Is it possible to make a small computer from scratch using Intel processors? I am not talking about any advanced version like i7 or anything. Just 80236 or any old processor like that.


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Yes, of course, however it will take a lot of effort (and a bit of money.) Nowadays you would most likely use a microcontroller just because you need far less peripherals, and you could get it completed so much faster and cheaper.

This is a crazy article, Man builds computer from scratch, including the CPU! Here is the original link, thanks to Kaz.

This is pretty much exactly what your asking about, William's Homemade Computer. It runs on an old Intel 486DX @ 20 MHz. I'm not sure if the software is complete, but it looks quite cool!

Homemade computer

But consider If I want to make a operation at 500MHz speed, what should I do?

Update Yes you can, although it would require a lot more work since at high speeds there are many more things to worry about, like impedance, matching trace lengths, noise, etc. However like I said you can. There are many new devices made that use an Intel Atom processor and operate in the Ghz range.

For something running that speed, you would need to have a printed circuit board made, and assuming you're using an Intel processor, you would need to have the whole chipset, memory, etc. on that PCB. I really don't recommend it. You could probably get an older mother board and play around with it, otherwise you basically have to create it all on your own and that is just a lot of time, money and effort.

However if you use a 32bit ARM instead of an Intel processor, it would be completely doable and not too expensive. Something like the Raspberry Pi is a fast computer that runs at about that speed and only costs $35 USA. It would of course be more expensive to make your own, but not too much.

Take a look at How to build an 8-bit computer from scratch. The picture looks like a wiring mess from hell!

wiring mess from hell

Take a look at some of these videos:

In old time how could people like Steve Jobs come up with new computers, designed by themselves. He didn't have any chip design company like Intel. Then how could he arrange the chips necessary for his computers?

He used ICs and processors to make the first computer in his parents garage, Apple I. In fact the Apple I was a fully assembled circuit board containing about 60+ chips. However, to make a working computer, users still had to add a case, power supply transformers, power switch, ASCII keyboard, and a composite video display.

Apple I

You can buy/build a replica of that computer nowadays for ~$200 USA. Take a look at the Replica 1.

Replica 1

Some pictures of Steve Job's first computer, from here:

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You may want to take a look at the history of computers.

  • \$\begingroup\$ But consider If I want to make a operation at 500MHz speed, what should I do? \$\endgroup\$ – Inquisitive Dec 24 '12 at 17:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @sree I edited my answer to address your question. But short answer, it's not worth it! \$\endgroup\$ – Garrett Fogerlie Dec 24 '12 at 17:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ The real URL for "big mess o wires" is here: bigmessowires.com/bmow1 \$\endgroup\$ – Kaz Dec 24 '12 at 22:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @sree If you want 500 Mhz, then that is kind of at odds with using an 80286 chip, which maxed out at, what was it, 12? 16? Some clones went faster. \$\endgroup\$ – Kaz Dec 24 '12 at 22:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @sree probably vague and overly broad. It happens, it's not a big deal. \$\endgroup\$ – Garrett Fogerlie Dec 27 '12 at 10:07

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