During his career as an engineer at Intel, Tomar Chronicle decided to build an original 16-bit computer that no one had built before him for the past two and a half years. In a legal interview, he describes moments of frustration and the first moments when he realizes that what he has built is resurrected.
Tens of thousands of students from 400 different institutions around the world have taken the Nand to Tetris (or Nand2Tetris) course by Shimon Shocken and Noam Nisson, in which they build a computer system using a simulator. Not surprisingly, many of them today work for some of the world’s largest hardware companies. Tomar Kronik, an engineer at Intel Israel, also took the course during his degree, but he decided to take the course one step further and see if he could build this virtual machine in the real world. Spoiler: He won.
Makes Intel the core of the day, and builds a computer from the 80s at night
According to the Chronicle, he is currently working as an engineer in Corfe’s department responsible for the logical development of Intel’s CPU cores. He was a graduate student in electrical engineering at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. As part of his studies, he took the Nand2Tetris course, a fully open-ended hardware course taught at hundreds of universities around the world for more than a decade. “This is a course that many who have studied say it’s the best. It’s a kind of workshop where computers are built from logical gates, that is, Nand, the most basic building block of a computer, builds the computer itself, builds an assembler, compiler, software transition layer, and finally you have an operating system. Writes some games in the language. It teaches you everything from the iron to the top, ”says Chronic.
As part of the course, participants write code that actually represents the hardware on a simulator and tells you if it works in the real world. For no apparent reason, the Chronicle decided that he was not satisfied with the same simulator that told him if the hardware would work in the real world, but would like to see if it actually works in real life. “I looked on the internet and saw that no one did it. No one rented the original chips and made it by hand. Making a computer out of 80s components is not fun, but it stole me from proving it. This computer works for real magic to show it.”
After the fourth year of study, he decided to go for it, and received a large order from Ali Express, which included various tools needed for the task, including chips, controllers, PS2 keyboards, breadboards, wires, watches, and distributors. In thousands of shekels. But before you blame the Chronicle for the global chip crisis, he says the chips he ordered for the mission are very old chips because they are not manufactured today. He said what he got was like snatching it from other old equipment.
So can this computer move from the simulator to the real world? As you may have guessed, this is much more complicated than that. The Chronicle says that in the first half of the design phase everything works just like in a simulator, but this design assumes non-physical assumptions: of course, you are given an address in memory, so he tells the computer which key you know. Press on the keyboard and the processor will need to read it. In the simulator, you have a program that translates what you click, but when you first create a computer at home, you have to design and create a system that does it for you. “It took more time,” the Chronicle says. “The big challenge was to integrate the on-screen keyboard and processor so that everyone could access the same RAM. Of course there was the challenge of adding designs that were not studied in the course, in my opinion no one designed them, and then took it all together and designed and connected to the breadboard.”
Although the Chronicle proudly describes today his wonderful project he has been working on for the past two and a half years, when I asked him about the difficult moments, he said: “Something bad. I said it would take a week. Come back and see if I’re fun and happy with myself.” After he occasionally took a 3-week break to “breathe,” he said, he would go back to study the problem and explore it from a simple understanding. “Every problem you see has a clear cause and needs to be found.”
He talks about strange problems related to tensions, vibrations, strange analog sounds, strange artifacts, missing frames, and numerous bugs, and each time he fixes one, he finds that there are other bugs behind it that need to be fixed. “There were moments that were discouraging, but I was not ready to give up.”
About 1,000 hours later, at the end of the Chronicle project, he described the moment as anti-weather: “I’m seen signs of computer life for a long time. Now it’s working a little more, every now and then, I told myself it’s working, it felt good, but there were those moments. “
The novel continues on old and new technology
The end result is a computer with a 16-bit processor, 32K RAM, a keyboard, and a screen capable of running games such as pong. The Chronicle describes it as a computer with processing power in the ’80s, but unlike the whole room, this computer may hold on to your desk.
Although the specifications were not optimistic, we had to remove it from our system and ask the Chronicle, “Is this Crisis working?”. Unfortunately, the answer is no, “it’s the simplest computer out there, but in the real world it’s hard to do.”
The Chronicle published the entire projectHackday So you can see the whole process going on, of course we asked him what the next project was: “Oh, oh or oh. The next project is my honeymoon with my wife. That’s what I’re doing. He says he got some inspiration from a YouTube video of someone who connected to a WiFi interface.
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Problem solver. Incurable bacon specialist. Falls down a lot. Coffee maven. Communicator.