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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 even built a rudimentary computer on a prototyping kit built into a suitcase: MIT’s infamous “Nerd Kit”. But at the end of the semester, it was all torn down, I went on to a career in software, and that was that.
More recently, I learned of various projects to build simple computers similar to those 80’s machines, constructed entirely of discrete logic chips like counters, adders, flip-flops, and NOR gates. No Pentiums or PowerPCs here– these people built their own CPUs from the ground up, along with the memory subsystem, I/O, and everything else the computer required. I had stumbled onto the world of the homebrew CPU. To create such a computer required a detailed microarchitectural design, custom instruction set design, custom software tools like assemblers and compilers, and of course a custom circuit board or three populated with lots of fat DIP chips and a big mess o’ wires. Projects like the Magic-1, D16/M, and Mark 1 FORTH Computer showed me the way.
I decided to build a homebrew CPU computer of my own. It was a big mess o’ wires.
Eventually I went on to build many more random and pointless electronics projects, which are documented here.
Big Mess o’ Wires
Why not “Big Mess of Wires”? What happened to the letter F? Top o’ the morning. Luck o’ the Irish. Op-amps o’ plenty. It’s supposed to be funny. Haha…
You can buy Big Mess o’ Wires T-Shirts from Cafe Press.22 comments