A Basic Stamp Supercomputer


Hobby super computer building isn’t something you hear about every day. This project is even more peculiar due to the fact that it is a supercomputer built with BASIC Stamps. [humanoido] posted some great pictures and detailed info about his project. We’re not completely sure what definition of supercomputer he’s using, but he states that it beats out the others in 10 categories. Those categories are: smaller, lighter, portable, field operable, runs on batteries, has greatest number of input/output, has greatest number of sensors/variety, lowest power consumption, lowest unit cost, and easiest to program. Those sound a little more like features than supercomputing categories to us, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that this is one cool jumble of wires.

You may be wondering what it does. Well, so are we. From what he says, it talks in Chinese and English and has a plethora of other input and output devices. It also displays status of its internal communications. Catch a video after the break.


[thanks Jeff]

149 thoughts on “A Basic Stamp Supercomputer

  1. No matter how many Basic Stamps he has managed to cram in there, the fact that uses basic stamps (!!) will preclude it being a supercomputer — there is WAY too much overhead per node (viewed as a percentage of total processing power) for it to ever be truly useful. That aside, this has got to be one of the coolest uC projects I’ve seen in a long time.

  2. I would thing if he wanted it to be even more portable and more streamlined he would have used something like expresspcb to create a “module” that can link up to other similar modules, he could probably reduce the footprint of this computer dramatically, and make it easily expandable at the same time.

  3. So, even if my mother’s 10 year old computer can compute circles around this contraption, its still a supercomputer?

    Supercomputers are meant to do compute bound tasks. If anything, this is more like a mainframe computer with its high I/O capacity.

    It’s a neat effort, and there’s always brownie points for blinky lights and swiches, but if all those boards are gunna be mounted together anyway to act as a supercomputer, a 1 wire bus is certainly not the most prudent choice of communication.

    An interesting project, but a supercomputer, it is most certainly not.

  4. smaller? lighter?? portable???

    props for playing with microcontrollers and actually making something. and nothing wrong with stamps. stamps aren’t bad for an intro to micros. it seems that this fellow has outgrown them and is ready to move on to something more serious, like an arduino (faster, cheaper, more memory, more IO, dedicated analog lines so no more little RC circuits hanging off of every pin, more powerful…).

  5. arduino fans , you thik it much different from BS ? No. the real upgrade will be using plain chips, just add crystal and 2 caps and here you have dirty cheap and fast micro controller

  6. Also just pondering, how many FLOPs can the various hobbyist uc’s perform?

    On an unrelated note, I found this reading up about Colossus:
    “My laptop digested ciphertext at a speed of 1.2 million characters per second – 240 times faster than Colossus. If you scale the CPU frequency by that factor, you get an equivalent clock of 5.8 MHz for Colossus. That is a remarkable speed for a computer built in 1944.”


  7. Is anyone else reminded of Euclid from the film Pi?

    All that’s needed now are ants and paranoia! :D

    An absolutely brilliant idea. I love the fact that there are people who take on the “Can Do” attitude, and do it just because they can.

  8. Way cool! its an awesome project and amazing what can be made with hobby basic stamps. gotta get me one…

    I can see it outperforms all the others on originality and being the 1st, IMO…

  9. Getting the thing to work is usually the topmost priority, aesthetics are cool too, but they often come later in the process.

    It looks like a lot of hacks come through in the phase where the idea is to show off the working project as opposed to a “finished product”.

    It’s cool to have really good attention to tying wires up, but you just wait till _you_ do it and then have to cut it all apart to de-bug or retrofit.
    It’s a pain in the ass, wastes effort and takes up a lot of time.

  10. Wow. That’s great. Don’t get me wrong, it’s pretty impressive. But how about a little narration instead of your gay background music. Why is it that some of the greatest minds are so socially inept? Grow a set, learn how to speak, and tell us about your project. Don’t fit the typical basement virgin stereotype there buddy.

  11. Well done Humanoido. Main value of this project is on the ability of individual stamps to work independently in real time, 10 of them. With this mimicry of bio systems is much better than with single powerful chip (even with multitasking).
    Not to mention that programming concurrent real-time tasks is somewhat of a nightmare in regular programming language.
    Well done commander!

  12. Cool looking thing, now you just need to figure out a way for it to walk around and smash useful computers so as to raise it’s own value.

    Don’t get me wrong though, I like it and would have made a post if I had assembled that too. :)

    Keep having fun!

  13. Great functioning supercomputer humanoido! The real power is in the parallel running of all those programs at the same time, clustering technology of both hardware and software, and your supercomputer is a fine example. Very powerful indeed! Thank you!!

  14. humanoido, I like the idea of a hobby supercomputer. Those other supercomputers cost millions of dollars. This one is a great learning tool and in my price range. Plus it does programs with the same powerful parallel clustering. Kind of like a micro-supercomputer, eh?

  15. This has been around for awhile, basically one guy who is really interested in parallel processing. Lets root that he makes a cool discovery and all our multicore CPUs work that much better.

    Basically the whole “supercomputer” thing is marketing. Anyone can put together 12 x86 computers, add linux (and MPI or OpenSSI) and run parallel code, but doing it with stamps got his name in a magazine. Technically it also allows for trying out a few more exotic forms of parallelism without resorting to custom FPGA based interconnects and custom drivers. A level of experimenting likely beyond most home users.

  16. This “supercomputer” would not be considered fast in the 70s, a 4mhz z80 would be more powerful. They basic stamps are a complete ripoff, $70 each but you would need over 5300 of them to equal the performance of a pentium 1! (massively low estimate)

  17. I agree it’s a very fast supercomputer once put together and he used some of the most powerful stamps available. Since no hobbyist ever did this before, well, a lot of jealous people with no imagination. Never mind. Who said a 4mhz z80 is more powerful is totally wrong. As the post says, it’s the top of the line. Plus these can be bought for $49 or less, not $70. Let’s get our facts straight before mouth opening…

  18. I looked a the article again and realised that the “supercomputer” only had one of the $70 basic stamps, the rest are the cheaper slower ones. This means that a single z80 would wipe the floor with it, an intel 4004 would be more comparable for instructions per second.

    Until you are forced to use a BS2 for a school project, you do not know the meaning of the word slow! If the sega genesis had a processor as fast a basic stamp the games would run at around 1fps.

  19. There are many race cars that are not the fastest cars in the world, yet they are still race cars. Theres nothing wrong with using the midrange and top level stamps to create a project like this, that offers huge power not based on being the fastest in the world, but the originality of being the first hobby supercomputer, with the most powerful number of io stamp capability in the world is enough for me. I applaud his super success!

  20. The superstamputer could flush the z80 down the toilet with it parallel port clustering software port power. Besides, its not about the chip or speed but the power, concept and being the first. Go ahead DIY z80. It an intrestig thing. But you will always be 2nd to this fella’s great supercomputer. hahahaha!!

  21. i like the idea that many programs can cluster up and run in parallel, yet be controlled by one master program running at the same time. That’s awesome raw power!!! I give it a perfect 10!

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