newbie building a scratch-built computer

Joe Giliberti starbase89 at
Mon Jul 30 12:07:23 CDT 2007

Thanks Ethan. I do have a good soldering iron, a non variable Weller that my
father got in the trash at AT&T about 20 years ago. Still works very well,
although it could use a new tip. I just finished recently soldering
connectors onto a board for an old pinball machine I have, which now works
very well. I have also built two kits from Ramsey, an electrocardiogram
machine and a color organ. My soldering skill is pretty good I think.

I'm leaning more towards the KIM at this point, mainly because of all the
documentation, as well as the expandability. I'd like to have something that
I can eventually program on a CRT and keyboard.

On 7/30/07, Ethan Dicks <ethan.dicks at> wrote:
> On 7/30/07, Joe Giliberti <starbase89 at> wrote:
> > Hello, everyone. My name is Joe, I am 17 years old, and live in central
> NJ.
> > I would like to figure out how to build a retro-type computer, either
> from
> > plans or from a kit. I am currently considering the Micro-KIM, as well
> as
> > trying to build a mark-8. Not sure what I want to do. If anyone can help
> me
> > along with this, I would be very appreciative.
> Hi, Joe,
> I have looked at the Micro-KIM and think it's a really neat kit.  I
> don't have one yet, but I'll be ordering a bare board as soon as Vince
> has filled all of the full-kit orders.
> If you are going to build any kit, ensure you have a
> reasonable-quality soldering iron.  I used to built kits in High
> School with a cheap Radio Shack soldering iron, and it shows in the
> inferior workmanship.  At my first college job, I was adding ECO
> (blue) wires with a Weller temperature-controlled soldering "station"
> (which went with me when the company closed, and was using last night
> on a Spare Time Gizmos kit).  This soldering iron cost my former
> employer about $250 in the early 1980s, and it still works!  It's
> worth spending a bit on tools that will last for decades and help you
> produce good product.  Metcals are really nice irons, but I haven't
> run across the right deal yet.  If you go to any Hamfests, you might
> be able to pick up an old Weller for well under $50.  New ones,
> though, are still expensive.
> If you are already experienced with soldering, you can skip this step,
> but you might want to consider picking up some inexpensive Ramsey or
> similar kits for practice.  I still have some of my early examples,
> and, I gotta say, practice does make perfect.
> The other thing to consider when building a kit is what you are going
> to do with it when you are done.  A working computer that isn't
> interesting is going to sit on the shelf, assembled but unloved.  If
> you are interested in the 6502, the MicroKIM is an excellent kit to
> built - there are lots of books on the 'net from the KIM days, and
> plenty of example code to get you started.   It's one of my favorite
> processors (I got my start on the Commodore PET).
> Another processor from those days to consider is the 1802.  They are
> still making them, amazingly enough; and old chips can he had for as
> little as $5 (though $20 is more common - new ones are closer to $90).
> Bob Armstrong still has Elf 2000 boards and partial kits, so you'd
> have to be willing to order the rest of your parts - not necessarily
> recommended for a first kit.
> Besides toggle switches and hex LEDs, if you spend a bit more and can
> handle soldering an SMT CF connector, the Elf 2000 has a disk board
> and an operating system.  Once you load the OS, you can even play Zork
> on the Elf 2000, if that sort of thing appeals to you.
> Personally, while the Mark-8 has its place in history, I think it's
> not as interesting of a modern kit to build.  The processor is
> limited, software examples sparse, and the original Mark-8, at least,
> was difficult, from a technical standpoint, to build.  It's one that I
> haven't been eager to tackle, even though I do happen to have an 8008
> or two on hand.
> So... I happen to think a 6502 or 1802 would be most interesting to
> play with after you've built one, but the Mark-8 has some undeniable
> nerd factor to it.
> I'm sure you will find plenty of offers for answers and advice here,
> no matter what you choose to build.
> Good luck,
> -ethan

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