Superboard III: Briel Recreates Another 1970s Microcomputer
By James Grahame
Vince Briel seems to be on a one man quest to remake each and every cool 1970s microcomputer. His past designs include a tiny version of the Altair 8800, the Apple I, Commodore KIM-1 and even a VT-100 terminal emulator.
His latest creation is a wicked version of the Ohio Scientific OSI 600, the Superboard III. It features a low power (3.3V) WDC65C02 processor at 1 MHz and includes 32K RAM and 1K video RAM (25x25 characters with the standard OSI text and graphic character set - a switchable 32x32 mode is also available).
Unlike the original, there's no cassette interface but there is a 9600 bps serial port for loading programs. If you'd like a slightly more modern method of loading data, there's also a USB port that can be used to power the system and transfer programs using a terminal program such as Hyperterm.
The original Superboard II was a brilliant example of early microcomputer miniaturization because it was an all-in-one system with the keyboard, processor, memory, video and I/O circuits all on the same board. Briel's recreation achieves the same effect with custom keycaps on Cherry MX mechanical switches that emulate the look of the original with a better feel.
One nice change is the functionality of the Break key. On the original Superboard II, its proximity to Return caused all sorts of problems because it caused a cold reset (losing everything in memory) when tapped accidentally. To avoid this sort of nastiness, the new version requires you to hold the key for 3 seconds before performing a reset.
There's also a 40-pin expansion port, although the pinout is different than the original to prevent enthusiastic vintage fans from attempting to plug old 5V expansion cards into the low voltage 3.3V Superboard III and causing damage.
All in all, this might be the most impressive Briel recreation yet and I can't wait to see what he's got up his sleeves for the future. I'd love to own a Commodore PET-2001 clone. Just saying.