Briel KIM-1 8-bit Home Computer Clone
By James Grahame
Briel Computers have followed up their popular Apple-I clone with the Micro-KIM, a copy of the MOS Technologies KIM-1, the computer that sparked a frenzy in the hobby community in the mid-1970s. The KIM-1 was created in 1975 as an engineering development board for the brand new low cost 6502 microprocessor that became the heart of the Apple II, Commodore VIC-20, Atari 800 and dozens (if not hundreds) of other popular home computers.
Although intended for engineering research, the $245 KIM-1 proved irresistible to hobbyists. The single board design offered 1K or RAM, a 1 MHz 6502 CPU, a user-hostile 23-button Hexadecimal keypad and a six-digit LED display. There were also interfaces for cassette storage and a serial teleprinter. It seems prehistoric by modern standards, but the machine offered unbeatable value in the mid-1970s and proved to be an excellent learning tool for an upcoming generation of influential programmers. The Comp Sci department of my university used a handful of these affordable machines until the mid 1980s because they offered easy expansion through a 30-pin edge connector.
The modern Briel Micro-KIM sells for a mere $99 in kit form ($149 fully assembled). It offers 5K of RAM and a built-in RS-232 serial port to simplify communication with a PC-based terminal package. All in all, it looks like an interesting board for learning assembly language, although students might be better off learning their way around a Microchip PIC or Atmel AVR microcontroller instead, especially since most modern single-chip microcontrollers sell for well under $10.