View Full Version : Help Required:

December 26th, 2014, 07:11 PM
Hello. I have joined this forum because I have had a love for vintage computers all my life, and recently, I've decided to do something about it.

Summery of Question:
I would like to build my own retro computer. See, I've found it hard to find vintage computers, software, hardware, ETC. So, I decided to look into building my own. If possible, my basic idea was to "stack" 8 bit computers. I do not know if "stacking" is possible for 8 bit home made computers, but I would like to try in the attempt to build what would be a "high-end" computer back in the day. (70's / 80's) *Note: I am aware that this project will require soldering.*

The Question At Hand:
I was wondering if anyone could help me out on this. Basically, maybe instruct me or link me on how to build a 8 bit computer, parts needed, necessary programming/software needed, and other bits and bobs like how to manually install a floppy disk drive and have it work with the computer.

I know this is a lot to ask but I cant find answers anywhere and I've been looking for months. (This was my last resort)

(Yes I realize it will be complicated)

If anyone can help me out on this it would be great.


See Ya Around Folks:
~ Jack

December 28th, 2014, 05:03 AM
Hi Jack,

Welcome to the forum!

I suppose it depends on what you want to do with it at the end of the day - and how much you are willing to experiment (or do you want to start with something that is virtually guaranteed to work - and work up to something more extensive?).

Going for a multiprocessor solution (which is what I assume you mean by 'stacking' 8-bit computers) is achievable - but they are/were very specialist machines which were generally suited to doing one job (i.e. there is not much software out there for them). For example, Steve Ciarcia published a design for a Mandelbrot engine in the Oct/Nov/Dec editions of Byte magazine from 1988. This machine used 100 off 8751 micro controllers... The 8751 (or one of its later 'offspring') is still around today if this is of interest (although you will have to look around for the software for the project).

A better solution may be to go with a design that is proven to work. Gran Searle (http://zx80.netai.net/grant/) has a dead simple design for a 6809, a Z80 and a 6502 computer that cane prototyped up on a board and then wire-wrapped for a more permanent solution. All the software you need is available for download. I am thinking of building his Z80 CP/M machine as a demonstration for school kids as to what computing was like in the early years.

Another possibility is to look at the N8VEM Home Brew Computer Project over at http://n8vem-sbc.pbworks.com/w/page/4200908/FrontPage. You can obtain the PCBs for a very reasonable price and (providing you can follow simple instructions and solder reasonably well) should give you a basic working system that you can then expand as time, money and the wife permits! There is also help available if you run into unexpected problems.

There are other solutions available as well, for example - head over to Grant Stockley's website (unfortunately, it seems to be down at the moment due to spam).

The advantage of using modern components over 'vintage' computers is generally one of reliability. You turn it on and it works :-). The problem with 1970/1980 vintage computers is that you turn them on and they 'sometimes' work :-(. You then have to fix them!

Hope this gives you a 'taster'.


December 28th, 2014, 05:05 AM

Of course - VCF should have been your first resort rather than your last :-).

Anything you want to ask - just fire away.


December 29th, 2014, 06:53 AM
I'm sure there is a good list out there of homebrew computing projects (perhaps Wikipedia if not here) but as Dave said, it definitely depends what you're trying to accomplish with the end goal. Most of these projects won't be something that's going to end up being a dos gaming box. They're made for education on how to solder, "What is a computer" type of learning which is still great in it's own right. You might check out the Sym-1 if you want a 6502 type clone but I'd think the N8VEM project would be a great start too since it's been really active community wise. That will at least get you a system that could run CP/M.

Definitely feel free to bounce ideas out over here :-) It's always fun to see what folks here can accomplish.