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Archive for the 'Just For Fun' Category

August 16th, 2012 ~ by admin

Hans Camenzind: 25 transistors, 2 diodes and 15 resistors that changed the times

Yesterday Hans Camenzind passed away at the age of 78.  Hans was a notable inventor of Swiss decent.  Perhaps the most famous of all his inventions occurred in 1972 while working on a contract with Signetics he invented the 555 Timer chip, a simple oscillating IC that was inexpensive, and easy to build with.  Now, even 40 years after its introduction, around a billion per year are still made, by dozens of companies around the world.  The 555 Timer is often one of the very first IC’s electronics hobbyist begin experimenting with.  Its applications are far reaching and while certainly not a CPU, its significance, and that of Camenzind, should not be forgotten.

The 555 Timer has of course been used in many many computers, notably in the Apple II computer as a joystick controller (558 Timer, which is a quad 555).  Other uses include the IBM PC, Ataris, and many many more. In honor of Hans Camenzind, and the 555 Timer, go experiment with one and experience the joys of a device over 40 years old. Dont have one? They cost a whopping $0.95 at Sparkfun.

August 14th, 2012 ~ by admin

Spacecraft Processors: Mars Curiosity

The Spacecraft CPU page has been updated, after a long gap.  It now includes information of the recently landed Curiosity Lander, some new information on the 45 year old Voyager series as well as some on New Horizons, DAWN, and several others, so check it out.

BAE RAD750 Single Board Computers

The Curiosity (and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter,) Run a BAE RAD750 @ 200MHz

August 2nd, 2011 ~ by admin

30 Years ago today: The IBM 5150 PC

Intel D8088 - 1981 Production

Hard to imagine its been 30 years since IBM released the 5150 Personal Computer for the grand sum of $1265 thus starting the flood of PCs.  Build with generic hardware, and MS-DOS from Bill Gates and crew (itself only released a month prior), the 5150 did away with proprietary, the MS-DOS OS was not exclusive to IBM, and the hardware was essentially off the shelf, using Intel’s 4.77MHz 8088 (cut down version of the 8086) processor and a discrete 256k of RAM.  Other companies, could, and did, in mass, replicate and add to the 5150 making the 8088, and with it the x86 instruction set the de facto standard even to today. (though ARM has been making a large impact as of late due to the rise of mobile computing)

Here is an early add for the 5150, not only have we come a long ways in computers, but advertising as well.

May 12th, 2011 ~ by admin

What to do with a $200,000+ Vintage Computer?

A computer befitting of a museum which recently sold at auction for $213,000 was brought back to life at a event at the Polytechnic University in Torino.

$213,000 Apple 1 being programmed vi $2000 Mac Book Pro

The owner, Mark Bogle, President of the clothing company BasicNet, did not want this Apple 1 to sit idle.  instead, infront of an audience of hundred, the Apple 1 was checked with an oscilloscope and a program was fed to it by none other then a Mac Book Pro. Its an amazing feat really, considering its a 35 year old motherboard. One can only imagine the crowds reaction if one of the power filtering caps decided to fail upon boot up. Read more here (all in Italian but Google translate works fine)

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April 7th, 2011 ~ by admin

The Commodore is back!

Commodore USA has started taking pre-orders of its newly revamped Commodore 64 Home Entertainment system.   Of course this version comes with Blu-Ray and a dual core Intel (gasp!) processor running a version of Ubuntu Linux, it will include a Commodore OS 1.0 emulator, which should run all your favorite C64 6502 based games.

Commodore USA C64 - 1.8 Dual core Atom - 2GB RAM

The Original C64 had 64k of RAM, the Intel Atom D525 has 112k of just L1 cache.  At least the die size is similar :).
Commodore USA is also making modern version of the VIC computers for your enjoyment, albeit in slightly modified cases.

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April 1st, 2011 ~ by admin

Osborne Computer: The Rise and Fall

Technologizer has published a very interesting article on Osborne Computers, and its founder, Adam Osborne.  Osborne computers was started 30 years ago (April 3rd 1981).  They were the fastest growing, and fastest failing company in Silicon Valley, impressive even today. Adam Osborne was one of the most important people in Silicon Valley (along with Bill Gates and Steve Jobs).  His books in the 70’s are still invaluable resources for collectors, I have several editions of ‘An Introduction to Microcomputers’ which provide an invaluable reference to some of the chip designs of the 1970’s and early 1980’s.

The Osborne 1, the first wildly successful portable, was based on a Zilog Z80A processor and ran the then popular CP/M OS.  If it wasn’t for cash flow problems, Osborne computers may very well have still been making computers today.  It is also interesting that Mr. Osborne had a habit of picking designs that ended up to be not very successful (he chose the Zilog Z8000 and Intel 8089 I/O processor as ‘Chips of the Year’ in 1980)

March 5th, 2011 ~ by admin

The Windows Upgrade Path: Windows 1 to Windows 7

Andrew Tait decided to see if an install of Microsoft’s original Windows, could be upgraded through each version to end up at the current version.  Its amazing that yes it worked, and that Windows 3 programs continued to work in Windows 7.

Perhaps even more remarkable, is that Windows 1 was deigned to run on an 8086 processor, clocked at 4.77MHz with 256k of RAM. Using VM Ware it can still be run on modern hardware.

A parting thought…The entire Windows 1 OS will fit in the L2 cache of any modern processor.

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November 25th, 2010 ~ by admin

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thankgiving to all our readers and supporters around the world.  Eat lots of turkey, or whatever ya like.

We’ll likely have a few interesting processor news stories as well.

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November 23rd, 2010 ~ by admin

Another Apple 1, Another Quarter Million Dollars

In September a Apple 1 computer with a few accessories sold for $23,000.  Christie’s has just auctioned off an early (first run) Apple 1, with invoice, shipping box, letter from ‘Steven Jobs’ and many accessories for a staggering $213,600.  This would have been one of the original PCB’s, sold without components and later assembled by someone else.  The main CPU is of course a 6502 but in this case a R6502P by Rockwell made in late 1981.

Complete Apple 1

What made this one so much more valuable?  The documentation and original box.  Whoever bought it should however replace the CPU with a white ceramic MOS 6502 to preserve the beauty of the original Apple 1.

November 11th, 2010 ~ by admin

Grampa Mac Portable, meet the baby MacBook Air

Apple recently released the new (or rather updated) Macbook Air.  21 years ago they released their first laptop, the Mac Portable.  It was not the success that Apple hoped, but the later PowerBook was. Mr. McCarron recently posted a pic of these side by side.

Mac Portable and Macbook Air

Needless to say in 21 years Apple was improved their laptops a fair amount. However there are some similarities.  The Macintosh Portable shipped with no physical hard drive (a 20 or 40mb one was available as an option). It had 256k of onboard ROM (truly solid state storage).  If you wanted more, you were stuck with floppies. Its RAM was handled by 1MB (expandable to 9MB) of SRAM, which was faster (then DRAM), and allowed an actual sleep mode. Technologizer did a tear down of one last year for its 20th anniversary which shows the guts rather well.


The CPU was a 16MHz CMOS version of the Motorola MC68000 (MC68HC000FN12F).  The 12F is an ‘uprated’ 12MHz CPU that would run at 16MHz.  Later Motorola released it as a standard part (the FN16 pictured here)  The chipset was provide by VLSI who would go on to make the first ARM CPUs for the Newton line with Apple.

Just a few quick comparisons.  The entire memory of the Mac Portable would fit in the L1/L2 cache of the CPU on a Macbook Air.  The battery for the portable? 2.7lbs, heavier then the entire Air.

Mac Portable Macbook Air (2010)
Processor 68HC000 @16MHz Core 2 Duo @ 1.6GHz
L1/L2 Cache 0/0 128K/3MB
Storage 256K (ROM) + Floppy 128GB SSD
Screen 10″ Monochrome 11.6″ Color
Weight 16lbs 2.3lbs

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