Slicing and Dicing the Bits: CPU Design the Old Fashioned Way

Slicing and Dicing the Bits: CPU Design the Old Fashioned Way

Writing for Hackaday can be somewhat hazardous. Sure, we don’t often have to hide from angry spies or corporate thugs. But we do often write about something and then want to buy it. Expensive? Hard to find? Not needed? Doesn’t really matter. My latest experience with this effect was due to a recent article I wrote about the AM2900 bitslice family of chips. Many vintage computers and video games have them inside, and, as I explained before, they are like a building block you use to build a CPU with the capabilities you need. I had read about these back in the 1970s but never had a chance to work with them.

As I was writing, I wondered if there was anything left for sale with these chips. Turns out you can still get the chips — most of them — pretty readily. But I also found an eBay listing for an AM2900 “learning and evaluation kit.” How many people would want such a thing? Apparently enough that I had to bid a fair bit of coin to take possession of it, but I did. The board looked like it was probably never used. It had the warranty card and all the paperwork. It looked in pristine condition. Powering it up, it seemed to work well.

What Is It?

The board hardly looks at least 40  years old.

The board is a bit larger than a letter-sized sheet of paper. Along the top, there are three banks of four LEDs. The bottom edge has three banks of switches. One bank has three switches, and the other two each have four switches. Two more switches control the board’s operation, and two momentary pushbutton swit ..

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