Programming Games for the $10 Computer


Programming New Games for the $10 Computer

For best results, please follow these instructions:

  1. Join our technical mailing list, PlaypowerTech and add yourself to our volunteer directory.
  2. Use a Windows environment for development. (Almost all the tools are Windows only.  However, many of us run Parallels or Wine.  update lots of Linux activity is taking place!  Cross your fingers
  3. Go to this page and download all the development tools you need.
  4. Watch our video tutorials!  These are produced by Don Miller, aka NO CARRIER, for Playpower. He is an excellent teacher, and really helps to make complicated concepts as simple as you can imagine.  Source code is provided.
  5. Spend the time to go through this tutorial for programming on the NES, written by Brian Parker of Retrozone.  It really starts from the basics, so you can jump right in. 
  6. Bookmark this page,  This website provides great documentation of the NES and provides advanced tutorials for NES programmers. The search bar is your friend.
    1. For additional help programming, check out the nesdev BBS forums
    2. Then, consider listening in to the conversations at the #NESDEV IRC channel
    3. The NES and the $10 computer are based on the 6502 chip architecture, which was also used by the Apple IIe, the Commodore 64, the Atari 2600, the BBC Micro, and the VIC -20.  Check out for a forum about programming on the 6502.  Here's a 6502 Instruction Reference for Programmers.
  7. You'll probably want to have some source code to play with.  Don Miller, AKA No-Carrier, has produced a series of Open-Source NES applications, which are available for download here.  Try the GalleryNES!  See if you can generate a new picture, following the instructions in the readme file.  Want other source code? is a great place to look.
  8. Finally, (aka Retrozone) contains a number of hardware tools if you are interested in creating your own cartridges or debugging on actual hardware.



Differences between the NES and the $10 Computer

There are some key differences between the NES and a "FamiClone."

  1. Currently, FamiClones are typically sold with 60 pin cartridges, not 72 pin cartridges, as on the NES.  However, sells a converter that lets NES games be played on the FamiClones
  2. FamiClones use a NOAC chips (NES-on-a-Chip-- epoxy affixed "GlopTop" integrated circuits).  This means that the actual chips are less accessible than on the NES.  For information on NOAC chips, Ben Heck's forums have lots of useful information
  3. There are a few (poorly documented) timing differences between the NES and the FamiClone.  Unfortunately, these prevent most of the Retrozone kits from working directly with the FamiClones.
  4. <please add more>


Alternative Programming Languages

Many people really enjoy programming in assembly code.  Really. 

However, some people would really prefer to use high-level languages. 


Side note: Ian Bogost taught an Atari course at George Tech in 2007 where students programmed both in assembly and something called "batari BASIC."  This was very successful, from what I've heard.


This is the music composition program that comes with many of the TV-Computers