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Apple2fpga: Reconstructing an Apple II+ on an FPGA (2008) (columbia.edu)
114 points by luu on Oct 7, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 21 comments

I'm surprised there's no mention of the Mega II which was essentially a IIe on an ASIC and was designed by Apple as early as 1984:


It's a pity those chips aren't around anymore because I suspect that if folks could use them as a basis for an Raspberry Pi-esque DIY Apple IIe it might be really popular.

The scaling of marginal vs. NRE costs (not to mention core-limited vs. pad-limited chip area) has put us in the somewhat odd situation that it's actually cheaper to crank out an SoC capable of running an emulator than it is to implement the thing you want in < 1% of the transistors.

This brings back memories.

The Commodore 65 was a prototype of a faster C64 with Amiga like graphics and sound.


The Mega65 is a clone of the C65 with a 50mhz 4510 CPU using FPGA as well.

They should all share notes.

It's always impressive to me that it takes a 233 MHz(+) processor to emulate a 1 MHz one.

I think modern N64 emulators need at least a 2 GHz processor. (Less for ARM ala RPI, IIRC due to similarities in the instruction set.) And there's even an SNES emulator (BSNES) that needs >3 GHZ but it's schtick is that it aims to be completely accurate.

*Obviously these are not hard numbers. The point is the order-of-magnitude.

Most of the processing power in modern 'cycle-perfect' emulators goes into other parts than the CPU and needs to run at a higher frequency than the emulated CPU. Usually the video hardware is the most expensive.

80's home computers are essentially lock-stepped multi-processor systems, where the CPU is just one processor, the others are (at least) the audio- and video-generator.

Especially the video generator can become expensive, since it needs at least be fast enough to generate a new line every 64 microseconds, and if the video generator has things like programmable resolution, color palette and sprites (which a lot of 8-bit home computers had), this can be quite a lot of "unpredictable" work per pixel.

Since all those 'special processors' ran synchronized per clock cycle, it is impossible or at least very hard to write efficiently multi-threaded emulators, since they would need to synchronize threads after each emulated clock cycle (it might actually be a bit easier for newer emulated systems where subsystems are often not synchronized that strictly).

Earlier emulators from the 90's often got away by skipping some of the 'cycle perfect' requirements and/or implemented some clever but complicated hacks which didn't really emulate the original hardware, that's why they could still run many games on much slower host hardware.

I talked to some emulator folks recently, and apparently timing accuracy is almost an impossible to solve problem on non-ancient consoles.

Funnily enough, there are some games that work on crappy emulators, but not on the accurate ones, until they get sufficiently accurate enough.

Just think... Woz designed this thing when he was 26. Amazing.

26 is a bit on the high end. Mark Zuckerburg was just shy of 20 when he created `thefacebook.com', and Bill Gates was about 19 1/2 when he founded Microsoft. But I’m not disregarding the achievement; Larry Page and Sergey Brin were about 25 when they founded Google.

I'd say it's a lot easier to create a website than it is to create a computer in the 70's.

Written in PHP no less... Zuckerburg is nothing like Woz in terms of technical knowledge, acumen and ability. The comparision is almost an insult.

Nowhere in my post did I compare their projects. I compared their age. And there’s nothing wrong with using PHP as a framework for your website. Mediawiki is written in PHP and Wikimedia’s websites (including Wikipedia) run on Mediawiki. Just because a language is bad doesn’t mean the projects written in them are bad. Also, AFAIK, Facebook doesn’t run on PHP anymore.

I think everybody's acting offended because you're comparing their ages when they made something successful, not what they made.

The what is a huge nuance, I personally think Zuckerberg would be able to create a device like this at this point in time.

While you were just comparing ages you accidentally bundled achievements and that's a big no no.

True, but there were other amazing computer hardware folks that really don’t get much credit. For example, Jay Miner’s chip development on the Atari 8-bit machines. It would be amazing to get some history with other hardware wizards of the time.

Jay Miner got plenty of credit for the Amiga. His achievements at Atari (in the Atari 2600 and Atari 8-bit computers) may have been less well known, but many Amiga fans know Jay Miner.

Oh for sure. Especially nowadays with YouTube, you have 14 year olds who learned programming and then made tens or even hundreds of thousands releasing a game on the iOS App Store. I did mention Bill Gates though.

There were 14 year old kids releasing C64 and ZX Spectrum games.

No one knew you were 14 when you put an add in Antic, Analog, etc. The funny thing is some of the 14 year old kids had better art and boxes than the big companies.

Believe it or not there is still a quarterly publication dedicated to the apple ii


Holy moly, there's still a yearly KansasFest! And you can get an Apple II ethernet card:


I'm gobsmacked. Maybe I gave up on my Apple II too soon!

Oh, man, we're just looking at the tip of the metaphorical iceberg. There is a ton of new hardware for Apple 2s - replacement power supplies, sound cards, coprocessor cards, solid state floppy emulators, VGA drivers, and even FPGA cards (Carte Blanche).

There is also new software being written for the Apple 2 - take a look at Nox Archaist, for example: http://www.6502workshop.com/p/nox-archaist.html

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