Why would anyone work on an emulator for a 16-bit computer called a DCPU-16? Well, the gaming industry is full of creative developers and the initial interest in the DCPUToolChain was to create an emulator for the ox10c (“ten to the see”) prototype game (under development by Mojang and led by Markus “Notch” Persson, the former lead developer of Minecraft). The ox10c game features spaceships that are each controlled by virtual 16-bit computers.
According to Jose Manuel Diez, a champion of the project, while the game is in prototype phase and indeed there’s no guarantee that Mojang will use DCPUToolChain, when Notch posted a benchmark of his computer running 1,000 concurrent DCPUs, the DCPUToolChain emulator was somewhat faster than the official one.
So why is the project, described as an assembler, compiler, emulator and integrated development environment for the DCPU-16 virtual CPU, continuing to grow in popularity? According to Jose, the community around it uses the DCPU platform for technical amusement. The challenge of writing in a 16-bit world becomes the game. And a lot of talented people are pushing it to its limits, even writing programs that translate videos into DCPU programs. For instance, the lem1802, the only display that’s certified to work with the DCPU has a fairly limited character set and palette, and some people have done very interesting things with it (see examples at http://0x10co.de/eqnct http://0x10co.de/ol61).
And as with many popular projects, the DCPUToolChain has spawned other projects. One example, again with Jose as champion, was featured on the GitHub blog: https://github.com/blog/1098-take-over-the-galaxy-with-github