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Resurrecting Extinct Computers

Supervisor

Suitable for

Computer Science, Part B
Mathematics and Computer Science, Part C
Computer Science and Philosophy, Part C
Computer Science, Part C

Abstract

While the architecture of current reduced instruction set processors is well established, and relatively static, the early days of computing saw extensive experimentation and exploration of alternative designs. Commercial processors developed during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s included stack machines, LISP machines and massively parallel machines, such as the Connection Machine (CM-1) consisting of 65,536 individual one-bit processors connected together as a 12-dimensional hypercube. This period also saw the development of the first single chip microprocessors, such as the Intel 4004, and the first personal computers, such as the Altair 8800 using the Intel 8080 microprocessor. This project will attempt to resurrect one of these extinct designs (or a scaled down version if necessary) using a modern low-cost field-programmable gate array (FPGA). You will be required research the chosen processor, using both original and modern sources, and then use Verilog to develop a register level description of the device that can be implemented on a FPGA. The final device should be able to run the software of the original and could be realised in a number of different forms depending on the chosen processor (e.g. an Altair 8800 on a small USB stick running Microsoft BASIC). Prerequisites: Digital Systems or Computer Architecture useful but not essential