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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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9 votes
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Did ROM chips jump from 8K to 32K?

This is a question about mask ROM (not EPROM) chips of the 8-bit era. The size of DRAM chips increased by factors of 4, so there were 4kbit chips, then 16kbit, 64kbit, 256kbit etc. The natural width ...
rwallace's user avatar
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1 vote
0 answers
112 views

Where to find datasheets for MOS (Commodore) 85xx chips?

It seems difficult to find any detailed technical information online for the 85xx chips used in later Commodore 8-bit computers. For example, there's an excellent archive at http://www.6502.org/...
Brian H's user avatar
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3 votes
1 answer
241 views

When did work begin on the VIC-II?

The VIC-II, the video chip used in the Commodore 64, was the most sophisticated video chip of any 8-bit personal computer. I'm curious about how long it took to design. According to Wikipedia In ...
rwallace's user avatar
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3 votes
2 answers
313 views

Did anyone use quarter-bad RAM chips?

There was a time in the early 80s when 64k RAM chips had a significant defect rate, such that half-bad ones could be obtained at a discount. Some computer manufacturers such as Sinclair and Tandy took ...
rwallace's user avatar
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13 votes
11 answers
5k views

Did any 8-bit device ever merge a CPU core?

Looking at https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c1/Commodore-64-1541-Floppy-Drive-04.jpg I started thinking the following: There are too many chips in that drive. It is crying out for a ...
rwallace's user avatar
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6 votes
3 answers
1k views

Why doesn't the Acorn Electron use fast page mode?

The Acorn Electron, trying to provide 32K of RAM as cheaply as possible, uses four 64k chips, for a 4-bit data bus. Obviously, this involves trading away some performance. (In all the following ...
rwallace's user avatar
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8 votes
1 answer
1k views

Did any 8-bit computers use 16kx4 RAM chips?

An 8-bit computer wanting 64K of RAM, could most straightforwardly use eight 64kx1 DRAM chips (64kbit, 1 data line). The Commodore 64 initially did this, but in the mid-80s, the cost-reduced redesign ...
rwallace's user avatar
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13 votes
3 answers
2k views

How did the Fairchild Channel F provide a 2K frame buffer?

The Fairchild Channel F, released in 1976, was the first modern game console, in the sense of being the first one to accept games as software, rather than just modular configuration switches. Looking ...
rwallace's user avatar
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12 votes
1 answer
590 views

How much did it cost to develop the 8-bit era graphics chips?

I'm interested in the development cost of different kinds of chips in the 70s and 80s, both for its own sake and because it aids in the understanding of historical events; in technology and business, ...
rwallace's user avatar
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1 vote
0 answers
312 views

Was hardware scrolling patented?

One of the most valuable graphical features on early computers that had it, was hardware scrolling, that allowed the horizontal position of the screen to be adjusted by one or more pixels, thereby ...
rwallace's user avatar
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4 votes
0 answers
393 views

How did Z8000 implement mul/div in few transistors with no microcode?

The Z8000 was Zilog's entry in the 16-bit microprocessor market; it was unsuccessful in large part, as I understand it, because it took too long to debug. According to https://thechipletter.substack....
rwallace's user avatar
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5 votes
1 answer
292 views

DOA 40 “chip” on a voice synth

I was at the Ontario Science Center with the kid today and came across one of the few bits of tech from when I was a kid, a machine that speaks the word “coffee”. It consists of six seemingly ...
Maury Markowitz's user avatar
3 votes
2 answers
401 views

When did CMOS processors become the fastest?

The earliest CMOS microprocessors (RCA 1802, HP Stirling RISC, et.al.) were slower than contemporaneous NMOS microprocessors and Bipolar logic computers. (IIRC, both the 1802 and the 6502 could be ...
hotpaw2's user avatar
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13 votes
3 answers
517 views

How much extra die area did a CMOS CPU take?

Starting in the late seventies, the microchip industry generally switched from NMOS to CMOS, primarily because CMOS circuits use less power, though they also have other advantages like more noise ...
rwallace's user avatar
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1 vote
1 answer
269 views

What cultural problems did TSMC Camas run into in 1995? [closed]

According to a speech made by Morris Chang in Arizona, transcribed at https://interconnect.substack.com/p/globalization-is-dead-and-no-one When I started TSMC back in 1987, I had a dream. Probably ...
rwallace's user avatar
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4 votes
1 answer
317 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 ...
jhnlmn's user avatar
  • 211
15 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, ...
forest's user avatar
  • 2,029
0 votes
1 answer
174 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 ...
Borislav Stefanov's user avatar
1 vote
0 answers
368 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, ...
Cristóbal Toledo's user avatar
3 votes
1 answer
421 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 ...
Bartek Malysz's user avatar
25 votes
4 answers
6k 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,...
rwallace's user avatar
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7 votes
1 answer
537 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.
Gunther Schadow's user avatar
3 votes
1 answer
2k 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 ...
rwallace's user avatar
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3 votes
1 answer
584 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 ...
rwallace's user avatar
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16 votes
2 answers
888 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 ...
rwallace's user avatar
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7 votes
4 answers
3k 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 ...
rwallace's user avatar
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19 votes
2 answers
2k 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, ...
rwallace's user avatar
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10 votes
2 answers
978 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 ...
rwallace's user avatar
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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 ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 61.2k
3 votes
1 answer
111 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 ...
Maury Markowitz's user avatar
9 votes
4 answers
2k 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,...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 61.2k
6 votes
1 answer
413 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 ...
popeymon's user avatar
  • 423
15 votes
1 answer
1k 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 ...
cjs's user avatar
  • 26.6k
5 votes
2 answers
480 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 ...
natevw's user avatar
  • 2,947
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. ...
Kaz's user avatar
  • 8,146
5 votes
2 answers
457 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_(...
rwallace's user avatar
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2 votes
0 answers
414 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 ...
rwallace's user avatar
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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", ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 61.2k
4 votes
1 answer
707 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 ...
rwallace's user avatar
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15 votes
2 answers
3k 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 ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 61.2k
4 votes
0 answers
152 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 ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 61.2k
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 ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 61.2k
1 vote
4 answers
318 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, ...
harlandski's user avatar
  • 2,953
39 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 ...
supernoob5000's user avatar
7 votes
3 answers
1k 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 ...
cjs's user avatar
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10 votes
1 answer
690 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 ...
SondarTreen's user avatar
2 votes
2 answers
519 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 ...
Alex's user avatar
  • 471
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 ...
rwallace's user avatar
  • 61.2k
5 votes
1 answer
832 views

Electronic toy from the early 2000s where you push back in elements that pop out

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 ...
HeavenlyHarmony's user avatar
4 votes
0 answers
523 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 ...
rwallace's user avatar
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