It’s almost impossible to overstate the impact that Arduino has had on the maker community. Before Arduino, any project that called for a microcontroller would require you to first wire up the components that are necessary just for it to run — and whatever you needed to program it. An Arduino lets you jump right in. But that’s a relatively recent advance, and Marek Więcek’s 6502 Retro Controller Board answers the question of what a 1970s Arduino would have looked like.
This project started after Więcek found out that it’s possible to buy inexpensive MOS 6502 chips from Chinese auction sites. The 6502 was originally introduced in 1975, so Więcek was pleasantly surprised to find out that these are genuine working chips. That immediately inspired him to build an 8-bit retro computer based on the 6502 processor — a project which is still underway. While working on that, he decided it’d be interesting to build an Arduino-esque development board around the same 6502 processor.
In keeping with the theme, Więcek decided he only wanted to use components that were available in the 6502’s heyday — or at least modern equivalents with the same functionality. Using those, along with a CMOS version of the 6502 (WDC65C02), Więcek set out to build his 6502 Retro Controller board with a custom PCB and some classic point-to-point wiring.
That finished board has 8kB of RAM, 8kB of I/O addressable space, 8kB of EEPROM for config storage, an additional 8kB of EPROM for future use, and 32kB of main EPROM for the program and data. Więcek even built a shield with a HD44780 monochrome LCD display for readouts, and buttons for inputs. The finished product is a cool look at an alternate history where Arduino-like development boards were invented decades earlier.