Basic Engine board

My name is Damian Vila, and I'm a Designer and a curious ass.

It all started in the summer of 1984, when I saw my first computer, a Texas Instruments TI99/4A. The marvel of its colorful welcome message, and the invitation to discover the world of BASIC programming was an outlook that would change my life forever.

My first owned computer was a Commodore 64 my father bought my brothers and I for Christmas.Old computer I spent many hours programming in BASIC, transcribing long lists of commands from magazines and loading games from cassette tapes. Countless hours in front of a TV screen, moving a bunch of colorful pixels from one point of the screen to another, with a chiptune soundtrack.

Getting out of 8-bit land

That computer served many hours of fun and entertainment. But eventually, technology moved forward and the 8-bit era was over. My friends started getting other computers: Amigas, PCs and in some cases, Apples. I saw my first Macintosh when I went with my father to a phototypesetting company that was making its transition to computer design. That's when I saw a Mac Plus, with its tiny black & white screen and its mouse. It was instant love. The GUI was something magical. I had to get one.

An Apple a day...

So, finally I got a summer job that allowed me to earn enough money to get me a second-hand Mac Plus. I spent many hours with it, creating images and bitmap fonts, customizing things and doing graphics. I clearly loved Graphic Design, and that's what I decided to study. But I needed a better Mac, and after saving money from my day job (I studied and worked at the same time), I got my first color Mac, a Performa 475.

Getting serious

With that machine I discovered the internet, and at that point I decided that Web Design was what I was looking for. I created a company with my best-friend, and we started doing Web Design professionally. Many years later, many computers bought and sold, a move to another country, a marriage, a son, a divorce and many jobs at different companies, I'm still doing Web Design on a Mac. That hasn't stopped me from being a curious person, and lookign for new challenges.

Nerdy hobbies

The day to day job tends to be good for paying bills, but gets boring sometimes, even if you're doing what you like, so you need to find new things to do, interesting things that keep you alive. I always wanted to know a bit of electronics, a bit of Industrial Design, a bit of programming. I like retro computers, and games, and arcades, and pinballs. I also like music, rock music. So, the first thing I decided to do is to build guitar pedals.

Making noises

I started assembling pedals from bought PCBs, while learning the basics of analog audio and pedal design. I made more than 30 pedals, and read tons of articles about stompboxes. I learned how to read a schematic, what the different components do, and how to create your own effects. I even conceived of my own pedal, that I'm still in the process of developing. But after tinkering a bit with this, I realized that I needed a different challenge.

Looking inside the computer

So, digital electronics it was. I wanted to know how those old computers worked, and started watching videos about digital computer design. About the 6502 and Z80 processors. About how everything works, and how to give commands in assembler to the machine to make it work. And while I was looking at all this, I discovered the BASIC Engine computer. A simple, cheap computer you can build yourself, that emulates the way those wonderful 8-bit computers worked, that has a BASIC interpreter as its operating system.

Back to the basics

And that's where I'm now, writing BASIC programs again, making pixel fonts, creating colorful pixelated characters to move from one point of the screen to another. But also, soldering components, learning to program again, and having the most fun I've had since I saw that Texas Instruments TI99/4A in the summer of 1984...

Some things I've been working on lately...

BESCII font

An 8x8 pixel font inspired by Commodore's PETSCII, designed to be used in the BASIC Engine. It corrects a few flaws of PETSCII, and has support for European languages, Hiragana and Katakana and even has pixel art included.

CPC464 font

Another 8x8 pixel font, this one taken from the Amstrad CPC 464 font. It's expanded with Mac Roman and Windows-1252 characters to add Western European language support. And all graphic glyphs are included, and mapped to Unicode.

Atascii

An 8x8 pixel font based on Atari ASCII and Atari ST characters. This font was inspired by font in the 8-bit line of Atari computers, but with expanded characters, to support all Western European languages, and more symbols, taken from the ST line charset.

Lexis

A 6x8 pixel font based on the one in the HP 100LX. This font was inspired by font in the HP 100LX Palmtop PC, but with expanded languages.

If you want to see other things I've worked in the past, check this page, or go to my Dribbble profile.