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.