January 26, 2012 AT 4:09 pm

Return of the 6502!

Interesting news for chiptune and 8-bit folks — the 6502 is back! From h-online:

The 6502 processor from the 1970s is alive once again – and as a proper 40-pin chip in a dual in-line package (DIP) housing, not just as an embedded core. Mouser Electronics has added the 8-bit classic, since modernised by WDC(Western Design Center), to its product range, making it available in the UK for £4.90.

Apparently, the W65C02S6TPG-14 – its current name – is pin and software compatible with its grandfather, a 1975 drawing board design by Bill Mensch and Chuck Peddle that was later used in the early Apple and Commodore computers as well as the UK’s own BBC Micro. Like other members of the 6502 family, the W65C02S6TPG-14 offers an extended set of instructions and a clock speed of up to 14 MHz (instead of the original 1 MHz). Incidentally, WDC also offers a “virtual” version of the 65C02: an IP core designed for field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs).

It’s currently selling at Mouser US for $7, which sounds a bit steep for a 30+ year old 8-bit micro design, but I have no idea what the production volume is.

[via Dave Jones]

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  1. So, do you think they’re using 45nm for that baby, or were they able to cram all those transistors in using a 65nm process? 🙂

  2. That’s $1.68 in 1975 dollars.

  3. Now if only someone would release a re-make of the SID chip…

  4. @Kevin: this baby’s quantum (with memristor registers) — we’re talking bleeding edge, here! 🙂

    @Chris: excellent point!

    @Matthew: seriously!

  5. The 65C02 (even at 14MHz) is of course nothing new, but I’ve been told that the availability in single quantities, is. Bravo Mouser!

  6. pretty sure this has been continuously available for at least the last 10 years. i made a 6502 computer with one of these as an undergrad.

    hopefully broadcasting this fact will make sure nobody tears apart an NES to get one, or anything silly like that.

  7. The 65C02 is the same 6502 variant that was used in the Apple IIc and the "enhanced" Apple IIe (in both cases clocked at only 1.023 MHz for improved compatibility with older Apple II models).

    Kevin: the datasheet seems to indicate that it’s a 600 nm part. (Section 10, "ordering information" notes that the "6T" in the part number indicates a ".6u" process which I assume means 0.6 micrometers)

    600 nm is huge by today’s standards, but is tiny compared to the 1980s version of the 65C02, let alone the original 6502 from the 1970s. Those would have been somewhere between 1000 nm and 3000 nm. (To put things in perspective, the original Pentium was an 800 nm part, whereas the Pentium II was 350 nm.)

    There’s no real reason to use anything better than an early 90s process for an early 1980s variant of a 1970s CPU. Especially when you’re packaging it in a 40 pin DIP, which is an absolutely huge package by modern standards.

  8. Alan Wolke W2AEW

    Wow – brings back memories of 1983-4. I taught myself assembler on an Apple-II with a 6502, and hand-assembled several programs. I remember “poke-ing” the opcodes and manually calculated branch offsets into RAM to run the code.

  9. Western Design Center has always been selling them and Apatco is one of their distributors. Apatco has a 6502 computer which is probably one of the only ones available commercially that you can build from a kit today.

  10. Tim: Just a bit of process humour. 🙂 Even with a (massive) 0.6µm process, you can get ~15K transistors per mm2 (there’s around 3500 transistors in the 6502). 65nm is over 1 million per mm2 I believe. It’s all kind of madness now, though.

    I’ve actually more intrigued by smaller and smaller cores like the Cortex M0 from ARM (around 12K transistors though that’s with slow 32-cycle multiplication … I think 1-cycle multiply double it). It’s actually impressive to compare 3.5K for the 6502 with what they fit in 12K today with the M0, though that’s only the core … I assume the 6502 count includes peripherals, etc.

    I suppose one advantage of a 0.6µm process is that you don’t have any expensive masking fees at the fab. You can just take a sharpie and draw the masks yourself. 🙂

  11. @Chuck: that’s great, except that the Apatco kit costs $180, and you can’t buy the chip individually from them.

    @Kevin: I thought you were being super serious.

  12. Johngineer,

    My friends over at 6502.org have been buying the chips individually because I gave them the link:


    Even Western Design Center has a link:


    Now if I can only find a really large RAM chip or Eprom that will work with it that is greater than 32K and is fast.


  13. Quote- “Apatco has a 6502 computer which is probably one of the only ones available commercially that you can build from a kit today.”

    What about Briel Computers, the makers of the Replica I kit? The official reproduction of the kit-based Apple I that launched a couple hippies both named Steve to fame, fortune, and digital culture immortality.

  14. I just saw this in the last Jameco catalog, right under the old stock 6502 and 65C02 listings.


    Now if only you could get a modern ISP flash memory in a 40-pin chip with parallel address lines to go with it…

  15. Chuckz: My project will use the AS6C1008-55PCN as static RAM chip. It’s 128KB and has an access time of 55ns, I think that’s fast enough for a 14MHz clock but this late at night I’m not sure if I got the math right :-).

    It’s also pin-compatible with the 62256 (32K) and the 62512 (64K) but the 62512 is surprisingly hard to find…


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