Chances are that you are reading this article on a computer screen. Most would agree that a modern 32 or 64 bit machine is a pretty complicated piece of equipment.
While it is easy to buy the parts of a modern PC – motherboard, graphics card and processor – the sheer complexity would defeat any attempt to build one starting with electronic components such as resistors, capacitors and chips.
But what about earlier generations of computer? The technology that brought us the BBC Micro, Sinclair’s ZX series and the Commodore 64 and Vic 20?
Is it still possible to construct an 8-bit machine from a pile of parts?
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Absolutely! Not just ANY pile of parts of course but if you have the right parts laying around, anything is possible. The 8-bit computer I’ve considered building is a COSMAC Elf clone which is based on a RCA 1802 CPU. What’s nice about that chip is that you can load code onto it the instant you turn it on without a monitor or keyboard unlike typical CPU’s that need to be bootstrapped. Video output can be added to it later if you want as well. It’s a limited platform but a great way to learn about computer architecture. There are several choices out there but Lee Hart’s membership card seems to be a current favorite in that community: http://www.retrotechnology.com/memship/memship.html
It’s possible to construct an 8-Bit homebrew computer with a discrete 74xx based CPU and VGA gfx that hosts it’s own homepage. See http://www.mycpu.eu