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.
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!
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!
(...my apologies to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely
Hearts Club Band and the Beatles...)
- LED display:
- LED font for entire ASCII character set (funky, but workable).
- Built-in scrolling display with user variables for scroll rate, refresh rate.
- Scroll and/or refresh can be disabled so user has full control.
- Monitor command converts plain ASCII text into LED font using bit-mapped segment data.
- LED scroll buffer is bitmapped, so user can define his own custom displays with scroll and refresh.
- Monitor commands:
- Dump memory
- Disassemble memory
- Text dump memory
- Modify RAM memory
- Copy block
- Mini-assembler (similar to Apple ][ mini assembler)
- Xmodem file transfer (send and receive)
- Cold start EhBASIC
- Warm start EhBASIC
- A full-function floating-point BASIC in ROM!
- Load and Save via XMODEM supported.
- IRQ/NMI commands implemented, but serial input is using IRQ, and NMI is wired high.
- SYS command added to return to the Monitor.
- Full source code, and a 6502 assembler are included in the ZIP file. Open sbc.asm for instruction on how to assemble changes.
- The file BASIC.txt is a text version of a sample BASIC program to change the display buffer of both text and discrete LEDs. The discrete LEDs become a 5-bit binary counter.
- The file BASIC is the binary version that can be loaded using the BASIC LOAD command.
- Vintage Computer Festival wikipedia page.
- Vintage Computer Foundation home page, with links to the VCF shows they sponsor. Upcoming shows:
- TCF Trenton Computer Festival, in Ewing NJ -- April 2019.
- VCFMW Vintage Computer Festival Midwest, in Chicago IL USA -- Sep 14-15, 2019.
- VCFB Vintage Computer Festival, in Berlin Germany -- Oct 7-8, 2017 (when in 2019?)
- VCFe-CH Vintage Computer Festival, in Thun Switzerland -- March 17-18, 2018 (likewise).
- Videos of the Badge in operation.
- Youtube video on using the Badge's EhBASIC.
- 6502 Badge Manual in PDF format. It includes assembly instructions, schematic, parts list, parts sources, and a complete description of the hardware and software.
- EhBASIC Manual in PDF format.
- Badge firmware is a ZIP file with the source code, documentation, and tools to assemble and make the Badge's EPROM. Burn 16k.rom into a 27C128, or 32k.rom into a 27C256 EPROM.
- Daryl Rictor's hobby computer website, with loads of info on 6502 computer hardware and software.
- VCF-Elf. Our 2016 VCFMW project; a 40th anniversary recreation of the 1976 Popular Electronics 1802 ELF computer.
- VIP2K. Our 2018 VCFMW project; a recreation of the 1977 RCA VIP home computer in an Altoids tin.
- The 1802 Membership Card and Lee Hart's other 1802 stuff.
- The Z80 Membership card is another of Lee's vintage computer projects.
- Other microcomputer badges are at this page by Jeff Jonas.
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.
6502 Badge bare board -- just $5! Download the manual (at the link above) for a complete list of parts and sources. Shipping and handling; $3 USA, $10 international. SOLD OUT
6502 Badge basic kit -- $19.77. Includes the PC board, 2k RAM, and all parts that go on it. Shipping and handling; $5 USA, $15 international. SOLD OUT
6502 Badge deluxe kit -- $29. Includes the above, plus 32k RAM, a USB-serial adapter, 3 AAA rechargeable batteries, battery holder, and a clip to hang it on your shirt. Shipping and handling; $5 USA, $15 international. SOLD OUT
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!
- everything in original 6502 Badge, plus...
- a complete vintage computer on a 5.5" x 2.5" board
- 32K RAM, with battery backup
- 32K EPROM, with monitor, EhBASIC, sample games, and utilities
- 8-character alphanumeric LED display
- 9600 baud TTL serial port
- 8 tactile pushbutton inputs
- GameBoy Advance styling
- even a speaker for playing chiptunes
- 100% vintage parts and through-hole technology
- bare boards or complete kit
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 5/16/2019.
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