The CIP03 Computer
If you’ve seen the about section of my blog, you know that I was trained as a software developer. I entered the software world when I was 10 years old, and my first computer was the Romanian CIP03 (ZX Spectrum compatible) running the BASIC Interpreter (it had it preinstalled in ROM). The specs of the CIP03 included the MMN-80 cpu, running at 3.5MHz, it had 64KB of RAM and 16KB of ROM (used for the Spectrum OS and the BASIC Interpreter). The video offered a 256×192 resolution on 16 colors. Power supply was a huge unit, outputting 5V @3A.
It was a great unit, that offered me and others using it, endless possibilities for learning early programming techniques. The last picture shows some of my old programs in BASIC, saved to paper as saving them on tape was unreliable on my unit. The graphics were designed and computed using 8×8 tiles as binary matrixes involving lots of conversions from binary to decimal.
Single Chip Computer
Time passed since the old BASIC programs. Lately we’ve seen a lot of progress in most of the technical fields, and electronics is no exception. Smaller components, smarter ICs, larger flash memories or faster microprocessors. Taking advantage of all these improvements are the applications, and we’re seeing an increasingly larger number of those as well. So all in one, the future’s bright and this is excellent news for the DIY hobbyists.
Using a single AVR Microcontroller, namely the Atmega1284p, I once again had a BASIC computer at my fingertips, thanks to the PCB designed by Dan. I got a PCB from him directly (he has a few on sale on Ebay), then purchased the components and finally soldered everything together.
This circuit and the software running on the microcontroller, offers USB Keyboard support, RCA Video signal output (connectable directly to a TV, like the original ZX Spectrum units), and a BASIC Interpreter (namely the tinyBASIC). Here’s a demo showing the unit at work, with a simple BASIC program typed on the fly (yes, I still remember some of the BASIC syntax after all these years):