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Z80 Computer - Introduction

The Z80 homebrew computer is an idea which I have been kicking around for quite some time - It wouldn't be fair to say it stretches back to the 1980s but the project certainly has its roots in my obsession with computers as a child.

I had an early introduction to computers - my Father worked for a very progressive and forward looking company who decided early on that computers would be seen in every office of the future and therefore invested in getting their employees computer literate. The date was around 1981 and the company bought a large number of different Micro computers and made them available for employees to take home and try out over weekends. It was probably at this time that my future career in computing was set out. For most of my peers, the only exposure to computers they had was the two Sinclair ZX81s that the school had bought whereas I was lucky enough to have access to, and use a vast array of different machines.

It was also around this time that my Father bought a ZX81 in kit form and we built it together over the following weeks. This machine seemed incredible. 1K of memory, a Z80 processor and a membrane keyboard. It was on this machine that I learned to program in BASIC.

As the years went by, computers changed but my interest didn't wane. I eventually went on to study Electronic Engineering at Universtity, where I specialised in Computer related subjects - on one end of year project I built an 8088 based micro-computer.

After leaving university, I started work with a large UK defense contractor it was there that the seeds of this project were sown. One of the older Senior Engineers on my team was a guy with an incredible feel for the inner workings of computing systems. He could program in assembler with his eyes closed and could often be found working into the small hours of the morning attacking the Hex code directly (who needs assemblers anyway?) He bemoaned the fact that "nobody built anything anymore" and given that I had put one or two amateur radio receivers together we got talking. Back in the early 80s he had built and programmed his own Z80 based computer. At this time the idea seemed "pie in the sky" - but it never completely went away. Given the ease with which similar projects can be found on the Internet these days this project probably isn't quite such an achievement as it was in the early 1980s - but that doesn't matter. Tony, this project is for you - Thanks for giving me the inspiration.