Way back in the mid-80s, I worked as a programmer for the Apple II family, Commodore and Atari machines. I remember programming them using a big intimidating box branded Kontron stacked on top of my IBM PC/AT. On the back of the unit, it interfaced to the 6502 machine, the target, and a host PC via ribbon cables.

From the host, I could execute my code on the target machine and halt via a keystroke or a set breakpoint and see the contents of its memory and registers. It was very responsive and gave me complete control over the device. I was spoiled rotten by the time I left for a job programming the Atari at another company. It was then excruciatingly painful working off floppies, 40-column text and only 64K of RAM.

If this box sounds familiar, is there any info on it? I don't know what it was supposed to be called, but we called it an emulator.

  • 9
    These things are also called "in-circuit emulator" (ICE). Kontron sold lots of things, and googling finds a comment on hackaday that Kontron had those things (and they were really expensive), but nothing much else. Kontron still exists and has a webpage, maybe you can contact them, and they have something in their archives?
    – dirkt
    Jul 18, 2023 at 10:31
  • Bitsavers has a "Slave Emulator Hardware Reference Manual" from 1982 available: bitsavers.org/pdf/futuredata/2302/… that looks likely.
    – Jon Custer
    Jul 18, 2023 at 14:50
  • 1
    I worked on a Kontron KDS for a good few years in the mid-80's,, a CP/M system with a Z80, 256 KB RAM and a 5 GB HDD. Great to use and very solidly built. Didn't have any ICEs though, they were shatteringly expensive and the KDS and assemblers wasn't cheap to start with.
    – TonyM
    Jul 18, 2023 at 15:58
  • 1
    Say, are ICEs themselves on topic here? I'd now like to ask a question about how those things were built, back in the days before FPGAs and ASICs.
    – davidbak
    Jul 18, 2023 at 21:34
  • 4
    @davidbak, definitely on-topic. ICEs played an important part in building old computers. If questions about developing their ROMs in assembler and so on for those machines are on-topic, so should ICEs be.
    – TonyM
    Jul 18, 2023 at 22:24


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