back to article Holy Crap! Bloke finishes hand-built CPU project!

Have you ever seen an up-close view of how a computer processor works? If you're in the UK, you can head over to Cambridge and see the process firsthand, thanks to the work of Reg friend James Newman, who has finally finished constructing his 16-bit masterpiece, the Mega Processor. You may remember the story of James and his …

"I have to find some kind of home for it at some point because I want mine back"

Science museum really should be interested in this (if they're not I shall stop taking my kids there forthwith!) What an amazing thing to have done, well done indeed sir.

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Very much so, especially if they put an old 16bit machine next to it for scale (Megadrive maybe?), and a modern system-on-a-chip under a magnifying glass at the end.

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Fantastic!

There is someone on the planet who is worse at tetris then me....

But he's surely better at soldering!

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This post has been deleted by its author

An incredible piece of work. Very impressive.

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Pint

Bah...

We did it with a single NAND gate (made from twigs and moss), and a couple of tubes filled with mercury. Turing complete. As soon as we powered it up, it offered us a free upgrade to Windows 10.

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Trollface

Re: Bah...

Moss? Mercury? We would have been happy to have had those. We had to make do with 3 day old dung and dehydrated dog pee. All we were offered was Vista. And were proud of it, too.

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Re: Bah...

Vista? VISTA? Mr La-de-da with your fancy memory protection. YOU were lucky. WE used to dream of Vista; whilst hand whittling our 2 bit CPUs using nothing more than hope and the dog eared edge of a wordstar function key strip; and one of the bits was permanently zero due to Father selling it and replacing it with an 'oola 'oop in the hope we wouldn't notice. Upgrade (paid for, mind!) was Microsoft Plus! for Windows 95, with the pinball game removed and the theme permanently set to that horrid brown one.

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Re: Bah...

"hand whittling our 2 bit CPUs"

2? You had 2????

We just had an MK SPST found in a junk yard.

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Pint

Well done

Well done. Very well done. A sincere congratulations.

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16 bits? Nicely done!

I would have gone for 8. Lazy me.

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Re: 16 bits? Nicely done!

discrete 6502 4000 odd transistors and only a foot square

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Pint

Re: 16 bits? Nicely done!

Indeed. I built a couple of 8-bitters, but (a) I used gates in little boxes with legs on, instead of those tripod thingies, and (b) 16 bits looked like a step too far (though it *would* have simplified some things!)

A pint, sir.

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Meh

Re: 16 bits? Nicely done!

@YAAC

Not really the same thing at all. That one has a much simpler processor, and all done on a single inaccessible 4 layer PCB with surface mount components.

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Re: 16 bits? Nicely done!

Just thought the readers would be interested - I didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition......

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 16 bits? Nicely done!

NO-ONE EXPECTS the Spanish Inquisition

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Anonymous Coward

Do I need to change the motherboard if I want to upgrade? Not bad for a first effort but if someone does this with valves I'll be truly impressed!

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Trollface

"Not bad for a first effort " ?

Troll alert!

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Holmes

Hydraulic valves, I trust?

Not thermionic. The world needs a CPU that doesn't rely on this new fangled electricity.

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....if someone does this with valves I'll be truly impressed!

Er, you have heard of Tommy Flowers and the Colossus?

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Re: Hydraulic valves, I trust?

Babbage been there, done that, (in theory).

https://plan28.org/

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Re: Hydraulic valves, I trust?

Not thermionic. The world needs a CPU that doesn't rely on this new fangled electricity.

Real valves? Just ask Hubert.

And Igor, of course

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Not the same thing

Amazing though the colossus is (especially when you go and visit and see it working), it's not a CPU. It was hard-wired to do a specific job.

What I love about computers - and especially the CPU bit - is that they aren't hard-wired to do a specific job. They'll do whatever you can think of. (Well, within reason!)

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Re: Not the same thing

But Babbage dreamt of a mechanical same thing:

Wiki:

The Analytical Engine incorporated an arithmetic logic unit, control flow in the form of conditional branching and loops, and integrated memory, making it the first design for a general-purpose computer that could be described in modern terms as Turing-complete.[5][6] In other words, the logical structure of the Analytical Engine was essentially the same as that which has dominated computer design in the electronic era.[3]

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Thumb Up

Re: Hydraulic valves, I trust?

"Babbage been there, done that, (in theory)."

And was the first to discover that, while drawing up the concept is relatively easy,

actually building the thing's a lot harder than it looks

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Re: Hydraulic valves, I trust?

Checkout the Z3 - relays. 1st turing complete machine.

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Paris Hilton

Is there a movie about that?

Would love to find that...

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Terminator

5-10 Hz relays

You could hear that Z3 Thing palpitating.

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Re: Hydraulic valves, I trust?

Hydraulic computers were used in the explosives industry for process control till the 1980s at least.

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Re: Not the same thing

"Amazing though the colossus is (especially when you go and visit and see it working), it's not a CPU."

Though this is true, there were early valve Turing-complete computers. I've lost it now but I did once have a Mullard computer valve catalogue.

However, the first working computer I ever encountered had germanium transistors.

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Pint

These are the things that separate Men from Mice.

Congratulations, James.

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Coat

But

will it run Crysis...

And all I ever built is a lightswitch. Thanks for making us all feel like tinkering knobheads.

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Coat

Re: But

Do not fret Disk0 – it is not the size of your lightswitch that matters, but how you use it.

Is that a wallet I see in your coat?

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"If you want to build your own then the key thing is to sort out exactly what you want to achieve (and why) as early on as possible," he said.

That's very good advice for any project and the key to successful project management.

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Bit Tedious

Back when I was a graduate student in the mid-70s I landed a project that was to cobble together some bits of old processor -- a graphics processor, bits of CPU and some vintage core memory -- so that we could attach this graphics processor to a minicomputer (an Elliot 803). This technology was mainly RTL -- resistor/transistor logic, or the descrete stuff that is mentioned here (although the graphics processor itself had a rather neat diode array microprogram memory). What you end up with are racks containing numerous cards -- one card per register. It was a lot of wiring up. The sort of thing that would merit one or two lines of VHDL these days. The only 'visualization' came from connecting neon light drivers to each register bit -- this was common practice in computers of that era -- with a telephone key that controlled the clock (run/stop/step).

Having done it once I don't think I'd bother to do it again. You end up with a lot of architectural compromises because of the electronics (like in this case you ran all memory accesses through the main processor's accumulator since you had to write the core after reading it, the accumulator doubling as the memory data holding register).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Bit Tedious

An Eliot 803! We learned Algol on one of those at Uni (Kent) around 1968 and then when I got a job I had to learn Fortran on an ICL 1903a.

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Re: Bit Tedious

"since you had to write the core after reading it, the accumulator doubling as the memory data holding register)."

Ah, the days when you had instructions like dca (deposit and clear accumulator) because not having to rewrite the accumulator cores saved time! The "clear accumulator" was just the effect of a read without following write.

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He should call it The Peach

An altogether more satisfying Reg headline would then arise.

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Pint

I managed a crystal radio once.

respect.

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Pint

A crystal radio was the extent of my electronic construction also.

I think this chap has earned a pint or two.

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"Congratulations, James. May your work live on for years to come."

Tell me that wasn't deliberate?

Either way, cpu James is Legend.

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Joke

Will it run Windows 10?

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Headmaster

"an area of about 10m"

(body)

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Exchange rate

£40,000 (currently ~US$58,188)

I think you'll be editing this article frequently throughout the course of the day

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Exchange rate

Why not just make it £1 ==== $1

that seems to be where it is heading and many US companies use that already. Better buy that stuff now because soon it will be £1 === $0.50 in the corporate market.

Gloting smile on my face as I have almost $2000 in crisp new $50's just waiting for the right moment to change them back. Looks like it won't be long now.

As for the rest of the BREXIT, all I can say is that 'this ain't gonna end well'.

PM Boris will soon be riding to the rescue (shudder)

The statement welcoming this by Donald Trump should be enough to tell you that this is not going to end well.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Exchange rate

£40,000 Currently $1.26

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Exchange rate

Could all be a bit academic really. Post-Brexit economy goes to s**t = no job = no wage. Zero pounds = $0 regardless of the exchange rate

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Amazing.

That's got to go into the science museum.

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Pint

I vote OUT for the Science Museum...

...and IN for the National Museum of Computing in Bletchley Park - surely?

But pint either way, splendid work!

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Well done

that man. A British eccentric.

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