ideas for Hacker mode in v2

Using, learning, programming and modding the Gigatron and anything related.
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legoxx
Posts: 1
Joined: 07 Sep 2018, 13:47

ideas for Hacker mode in v2

Post by legoxx » 10 Sep 2018, 11:17

Hello there,

I really like what you have achieved with v1 of a gigatron. Having a kit with all the parts and PCB is great.

What I miss a little is a Hacker mode, sort of Ben's SAP-1 computer with instructions stepping, LEDs all
over the board to see how computer is calculating.

I belive that's one of the main reasons why I would like to build CPU from LS series, to
visualise the inner workings.

Having a 16bit, sprites, colors, 100Mhz:-) I would just use a real CPU for that;-)

great work and thanks to the team.

Peter

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marcelk
Posts: 109
Joined: 13 May 2018, 08:26

Re: ideas for Hacker mode in v2

Post by marcelk » 10 Sep 2018, 16:04

For the current series we left it out because extra design time, component count, PCB space and cost: the thought of an adjustable and stoppable clock, a switch, many LEDs and resistors and perhaps the need to cater for more current draw: it sounded very scary at a time when most of the other stuff hadn't settled yet. We knew the Ben Eater computer has an entire breadboard dedicated to the clock alone and the system with all its LEDs isn't safe to be powered from a USB port. On top of that, the video signal will be gone so that limits the fun.

What you can do, and what should work on the current board, is put ICs in sockets and attach LEDs on existing lines somehow along with the pins. The neat way is with some breakout boards on ICs of interest. Nothing stops one from replacing the clock generator as xopr has described in the other subforum. This might be a cool side project: the "blinkentron" at 6.25 Hz, 1/1000000th of the speed. It would be cool to attract attention on retro computer shows.

Another tack is to stay closer to the Gigatron philosophy: "what's not in hardware should be done in software". In this case that means emulate the system, dozens of LEDs and slower clock as vCPU program! After all, we do have 19,200 virtual LEDs (aka 160x120 pixels) available already, in no less than 64 colors :-). I can envision a "Trainer.gt1" application that does just that: show and emulate the system on the hardware itself, with virtual LEDs on signal lines, and a way to edit the memories and step thought the cycles. It can still map the real peripherals to the virtual ones...

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marcelk
Posts: 109
Joined: 13 May 2018, 08:26

Re: ideas for Hacker mode in v2

Post by marcelk » 11 Sep 2018, 17:30

I can envision a "Trainer.gt1" application that does just that: show and emulate the system on the hardware itself, with virtual LEDs on signal lines, and a way to edit the memories and step thought the cycles. It can still map the real peripherals to the virtual ones...
Thinking about this approach a bit longer, it also allows for opening up the individual ICs, show their internal structure at logic gate level, and put virtual LEDs there... Hmm, I'm afraid I have another winter project...

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