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About BMOW

Big Mess o’ Wires is an electronics blog and e-commerce store for hobbyists and enthusiasts, run by Steve Chamberlin. Need some accessories for your Apple II, Lisa, or vintage Macintosh? Looking for info on microcontrollers or custom embedded hardware development? Enjoy tinkering with a soldering iron and vintage electronics? If so, you’re in the right place. You might even learn something about life in the maker business too.

Here you’ll find my custom CPU designs and related computer builds. You’ll also find occasional equipment reviews of oscilloscopes, logic analyzers, debugging tools, and other goodies. Thanks to many years of tinkering, I’ve become fairly skilled at working with various microcontrollers, designing custom circuit boards, and manufacturing my designs. Along the way I also got involved with vintage Apple computers, and have become something of an expert in a few niche areas surrounding Apple II and Macintosh disks and ROMs. Eventually I combined these passions, and now sell custom retro-computing hardware in the BMOW store.

Back in early 1980’s, I lived and breathed the world of the Apple II, Atari 800, Commodore 64, and their brethren. I could PEEK and POKE those machines like nobody’s business, and I spent countless hours writing programs, playing games, or just fiddling around. In contrast to today’s PCs, the computers of that era were inviting to tinkerers, with a comparatively simple hardware design and a BASIC prompt at boot-up.

As a computer engineering major in college, I learned the details of digital logic design. I used Texas Instruments’ big yellow TTL data book to help build everything from an LED blinker to a simple video game. I even built a rudimentary computer on a prototyping kit built into a suitcase: MIT’s infamous “Nerd Kit”. But after graduation it was all torn down, I went on to a career in software and video games, and my enthusiasm for electronics was forgotten.

Decades later I was finally able to explore my hardware passions again, and document the adventure here.

 

Big Mess o’ Wires

Why not “Big Mess of Wires”? What happened to the letter F? It just sounds better this way.

22 comments 

22 Comments so far

  1. […] (this is the part were more than half of you think I’m crazy, nerdy, or both) In a nutshell, it’s a home made CPU. Personally I think it’s fricking awesome. […]

  2. bryan l May 28th, 2009 6:14 am

    I am amazed at what you have been able to accomplish with just a few wires and posts (and other assorted bits). This kind of thing just blows me away because I know the difficulty and frustration projects like this can bring. Bravo!!

    P.S. My cat would have a field day with that thing, but I wouldn’t let any cats near it….lol!

  3. […] because you can: living frugally, JavaScript pixel art and hand-built microprocessors. Also, C as a functional language is nicer to think about than I’d first thought. If you ever […]

  4. ShinWarrior November 8th, 2009 9:24 pm

    Beautiful work.
    I really admire what you have done. I am surprised you didnt have connection(continuity) problems.
    Thank you for sharing this with the world !

  5. Ahmad Mushtaq February 23rd, 2010 3:39 am

    Impressive…
    I’m motivated and thinking to do it by myself. But first I need to learn those logic gates stuff. Anyways… Thanks for sharing this with the world.

  6. Gregg C Levine June 11th, 2010 8:02 pm

    Steve, you’ve seen me say this before, but that’s how I got started. I practically wore out an unsuspecting Apple II doing all of those things with it.

    Come to think of it, the same thing happened to a series of IBMPC compatible jobs before I ended up at this end.

    I’m still interested in how the machines think (or seem to be thinking).

  7. JB Autric May 18th, 2011 9:54 am

    Nice wire wrapping job ! who knows now what is wrapping ?

  8. Peter July 24th, 2011 2:03 am

    Steve, can only hook on to the comments before.
    GREAT jobs done here !
    Thank you for sharing and spending your time.

  9. Chuck Duppong December 6th, 2013 9:35 am

    Steve,

    This is simply awesome! My brother and I both cut our teeth on 6502 machines.

    In my first job, I used to troubleshoot and repair big custom wire-wrap boards like yours. A lot of people don’t understand that when done right, wire-wrapped connections were/are very solid and reliable. I actually enjoyed doing it, and built a parallel port printer selector switch box for work (which became known as Megatron’s Brain).

    I actually used FORTH to debug and troubleshoot the wire-wrap boards. FORTH was actually easy for me, and I got quite good at it.

    Thanks for posting all this. It’s fascinating to see people actually do what I only talked about doing “some day”.

    Cheers

  10. RAM December 14th, 2013 7:06 pm

    Howdy I am so thrilled I found your weblog, I really
    found you by error, while I was researching on Askjeeve for
    something else, Anyways I am here now and would just like to say cheers for a remarkable post and a all
    round thrilling blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t
    have time to look over it all at the moment but I have saved it and also added in your
    RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read a great deal more,
    Please do keep up the great work.

  11. Luca Severini January 25th, 2014 9:48 am

    Hi,

    Your drive emulator for the old Macintosh looks really impressive. Congratulations!
    I’d like to buy one asap for my old Macs (Plus, SE/30 IIci).
    Perhaps my mistake but reading your blog I didn’t understand exactly how you sell them.
    On Ebay? Under what name?
    Paypal?
    Thank you so much!

    Best regards,

    Luca

  12. Steve Chamberlin January 25th, 2014 5:47 pm

    You can place orders from the Floppy Emu main page, though it’s currently sold out. http://www.bigmessowires.com/macintosh-floppy-emu

  13. aris March 9th, 2014 2:15 am

    I really wish you also had a mailing list for your new posts as I do not use RSS. Maybe try feedburner or mailchimp? I really like to read about you fab adventures as I am contemplating having something of my own manufactured too.

    Best of luck!

  14. Steve Chamberlin March 9th, 2014 8:20 am

    Thanks! You can subscribe via Feedly- there’s a link in the upper-right corner of the page.

  15. aris March 9th, 2014 10:28 am

    OK Steve, did that.

    Had seen the option before I commented. Unfortunately, now feedly has my email address instead of you. IMHO you should really be making it a priority to be capturing our consensually supplied email addresses as an email list is a very powerful tool. Especially when you:
    A. sell products
    B. sell products that are so specific

    Regardless, I still like your blog 🙂

  16. Steve Chamberlin March 9th, 2014 1:21 pm

    Fair enough – I never really thought about it to be honest. I do get your email address if you choose to enter it when commenting (WordPress records it), but there’s nothing like a mailing list, and people who don’t leave comments are invisible. Everyone seems to think Feedburner is going to be discontinued any day now, so I intentionally don’t use it. I’ll look at some other options.

  17. Todd S. June 7th, 2014 11:06 am

    Your site is an inspiration for us all, thank you for making it available. Your projects should be included in Computer Science departments.

  18. Renaud January 2nd, 2016 3:20 pm

    Hi to all,
    First of all, happy new year. May all your wishes come true for the new year !!

    After having received the missing chain from the new world and Classic Mac, I can’t succeed to enter in HD mode. If someone knows, that would be so perfect !
    Thanks in advance for whoever helping me.

    Kind regards,
    Renaud F.

  19. Jonah January 23rd, 2016 9:09 am

    Hello Steve just wanted to say i am extremely happy with your workmanship you are a genius. just wanted to know how can i put photos on the emu like Steve Jobs did in the unveiling of the macintosh video your help would be very much appreciated please get back to me on my email address thank you

    Impeccable packaging and delivery all the way to the UK

    kind regards Jonah Ripley

  20. Achraf Hussein August 5th, 2016 1:15 pm

    Greetings Steve,

    I’m looking to buy the bundle kit right now for my dad who’s abroad right now. I have a friend who’s traveling tomorrow night and will take it with him. Can you do over night shipping? Please contact me asap on 201 668 9813. I live in Elizabeth NJ. Where are you located?!

  21. Steve August 5th, 2016 7:51 pm

    I’m unable to offer any expedited shipping options, sorry. Normal orders ship 1-3 days after order and go by Priority Mail within the USA.

  22. Claudio De Souza September 17th, 2016 11:32 am

    Hi Steve, I have an apple IIc and would like to know what\’s the difference from the Floppy Emu Model A to the Floppy Emu Model B for my system.
    I am guessing the model B is compatible with more machines, but I just have an apple IIc, is that correct? or there are more important differences.

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