Repairing a vintage 40-kilovolt xenon lamp igniter

Ken Shirriff writes: What do xenon lamps and the invention of radio have in common? The box below is a 1960s German high voltage unit that CuriousMarc obtained as part of an auction. After some research, we determined that it is an Osram1 igniter2, which generates a 40-kilovolt pulse3 to ignite a xenon arc lamp. […]

Inside a Titan missile guidance computer

Ken Shirriff has written an excellent in-depth look at a Titan missile guidance computer: I’ve been studying the guidance computer from a Titan II nuclear missile. This compact computer was used in the 1970s to guide a Titan II nuclear missile towards its target or send a Titan IIIC rocket into the proper orbit. The […]

Looking inside a vintage Soviet TTL logic integrated circuit

Ken Shirriff examines a 1980s chip used in a Soyuz space clock: The clock is built from TTL integrated circuits, a type of digital logic that was popular in the 1970s through the 1990s because it was reliable, inexpensive, and easy to use. (If you’ve done hobbyist digital electronics, you probably know the 7400-series of […]

Inside the digital clock from a Soyuz spacecraft

Ken Shirriff has written an article on reverse engineering a “Onboard space clock” from a Soyuz mission: We recently obtained a clock that flew on a Soyuz space mission.1 The clock, manufactured in 1984, contains over 100 integrated circuits on ten circuit boards. Why is the clock so complicated? In this blog post, I examine […]

Op amp on the Moon: Reverse-engineering a hybrid op amp module

Ken Shirriff has written an article on reverse engineering a hybrid op amp module: I recently obtained a mysterious electronic component in a metal can, flatter and slightly larger than a typical integrated circuit.1 After opening it up and reverse engineering the circuit, I determined that this was an op amp built for NASA in […]

Two bits per transistor: high-density ROM in Intel’s 8087 floating point chip

Ken Shirriff has a great write-up about the multi-level ROM in Intel’s 8087 floating point chip: The 8087 chip provided fast floating point arithmetic for the original IBM PC and became part of the x86 architecture used today. One unusual feature of the 8087 is it contained a multi-level ROM (Read-Only Memory) that stored two […]

Sega System 16 security reverse engineering

Reverse engineering of Sega’s System 16 Hitachi FD1089 cpu security module by Eduardo Cruz: I’m glad to announce the successful reverse engineering of Sega’s System 16 cpu security modules. This development will enable collectors worldwide preserving hardware unmodified, and stop the general discarding of Hitachi FD modules. The project is right now involving external testers so […]

A journey into Capcom’s CPS2 silicon – part 3

Eduardo Cruz published the third and last post in the Capcom CPS2 reverse engineering series we covered previously: For many years, finding how and where did Capcom hid away its security implementation has been a pending critical task for the arcade community. CPS2 systems running out of battery were rendered useless forcing collectors worldwide to […]

Inside the 76477 space invaders sound effect chip: Digital logic implemented with I2L

Ken Shirriff has written an excellent in-depth look at the 76477 sound effects chip: The 76477 Complex Sound Generation chip (1978) provided sound effects for Space Invaders1 and many other video games. It was also a popular hobbyist chip, easy to experiment with and available at Radio Shack. I reverse-engineered the chip from die photos […]

A journey into Capcom’s CPS2 silicon – Part 2

Here’s an informative part 2 of the Capcom CPS2 reverse engineering series by Eduardo Cruz: Capcom’s Play System 2, also known as CPS2, was a new arcade platform introduced in 1993 and a firm call on bootlegging. Featuring similar but improved specs to its predecessor CPS1, the system introduced a new security architecture that gave Capcom for […]

Inside Intel’s first product: the 3101 RAM chip held just 64 bits

Ken Shirriff writes: Intel’s first product was not a processor, but a memory chip: the 31011 RAM chip, released in April 1969. This chip held just 64 bits of data (equivalent to 8 letters or 16 digits) and had the steep price tag of $99.50.2 The chip’s capacity was way too small to replace core […]

Reverse engineering the 76477 “Space Invaders” sound effect chip from die photos

Ken Shirriff has written an article on reverse engineering the 76477 “Space Invaders” sound effect chip: Remember the old video game Space Invaders? Some of its sound effects were provided by a chip called the 76477 Complex Sound Generation chip. While the sound effects1 produced by this 1978 chip seem primitive today, it was used […]

Inside the vintage 74181 ALU chip: how it works and why it’s so strange

Ken Shirriff writes: The 74181 ALU (arithmetic/logic unit) chip powered many of the minicomputers of the 1970s: it provided fast 4-bit arithmetic and logic functions, and could be combined to handle larger words, making it a key part of many CPUs. But if you look at the chip more closely, there are a few mysteries. […]

Analyzing the vintage 8008 processor from die photos: its unusual counters

Ken Shirriff writes: The revolutionary Intel 8008 microprocessor is 45 years old today (March 13, 2017), so I figured it’s time for a blog post on reverse-engineering its internal circuits. One of the interesting things about old computers is how they implemented things in unexpected ways, and the 8008 is no exception. Compared to modern […]

Reverse-engineering the surprisingly advanced ALU of the 8008 microprocessor

Ken Shirriff has written an article on reverse engineering the ALU of the 8008 microprocessor: A computer’s arithmetic-logic unit (ALU) is the heart of the processor, performing arithmetic and logic operations on data. If you’ve studied digital logic, you’ve probably learned how to combine simple binary adder circuits to build an ALU. However, the 8008’s […]

Die photos and analysis of the revolutionary 8008 microprocessor, 45 years old

Ken Shirriff has written an article detailing die photos of the vintage Intel 8008 that reveal the circuitry it used: Intel’s groundbreaking 8008 microprocessor was first produced 45 years ago.1 This chip, Intel’s first 8-bit microprocessor, is the ancestor of the x86 processor family that you may be using right now. I couldn’t find good […]

Inside a RFID race timing chip: die photos of the Monza R6

Ken Shirriff took some die photos of the Monza R6 chip  and wrote a post on his blog on how the RFID timing chip works: I recently watched a cross-country running race that used a digital timing system, so I investigated how the RFID timing chip works. Each runner wears a race bib like the […]

Reverse engineering a server CPU voltage regulator module

Andy Brown wrote an article on reverse engineering a CPU voltage regulator: A recent ebay fishing expedition yielded an interesting little part for the very reasonable sum of about five pounds. It’s a voltage regulator module from a Dell PowerEdge 6650 Xeon server. I originally bought this because I had the idea of salvaging parts […]

Nevo C2 remote control – Reverse engineering, part 1

Reverse engineering of a Nevo C2 remote control from Arantius.com Most recently I’ve switched to the “Nevo C2” remotes (also known as “Xsight Color” or “ARRX15G”), which have a graphical display built in. This makes it easy for me to deal with the huge array (TiVo, HTPC, plus eleven game consoles) of devices I’ve got hooked […]