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See BMOW at VCF West, August 6-7

BMOW exhibit

After 7 years of sitting quietly in storage, my BMOW 1 hand-made computer is ready for a new public appearance! I’ll be exhibiting at the Vintage Computer Festival, August 6-7 in Mountain View, California. Along with BMOW 1, I’ll also be demonstrating Nibbler, 68 Katy, and some other home-made CPU madness. Come join the fun!

If you don’t remember BMOW 1, it was my first adventure into homebrew digital electronics, and it gave birth to this blog. The machine itself is a custom-designed 8-bit CPU, implemented with 7400-series TTL logic and a few PALs. Built around this is peripheral hardware for I/O, sound, and video. The end result is a custom creation that’s vaguely similar to an Apple II in its performance and capabilities.

Remember these photos from 2009? BMOW 1 was built on a large wire wrap board, with about 2500 individual hand-placed wraps connecting all the components. I had a giant spreadsheet to keep track of it all. It took over a year. I think I was insane. There’s no way I’d do that again now. 🙂

In preparation for VCF, I dug BMOW 1 out of storage. It still works! That’s a good thing, because I’ve forgotten most of its details and it’s unlikely I’d be able to repair it now. The Maker Faire 2009 demo was still loaded in ROM, so I spent a little while playing through the demos and listening to some rocking chip tunes. You know what? That thing is pretty fun.

I had a “doh!” moment in connection with the VCF exhibit. After Maker Faire 2009, I saved all the printed materials, posters, schematics, code listings, photos, stickers, and other materials you can see in the booth photo above… until last weekend when I threw them all in the trash. Then just days later, I was invited to exhibit at VCF.

BMOW demo

There’s one important mod I need to make before August 6. At Maker Faire there must have been a thousand people who came to see the “big mess of wires”, and went away disappointed when they learned that the wires were hidden out of sight in the final BMOW 1 case. The case has a transparent top to showcase all the chips, but the wire wrap is on the bottom side of the board and is rendered invisible. That’s a shame.

For VCF I’d like to make both sides of the board visible. That means standing the case vertically, and cutting a window into the bottom of the case, both of which worry me. A vertically-mounted case creates a risk it can tip over and get damaged, so it will need some very sturdy feet or anchoring system. And cutting a window in the big steel bottom plate… I stink at anything related to metal working. For the original case design, I cut some much smaller openings in the case with a Dremel tool, and it was incredibly slow. I also destroyed the Dremel in the process.

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1 Comment so far

  1. Steve June 13th, 2016 7:00 pm

    The big mess of wires is back on show! I used a jigsaw to cut a porthole in the bottom of the case, and added some led light strips to illuminate it from inside.

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