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Dr. Scott M. Baker’s “Clover Computer” Is a Triple-Board Machine Built Atop Zilog’s 16-Bit Z8000

Put by Dr. Scott M. Baker built a modern microcomputer around Zilog’s little-known 16-bit Z8000 microprocessor — after finding the part while browsing an online auction site.

“I stumbled across the Z8000 on eBay one day and decided I had to go and build myself a Z8000 single board computer,” Baker explained. “I couldn’t fit everything on one board, so I thought I’d make it a two-board computer, then I thought why not add some displays and it’s because it’s a three-board computer. Well, next month it might be a five-board computer!”

This chunky computer build uses Zilog’s ill-fated 16-bit Z8000 chip at its heart. (📹: Dr. Scott M. Baker)

The definitely-not-a-board-computer Baker designed uses the Z8000, Zilog’s 1979 16-bit successor to the successful eight-bit Z80. Lacking the backwards compatibility of its predecessor and facing stiff competition from Intel’s 8086 family and Motorola’s 32-bit 68000 range, the Z8000 was not a commercial success – which is what makes Baker’s so unique. .

“The project is designed into a series of separate modules,” Baker explained, “with the intention that they can be mixed and matched, and the boards are small enough that they can be made at a reasonable cost. A 68 -bin bus connects the boards, usually exposing a 16-bit data bus, 20-bit address bus, and some choose for ROM and RAM.”

That bus connects three-and-counting boards: the CPU board, which includes the Zilog Z8000 CPU itself with clock, buffer, and glue logic; the integrated memory and serial board that hosts 1MB of RAM, 1MB of flash storage, and a Z8530 serial communication controller (SCC) chip for two serial ports; and a display board, which contains eight TIL311 numerical displays and supports optional button or switch inputs.

For software, Baker turned to the popular CP/M — recently confirmed by its current intellectual property owner as completely open source and available to everyone, back to the earliest versions of Digital development. “CP/M 1.1 is used,” Baker wrote. “4sun5bu on his GitHub page includes a BIOS that supports IDE and SCC. I’ve modified this BIOS to use a flash-based disk. At some point I’ll enable IDE support, and maybe add a floppy support.”

More details available on Baker’s websitehowever while the programmable logic device (PLD) files have been created uploaded to GitHub Baker has not published schematics or board designs at the time of writing.

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