What’s the best retro processor? We’ve featured the Z80 in this magazine before, but there are also fans of the 6502 and the M68K. If you were going to try recreating one, which would you go for? Well, the good people at Chips4Makers decided to go for all three in a single tri-core CPU that includes 4kB of on-chip RAM, 72 GPIOs, and a JTAG for programming. You can use some of the IO pins to select the core that’s active when you reset the chip.
There are a few options for people supporting the campaign. If you’re looking to build your own boards, you can get individual chips for $42, a small breadboard-compatible break out for $59, and a couple of other options that include the chip on protoboard. If you’d rather start with a more familiar form factor, there’s an Arduino Mega-compatible module for $89.
The chips will be manufactured using the 350 nm process that first came out in 1995. To put this into context, the current state-of-the art is 7 nm. However, the great thing about retro processors is that there’s no need to chase the latest technology. The state-of-the-art in the mid 1970’s (when these cores were first released), was around 5 μm. Which means that now, it’s far more affordable to do a low-volume tape-out.
Chips4Makers are working in the open, and all the source code for the chips is available at hsmag.cc/FCqmYP.
From $42 + hsmag.cc/hhSOQq Delivery: March 2019