Build an 8-bit TTL computer

Very rarely do we see an Instructable so complete, and so informative, that it’s a paragon of tutorials that all Instructables should aspire to. [8 Bit Spaghetti]’s How to Build an 8-bit computer is one of those tutorials.

[8 Bit Spaghetti]’s build began on his blog. He originally planned to build a 4-bit computer but decided a computer that could only count to 15 would be too limiting. The build continued by programming an NVRAM as the ROM on a breadboard and finally testing his bundle of wires.

What really makes [8 Bit Spaghetti]’s special is the Instructable – he covers just about all the background information like the definition of a Turing machine, a brief introduction to electronics and logic chips, and binary numbers. Even though he’s doing some fairly complicated work, [8 Bit Spaghetti]’s tutorial makes everything very clear.

The computer isn’t quite done yet – there’s still a few nixie tubes to add – but we couldn’t imagine a better project for the budding electronic hacker.

Cheap and easy logic signal generator

While function generators or analog signal generators are ubiquitous in their utility, we haven’t seen much of logic function generators on Hack a Day. Luckily, [Dilshan] sent in a really neat 8-channel signal injector that is amazingly simple to build and comes with a great front end for editing patterns from your computer.

The hardware portion of the build is kept to a minimum with a PIC18F chip, USB socket, and header pins as the only major components. This board serves as the hardware output for the Kidogo software. This software provides a very nice interface to generate 5 volt logic signals on eight separate channels that will immensely help exploring your digital world.

With a great interface and very easy to build hardware, we can easily see the Kidogo hardware finding its way onto workbenches around the world. We’re tempted to build our own version using an AVR, but we would hate to ruin such a simple but useful tool.

Building a computer around a TTL CPU

[Bill’s] worked on his homebrew computer for almost a decade. He didn’t start with a Z80 processor like a lot of the projects we’ve seen, but instead build the CPU itself from 74-series TTL chips and a ridiculous amount of wire wrapping to connect it all.

The video after the break shows off the functionality. We love the front panel, which is packed with information but manages to remain organized and offers many convenient features. Our favorite is the ability to pause execution and scroll through the registers by spinning the dial. The clock signal has a variable speed which is selected by an internal DIP switch package that can be changed during a pause. It runs MINIX and has a library of programs, but perhaps most surprising is its ability to serve webpages.

Lately we’ve been interested in drilling down through program language abstractions to understand what is going on inside the silicon. This has given us new respect for those building processors from scratch. Think of it this way, if you actually need to build each instruction out of gates, you’ll be able to understand how those instructions work at the most fundamental level.

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Homebrew TTL logic computer

Although [Jack] just graduated High School and doesn’t have much experience with electronics, that didn’t stop him from building the DUO Adept, a homebrew computer built entirely out of TTL logic chips.

The DUO Adept has 64k of memory, 6K of which is dedicated to the video ram that outputs a 240×208 black and white image onto a TV. Bootstrapping the computer to it’s current state was quite a challenge, as an entire OS was put into th system one bit at a time though DIP switches. After the OS was written to the computer, [Jack] was able to connect a keyboard and started programming. [Jack] programmed a hex editor and a few games of his own design. If all that wasn’t impressive enough, [Jack] also programmed an assembly compiler and emulator for his homebrew system.

We’ve seen a a few homebrew computersbefore, but not many of them are laid out on 17 breadboards like the DUO Adept. With skills like these, we can’t wait to see what [Jack] comes up with next. Check out the video after the break for a walk-through of the build.

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DUO 128 Elite, 4 bit CPU

We’re not sure how we missed [Jack Eisenmann’s] 4 bit TTL CPU when we were tipped off the first time, but we’re glad it was sent in again for us to feature it.

41 different ICs (mostly TTL) come together to comprise the DUO 128 Elite. While the architecture is a little different than what we’ve seen before, using “nyckles”, the DUO 128 Elite still works perfectly. Catch a video of some example programs, including pong, after the divide.

[Thanks Marc G-C]

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Pure TTL based clock

We’ll just say, [Kenneth] really likes clocks. His most recent is a pure 7400 series TTL based one, ie no microcontroller as seen in the past, here, here, and here. The signal starts out as a typical 32,768 crystal divided down to the necessary 1Hz, which is then divided again appropriately to provide hours and minutes.

As far as TTL clocks go, this is nothing too original; until it comes to his creative button interface. By using a not as sexy as it sounds multivibrator, he can produce a clean square wave instead of the figity signals produced from buttons to advance and set the time. Like always, he also provides us with a thorough breakdown of his clock, after the jump. Continue reading “Pure TTL based clock”

Nokia USB cable is USB-to-Serial in disguise

[Jethomson] worked out a way to use a Nokia USB cable at a USB to Serial cable. He was able to pick up one of these cables for less than $3 delivered. A little probing worked out which conductors go with the appropriate signals and from there he developed a way to protect the 3.3v signal levels with a voltage divider.

It’s not surprising that this works, having seen [Will O’Brien’s] post covering serial communications on Nokia phones. In that post we learned that the Nokia phones are using TTL communications. Once you’ve completed [Jethomson’s] modifications to the cable you can follow his examples for using this in conjunction with an Arduino.