A Pi Pico on a breakout board inside a Busch 2090 educational computer

Pi Pico Becomes SRAM For 1981 Educational Computer

Ever since the Raspberry Pi Pico was introduced in early 2021 we’ve seen the tiny Pi being used for an astonishing variety of applications. It has powered countless clocks, gadgets, games, and accessories for all kinds of computers old and new. [Michael Wessel] has recently added an interesting new application in the “old computer” category, by turning a Pico into a 2114 SRAM emulator for his Busch 2090, an educational computer system from 1981.

The pinout of the classic 2114 SRAM chip is quite simple: ten address lines, four data lines, Write Enable and Chip Select. Since the 3.3 V Pico is more or less 5V tolerant, you could directly connect these signals to its GPIO ports, but [Michael] considered it more reliable to use level shifters between the two voltage domains. He experimented with a few standard level shifter circuits, but quickly realized he had to take the 33 kΩ pulldown resistors on the Busch 2090’s address bus into account. By just adding a couple of resistors to the Pico’s ports he could make completely passive level shifters, which worked just fine since the system’s clock frequency is only 500 kHz.

[Michael] demonstrates his RAM replacement in the video below, with a neat set of blinkenlights showing the data being shuttled around in real time. He has plans to make a proper PCB for his project, as well as to enable all kinds of neat features by modifying the system’s RAM in real time. This is of course not limited to the Busch 2090: the 2114 chip was widely used in the 1980s, so the PicoRAM can probably be used in many other systems of the era. Code for the Pi is available on GitHub if you’re interested in trying this for yourself. If you’d like to find out what programming a Busch 2090 feels like, you can emulate one using an Arduino.

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