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February 11, 2018

This homemade 8-bit computer could finally pose a challenge to Intel’s 8008 CPU

by John_A

By today’s standards, an 8-bit CPU isn’t all that impressive considering all of our devices use 64-bit architectures. What is impressive, however, is when someone builds their own 8-bit computer using a plethora of wires and what is known in the do-it-yourself hardware programming community as a breadboard.

That is exactly what YouTube user Paulo Constantino did from the comfort of his own home in a video that was uploaded last June and is only now beginning to garner the attention it deserves. Resembling an Intel 8008 processor of the 1970s, Constantino’s project might seem rudimentary to us now, but it’s a much more arduous feat to pull off than, say, building a gaming PC with today’s components.

Because all of its data traffic is bused in eight sets of ones and zeroes, this breadboard-based CPU is a lot slower than our computers, which is why it is so intriguing that Constantino was able to get his to play even an off-key rendition of the Super Mario Bros. theme song.

Breadboards are typically used for circuitry prototypes, which is what makes this story so bizarre to begin with. Pair that with the fact that the song itself was programmed by flipping a bunch of DIP switches rather than being wired to any inputs, such as a keyboard, and it becomes considerably more of a head-scratcher.

So, of course, the 8-bit breadboard CPU that Constantino devised here isn’t perfect, but it’s safe to assume this is only the beginning. After being designed over the course of two days using the old-school pen-and-paper method, the computer itself was assembled in a matter of a week.

In addition to being able to play a classic gaming melody, the hardware also supports a program that can be used to count from one all the way up to the number 255. It’s curious where Constantino plans to take this experiment now. For the time being, however, he assures us that a keyboard will soon be added for the sake of more straightforward programming techniques.

In the meantime, you can build your own computer (albeit the 64-bit kind) using our handy how-to guide.

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