VCF East: [Bil Herd] And System Architecture

Last Friday the Vintage Computer Festival was filled up with more than a dozen talks, too many for any one person to attend. We did, however, check out [Bil Herd]’s talk on system architecture, or as he likes to call it, the art and science of performance through balance. That’s an hour and fifteen minute talk there; coffee and popcorn protocols apply.

The main focus of this talk is how to design a system from the ground up, without any assumed hardware, or any specific peripherals. It all starts out with a CPU, some memory (it doesn’t matter which type), and some I/O. That’s all you need, whether you’re designing a microwave oven or a supercomputer.

The CPU for a system can be anything from a 6502 for something simple, a vector processor for doing loads of math, or have a RISC, streaming, pipelined, SIMD architecture. This choice will influence the decision of what kind of memory to use, whether it’s static or dynamic, and whether it’s big or little endian. Yes, even [Bil] is still trying to wrap his head around endianness.

MMUs, I/O chips, teletypes, character displays like the 6845, and the ANTIC, VIC, and GTIA make the cut before [Bil] mentions putting the entire system together. It’s not just a matter of connecting address and data pins and seeing the entire system run. There’s interrupts, RTCs, bus arbitration, DTACK, RAS, and CAS to take care of that. That will take several more talks to cover, but you can see the one last Friday below.

13 thoughts on “VCF East: [Bil Herd] And System Architecture

        1. Yeah. I woke up at 3 in the morning to edit this video, drove to the event at 6:30 to upload it at ~2MBps. Spent the next twelve hours running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to get even more posts from VCF, and then had to make the drive home (five hours).

          Now that I’m home, I get to manually color correct video because I was shooting on a shitty DSLR, edit those videos down, write posts for them, and I need to go through the minutes and Commissioner’s notes from an FCC meeting that happened on the 17th. That post needs to be up tomorrow. Meanwhile, there’s dailies to write.

          Oh, and I have a few thousand words for the zine that need to be done by this weekend. And we’re planning a thing in New York, a thing in Pasadena, and the trip to Maker Faire. In two weeks, I won’t be home for a month.

          But fuck, I wrote ‘car’ instead of ‘care’. Let’s focus on that.

          1. I’m sure this has come up before, but can HAD create a separate email address or form just for spelling and grammatical corrections? Then you can delete comments that only contain these things. Unfortunately, this requires more moderation work.


          2. @wretch:

            We already have an ‘editor’ email. It is never, ever used for spelling or grammatical corrections. The tip line is never, ever used for spelling or grammatical corrections. My personal email, my normal, non-work email, and any of the Twitter accounts I handle never see a spelling or grammatical correction.

            Your suggestion presupposes that people want grammatical and spelling errors fixed. In reality, their goal is to bring something – anything – down to their level so they look like they’re smart and to impress strangers on the comments section of a middling blog. You see it in any post using imperial measurements (why don’t you use a sane measurement system lol), and you see it in anything that has a slight error; Bil was catching a whole lot of bullshit from the comments because he misspoke in one of his videos.

            Nobody wants the inevitable errors in hackaday posts fixed. If they did, they would use the email, put something in the tip line, or put something on the twitters. The truth of the matter is that these sad little man-children want to impress strangers on the internet by pointing out typos so they can appear smart.

            Incidently, I consider posts that get no comments my more successful writing. That’s how bad the comments here are.

            And before you ask, no, I can’t just delete comments that only have spelling corrections because then I would be a fascist moderator that doesn’t support freedom of speech or some other bullshit.

          3. +Brian Benchoff (I’m more of a Google+ user, so I’ll use their style of address. (c:)

            OK, I didn’t know about the editor email address. It’s good to know there’s already one available.

            “I can’t just delete comments that only have spelling corrections because then I would be a fascist moderator that doesn’t support freedom of speech or some other bullshit.”

            I knew you’re going to say that and I must say you’re nicer than most (moderators). Personally, I agree with Mr. Munroe:


            Anyhow, may be rather than deleting it outright you can replace it with a placeholder that says something like “This comment has been deleted because it only corrects a spelling and/or grammatical error which has been taken care of.” I’ve seen it done on other boards as I’m sure you have as well.

            FWIW. Thanks.

          4. Number of times I’ve reported an error via email = 2
            Number of corrections it resulted in = 0
            Words used to report this error = 16
            Words used for HAD editor to correct the error = 1
            Words used for HAD editor to report the error was corrected = 6
            Minimum number of words required for HAD editor to reply to [Jim B] = 1 (“Yup.”)
            Words used for HAD editor to throw hissy fits instead = 426 (!)
            Spare time HAD editor had to indulge in hissy fits <= 0
            Number of people encouraged to use email < Number of people offended by insults and may consequently use any opportunity to make things more difficult
            Best single word to summarize HAD editor's actions = COUNTERPRODUCTIVE

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