Zolatron 64 6502-based homebrew computer: mission accomplished

Okay, so I’m going to call it. This project is finished.

Well, not finished exactly. No project is ever finished. You can always do more. And so it is with the Zolatron – I have ideas and plans that will keep me happily tinkering away for years.

But I’ve met my main objective – which is to better understand how computers work. I’ve gained insights into subjects like hardware addressing and address decoding, interfaces and their protocols, programming CPLDs, the fundamentals of operating systems and much more. Along the way I’ve honed my circuit and PCB designing skills (mostly through mistakes), I’ve had a lot of fun and I’ve blown up surprisingly few chips. (A few transistors died and a Raspberry Pi is limping badly but that’s about it.)

I’m now at a point where my main attention is going to shift to software. I have one game (Hunt the Zumpus) running well and a couple more in mind.

This was never going to be about capability. I’ve occasionally had people suggest moving up to the 65816 microprocessor, or try pushing the clock speed (it remains stubbornly at 1MHz). But if I wanted performance or capability, I have other toys I could play with. Even many microcontroller boards could easily outperform this machine. And I also have proper computers.

I don’t even care that the persistent storage achieves transfer speeds of only 500 bytes/sec (read) and 1,000 bytes/sec (write). This project was always about going my own way as much as possible, making things up as I went. I’ve enjoyed the process of thinking, “I wonder if you could do it this way” and finding out the answer. (Sometimes it’s no, but it’s yes more often than you’d think.)

I feel really satisfied that I’ve got to this point. I now have a fun platform that I can play around with.

There may still be blog posts on the Zolatron from time to time, whenever I do something with it I think might be of interest to others. But most of the updating now will be contained on the project’s main pages, where I’m busily adding documentation.


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