MicroBeast is A Z80-Based DIY 8-Bit Computer Kit

MicroBeast is A Z80-Based DIY 8-Bit Computer Kit

MicroBeast is an eight-bit, Z80-based DIY computer kit built using readily available components. The device features a built-in keyboard, a unique 24-character display,  USB-C for power, and various I/O options. Additionally, it integrates the CP/M operating system, which allows users to experience building and operating a retro-style computer using currently available components.

As an embedded engineer we all have worked with 8-bit computers, like Arduino, PIC, and many other controllers and processors. but most of those processors are overkill and include a lot of features that we often don’t use, but that is not the case for Andy Toone’s eight-bit MicroBeast Computer Kit.

The Z80 chipset is a famous microprocessor developed by Zilog in the late 1970s. It was a well-known CPU used in early computers, gadgets, and embedded computers. It was more advanced than similar chips of its time and played a big role in the early days of personal computers.

The Z80 CPU operates at 8 MHz and has 512 KB of RAM and 512 KB of Flash ROM. This ROM contains the CP/M operating system and a built-in monitor utility for managing low-level tasks. For I/O, it features a Z80 Parallel I/O (PIO) chip with two 8-bit ports, 12 GPIO pins, and a software-driven I2C interface, which is primarily used for the display and a real-time clock.

The MicroBeast includes a 16550 UART for serial communication, connecting to both an FTDI-style header and a USB-C interface via a CP2102N converter. Additionally, it features an RC2014-compatible expansion header, allowing expansion cards to directly access the Z80 CPU’s bus.

MicroBeast can be powered via USB-C or an auxiliary barrel jack. Additionally, there’s a work-in-progress emulator, BeastEm, which mirrors the MicroBeast’s core functionality, helping users evaluate the computer kit.

Features and Specifications of MicroBeast 8-Bit Computer Kit

  • CPU: Z80 CPU, 8-10MHz.
  • Memory: 512K RAM, 512K Flash ROM.
  • Display: Unique 24-character, 14-segment display & virtual console.
  • Keyboard: Integrated 47-key keyboard.
  • Power: USB-C for power and data; auxiliary barrel jack also available.
  • Operating System: Running CP/M 2.2.
  • I/O Options:
    • GPIO Header with 12 I/O pins.
    • FTDI port.
    • Speaker output.
    • I2C Header for controlling I2C devices.
    • RC2014 compatible expansion bus.
  • Connectivity: USB-C for power and serial communication; built-in serial to USB adapter.
  • Assembly: Comes with all components; PCB with surface mount parts pre-assembled; includes schematics and assembly guide. Requires basic soldering equipment and skills.
  • Additional Features:
    • Battery-backed real-time clock.
    • Laser-cut keyboard frame.
    • Kit is designed for expansion, customization, and hacking with full access to the CPU bus.
  • Resources and Support:

The MicroBeast kit can be pre-ordered on feertech.com, offered on a first-come, first-served basis with an estimated lead time of two weeks. It is priced at $240, with regional equivalents being £190 and €220.

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About Debashis Das

Tech Content Creator | Hardware Design Engineer | IoT Enthusiast | Digital Storyteller | Video Creator | From crafting digital dialogues at Semicon Media to orchestrating online engagement at Electronics-lab.com, my journey is about making tech talk interesting and accessible. In the quiet corners of the day, I advocate for easier tech education, one tutorial at a time. Let's connect and keep the digital dialogue going!

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