Have you ever seen an up-close view of how a computer processor works?
If you're in the UK, you can head over to Cambridge and see the process firsthand, thanks to the work of Reg friend James Newman, who has finally finished constructing his 16-bit masterpiece, the Mega Processor.
You may remember the story of James and his ambitious project from the Summer of 2015, when he was in the doldrums of building a fully-functional processor from discrete components, the large-scale electronic pieces that were used decades ago to build the earliest computers and are now integrated on an atomic scale for modern microprocessors.
James' ultimate goal was to show the public how computers work by blowing machines back up to a viewable scale. To do so, he re-used modern transistors and circuit boards to make a hand-wired processor.
The process wasn't cheap. James tells us that, now that everything is said and done, the full system cost around £40,000 (currently ~US$58,188), including the costs of 40,000 transistors, 10,000 LEDs, and over a million solder joints.
The result, however, is an amazing look at the basic components on which every computer runs. The 16-bit machine spans out into an area of about 10m and shoots up to a height of 2m.
Want to help? Of course you do. First and foremost, our man could use some free space at a local museum, office or showspace...
"I have to find some kind of home for it at some point because I want mine back," Newman says.
"I've had four years tripping over boxes all over the place, it has consumed a vast amount of material. Just endless amounts of stuff."
Newman started his project back in 2012, and construction of the processor began later that year as a solitary endeavor. It turns out, however, he was not alone in his interest to return to the roots of computing. After word spread of the project, Newman said that he came into contact with a number of other people who shared his goal.
Should anyone decide to follow in his footsteps, Newman has a few words of wisdom gained from his years of toil:
"If you want to build your own then the key thing is to sort out exactly what you want to achieve (and why) as early on as possible," he said.
"But this is motherhood and apple pie. I didn't know what I was going to do when I started. I was on a journey. So I went all over the place and took the long way."
Cliche, perhaps. But when a man hand-solders his own microprocessor, he earns his grammatical indulgences. Many can code for modern silicon, but few can show the true intricacy of the everyday technology we take for granted.
Congratulations, James. May your work live on for years to come. ®