Picture of How to Build an 8-Bit Computer
Building an 8-bit TTL computer sounds like a daunting and complicated task, or at least it did to me when I started out on my journey to understand the architecture of a basic CPU. When it comes down to it, a CPU is fairly simple in operation once you learn the fundamentals behind all of its processes. This project is intended to help anyone interested in building their own computer and gaining the wonderful knowledge that comes along with the process. Don't be afraid to try, you can only learn.

This project will start off by describing the basics of electronics. After that, the fundamentals of binary and boolean logic will be described. Lastly we will then move onto the function of the various parts of a simple-as-possible computer (with a few modifications) as described in Malvino's text Digital Computer Electronics. This means that the end product of this Instructable will be a computer that you can program with a unique instruction set. This project also leaves many of the design aspects of the computer up to you and serves as a guide for building your own computer. This is because there are many ways to approach this project. If you already have a sound understanding of boolean logic and the workings of binary feel free to skip to the meat of the project. I hope that you all enjoy and get something out of a build like this, I know that I sure did.

For this project you will need:

1.) A power supply
2.) Breadboards + lots of wires
3.) LED's for output
4.) Various logic IC's (discussed later)
5.) Free time
6.) A willingness to mess up and learn from mistakes
7.) A lot of patience

Optional (but very useful):

1.) Oscilloscope
2.) Digital multimeter
3.) EEPROM programmer
4.) Sonic screwdriver

Useful Links for a Project Like This:

Digital Computer Electronics:
TTL Cookbook:
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haha sonic screwdriver. This is awesome

falloist1 month ago

this is so awesome i am about to cry. congrats

teknohawk1 month ago
It is awesome! One question though, I didn't quite understand what your computer is capable of doing. What can it actually do?
MasoodZ1 month ago

This is amazing will try this hmm.. maybe next year

SajithP2 months ago

I love it. Thanks a lot. Nicely explained. Awesome. :D

techno guy2 months ago
cool, you've made the Apollo flight computer (not really but still cool :p)
Chakuli2 months ago

cost to make computer?

bdraško2 months ago

Where can i buy those nice leds? :D

JonathanM92 months ago

I clicked this link, saw the image of the bread boards swathed with a gazillion wires, and literally laughed out loud. Clearly not an easy task, but clearly you've shown it is achievable. Thanks a lot for sharing this!

such skill

eudoxus4 months ago

This is an amazing project, thank you for sharing!

Would it make sense to replace the JMP instruction with some kind of conditional jump? Such as "Jump to a certain instruction in memory at the specified address *if* the accumulator is non-zero"? Otherwise I cannot figure out how to program conditionals (such as a program which outputs 0 if the accumulator contains the value 0, and 1 otherwise). In particular, I can't figure out how to program multiplication with your instruction set (which would be easy with a conditional jump). All of the arithmetic tricks that I know for getting a conditional jump out of a non-conditional jump require multiplication, such as encoding "if A then B else C" with A*B+(1-A)*C in the case that A is either 0 (false) or 1 (true).

Am I missing something obvious? Thanks again!

joelhacks5 months ago
Incredible instructable!
MisterFrogger5 months ago

I think clock can be a simple button at beginning :)

Great project, but I have a question, why always I see 8 bit calculator or 4 bit or such numbers ( 1-2-4-8-16... ), I mean for an 8 bit calculator it can do numbers up to 255, so why not a 7 bit, with limit of 128? I mean the whole bit thing is just summing of multiple full adders, that will work like a chain reaction, or I'm missing something?

a bit is the smallest form of computer memory

so basically 8 is its maximum storage and processing power which isn't much for a computer but it is all it need's for calculating numbers also why would you limit the ability of a calculator?

csleong989 months ago
This is awesome !!!
ashrestha189 months ago

do you have a multisim or any other simulation files of the end result? if so could you please mail it to me at if possible.

DrifterNL11 months ago

What a great idea using the XOR and C-in to preform a subtraction!

xtjacob02 years ago
How many of each chip did you order?

I know right. i want to know that too!!!

If you are asking that, it means that you do not have understood this document. Keep studiing it !

spel3o (author)  xtjacob02 years ago
It depends on what schematic you end up using for your computer. In the end, it is really up to you. To know how many of each chip you need to buy it is best to look at the datasheet. For instance, if you need an 8-bit register and the datasheet for the chip that you are buying says that the part only has 4 bits of storage, you would need to buy two of those parts for one register.
If I'm not mistaken, Zilog have dumped the ever-reliable Z-80 chip, but I do believe that there is Z-80-H or higher still in their catalog.
i have static ram laying around collecting dust
i dont have any use for them

Luckily i have my sonic screwdriver on hand then!

To improve the quality of the output signal, I added a 10k Ohm resistor between the output (3) and the ground. I obtain a perfect square signal.

R1 and R2 : 220 Ohm

C : 100 nf

I'm using 5 V

WOW i`m going to try to build one thank you for this ( WOW I cant pick me mouth off the flour ) :D

pyrohaz1 year ago
Amazing instructable! well done :)
gnusci1 year ago
WARNING: This project is for smart young people, and of course people which would like to learn what is inside the blackbox!
DBDexter1 year ago
During addition and subtraction operations, how are you preventing the accumulator and the ALU from entering a loop? I mean:
-Accumulator and register B tells the ALU which numbers to add/subtract.
-ALU outputs the result.
If you then enable the AI control line, shouldn't the accumulator send to the ALU the result, therefore making the ALU outputting a new result, which will be loaded into the accumulator, and so on?
Awesome project btw :D
spel3o (author)  DBDexter1 year ago
That confused me at first too when I saw the block diagram. I figured out that the registers only updated on the rising clock pulse. Because of this, it is important to have a very clean clock signal (unlike mine). Because of a dirty clock signal, some of my registers ended up doing two updates (and thus two operations) per clock cycle.
Wyle_E1 year ago
Google "homebrew CPU." There's a webring. One guy built a 16-bit general-purpose computer out of *discrete transistors*. I wonder if he also has a yacht constructed from toothpicks and superglue.
jensenr301 year ago
wow. this instructable is inspiring.
great work, man. seriously. you rock.
How long did it take to build it.
Say, if one were to develop their own computer architecture and platform for TTL 8-bit homebrewing and planned on developing an entire system of components that allow other users of the architecture to develop and customize their systems, would it be worth get a patent for the sake of being able to distribute one's 8-bit products?

I have been working on a TTL architecture for the past year and have begun the contruction of the CPU. I plan on starting with a system centralized around the BIOS that will run on a simple command line C-Language OS that will be display with a simple text based GPU and VGA driver.

After adding a GPU, I plan to create the final OS and work towards making a cheaper and smaller version of the computer that will be more accessible to the average individual. In that case, should I patent my designs before I post them on the Internet?
Awesome. I added it to my favorites list. By the way, I have a question. Could you put a video of the computer in action in the instructable, and can i do this very cheap?
techno guy2 years ago
this is how all computers should look like, can you make a 64 bit so we could see how it looks under the hood
~CableGuy2 years ago
could you upload a video of your computer in operation? PLEASE!
A Necessary Correction: Capacitors store charge (Q or q) NOT current (I). Not a subtle difference. Current, by definition, is charge flow dQ/dt measured as the number of charges (electrons technically but convention dictates we called them positive charges for convenience - an atrocity if you ask me) that cross an imaginary plane per unit time. The plane being that which spans the effective cross-section of the conductor. For DC the cross-section is the entire physical cross-section of the conductor whereas for AC the cross-section is an annular ring with outer radius at the conductor surface and inner radius dependent on the conductivity and frequency of the time varying signal - a phenomenon referred to as a skin depth. But I digress. Capacitors store charge and are the sink or source of current due to flwo into or out of the capacitor and only momentarily as they either charge (dQ/dt = C*dV/dt is positive) or discharge (dQ/dt = C*dV/dt is negative). Hope this has been educational to someone.
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