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BLINKENLIGHTS

A project log for MC68000 Computer

BenchoffBenchoff 03/26/2014 at 23:120 Comments

This is something I've written about in a front page Hackaday post, but I think it's time to go over a little more of the theory of what I'm doing here. First, a video:

This is called freerunning the processor. Basically, it executes one instruction, the program counter is incremented, the address is increased by one, and the CPU just sits there, doing nothing, cycling through its address space. Attach a few LEDs to the address pins, and you have an incredibly complex binary counter, also known as blinkenlights.

That's the simple explanation. It's a fair bit more complex in practice. I need to tie a few pins to +5 volts, and ground DTACK. Oh, what about the instruction to freerun the processor? NOP, right? NOPe.

When the 68k first resets, it reads the program counter vector. The program counter vector must be an even address, and the opcode for NOP is $8E71. See that one at the end? That means NOPping the CPU from boot would create an illegal address exception. Then bad things happen.

So, I need an instruction that does nothing, and is even. Inclusive OR Immediate (ORI) does this. Specifically OR.b #0,d0. Bonus, this instruction in hex is $0000, or all zeros. All I need to do to freerun the processor is ground all the data lines.


My first go at freerunning the CPU only used one LED. This LED was tied to the A20 line through an inverter. I hate to waste the five extra inverters on that chip for a single LED, so I added another three.

Now I have status lights for the top four addresses in the computer. Since I'm putting the ROM at $FF0000, the serial port at $FE0000, the video peripherals at $FD0000, the microcontroller at $FB0000, I have a graphic representation of what the CPU is doing with all its peripherals. That's pretty cool. Useful blinkenlights.

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