Wednesday, 4 May 2011

New Project: uWasp

Being somewhere north of 30 years of age, I grew up with 8-bit machines.  I owned a Microbee 128K machine.


I still have the machine actually.  It was great.  I was thinking about it recently when a friend was telling me about a C64 emulator he was writing.  I was thinking that it would be great to create a new 8-bit machine out of modern components.  It could probably be built very cheaply too!  So anyway, I'm introducing project uWasp.

Here is the idea. I want to do a new Z80-based machine (similar to the Microbee but not compatible) with modern features.  Here is a list:

  • EZ80 processor from Zilog
  • AVR-based peripheral sub-systems.
  • Video Framebuffer
  • VGA out
  • Stereo sound
  • USB keyboard
There are two cool things with this project.  Firstly the cost.  I can get a EZ80 for $13 and a bunch of ATMega chips for $4 each.  I can even get 512Kbyte SRAMs for $4 each!  Secondly, the firmware of the AVRs is obviously upgradeable.  This means I can implement a GPU(Video) and APU (Audio) on separate AVRs with upgradable features.  For example, the in version 1 of the GPU I might implement a command called CLEAR_SCREEN which clears video RAM to a given value without any EZ80 involvement.  Version 2 could add filled rectangles and Bit Blits.  I guess the AVR chips are "Firmware Accelerators" :-)