Sometimes, hacking is just for the pleasure of diving into the secrets of old hardware. That was very much the case when [glitch] and a friend started hacking on some old Intel 8080 boards that had been living in the junk pile for too long.
The boards in question were motherboards from Identicon barcode scanners, running the Intel 8080 CPU. Hacking on the 8080 is a little different, with the ancient CPU requiring three separate voltages to run. However, with the power rails figured out and power applied, it was possible to get the old boards up and running.
The boards were first run with test ROMs which showed the 8080 CPU to be functional. The ROMs hosted a simple program which got the 8080 to spit out the word “HELO” on to an HP HDSP-2416 ASCII character display. From there, the barcode scanner boards were installed in a chassis and hooked up to a bigger Siemens character display, and the memory was mapped out.
The result was that [glitch] and co were able to largely reverse engineer the Identicon hardware, learning it was fairly similar to the Intel MCS-80 reference design of the era. They were able to get code running on the platform, access the RAM, and fit a larger 8-character display. However, without the original barcode scanner attachment, the boards weren’t able to return to their original duty.
As far as hacks go, it’s pretty old school. The boards don’t talk to Twitter, nor run the lights or help with the dishes. However, plenty of fun was had seeing if this old metal could be made to follow instructions once more. Hacking for the pleasure of it is always a good thing by our book!