“Zero overhead” Z80 computer focuses on performance

z80_wirewrap_computer_zero_overhead

There’s something quite satisfying about building your own computer. Nowadays, constructing your own desktop PC is relatively easy, so if you really want to get your hands dirty, you have to take a step back in time and give some vintage hardware a spin.

[YT2095] has spent a good portion of the last two months building a computer based on the classic Z80 CPU. His machine, called “Z Eighty Development” or “ZED” for short is an amazing build, and most definitely a labor of love. He has put an estimated 700+ hours into this machine and it’s a beaut! When closed, the machine is pretty unassuming, but once he folds down the keypad, you can see that all of his time has been put to good use.

Most of the board’s components are connected together via wire wrap, including the large 48k memory card he built, as you can see from the link above. The wide array of add on cards all work together to accomplish his goal of “zero overhead” – freeing up the Z80 from having to do any unnecessary processing, such as I/O, etc.

It’s quite an impressive build, and ranks up there with some of the best Z80 based computers we have seen through the years.

Generating music with credit cards

mozarts_credit_card

[Steve] was browsing around at a local electronics surplus store when he spotted an old Tranz 330 point-of-sale terminal that seemed pretty interesting. He took it home and after disassembling it, found that it contained a Z-80 based computer. Because the 330 shares the same processor as other hobbyist-friendly devices such as the TRS-80, he figured it would be quite fun to hack.

While the Z-80 processor is pretty common, [Steve] still had to figure out how it was interfaced in this particular device. After spending some time reverse engineering the terminal, he had free reign to run any program he desired. After thinking for a bit, he decided it would be cool to use the terminal to generate music based on whatever card was swiped through the reader – he calls his creation “Mozart’s Credit Card”.

He found that just playing sounds based on the raw contents of the mag strips didn’t produce anything coherent, so he wrote a small application for the terminal based on the Melisma Stochastic Melody Generator. Music is generated somewhat randomly using various card characteristics, as you can see in the video below.

We think it’s pretty cool, but [Steve] says he’s always open to suggestions, so let us know what you think in the comments.

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