Category Archives: historical ephemera

Clip-art art history and a cute 1980s manga about assembly language programming


HOW TO マシン語 (How to Mashingo; lit., “How to Machine Language”) is a cute Japanese comic book that teaches readers how to write machine code for Z80 and 6809 CPUs. First published in 1987, this softcover manga would have been intended for those who wanted to learn how to write advanced programs for early Japanese home computers such as the 6809-based Fujitsu FM-7 series or Z80-based MSX and NEC PC-8801. Those of us living stateside might not recognize these computers, but the 6809 and Z80 CPUs were in more familiar computers and game consoles as well. The 6809 appears in Radio Shack’s TRS-80 Color Computer and the Vectrex game console, while the Z80 could be found in a vast number of early personal computers and game systems, including the Nintendo Game Boy, Sega Master System, and the original Pac-Man arcade cabinet.

I came upon this unique book when my pal Brandon sent me an image of the cover, correctly guessing that I’d be interested in it. The cover—aside from being awesome in its own right—reminded me of a well-known piece of Macintosh clip art from the 1980s, which in turn was inspired by ukiyo-e, or Japanese woodblock prints, such as Kinko Echizen by Yoshikiyo Omori, ca. 1700. I’ve put these two images side by side for easy comparison. (OK, there’s your tiny art history lesson for the day!)


In How to Mashingo, readers are taught the basics of assembly language and program flow by a girl named Keiko (K子ちゃん). The first section of the comic book covers the basics, but most of the book is dedicated to Z80-specific and 6809-specific content. CPUs, pinouts, accumulators, program flags, opcodes, and more are all illustrated in a cute and laid-back style spanning nearly 200 pages.


My Japanese isn’t great, so I can’t guarantee that I’ll learn all the ins and outs of Z80 programming from this book. But I’ve enjoyed thumbing through it and picking up on familiar words and concepts from my 6502 programming background. And I absolutely love the illustrations of Keiko: she’s clearly competent when it comes to the intricacies of machine language and seems happy to share her knowledge while looking incredibly stylish in the process. (Note: If you’re interested in picking up a copy of this book, you may be able to find it on Amazon.)


“Women Join the Arcade Revolution” (Electronic Games, May 1982)

In May 1982, American gaming magazine Electronic Games published a cover story on the rise of “lady arcaders.” The article, titled “Women Join the Arcade Revolution,” suggests that women were just beginning to take part in what had “traditionally been a male hobby”: playing video games.


Magazine cover


Women Join the Arcade Revolution magazine spread


Women have officially arrived in the world of electronic gaming. They’re not just there for decoration, either […] Who are these lady arcaders?


Articles about the rise of women and girls in gaming have been appearing in print for decades, which itself raises interesting questions. Have women really ever fully “made it” into the gaming scene or community? Or does the landscape of gaming shift away from women as soon as they arrive? Nevertheless, this early example is interesting and gives some insight into the anxieties and hopes around future of gaming as seen from the early 1980s. You can read the entire article in PDF format at the Internet Archive.