Building an 8-Bit Computer From Scratch

Kyle Hovey is building his own 8-bit Transistor-Tansistor Logic (TTL) computer from scratch.

I set out to learn as much as I could about how to build an 8-bit computer and soon found that looking back to the invention of the computer was the way to go. I emailed the creator of the Magic-1 computer to get some advice on where to start. He pointed me to a textbook from the late ’70s: Digital Computer Electronics by Albert Malvino. Without that book this entire project would not have been possible. If you are looking to build your own 8-bit computer I highly recommend purchasing this book. It starts at the bare logic level and moves on up to registers, then counters, then the actual structure and operation of a simple-as-possible computer. My computer that I’m building right now is based on the SAP-1 architecture with some modifications that add needed functionality.

Sounds like he wants to build a steampunky case with Numitron tubes for the display. Check out Kyle’s blog 8bitspaghetti to follow along with his project.

22 thoughts on “Building an 8-Bit Computer From Scratch

  1. Wow. Sounds impressive. I’ve exchanged some witty and wonderful even messages will the gentleman behind the Magic-1 design. I do agree that is the perfect choice for anyone wishing to start off like that. However his site references two excellent Byte Magazine articles that document one individuals efforts.

  2. I always liked Caxton Foster’s Computer Architecture for how it starts from gates and winds up with a working computer. It’s rather older than this other book. I’ll have to keep an eye out for it.

  3. That picture is giving me waking nightmares. Trying to find the one loose wire that’s causing things to not work quite right sounds… excruciating… :-D

    1. It has happened a few times. When I made the ALU (this was the first part that I worked on) it had erroneous output due to some bits that got mixed up somewhere along the line. It took me a few hours but I finally got all of the bits in line.

  4. Reminds me of my high school project where we used wire wrapping to build a I think 8 86 computer. We used LEDs for output and hex to program it. With two people per computer some looked very much like the pic.

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

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