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A 16-Bit Computer Built with 40,000 Discrete Transistors
Videos for Engineers

A 16-Bit Computer Built with 40,000 Discrete Transistors (James Newman) - RF Cafe Video for EngineersI love this quote by UK engineer James Newman: "I just got suckered into it bit by bit." This story about Mr. Newman's effort to build a 16-bit computer using discrete components appeared in Popular Science magazine. Newman wanted to create a functional, programmable computer that would provide a visual indication of how data flow and computation occurs within a microprocessor; the result is his "Megaprocessor." To do that, he constructed this 10-meter-long by 2-meter-tall rack of circuits consisting of more than 40,000 discrete transistors (for creating the logic gates). An Intel 8086 microprocessor has ~29,000 transistors by comparison. He estimates he has invested about $50k (US) and about four years in the project. Visual keys as to its operation come from wiring an LED at the input and output of every gate - about 10,000 in all. The end result is a machine that looks a lot like the futuristic computers used as props in early science fiction shows like Star Trek. Until I saw Mr. Newman's discrete component computer running, I used to dismiss the blinking lights on Mr. Scott's instrument panels as a hokey attempt at representing computer activity, but now I see it in a different light (pun intended).

To date, the only programs written for the computer are the games of Tetris and Tic-Tac-Toe. A home-built joy stick provides user input. Mr. Newman hopes that a museum will want The Megaprocessor for use in a children's discovery exhibit as a motivation for future computer engineers and programmers.

You can read and see many photos on James' the Megaprocessor website.

James Newman Built This 16-Bit Computer with 40,000 Discrete Transistors

Incredibly, some morons have left nasty comments on the YouTube page criticizing him for wasting time on such a "useless" endeavor. What a bunch of slugs there are in the world!

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Posted December 8, 2017

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