Almost a year ago, we had sold over 500 Gigatrons, much to our own surprise. Since then, a lot has happened. We now have 6502 emulation and the Gigatron can run Apple-1 code, such as WozMon. We have BASIC running and there’s a great BASIC compiler, opening the way to create great games. Looking back on the original goal to play tic-tac-toe on a LED matrix, we are super chuffed that we have a system running BASIC that feels like an actual homecomputer from decennia ago – still without a microprocessor.
And today, Gigatron #1000 has found a new owner! Thanks to everybody for making happen what we could not have dreamt of when we started!
We are nearing the end of our current stock of Gigatrons. I suspect stock will last for a few months from now. We have decided to stop selling kits once our current stock has been sold. For us, the Gigatron was always about inventing new things, understanding technology, designing, fine tuning, tinkering, and also about meeting like minded people. Making it into a kit had its own charmes. Packaging and sending out kits resembles a plain job too much, but was needed to create a community of people that would also want to design, understand and tinker.
That community now exists, and wonderful things have already come from it, both hardware and software. So we will stop selling and providing support in a few months. Does that mean you can no longer get a Gigatron? No, you still can, because the PCB layout, the schematics and the software have all been open sourced. The only thing you probably cannot get is the wooden case that we had tailor made for the Gigatron. Somewhere in July or August, the assembly manual and more will published on an open source license as well. We hope the Gigatron will live on!
Recently we passed a milestone that far surpasses our stretch goals. Originally we said we’d be content if were to ship 50 kits and call it a day. Our tongue-in-the-cheek stretch goal was 200, because that’s the number of Apple 1’s ever produced. Now, a little over one year later, more than 500 Gigatron kits have shipped to over 40 countries. Recipients include the headquarters of Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple and … ARM. Thanks to all buyers for your greatness, kindness, feedback and support! It has been a blast for us, and we’re not done tweaking yet…
The 8-Bit Guy’s new review of Pluggy McPlugface (our PS/2 keyboard adapter), Tiny BASIC v2 and the new games in ROM v3.
It’s the same as we exhibited at the Hackaday Supercon last week. Speaking of which, the conference badge was screaming for this hack:
It’s in fact a cycle-exact emulation of the TTL circuit based on gtemu.c. The emulation runs at 3 frames per second instead of 60 frames. It still manages to play Racer. Typing in Tiny BASIC v2 goes remarkably well.
Today, a circle closed at the Centre for Computing History in Cambridge, UK.
How? Well, one week before this project started on Hackaday, I was at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, US, and jokingly posted the following remark on Facebook:
That’s an original Apple-1. The Apple-1 next to the Gigatron is a beautifully done replica. It’s fully functional, complete with cassette interface. The PCB is drawn in the same way and the chips even have 1970s date codes on them. It’s on display in an operational state. I could play around and type commands in the original Woz Mon to verify that the Gigatron version works the same.
Many thanks to David Williams for the great opportunity!
Oscar brought his Gigatron, with our prototype keyboard adapter and Tiny BASIC, to VCF West 2018 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. He came back with the “Judge’s Special Choice Award”. How cool is that! Utterly flattered…
TV Typewriter is just a stepping stone and by now we also have a small monitor program. To stay in retro style, this time we didn’t invent our own but we faithfully ported the Apple-1 built-in monitor program to the TTL architecture: the infamous Woz Monitor!
Now you can directly inspect memory locations, write to them and execute code on the hardware itself.
Steve Wozniak’s original is 254 bytes, our version is $254 bytes. About half of that is for terminal output, or character printing. The Apple-1 had dedicated hardware for that, something we’d consider cheating of course [tongue in cheek].
Source and GT1 object files are available in GitHub. A nice user manual for the original is here. With this step, all original Apple-1 firmware has been ported to the Gigatron 🙂
Now is the time to standardise on a file format for vCPU programs. Most hackers will start at the 16-bit programming level because it is easiest. Programs can be loaded into the system with the Loader application, without reprogramming the EPROM.
After some discussion with the emulator guys, we have agreed on a file format for both real boards and emulators: GT1 files. At67 quickly coded some demos in his vCPU assembler and produced GT1 files for them. These work in his great emulator. But his kit hasn’t arrived yet, so I tested it for him. See here “life3.gt1” and “lines.gt1” loaded on my development board with ROM v1.
It works! We have a standard for exchanging Gigatron programs!
Edit: Check out this video for what is brewing in emulator land. Sprites!
Woke up this morning and wondered where those new kit orders suddenly came from. It turned out that right at that moment Dave Jones (EEVblog) was building a board in a Youtube live stream with many hundreds of viewers looking on. I caught the last half hour or so. I couldn’t stand the suspense when he was searching for a cable. He didn’t use the manual, skipped all tests, still it worked 1st time. “This is disappointing, there is nothing to troubleshoot!”. Greatest compliment ever! THANK YOU!
Edit: the live soldering turned out to be a prelude to more to come. The Gigatron is now honoured with an official EEVblog episode! We’re truly and utterly flattered.