10 Years

In order to fill the void in the days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve 2013, we began experimenting with a 65C02 on a breadboard. This little experiment would later evolve into an actually working 8bit computer. 10 years and some significant amount of focus creep later we had build this cool little 8bit machine with the specifications found here.

The amount of new stuff to learn to design a new computer out of “old” or “retro” components was massive. We went about it as rather electroics noobs who only had basic knowledge about anything. We did not have a lot of experience with circuit board design. We did some assembly coding on the C64, but nothing as big and complex as a FAT32 filesystem, let alone some sort of an operating system, albeit a rudimentary one.

Time to take a look back on what we have learned, and on all the cool people we met along the way who contributed with their time, knowledge and patience.

The biggest inspiration to get started at all was the Kiwi. Simon’s Kiwi is a very impressive homebuilt 68k machine. Using an ATmega8 as PS/2 keyboard controller and using a Sony CXA2075M for the video output stage has very much been an inspiration from the Kiwi.

A significant amount of inspiration for the early stages has been drawn from the homebuilt section of 6502.org, and there especially from Chris Ward’s 6502 Project. Back then, Chris’s project provided a good reference design for us to start from.

We have to thank Andre Fachat’s Pages on 6502.org for the idea to use a 16550 UART instead of a 6551 ACIA.

Hans Franke and Neil Franklin were and are just a neverending source of information and the go-to guys for bouncing ideas back and forth. Hans was the one suggesting using SPI as peripheral bus to us.

The VCFe (Vintage Computer Festival Europe), organised by Hans, has become some sort of “home-base” for us. So we have to include everyone we met there.

Michael Steil is to thank for convincing us about the necessity of an emulator, and providing us with a skeleton of his Commander X16 emulator. This would form the basis to build our own Steckschwein-emulator, which has become a crucial component in Steckschwein software development.

All the people we had conversations with along the way that had some kind of impression on us and the Steckschwein are just too many to list, so we won’t even try, out of fear that we might leave someone out.

After all, there obviously is a very active home brew computing community out there, and we are happy to be part of it.

One of the most amazing things in the last 10 years was to observe the spawning of a whole lot of other new homebrew 8bit computer projects. It seems like homebrew computing has become more of a thing, and maybe we did help that trend not only by being part of it. Maybe we inspired someone to get started on his homebrew project, too.

It’s been amazing 10 years.