Electro Boy Blends New and Old, Builds an Arduino UNO-Style Board for the Classic Intel 8051

Released in 1980 as a follow-up to the Intel MCS-48 family, the Intel MCS-51 — or 8051 — can now power an Arduino UNO-style dev board.

Gareth Halfacree
25 days agoRetro Tech / HW101

Pseudonymous maker "Electro Boy" has blended two giants of technology together in a clash of eras: an Arduino UNO-layout development board powered by the venerable Intel 8051 — or, at least, a modern equivalent of one.

"I know it is pretty old, and it is the first microcontroller I had started with," Electro Boy writes of the Intel 8051. "It was [one of] the first microcontroller[s] [from] Intel, released back in 1980, and the computer era started from there. This is very popular and even nowadays there are few applications like calculators [and] automotive applications which are running on it. In the 1980s there was no concept of flash ROM, and even at that time this MCU [Microcontroller Unit] came with Harvard architecture in which code and data memory are separated from each other."

To serve as a host for the Intel chip, Electro Boy turned to one of the longest-enduring hobbyist microcontroller board designs around: the Arduino UNO. There's a catch, of course: the Intel 8051, more properly known as the Intel MCS-51, is long-discontinued — which is where Microchip's AT89S52-24PU chip comes in. "[The] 80S52 has higher performance and better features than [the] original microcontroller," Electro Boy notes, "with 8kB [of] onboard flash as program memory."

Using the AT89S52 means a simpler circuit design with fewer external components: the chunky 40-pin DIP chip slots into a socket in the center of a board with very little else beyond a handful of passives, some LEDs, a 12MHz crystal oscillator, a 5V regulator connected to a 12V barrel-jack DC power connector, and a USB Type-C connector — good for power only, the 8051 predating the Universal Serial Bus standard by a few decades.

"I took inspiration from [the] Arduino UNO and designed a PCB with all the controls on it, the programming headers are placed on one header, and all the four ports have dual headers," Electro Boy explains. "I also designed the power section with some capacitors, DC jack, and linear voltage regulator on the same board. I enlarged the dimension[s] a little, and placed all the four ports accordingly."

Electro Boy has published the project here on Hackster, with schematics and Gerber files for the PCB available under the reciprocal GNU General Public License 3.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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