Polish Retro Silicon Brings This Computer To Life

It is an easy trap for us to write only about what we know when covering a topic, thus missing an entire facet of our subject matter. Take retrocomputing for example; we might write about American or Western European machines because we grew up with them, while completely ignoring the hardware being produced on the other side of the Iron Curtain.  Thus it’s fascinating to see [Marek Więcek]’s project, a single board retrocomputer employing a Polish clone of the Intel 8080.

With greater detail on a Polish-language forum (Google Translate), he tells a story of being given an MCY7880 CPU for his collection, only to wonder whether it could be made into a machine in its own right. As a clone of the 8080 this also required equivalents of the Intel bus controller and clock generator chips, which we are guessing must be the UCY74S405 and UCY7404 that he’s also sourced for the project.

The build is completed in true retro style with a maze of point-to-point wiring on the reverse of a protoboard, and he’s put a TinyBASIC interpreter port and 8251 UART on board as well as an 8255 triple parallel I/O port for some GPIO action. We love this computer, and appreciate the light it shines on an obscure corner of microprocessor history.

If Eastern European retrocomputing is your thing, here at Hackaday we’re lucky enough to number among our colleagues someone who’s something of an authority on the matter. [Voja Antonic] has entertained us with the tale of how he designed the Galaksija, Yugoslavia’s first home computer. Sadly though he did not use a Polish 8080 in his design.

12 thoughts on “Polish Retro Silicon Brings This Computer To Life

  1. ” Take retrocomputing for example; we might write about American or Western European machines because we grew up with them, while completely ignoring the hardware being produced on the other side of the Iron Curtain. ”

    I’ve heard of Iron Curtain silicon being mentioned on this forum. Not plenty, but still.

    1. I guess that many people who actually lived the era are still around. My father in law for instance designed a graphic card for a TV for Czech clone of an 8080 based computer and when in good mood he tells a nice tales from a times when obtaining ICs was the hardest part of building a computer.

  2. It’s interesting that MCY7880 never has it’s time. It was designed in the 80-ies (yes, designed because it was self-developed device, binary compatible with Intel original) and then it could have some sense because of COCOM restrictions. Unfortunately there were big production problems (resulting in minimal yield) that was resolved in the early 90-ies – when this chip was fairly obsolete and expensive compared to imported ones (without restrictions).

  3. In episode “A’la carte – recipe for CPU” of really great Polish popular science TV show “Sonda” aired 1983.10.06, you could watch entire manufacturing process of MCY7880 (you could also learn how to bake birthday cake as analogy). I really regret I cannot provide English translation. Quotes like: “Under SEM microscope most advanced human technology shows precision no better than primitive cane and clay huts. But only under ten thousand magnification.” are priceless.

    1. Andrzej Kurek was indeed a poet of technology. About QC test, starting about 15:30 :

      And here each of the machines is carefully touched by a few tens of electrodes that inject into it’s interior shipshaped portions of electricity while expecting an asnwer exactly the same as the designer expects while working at the table. Not always the circut works proprely. Then, the drop of paint falls from above and by stigmatising – it shatters the abillity of this particular machinery to work in wide world.

Leave a Reply to piachoo Cancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.