This kit is in the heart of CMOSS, in fact it was the first time the name was used on any project ! making it the first CMOSS project.
This is a project that has gone through a vast amount of designs and shapes over the years, where i was determined to try to build my own computer from scratch, with almost no essential knowledge known. I thought it would be a perfect opportunity, once finished, to develop it into a kit that could be sold to those who want to learn themselves. I thought i could use the knowledge i learned and the best ways of presenting that information, the way i found so, for a student to teach other students in a way how they they can, and want to learn, with no fuss and no countless hours searching the internet for hard to find pre-internet information.
This Project is still in progress, and probably always will be, being improved every way i can every time i learn a new skill or method that is better than the last.
I hope with the aid of modern technology and tools that I should eventually design essentially my dream 8-bit computer, being almost as fast as modern computers suing modern or custom chips.
The main bulk of the time was designing how the computer would complete tasks. After some research on whats actually inside a computer i quickly learned some of the fundamentals being : Long Term Storage, Processing, Ram Memory, I/O and more.
After working out a way of storing numbers in memory, for the RAM memory (Random Access Memory, used to store data being used, such as variables), i adapted a way i learned form multiple YouTube videos, creating a circuit that i constantly used through the design. This however may change, as you can buy actual RAM chips, similar to those used in retro computers, which stores a vast amount more information for a much cheaper price.
I then found out and adapted ways of adding and subtracting binary numbers, becoming a basic part in a developing ALU (Arithmetic Logic Unit). This is a substantial part of a CPU, being the heart of the computational parts of this computer.
After i got these cards working, testing them was vital. Even though i used a breadboard and components, and could have run a testing program made on an Arduino, the real part of the testing is testing the cards together. For this i had to produce proper way of connecting the cards together to allow communication.
Because i had a lacking knowledge in this area, all i knew was that a bus could be used, which can be a main path for data to travel between card such as these. Without adding additional logic on a sort of motherboard / slot board, cards shorted each other out as soon as one will output an answer with any voltage positive bits, in my newer design i am implementing buffers that rectify this problem, rather than a bank of or gates used in this previous version. I then experimented with different methods to try and "slot" cards into place, with wires as physical data lines coming off the plugs.
Once the green ( secondary prototype ) cards were made, i found a much better way of connecting the cards as fins, that would be very good for cooling. This comprised of a two part motherboard, one part for the cards to plug into, and another as control logic to control data-flow and operation off and between cards.
This design seemed unpractical, and very limited, as it was hard to see information displayed by cards, via on-board LED's, and difficult to plug them in. As well as this, style is a major factor in this computer, with it needing not just to be practical but attractive to buyers, as a kit which contains the style that people love from old computers. For this a better and enclosed option had to be comprised.
This quickly led to the design you see above, where cards could be slotted into the plastic case, and connected by a subordinate board to link two relevant cards together. These plugged cards had a multi-coloured lead, that then plugged into the original slots of the first half of the motherboard.
This led the memorable design that is constantly seen around CMOSS, sadly this box one meant to be one of 4, and cost way to much singularly to be developed, no where near to a price that would be appealing to the general customer. So much that it was the only box ever produced with the price of parts alone of approximately £300.
After some time developing, and a lot of replacement, a single board design was produced that would include a more sophisticated board, that included the same capabilities as the two needed prior, as well as parts to include logical capabilities. This design was a more full ALU, that can not just add and subtract but also compare the size of numbers, for example to see if they had the same value or not. This board was also going to have on-board memory, more than that previous, meaning less data will need to be transferred between the processing cards and RAM cards during processing tasks.
A mock up rig was produced, to test the capabilities of the card, seeing what other logic could be reduced. "Stylish" prototype cards were produced within this process, to try to come up with an improved layout and appearance, to make the system look more organised.
This design was also able to be powered by a small USB power pack, to test its portability capabilities, as well as a way of powering the machine without the need of a huge PC gaming power supply such as before.
Due to the fact that the previous slotting idea lead to bad connections, from no actual custom made supports made form cards, and with no way of making them, a new way of securing the new more powerful card was required.
In this design, the cards were going to be screwed down with stand offs and vibration resisting washers, for a more secure fix. Additional to this, all four 2-bit processing cards could now fit in the same box, meaning only the one enclosure was required.
2019 is a new year for CMOSS, where we are finally putting the name out, and seeking out the help of viewers, to make quality shows, showing retro, and general tech hobbyist what they want to see.
From new research i have done, better circuit designing tools and additional knowledge learned from a university course i am taking; a far better improved, insanely more powerful machine is now in development with a new dedicated series right around the corner.
The new design will be able to run programs implementing graphics on a built in screen with a full keyboard. This following an architecture more similar to common machines, and would be used like any standard 8 bit home computer.