Overclocking and Undervolting the 65C02 Family

A project log for Herring 6502 Computer

Modular 8-bit computer system based on the WDC 65C02 and a mix of modern hardware.

Colin MaykishColin Maykish 12/09/2021 at 00:150 Comments
Herring Backplane 3.3v

Until recently, I have been maintaining two versions of the Herring system - one with 5v-compatible components and another for 3.3v. The backplane regulates the 12v DC input so it's easy enough to install a 5v regulator in one and a 3.3v with the same pinout in another (I'm using LM1117 and LD33V respectively).

My reasoning for the distinction was that finding 5v compatible ICs seemed a lot easier since the 6502 was originally a 5v part, but having a native 3.3v system makes interfacing with modern hardware like FPGAs and microcontrollers a lot simpler - no need for level shifters all over the place.

Some of the modern components in the 6502 family made by WDC support either voltage natively as long as you have the S variant (in theory, the N are 5v only), so I picked up the W65C02S CPU and the W65C22S VIA chips. Parallel SRAM chips also commonly support a wide enough voltage range to work in either case. The main sticking point I had was finding ROM chips that advertised 3.3v support. It turns out my preferred 8KB ROM chips, the Atmel AT28C64B have lower voltage alternatives in the form of the LV and BV varieties (e.g. AT28BV64B). Either one of these will work at 3.3v. The trouble is actually buying them. I couldn't find any DIP packages for sale anywhere. I ended up buying the SO-28 versions on eBay and attaching them to DIP adapter PCBs.

The other problem is these low voltage versions are significantly slower. The LV version has 250ns access time compared to 150ns for the standard C version. Not a problem at the moment, but it's a potential issue in the future if I really want to push clock speed.

Low voltage ROM chip with DIP-28 adapter PCB

Other 5v-only parts include the ATF16V8B GAL that I'm using for address decoding and the 1602 LCD display.

This brings me to the point of this post: almost all of these "5v" parts work just fine at 3.3v. At least at 4 MHz, the 5v versions of the ACIA, VIA, ROM, and the GAL chips all function perfectly fine at 3.3v. I would imagine the upper limit for clock frequency will be lower when running everything at 3.3v, but I'm not overly concerned with pushing the speed. For what it's worth, I've had the native 3.3v components running at 8 MHz with good stability (some CPUs can do this and others can't, but that's a different post).

Almost all of these components work well outside of their voltage and frequency ratings. My ACIA chips for example are rated at 1 MHz (CDP65C51E1) and they run great at 8 MHz. I'll continue to experiment and try to determine the bottlenecks where I can and I'm planning on using the 5v system as a baseline if stability problems ever arise. One of my goals for this project is to develop some custom video and control hardware using an FPGA and running a native 3.3v system really makes this a lot nicer.

The only component that does not support 3.3v at all is the LCD Display. This is not due to the logic levels, but the LEDs that light the characters are just too dim when powered at 3.3v. There are 3.3v versions of the 1602 LCDs, but they're a little harder to find. The LCD board is a low priority anyway. With a functional serial monitor and VGA development coming along, there's not much need for it.

For reference, here is a list of components I've confirmed working at 3.3v. Some of these advertise support for 3.3v. Others don't. This is more or less a complete list of ICs I've tested in Herring. One note: the GAL doesn't actually work at 8 MHz, so the 8 MHz testing was done with an FPGA as the address decoder and clock generator.

TypeComponentNative 3.3v
3.3v @ 2 MHz
3.3v @ 4 MHz
3.3v @ 8 MHz
CPUWDC W65C02C02S8P-10
ACIAHarris CDP65C51E1yesyesyesyes
ACIAWDC W65C51N6-TPGnoyesyesno
VIARockwell R65C22P2
GALAtmel ATF16V8Bnoyesyesno
ROMAtmel AT28C64B
ROMAtmel AT28BV64B
RAMAlliance AS6C62256