All of my life I have been interested in learning the way things work. It was always hard for me to use something and just accept that it works without taking it apart and seeing what makes it tick. Due to this electronics has become a very big part of my life and a very enjoyable part as well. Recently I gained a lot of curiosity about the operation of the computer that we know and love today.
It all started one night on Wikipedia. I started by learning about the rudimentary definition of any computer today; a turing machine. Intrigued, I wondered how a computer functioned on an electronic level. A week or so later my friend and I were playing Minecraft and we decided to try and build a computer in Minecraft. We started listening to a podcast by Security Now (he starts talking about CPU architecture 46 minutes into the podcast) that described in laymen’s terms the basic function and architecture of a CPU. The computer that we built in Minecraft was a distant cry from the actual architecture of one that you would find today, but it still was a start.
Afterwards I was interested enough as to suggest to my friend that we should build a computer in real life using transistor-transistor logic (TTL). He was not too keen to the idea. I decided to build the computer myself and respect my friend’s (understandable) decision. After all, building a computer is mainly a one-man job and one of us would end up doing a lot of the work most of the time.
I set out to learn as much as I could about how to build an 8-bit computer and soon found that looking back to the invention of the computer was the way to go. I emailed the creator of the Magic-1 computer to get some advice on where to start. He pointed me to a textbook from the late 70′s: Digital Computer Electronics by Albert Malvino. Without that book this entire project would not have been possible. If you are looking to build your own 8-bit computer I highly recommend purchasing this book. It starts at the bare logic level and moves on up to registers, then counters, then the actual structure and operation of a simple-as-possible computer. My computer that I’m building right now is based on the SAP-1 architecture with some modifications that add needed functionality.
This project would also not be possible without my mentor whose expertise with electrical engineering has proven extremely invaluable in working on my project. I am extremely grateful that he has the patience and generosity to help me with my computer.
I started this blog so that anyone wanting to build their own 8-bit computer could learn from my own experience and mistakes. Information on building your own 8-bit computer is scarce on the internet and I believe that it should be more readily available for those who would like to embark on such a project. If you are one of those people feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions or simply to share your project with me. I would love to help with any project or hear about it.