The purely plastic 6502 processor developed by PragmatIC follows the PlasticARM, a test chip that can run the ARM instruction set, and was produced in two weeks as no silicon is involved. PragmatIC sees this as an example of how to repurpose designs quickly to avoid chip shortages now and in the future.
Launched in 1975, the 6502 was a fraction of the price of competitor chips, which is why Steve Wozniak used it for the Apple I computer. The chip and its variants went on to become the core of the Apple II, Commodore PET, Commodore 64 and BBC Micro, as well as gaming platforms including the Nintendo Entertainment System and Atari 2600.
The design is still supported today by Western Design Center (WDC), who estimate that their licensees have shipped over 6 billion embedded 65xx processors, growing by hundreds of millions per year.
PragmatIC’s flexible 6502 was laid out and manufactured in less than two weeks using the FlexIC Foundry NMOS process at its fab in Sedgefiled, UK, which is used to produce flexible plastic RFID chips. A second iteration of the 6502 has already been taped out to optimise pinout, footprint and speed.
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“We are delighted to have made a flexible 6502, the processor that is credited with creating the personal computer revolution,” said Scott White, CEO of PragmatIC Semiconductor. “The design symbolises one of our key beliefs that a new paradigm for semiconductors is required to enable innovators to build extraordinary electronics solutions that improve everyday life.”
“I see what PragmatIC is doing to be as transformational as what we did at MOS Technology back in the 1970s,” said Bill Mensch, founder of WDC, who created the original 6502 with Chuck Peddle. “In validating the 6502 design on their FlexIC Foundry, we can now extend the original goal of the design to support embedded processing for the Internet of Everything.”
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