Questions tagged [chip]

For general questions about computer chips and chipsets in retrocomputing hardware. Do not use for questions regarding those specific chips which already have their own tags. Use that chip's tag instead.

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3
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1answer
80 views

Good book on the history of fabrication?

Crystal Fire is a great book about the development of the transistor, but much less so for the IC side of things. What is the equivalent for ICs, and especially microprocessor development? I'm ...
8
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4answers
400 views

Why did later CPUs use microcode instead of PLA's?

If you look at a die photo of a 6502, about forty percent of the chip is taken up by what's obviously microcode, both by its regular structure and by the obvious need for such from the instruction set,...
5
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1answer
189 views

Are all 64k x 4-bit ICs interchangeable for Amstrad-era ZX Spectrum 128k +2/+3?

There were 4 64k x 4-bit Integrated Circuit chips in the Amstrad-era Sinclair ZX Spectrum +2 and +3 models. These are known as the +2A, +2B (both +2 "black"), +3 and +3B (also both black cases). I ...
11
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0answers
452 views

Why did some MOS 6502 packages have holes in them?

Someone was recently selling an early MOS 6502 CPU on Ebay (date code 0277) in a ceramic package that had a couple of holes in it. You can see them clearly (under the tape, which presumably was not ...
5
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2answers
227 views

What are typical causes of IC failure in early microcomputers?

When troubleshooting older electronics, the usual culprits tend to be connections and capacitors. The "solid state" components, if they have failed, usually in the role of victim e.g. bad voltage ...
7
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2answers
1k views

Did general purpose I/O controller chips come with fewer than 40 pins?

I'm aware that 40-pins was a high-water mark for dual-inline package chips for a significant time; many CPUs of the early 1980s (8086, Z80, 6800, 6502, etc) used 40-pin packages, but no larger. ...
5
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2answers
399 views

Why were the Cell SPEs unable to operate without instruction from the PPE? [closed]

The Cell, the CPU of the PlayStation 3, contained one conventional core called the PPE, and up to eight specialized vector cores called SPEs. According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cell_(...
2
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0answers
215 views

What was the cost of the PS2 chip in the last PS3 to have it?

The PlayStation 2 provided backward compatibility with the PS1 by essentially incorporating an entire PS1 on a separate chip. It kept this arrangement permanently. The PS3 started off providing ...
4
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3answers
484 views

Why were the PlayStation 2 CPU and GPU initially separate chips?

At the heart of the PlayStation 2 were a pair of custom chips, described in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PlayStation_2_technical_specifications CPU: MIPS III R5900-based "Emotion Engine", ...
4
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1answer
225 views

How wide were the RAM chips in the PlayStation 1?

In earlier years, it was common for DRAM chips to be one bit wide, so that an 8-bit machine would use eight of them to form one memory bank. Occasionally, 4-bit-wide chips would be used, e.g. the ...
4
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1answer
569 views

Why did the PlayStation 2 implement backward compatibility that way?

It is well known that the PlayStation 2 implemented compatibility with the previous console by essentially incorporating a PS1 on a chip. The fact of backward compatibility is unremarkable as far as ...
4
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0answers
124 views

Annotated die photo of 3D graphics chip

I'm interested in how graphics hardware has worked at different tech levels. Having looked at an annotated die photo of the VIC-II for example, I now feel I have a much better understanding of how it ...
18
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7answers
3k views

Cost of unrestricted sprites

All the game consoles of the second through fourth generations, and several early home computers, had sprites, which were valuable though costly, e.g. the VIC-II spent 2/3 to 3/4 of its area on ...
1
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4answers
135 views

Will any modern EEPROM programmer work with the IP3604/КР556РТ5?

Just to say I'm completely new to the world of PROM and I'm a bit bewildered. My ultimate aim is to be able to program these Russian 4k bipolar PROM chips, which are the equivalent of Epson IP3604, ...
35
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3answers
3k views

Why did the VIC-II and SID use 6 µm technology in the era of 3 µm and 1.5 µm?

In short, 3 µm looks like it was the "standard" process size at the time, and it was available to Commodore before the chips were designed. Therefore it looks like using the larger 5 to 7 µm process ...
7
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3answers
751 views

What were the first chips with hardware support for SPI?

The SPI four-wire serial bus is a very common interface between chips and other small devices these days, but was originally developed by Motorola in the mid-1980s. What were the first Motorola and ...
8
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1answer
313 views

Anyone have more information on the “Hammerstein TV Games” 1st gen console?

I have what appears to be an early games console (supported games are variations on the theme of "pong", or ball and paddle games) manufactured in South Africa. Does anyone have more information or ...
2
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2answers
312 views

Will the circuit work normally if different chip speeds (eg 8088-2 and 8255-1)

Old processors came out with support chips. That is, there was a family - the processor and its chips. Over time, the same kits came out with higher frequencies. Will the circuit work properly if ...
2
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1answer
570 views

SNES PPU die photo

The heart of many classic home computers and game consoles was the graphics chip, yet these tend to be less well-documented than the corresponding CPUs. Still, there are die photos of two of the most ...
2
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1answer
419 views

Identifying an old game from the early 2000s

I'm hoping this question belongs here as this is the closest site I could find that matched my situation. Many years ago, around late 2003 or 2004, I came across this electronic toy that sort of ...
4
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0answers
296 views

How many transistors in the Nintendo Super FX chip?

The Super FX coprocessor, released with Star Fox in 1993, provided 3D rendering capabilities that were absent from the SNES itself. Given that 3D gaming was quite widespread by the late eighties, it ...
5
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3answers
907 views

Why are RAM chips 1 or 4 bits wide?

I don't know whether it's still the case, but at least in the early days, it was common for RAM chips to be one bit wide, so e.g. an 8-bit computer would install them in groups of eight. I gather at ...
14
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2answers
1k views

Did the transmeta processor architecture work by binary translation?

Transmeta Corporation produced the Transmeta Crusoe Processor architecture. (Transmeta was also famous for having Linus Torvalds work there at the time.) We can see from the wikipedia article that ...
5
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2answers
594 views

Why are the internals of NES Gamepaks so small compared to the case?

As you probably know, in the technology world, smaller is generally considered to be better. Companies compete to make the most portable phone, or the smallest laptop, but apparently Nintendo didn't ...
4
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2answers
502 views

What's with the empty space on this die?

Here is the Valvo 2650. (Also known by other names, in the UK as Signetics 2650). What struck me about this image is the amount of empty space! If you look at a modern-day chip, say a Skylake or ...
4
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1answer
281 views

List of Intel microchips

Where could I find a list of all of the microchips released by Intel, including microprocessors, Rams, roms, storage devices. Etc. I have checked Wikipedia, and they have the processors, but not any ...
18
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2answers
3k views

Reason for gold lines on old ICs?

A lot of older (ceramic) ICs have a gold-plated line extending from the die cover to the edge of the package. Did this serve a practical purpose or was it just bling? I suspect that it might be what'...
1
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2answers
633 views

NES PPU die photo

I found a die photo of the NES video chip: http://visual6502.org/images/RP2C02/NES_RP2C02_G_8F1_1B_20x_1600w.jpg I think the big block of fairly regular circuitry at the bottom left is the sprites? ...
46
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8answers
12k views

Why were chips socketed in early computers?

In many early computers, many of the chips were in sockets rather than soldered directly to boards, e.g. this series of pictures of the Tandy CoCo 1 has a note to the effect that all the chips are ...
12
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7answers
1k views

Part-bad chips other than RAM

In the early eighties, you could buy half-bad 64k RAM chips at a discount. Some cost-conscious manufacturers such as Sinclair and Tandy took advantage of this, buying eight such chips to make a 32K ...
3
votes
1answer
731 views

Were 64k RAM chips $5 in 1981?

According to http://smithsonianchips.si.edu/augarten/p64.htm "In 1981, they slashed the cost of 64K RAMs from some $25 each to about $5, and the price hovered at that level throughout the following ...
6
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1answer
331 views

When did MOS Technology upgrade to 5µm?

I'm trying to understand exactly why various chips were designed the way they were at different times, in the service of which I have a rather specific question: When did MOS Technology upgrade to ...
20
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2answers
2k views

Who made the Atari 2600 TIA video chip?

At the heart of the Atari 2600 was the TIA video chip, designed by Jay Miner, well known for his later work on the chips for the Atari 400/800 and the Amiga. Who manufactured the TIA? As an in-house ...
10
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1answer
533 views

VIC-II transistor count

I'm curious about the transistor count of the VIC-II, the video chip in the Commodore 64. According to http://visual6502.org/wiki/index.php?title=Chips_in_our_collection the Atari 2600 TIA chip has ...
11
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3answers
2k views

Were video chips specific to the CPU?

Modern graphics cards are essentially miniature supercomputers in their own right, with their own memory and instruction sets, but in the eighties and late seventies, a very common kind of personal ...
62
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14answers
21k views

Why did some early CPUs use external math chips?

While enjoying the response to "Why did CPU designers in the 70s prioritize reducing pin count?" In 1979 IEEE was hard at work at coming up with a standard for handling floating point numbers, and ...
8
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3answers
1k views

A different kind of sprite system

Early consoles and home computers that were optimized for games, often provided sprites. From the viewpoint of a game developer, these were good to have, though one always wanted bigger sprites, to ...
6
votes
4answers
2k views

Amiga memory bandwidth

Looking at a timing diagram for the various kinds of memory access occurring on the Amiga http://amigadev.elowar.com/read/ADCD_2.1/Hardware_Manual_guide/node02D4.html it seems to be saying that video ...
5
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2answers
167 views

Can fast page mode depend on the first data retrieved?

As early as the seventies, some computers used RAM in page mode, in which you can read two or more words from sequential locations in rapid succession by only supplying the column address once, and ...
9
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3answers
1k views

When did CPUs start using page mode DRAM?

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dynamic_random-access_memory#Page_mode_DRAM Page mode DRAM is a minor modification to the first-generation DRAM IC interface which improved the ...
19
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6answers
2k views

Limiting factor on sprite sizes

Early consoles and home computers that were optimized for games, tended to provide sprites. From a game programmer's viewpoint, these were good to have. Of course, one always wanted more and larger ...
10
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4answers
1k views

Video chip for hypothetical 1988 arcade game

I have a project where I aim to create a retro arcade game cabinet, the technology would be ~1988. For now I am planning to only simulate the system on my PC in order to develop the game. The ...
15
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1answer
613 views

Where are the blueprints of MOS chips?

Atari historians have been able to find documents and tapes of chips and hardware developed at Atari. E.g. http://atariage.com/forums/topic/154479-new-gtia-chips/ . Nothing like this is happening ...
10
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6answers
2k views

Sound chips in 1977

By the early eighties, there were a variety of off-the-shelf sound chips suitable for use in home computers and arcade games. What about 1977? That seems to have been just a little early; I'm not ...
6
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4answers
1k views

Reading the program on an EPROM chip

Is it possible to build a breadboard device to simply view the code burned into a 28 pin or 40 pin DIP chip? I do not intend to do any erasing/programming on the chips, just wanted to view what is on ...
12
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7answers
3k views

Were there any “off the shelf” graphics chips that supported 2D sprites in the 70's and 80's?

I'm looking for "off the shelf" graphic IC's that supported hardware sprites. By "off the shelf" I mean chips that were designed to be used in various machines and not designed specifically for one ...
26
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10answers
6k views

Graphics chips in 1980

Suppose you were trying to build a computer with a color graphics display in 1980, you have limited engineering resources and time to market is critical, so you want to get as many of the parts off ...
1
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0answers
148 views

Historical cost of semiconductor fab [closed]

How much did a state-of-the-art semiconductor foundry cost in or around 1980? Ideally I'd like to get data on how it changed over time from the seventies to present day, but even a single data point ...
13
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1answer
1k views

Number of transistors in the C64

How many transistors are there approximately in the C64 if we consider every chip on it? I think that it is something around 50.000 but I'm not sure.
7
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1answer
539 views

Transistor count of early video chips

There are a number of sources that give transistor counts for different CPUs over the decades. I'm looking for transistor counts for early video chips. in particular, I'd be interested in transistor ...