'll have a working knowledge of 6502 assembly language, a comprehensive understanding of the Atari 2600 hardware, and a complete homebrew game for the VCS that we'll code together from scratch.
We'll use a simple code editor, an assembler called DASM, and a VCS emulator called Stella. All these tools are multi-platform, so you'll be able to use either Windows, macOS, or Linux!
This is a self-contained course with no formal prerequisites. However, you will probably get the most out of it if you already know the basics of coding (if-else, loops, functions).
If you like retro game development and want to learn more about computer architecture and low-level programming, then this course is definitely for you!
Gustavo Pezzi is a university lecturer in London, UK. He has won multiple education awards as a teacher and is also the founder of pikuma.com.
Gustavo teaches fundamentals of computer science and mathematics; his academic path includes institutions such as Pittsburg State University, City University of London, and University of Oxford.
The 6502 processor is an extremely important part of computing history, powering many popular game consoles and microcomputers of the past, like the Atari VCS, the NES, the Commodore 64, the Apple II, and even the Tamagotchi.
Differently than other online resources about retro game programming, this course is not simply a loose list of assembly mnemonics that only experienced developers can digest. This course tries to be as beginner-friendly as possible, giving you the chance to learn assembly in a fun way.
Trying to understand how modern computers work under the hood can be overwhelming. That's why the small architecture of the Atari 2600 is our chance to take a step back and look at the fundamental building blocks of computing. So, if you want to really learn how digital machines work and finally lose your fear of the expression "assembly programming", then get ready and buckle up! We are about to go on a super cool nerd trip together.
"Simply great! The way this course was presented was clearer and more hands on than the assembly programming and architecture courses I took in college and it made a lot more sense. I would recommend this course to anyone interested in really getting a good feel for how it should be done."
"Awesome educator! What an interesting way to learn 6502 assembly and get into the fine details of the Atari VCS with it's TIA, RIOT and registers. Very Thorough. Teacher makes hard to understand concepts easier to deal with."
"Perfect way to tackle an intimidating subject! I’ve always wanted to know how games were made for these older systems, but I never knew where to start. It can be intimidating with all of the topics to learn (assembly language, specifics of hardware, how to actually compile and run a program). This course holds your hand the whole way through, assuming very little prior knowledge. Just what I needed!"
"Finally! Finally I am learning something I always wanted to do - program Atari 2600. This is a great course to learn how to program the Atari 2600. The steps are logical and I can pace myself. This course is well worth the price!!"
"I really enjoyed it! Too bad we didn't have such material back then at 90s. Of course, it's never too late, I really enjoyed it, fill some gaps. Once again, thank you very much professor."