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Trammell Hudson and phooky of NYC Resistor have been exploring read-only (e.g., non-volatile) memory chips in a series of fascinating posts on the hackerspace’s blog.

phooky wrote The Joy of Dumping, which explains why you’d want to check out the ancient data moldering on decades-old chips:

Which brings up the question of why you’d even want to bother to begin with. This is the firmware for an obsolete solvent control system running on a Motorolla 68000 microprocessor, obscurity on obscurity on obscurity. Who’s ever going to need it anyway? Why save the bits?

For the same reasons we record any history: because someday it may prove to be useful, and because someday it may prove to be beautiful. And even if it’s neither, at least it’s fun to poke around. Just pulling the strings out of the binaries yields odd puzzles.

In Stick a Straw in Its Brain and Suck: How to Read a ROM, phooky shows how to dump a ROM.

Trammell Hudson followed up last Sunday with a post showing how to snag a ROM’s data using a Teensy development board. Cool stuff!

John Baichtal

My interests include writing, electronics, RPGs, scifi, hackers & hackerspaces, 3D printing, building sets & toys. @johnbaichtal



  1. trkemp says:

    It would be funny to have someone actually look in the memory of some of the products I made during the 1980′s. I’d use the smallest part I could of course, but often there was quite a bit of space left over. I’d often write up a history of the development of the product or list all the people involved or in some cases a short story and include it in ASCII in the unused space.

    I apparently have an obsession with this sort of thing:
    - As a child I wrote notes to future people on the studs in our house before the walls went up during some remodeling. I used a pencil because I realized ink might fade.
    - I’ve put long rambling stories into comments in code I didn’t think anyone else would ever read. It was funny when years after I added one, someone came to me laughing out loud about it. I’d finished a feature on the same day that the coworker who had suggested adding it was let go. I named the feature after the fired guy and had written a history of the feature’s development.
    - Back when I was designing PCBs I used to include half toned photos or cryptic notes in empty areas.

    Hopefully these guys will find some fun stuff while they are poking around in the old ROMs.

    1. Indeed. I’ve found some geeky love notes and messages in ROMs, and also some fun stuff in the unused space on the filesystem track of C64 floppies (track 16, IIRC)

  2. Jim Hunter says:

    I’m not reading anything called “the joy of dumping”….