Four-bit comparator circuit

A project log for PaperClip Computer

A few months ago I discovered "How to Build a Digital Computer That Works" and got excited about the project.

marceloMarcelo 04/20/2021 at 18:170 Comments

One of the great advances in computing was made by the German Z4 computer from 1945. According to a book, it was capable of comparing numbers within its programming.

Deutsches Museum: Universal computers

Z4: front view of operating console with relay cabinets in background. Deutsches Museum

Some days ago, I began to develop a unit capable to compare two numbers in order to add this capacity to my Paper Clip Computer.

Yeah, I know, I know.... the numbers that this computer can manage are small how to need a "comparator unit" but the pleasure was not in the "needed" but to build it and add it.

Searching the Internet I did not find a four-bit comparator circuit without chips; my goal was to follow the principles and philosophy of the computer: no chips, just basic electronic components and switches.

As I did not find any circuit, based on the book I created mine which is the one that I expose below. 

This circuit is capable of comparing two four-bit numbers with the only limitation that both must be positive or negative; if one of them is negative, this will be the lowest.

I will try to build the circuit that will be integrated into the computer (and the drum) in a blank panel that is on the left of the model and it will look like this:

The comparator will add one more command:


whose parameters will be:

COMP <Word 1> <Word 2>

and Word n should indicate:

The result of these two parameters will indicate whether:

Word 1 > Word 2

Word 1 = Word 2
Word 1 < Word 2

in the light panel.

The operation

The operation will be simple:

Step 1: Indicate is whether the numbers will be positive or negative.
Step 2: Select the position of the individual bits.
Answer: Read the result and use it according to the instructions of the program.