Building basic computers from the ground up is a popular pastime in the hacker community. [Kevin] is one such enthusiast, and decided to whip up a video interface for his retro Z80 machine.
The computer in question is a RC2014 Classic ][, a popular single-board 8-bit computer kit. As standard, it doesn’t have a video output, so [Kevin] built one using the PIO interface of the Raspberry Pi Pico.
74-series logic is pressed into service to handle address selection, enabling the Pico and Z80 to effectively communicate. Wait states in the Z80 are used to avoid the vintage chip tripping over when the two are communicating. The Pico outputs video in 160 x 120 resolution with eight bits of color per pixel, using a simple resistor-ladder DAC to do basic VGA.
The build serves as a great way to get familiar with programming both the Pi Pico and the Z80 itself. With that said, it’s probably possible to simply just emulate the Z80 on the Pi Pico given the latter runs at a default clock rate of 125 MHz, eclipsing the RC2014’s snail-like 7.3728 MHz main clock.
If you’ve been building your own retro graphics hardware, do let us know. We love that sort of thing around here!