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The N8VEM eight-bit homebrew PC

The N8VEM eight-bit homebrew PC

The N8VEM features a Z80 4MHz microprocessor and 512KB of RAM - a computer powerhouse it isn't, but it's a neat project nonetheless.

If, like me, you're nostalgic for the early days of personal computing – when homebrew didn't have anything to do with consoles, and a self-built system needed a steady hand with a soldering iron – then you'll want to check out the N8VEM system.

Showcased over on Hack a Day this weekend, the N8VEM Single Board Computer is a project designed to create a self-built system based around the Z80 microprocessor – the same chip that powered a huge range of popular 8-bit home computers way back when.

Although its not the first project of its kind, the team behind the N8VEM has tried to keep things within the reach of the enthusiastic amateur hobbyist – a cheap soldering iron, multimeter, and basic hand tools are all you need, along with “some basic electronic skills.

If you're willing to put in the time, you'll be rewarded with a self-built computer running the popular CP/M operating system, with disc drives virtualised in RAM and ROM. A fairly nifty backplane designed in to the device allows for future expansion – as an example, hacker Jeff Ledger has been working on a VT100 terminal for the device.

While the N8VEM isn't going to be putting any render farms out of business with its 4MHz CPU and 512K RAM, it gives the builder an interesting insight into where computing has come from – and a far better idea of exactly what a computer is than plugging pre-built PCBs into a motherboard. If you're interested enough to sacrifice a weekend or two in order to hand craft an eight-bit wonder, the project's home page has full instructions.

Tempted to resurrect the glory days of the bedroom programmer, or is the project just a bunch of long hairs trying to recapture their youth? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

11 Comments

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jhanlon303 12th January 2009, 15:56 Quote
Thank you for this article. This is my electronics engineering roots. So many memories.
Twas a fun time back then.

john
tranc3 12th January 2009, 16:14 Quote
would love to make one of those, pirates of the silicon valley has made me want to build a time machine so i can experience all the greatness of those "early days of computers"
Evildead666 12th January 2009, 16:27 Quote
If only I could put an Amstrad Bios into it and then I could run all those old games I have....
Would probably need a tape and 3" disk interface tho... ;-)

Ahhh CP/M Gary Kildall, the great programmer....I remember getting CP/M on ROM for the Amstrad, with RODOS also...
You can be all nostalgic with the computer chronicles, that go way back to the early 80's, reviewing hardware and software from a bygone age...
I've spent hours watching these old vids....
http://www.archive.org/details/computerchronicles
hodgy100 12th January 2009, 17:06 Quote
Z80 was also used for the megadrive's sound processor :P
StephenK 12th January 2009, 18:12 Quote
One word. Oooooo!

I think i'm gonna try that out. Have such fond memories of my first computers (c64's). This looks like a really rewarding use of time.

Thanks Evil for the awesome link too. I've got my evening entertainment sorted :)
jhanlon303 12th January 2009, 18:26 Quote
More Z80 links:

sources for C/PM 2.2 and 3.0 and games and stuff interestingis here:
http://www.schorn.ch/cpm/intro.php

A bukkit load of 8bit Z80 computing links here:
http://www.z80.info/homebrew.htm

Fond memories !

john
ufk 12th January 2009, 18:39 Quote
hmm z80 goodness, wonder if it'll run all the old spectrum games, I know the old Research Machines monstrosity at school did.
n3mo 13th January 2009, 06:41 Quote
Now, this takes me back to the good 'ol times.
[USRF]Obiwan 13th January 2009, 11:42 Quote
Hmm 512k ram thats a huge step in ram. how did they do that.
amacieli 13th January 2009, 13:30 Quote
lol - i remember half of the class struggling with a Research Machines unit, and the other half playing (pirated) Elite on the BBC micro.
cpemma 13th January 2009, 16:15 Quote
Been there, got the T-shirt.

http://www.mexbro.co.uk/bit/zx81.gif
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