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What prevents someone with some funding from creating and selling their own hardware? Let's ignore the legal side of things and assume the only limit is technology.

Could someone create something akin to a 1995-2000 time period processor without specialized equipment? What about slightly earlier, like the "computer pioneers" did?


marked as duplicate by The Photon, Passerby, PeterJ, Scott Seidman, Nick Alexeev Jul 31 '14 at 1:29

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  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Making your own PCB's with off-the-shelf chips is a thing. Lots of people do it. Making your own chips costs 10's of thousands to millions of dollars, so not many people do it as a hobby. \$\endgroup\$ – The Photon Jul 31 '14 at 0:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ See: electronics.stackexchange.com/questions/67598/… \$\endgroup\$ – The Photon Jul 31 '14 at 0:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThePhoton not many people is an understatement. I'd venture to say its around 0. Maybe 10 max. \$\endgroup\$ – Funkyguy Jul 31 '14 at 0:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ OK, so this is going a wee bit further back than, say, 1995 but I can't resist adding this link for an example of 'homemade' hardware: youtube.com/watch?v=EzyXMEpq4qw \$\endgroup\$ – Alfred Centauri Jul 31 '14 at 2:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you're permitted to consider an FPGA as raw material, then a 486-era processor is definitely feasible in terms of resources and logic. In terms of effort, of course, cloning a 486 would be a lot of work, to say the least! \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Drummond Jul 31 '14 at 8:47

If you're talking about fabricating your own IC like maybe an Intel '386 or '486 processor "without specialized equipment" you can forget it. However, the computer pioneers built the first computers with vacuum tubes, and there's nothing preventing you from buying a boatload of them and wiring them together to duplicate what they did. Or, you could get a bunch of TTL NAND gates and build a processor with them. If you just want to learn about digital logic you don't have to go that far, you could experiment with some simple circuits, then take a course in Verilog or VHDL. At that point you could implement a simple processor in an FPGA rather than wiring together a bunch of discrete gates.

  • \$\begingroup\$ "... there's nothing preventing you from buying a boatload of them ..." Except availability. runs \$\endgroup\$ – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Jul 31 '14 at 0:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ They still make them in China and Russia mostly for audio application, but you can buy all you want :) \$\endgroup\$ – John D Jul 31 '14 at 2:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh, I know you can still get them, I've seen them in surplus stores over here by the hundreds. But getting a hold of 10000 of them will still take some time (and some serious scratch). \$\endgroup\$ – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Jul 31 '14 at 2:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ LOL yes, absolutely, but of course it wasn't a serious suggestion anyway :) Though I know a guy who built a switching power supply with vacuum tubes just to see how it would work. \$\endgroup\$ – John D Jul 31 '14 at 2:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ There are guys making their own valves. In most cases though, why bother making/developing a new processor or other device when there's so many readily available for very low cost that fit the bill. Joining them together & programming them to your requirement is easily done & commonly done. \$\endgroup\$ – John U Jul 31 '14 at 10:14

Could someone create something akin to a 1995-2000 time period processor without specialized equipment?

Lol no.

What about slightly earlier, like the "computer pioneers" did?

Still no. The first computer pioneers were government funded, while the personal computer pioneers used commercially available parts to build their own computers. Could you recreate say the Apple Mac (Mac 128k) by hand with the right ICs and wiring? Yes. People have. But its not practical let alone trivial.

There are some experiments in tediousness where simple computers are hand made, but often still use mass produced ICs.

Intel’s fabrication plants can churn out hundreds of thousands of processor chips a day. But what does it take to handcraft a single 8-bit CPU and a computer? Give or take 18 months, about $1,000 and 1,253 pieces of wire.

Steve Chamberlin, a Belmont, California, videogame developer by day, set out on a quest to custom design and build his own 8-bit computer. The homebrew CPU would be called Big Mess of Wires or BMOW. Despite its name, it is a painstakingly created work of art.

Examples in pointless endeavors, for brag points. 4-bit transistor and passives processor.


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