Implementing the Commodore VIC chip with FPGA

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Raikovich Tamás
Department of Measurement and Information Systems

Modern digital technology makes it possible to produce hard complexity digital circuits, containing more than one milliard transistors. However, manufacturing individual chips are extremely expensive and the product cannot be modified subsequently. FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) integrated circuits are designed to eliminate these problems. It is a semiconductor, which contains programmable logic components and a hierarchy of reconfigurable interconnects that allow the blocks to be "wired together".

To design hard complexity circuits, you need up-to-date designer tools and hardware definition languages. With these, you can easily reproduce computer chips, and memorable electronic devices, which were difficult to design and manufacture in the early years of semiconductor producing. One of these devices is the Commodore 64 computer, which was which was introduced in 1982. With its 595 dollar price, it supported graphical and sound capabilities, which were unobtainable earlier. Until the end of its manufacture in 1994, it was sold in about 15 million copies, which made it to the highest selling computer of all time. My thesis project was to implement the VIC (Video Interface Controller) chip of the original Commodore 64 on a LOGSYS Spartan-3E FPGA development board, designed by the Department of Measurement and Information Systems.

This thesis summarize the construction and the operation of the original chip, the modifications which were necessary to implement it on FPGA, and the documentation of the realized hardware, as well as the processor-based system environment and software, used to the test the implementation.


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