While the world has been racing for higher and higher bit counts for CPUs, there are always those that buck the trend. Consider the venerable Motorola MC14500B, a 1-bit CPU, no kidding. [Usagi Electric] built up a computer based on one of these chips using a breadboard but has since pulled it apart to use the breadboard for other things. So this time, he’s made a permanent version on a PCB and created a simple game to show it off. You can see the result in the video below.
Well, the chip had one bit in the datapath. It did not have any memory, but it did have a way to feed it 4-bit instructions, and, as you might guess, there were 16 possibilities for instructions. The chip was meant to replace industrial controllers where even a PLC might be overkill, and apparently, it did see some use in the real world.
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Eight-bit computers are all the retro rage these days, with people rushing to build computers either from chips like the 6502 or the Z80, or even recreating these chips from a collection of TTL logic chips. And while we respect and covet those builds immensely, 8-bit computers aren’t the only game going on. To wit we present this lovely single-board computer sporting a 1-bit CPU.
The machine, which creator [Simon Boak] cheekily dubs “the world’s least-powerful computer,” is based on the Motorola MC14500B, a chip from the 1970s that was aimed at the industrial controls market. There, the chip’s limited instruction set and narrow bus width were not as limiting as they would be in a general-purpose computer. In fact, since the chip requires an external program counter, it offers a great degree of design flexibility. [Simon] chose a 4-bit address space, but with a little wizardry he was able to get eight bits of input in the form of DIP switches and eight bits of output LEDs. It’s not good for much past making lights blink, but it does that with nary an Arduino in view — although it does sport a couple of 555s.
[Simon]’s goal for the build was simply to build cool from an unusual chip, and we think he succeeded. In fact, we can’t recall seeing a neater perfboard build — it’s almost to the level of circuit sculpture. We especially like the hybrid solder and wirewrap construction. We’ve seen builds based on this chip before, but never one so neat and attractive.