Not Dead. Really.

A project log for Lacey Mk I

A Homebrew 68k Computer for Shits & Giggles

Matt LaceyMatt Lacey 01/29/2019 at 08:550 Comments

So this project did stall, but it's not dead. It's still sitting on my desk where it was the last time I really tinkered with it, but it's not been torn down. It stalled because I hit a bit of a bump with it, and then life in general has prevented me from addressing things further, until now.

What Caused the Stall?

So after getting the DTACK sorted out properly (see the last project log) I had a kind of working system. I wrote a simple program to the EEPROM which would read and write from RAM in a loop so that I could analyse what was going on with my Logic Analyser and ensure everything was working properly. Where it got confusing is that it appeared to work correctly for a few bus cycles, and then go off the reservation; everything would be fine and then out of nowhere it'd be processing illegal instructions.

Trying to work out what was happening with a 16 bit address bus and 16 bit data bus with an 8 channel analyser definitely proved tricky, but eventually, with the help of an online friend I realised that I'd cross a couple of wires on the data bus between the CPU and ROM. Once that hurdle was cleared I was feeling pretty good about things, and instead of writing up something here (which I should have done) I started trying to add a MC68681P DUART to the breadboard, and at that point the whole setup just got 'too flakey' for want of a better term. I've thought about trying to find where the problems on the breadboard circuit are but it felt like a hefty obstacle, with work and life in general leaving me with little free time, the stall happened.

Next Step

It seems to me that getting away from the breadboard will be the key to getting this going again. I've played around with some crystal oscillators to replace the CPLD I was using for a clock, and have started playing around with various tools to generate schematics and some PCBs. I'm planning to simply use pin headers for bus connections and try and get the basic CPU, RAM & ROM combination working on a card or two before I start adding serial again. Having a bus setup will help modularise things and make it easier to add new functionality without impacting old.

Right now I'm wasting a little time trying out different tools again. I liked DipTrace but thought I should make the effort to learn something more "standard", and it's likely a toss-up between KiCad and Eagle, both of which seem to have their pros and cons in terms of UI friendliness. That said, i've tripped over Upverter and it's also showing promise, so who knows.

More to come soon!