Questions tagged [chip]

For general questions about computer chips and chipsets in retrocomputing hardware. Do not use for questions regarding a specific chip. Use that chip's tag instead.

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61
votes
14answers
20k 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 ...
46
votes
8answers
11k 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 ...
24
votes
9answers
5k 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 ...
24
votes
3answers
2k views

Is there any advantage of a ceramic microprocessor over a plastic one?

Looking at this page which refers to the initial release of the Z80 microprocessor, it prices the ceramic one at $65 versus the plastic version at $59. I know that at least with the 6502, the ...
19
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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 ...
18
votes
6answers
1k 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 ...
18
votes
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'...
13
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3answers
2k views

How much did the 6502 and Z80 cost?

It is said that the 6502 was cheaper than the Z80. As of 1978, what were the actual prices of the two chips, in wholesale quantity?
13
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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 ...
13
votes
1answer
653 views

What is the Kelly chip?

The Amiga 3000+ DevCon 1991 notes says: On the A3000+, these resources include the Amiga "Pandora" chip set (Alice, Lisa, Kelly, and Paula), However, a Kelly chip is not part of the official ...
13
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1answer
490 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 ...
12
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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.
12
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3answers
1k views

Speed of early ROM versus RAM chips

In the late seventies, up through around 1981, the maximum access speed of off-the-shelf RAM chips was around 2.6 MHz. Did the same speed limit apply to ROM chips of the same era? If not, what would ...
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 ...
10
votes
6answers
983 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 ...
10
votes
6answers
2k 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 ...
10
votes
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 ...
10
votes
1answer
705 views

What kind of EPROM was used for the Apple //e character generator, and how do I write a new one?

I have an old Apple //e clone, bought in Brazil (but assembled who-knows-where-on-Earth) that has not been touched for over 15 years. At least, from what I could see, it is a //e -- but not enhanced, ...
10
votes
1answer
367 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 ...
8
votes
3answers
867 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 ...
8
votes
4answers
712 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 ...
8
votes
1answer
230 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 ...
7
votes
3answers
593 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 ...
6
votes
4answers
718 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 ...
6
votes
3answers
932 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
1answer
337 views

What is this (seemingly optional) box around my Sun's idprom chip?

I just replaced the idprom (AKA NVRAM + battery; I used an ST M48T08-100PC1) in my Sun SPARCstation 20. The original one was inside a rectangular holder with a tab on each short end; it had ...
6
votes
1answer
214 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
467 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 ...
5
votes
3answers
431 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 ...
5
votes
2answers
492 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
votes
2answers
466 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
votes
1answer
248 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 ...
4
votes
2answers
149 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 ...
4
votes
0answers
240 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 ...
3
votes
3answers
1k 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 ...
2
votes
1answer
256 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
votes
1answer
490 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 ...
1
vote
2answers
403 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? ...
1
vote
2answers
199 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 ...
1
vote
1answer
378 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 ...
1
vote
0answers
128 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 ...