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Programmer creates AI-powered image generator for Commodore 64

Through the looking glass: The AI era has finally taken root and while not yet in full bloom, early offshoots like image generation tools are already commonplace. It is enough to make some, like software engineer Nick Bild, wonder what things might have looked like had AI hit the scene during the earlier days of personal computing.

To help visualize the daydream, Bild crafted a simple generative algorithm that can create basic images on vintage hardware – in this case, the legendary Commodore 64 – to inspire game design.

The C64 launched way back in August 1982 priced at $595 (or the equivalent of $1,880 in 2023 money) and was a huge success. According to Guinness, it’s the best-selling single model desktop computer ever produced with an estimated 12.5 million units sold during its lifetime.

The home computer shipped with an 8-bit MOS Technology 6510 microprocessor clocked at 1.023 MHz – not exactly a powerhouse by today’s standards. With some clever workarounds and enough time, however, the machine can be made to turn out basic AI-generated imagery.

Bild constructed his model using a modified version of this probabilistic PCA algorithm, crafted around 100 retro-inspired sprites, and trained it using a modern computer. The output was then plugged into a script to power the randomization and generative elements of the algorithm. From there, Bild said it was easy to convert the logic to BASIC code to run on the C64.

The 8 x 8 images produced by the AI are then scaled up to 64 x 64 to better fill the screen.

Bilk said the number of iterations produced by the AI can be varied and that in general, more iterations produce better results (but take longer). A job with 94 iterations, for example, can take upwards of 20 minutes to complete. Compared to a modern image generator run on a system without a GPU, it’s “not really too bad.”

Found is a TechSpot feature where we share clever, funny or otherwise interesting stuff from around the web.

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