Recreating The First Microcomputer With A $4 Chip
By James Grahame
We first mentioned John Blankenbaker's KENBAK-1 microcomputer back in 2007. Released 40 years ago, it is widely recognized as the world's first commercial microcomputer.
Mark Wilson recently decided to create a tiny recreation of the KENBAK-1 using an Arduino-based emulator. He explains, "Not long after discovering the Arduino it seemed to me it could be a fun project to re-create an early computer, one with just LEDs and switches. I looked at things like the Altair 8800 (1975) but it has 30+ LEDs and 20+ switches and seemed like too much work. Then I stumbled on the KENBAK-1 (1971). Perfect! Only a dozen LEDs and 17 switches. As a bonus it was the 30th anniversary of it's introduction [It's actually been 40 years - JG].
I thought it was something I could pull off as my first real Arduino project. Naturally I called it the KENBAK-uino. This is the end-product, it can be programmed via the buttons on the front panel and show outputs on the LEDs. It's a faithful emulation of the original CPU but with a few enhancements thrown in like pre-loaded sample programs and access to a real time clock."