Questions tagged [chip]

General questions about computer chips and chipsets in retro hardware. Use a specific chip’s tag instead if available.

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4 votes
1 answer
297 views

Where can I find good photos of old chip making equipment?

I recently stumbled upon modern hi-res color photos of ancient soviet chip making equipment from the 80s: https://web.archive.org/web/20220520030420/https://ralphmirebs.livejournal.com/226489.html ...
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16 votes
2 answers
2k views

Were there any enhancement chips that vastly outperformed the main CPU?

Were there any enhancement chips in officially-released games that were CPUs themselves and which ran the game code itself, relegating the role of the main CPU to that of a thin client? To elaborate, ...
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0 votes
1 answer
161 views

How the technology keeps improving [closed]

How does the technology keep improving despite having everything discovered already? I mean the same sized chips and electronics are used from year to year but with every new version of the main board ...
1 vote
0 answers
247 views

Problem with hackrom on real GBA cartridge

This is a problem that has brought me headaches, so I will try to explain as best as possible. I have flashed with a Gbxcart several GBA ROMs in real cartridges (repro), working without any problem, ...
3 votes
1 answer
307 views

Can Alice be hacked to use more than 2MB Chip Ram

Is it possible to hack Amiga Alice chip and use more than 2MB CHIP RAM? It's a long shot, but I assume if it was possible someone would have done it already? The maximum amount of Chip RAM in any ...
24 votes
4 answers
5k views

When did half-bad RAM chips stop being available?

The ZX Spectrum sold with either 16 or 48K RAM, necessitating an optional 32K memory bank which was achieved in a characteristically (for Sinclair) cleverly frugal way: with half-bad 64kbit DRAM chips,...
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6 votes
1 answer
438 views

Are there any 1980's video chips still available besides the TMS9918?

The TMS9918 is still available, which is nice. But are there any other (better) video chips still on the (after-)market in any numbers? Obviously Commodore's VIC-II is not one of them.
3 votes
1 answer
1k views

Did the Nintendo S-SMP really contain 3 million transistors?

According to http://www.vgmpf.com/Wiki/index.php?title=S-SMP The S-SMP (perhaps: Sony - Sound & Music Processor?) is the audio CPU used by the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It consists of ...
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3 votes
1 answer
385 views

How much RAM was sold each year in the 1970s?

I'm trying to get an idea of the quantitative parameters of the computer industry in the era that saw the rise of personal computers. Of course, the industry as a whole was old by then; companies like ...
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16 votes
2 answers
756 views

What process node were 4k and 16k DRAMs first made at?

In the history of computers, much is said of microprocessors, for good reason, but the relatively unsung RAM chips were equally important. Of particular significance were the 4kbit and 16kbit dynamic ...
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7 votes
4 answers
2k views

Could any computers use 16k or 64k RAM chips?

An interesting feature of the Apple II was that it had three rows of sockets for RAM chips, each of which could take either 4k or 16k chips. That meant the minimum configuration was 4K (cheap) but it ...
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19 votes
2 answers
1k views

How were 4-digit IC part numbers assigned?

It seems that integrated circuits of the 1970s tended to have 4-digit part numbers. This includes not only the ones that came to be well-known like CPUs (Intel 4004, 8008, 8080, 8085, 8086, 8088, ...
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10 votes
2 answers
891 views

Did any 8-bit CPUs use dynamic memory for registers?

According to https://jamiestarling.com/project-8088-the-8088-cpu-pinout/ One thing to note – the 8088 registers are made from dynamic memory cells – they have to be refreshed. The minimum clock speed ...
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15 votes
2 answers
2k views

Who owned the rights to the TIA chip?

The two most important chips in a game console are the CPU and GPU. In the Atari 2600, the CPU was a cut down version of the 6502, a very common low-cost microprocessor. The GPU was the TIA, which was ...
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3 votes
1 answer
104 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 ...
9 votes
4 answers
1k 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,...
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5 votes
1 answer
340 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 ...
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16 votes
1 answer
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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 ...
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5 votes
2 answers
380 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 ...
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7 votes
2 answers
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. ...
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5 votes
2 answers
439 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_(...
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2 votes
0 answers
358 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 ...
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8 votes
4 answers
1k 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", ...
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4 votes
1 answer
543 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 ...
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15 votes
2 answers
2k 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 ...
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4 votes
0 answers
140 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 ...
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18 votes
7 answers
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 ...
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1 vote
4 answers
267 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, ...
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38 votes
3 answers
4k 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 votes
3 answers
960 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 ...
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10 votes
1 answer
566 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 votes
2 answers
444 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 ...
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3 votes
1 answer
1k 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 ...
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2 votes
1 answer
589 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 votes
0 answers
447 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 ...
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6 votes
3 answers
2k 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 ...
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15 votes
2 answers
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 ...
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9 votes
2 answers
2k 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 ...
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4 votes
2 answers
574 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 ...
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4 votes
1 answer
321 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 ...
user avatar
22 votes
2 answers
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'...
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4 votes
2 answers
1k views

What are the circuits captured on this photo of the NES PPU die?

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? ...
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47 votes
8 answers
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 ...
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13 votes
7 answers
2k 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 ...
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3 votes
1 answer
1k 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 ...
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6 votes
1 answer
490 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 ...
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21 votes
2 answers
3k 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 ...
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11 votes
1 answer
818 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 ...
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13 votes
3 answers
3k 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 ...
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64 votes
14 answers
23k 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 ...
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