Tag: archeology

Chip becomes subject of archaeology

Technology is moving so fast that chip design is fast becoming of interest to archaelogists.

According to Archaeology magazine, to  which we get to discover where our Finance Manager hid our expenses claims, a team of boffins is dead keen on digging inot a MOS Technology 6502 microprocessor.

The chip, which was created in August 1974 was designed by a group of eight designers after they left Motorola. While there are many myths about the creation of the chip, including one where it was created after Zeus had sex with a swan, it takes archaeology to find the actual truth.

The MOS 6502 was was inexpensive and easy to program—two features that ultimately helped it sell tens of millions of units. They would end up under the bonnet of the Apple Is and IIs, Commodore PETs and 64s, BBC Micros, Atari 2600s, and Nintendos. There in lies the problem as most Apple I’s and II’s were destroyed by fire in what Jobs’ Mob considers a feature. Commodore PET’S are believed to extinct and the archaeologists have to tap fossil records. We guess there must be few British Schools that still use BBC Micros thanks to Cameron’s budget cuts,

Archaeology said that the British company ARM makes microprocessors inspired by the simple elegance of the 6502 for devices such as the iPhone, Blackberry, and Android smartphones.

The original schematic for the 6502 was sketched out by hand on a drafting board and the creator of the 6502’s schematic doesn’t know where that document is today and the understanding of how this chip performed its functions has gone the way of the Holy Grail, Noah’s Ark, Atlantis and the US Dollar, which archeologists have failed to find.

The archaeologists have been reverse engineering the chip to find out what made it tick. Barry Silverman, a Toronto-based software consultant and part of a three-person team said that the 6502 is the last of that generation where processor manufacturing was a work of art,

He said it was a like a bit of piece of pottery, but the way it was created is gone. Even though it hasn’t been that long.

Silverman, his brother Brian, and Greg James,treated the chip almost as if it were a dig site. They “excavated” the 4-by-3.5-millimeter chip, took high-resolution photographs of its layers, and mapped its circuitry.

It then resulted in a website called Visual 6502 (www.visual6502.org), which shows  a simulation of the chip at work,.