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The bit that is probably most striking to modern eyes is the data representation. With 320 instructions there's simply no room for the "obvious" code to translate to and from a display representation. So everything was stored in BCD and operated on one (decimal!) digit at a time using a 4-bit ALU.



I was under the impression that BCD was commonly used in calculators. I know that my HP 48 used BCD and was able to address 4 bit nibbles.


You're right that BCD is very common for calculators. BCD was also commonly used in microcomputers, since you save all the binary-to-ASCII code for I/O. This is why x86 has a bunch of BCD instructions like AAA (ASCII adjust after addition), which was important enough to be a single-byte opcode.

The 6502 is notable for its highly-efficient and patented (https://www.google.com/patents/US3991307) decimal arithmetic mode. I'll write up its interesting circuits sometime. One consequence of the patent is the processor in the NES video game is a 6502 clone that lacks decimal mode.


I had thought the 2A03 didn't have BCD to save silicon-- but apparently they just crudely disabled it by removing 5 transistors[1]! Would Ricoh's second-source 6502 license have been more expensive if they included BCD?

[1] http://www.visual6502.org/wiki/index.php?title=6502DecimalMo...




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