For years, I have wanted to try building an 8-bit computer from bare chips—ever since as a young teenager I saw a build log where someone was building a computer around a 68HC11. I stared at those schematics for hours unable to decipher much beyond which thick line was the data bus. The idea was planted though.
I've learned much since then, but there is still much, much more that I don't know. I think I'm finally at the point where I know enough to at least get started.
Over the years as the idea has jumped in and out of my head, I've debated different processors—6502, 6811, 8080, Z80 ... even 16-bit chips like 8086—but the one that has always stood out is the Z80. When I was a kid, my family had an old Sanyo MBC-1000 which ran CP/M on a Z80. That old machine with its green phosphor display is etched into my memory.
In March of this year (2015), my uncle gave me his old electronics kit and a bucket of miscellaneous components and wires. Sorting through this I found a Z80, a Z80A, and a D780C-1 Z80 clone. Suddenly I had no excuse to not give it a try.
I'm working with the D780C-1, because it was in the best shape. To start out, I've built an oscillator out of a 40106b, running at about 10Hz. I've got it free-running with data pins all pulled low (NOP). It may not be much, but there is a certain feeling of accomplishment seeing the address lines count up.
It's hard to find a 7-segment decoder with hex support, and all the ones I have on-hand are BCD only. So, I'm currently driving the displays with an Arduino and a couple of '164 shift registers. Messy, but it works for now. I've ordered a Terasic USB Blaster, and I have an Altera MAX 7000 CPLD from a digital logic class. Plan is to drive a 4-digit multiplexed display with it so I can see the entire address bus.