The 6502 40th Anniversary Computer Badge

Build a 6502 Computer Badge
for your local Vintage Computer Festival

Celebrate the 40th Birthday of the
Apple II, Commodore PET, and Atari VCS

1977 was a momentous year for the home computer industry. The Apple II, Commodore PET, and Atari VCS were all introduced. They became the founders of three revolutionary microcomputer companies that changed the world. Interestingly, the "brain" inside each of them was the same MOS Technology 6502 microprocessor.

The 6502 was designed by Chuck Peddle of MOS Technology in 1975, at the dawn of the microcomputer revolution. It was an elegant design; simple, yet powerful. Its simplicity made it the cheapest 8-bit microprocessor on the market, endearing it to bean counters everywhere. And its power quickly captured the hearts of design engineers. By 1977, Steve Wozniak designed it into the Apple II. Nolan Bushnell had it designed into his Atari VCS video computer system. And Chuck Peddle designed it into the Commodore PET.

1977 Apple II 1977 Atari VCS 1977 Commodore PET 2001

It's common to have some kind of "badge" for computer shows and hacker conventions. There are even Vintage Computer Festivals (VCFs) for fans of classic computers, held in various cities around the world. 2017 was the 40th anniversary of these amazing machines, so we thought it would be appropriate to make a badge for VCF shows using a vintage microcomputer.

The badge is a complete working 6502 computer, with RAM, ROM, LED display, serial port, and on-board BASIC. It's built entirely with vintage technology; no modern or surface-mount parts. Connect it to a terminal or computer, load a message, and the badge scrolls it across the LED display. Or, show off your BASIC or machine language expertise by writing your own programs to do something truly spectacular!

VCFMW 6502 badge front VCFMW 6502 badge rear

Charlie Peddle's Lowly Parts Club Plan

It was 40 years ago today
That computers taught the kids to play
With chips to make a new kind of game
And the world has never been the same
So let me introduce to you
The micro called the 6502!

( apologies to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely
Hearts Club Band and the Beatles...)



We ordered a bushel of boards, and a passel of parts. Now YOU can have a real working 6502 computer, just like the pioneers of the microcomputer industry. Prices were kept low by scrounging for surplus and mining our junkboxes for parts.

Sep 2017: Showtime! The badge was a hit at the year's VCFMW show. We sold every kit we had in the first hour. We had more boards, so were madly ordering parts, kitting them up, and sending them out as fast as we could. Over 500 were sold at VCFMW and various other VCF shows around the world.

Aug 2018: Alas, the 6502 badges are SOLD OUT! I ran out of the 7-digit 7-segment LED displays. To make more, I'll have to find a new source, or modify the design for a different display. So, here is our next version...

6502 NameBoy
Badge version 2

Dec 2018: Ian found another box of a hundred LED displays. Now we can make a limited number of additional badges! The question is... what (if any) changes should we make for a 6502 Badge version 2? Write and let me know!

May 2019: Looking at the feedback, the most common requests have been for a) more memory, b) a better display, and c) buttons so a PC isn't required to enter data. This will be tough to do without raising the price, or "cheating" with modern technology. But let's try...

We need a "theme". Well, this the 30th anniversary of the Nintendo GameBoy. And VCFMW is put on by the Chicago Commodore Computer Club, whose members are big on the 6502 and gaming. So how about a 6502 Nameboy!

6502 Badge for VCF 2019 assembled


The circuit is designed, the PCB is laid out, and I just got my first prototypes. Next comes the hardware testing and software development. Stay tuned for further information! :-)

Created 6/2/2017 by Lee Hart. Last update 6/3/2019.
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