This board uses inexpensive ICs and deliberately uses big chips so it is easy to solder. It uses an operating system called CPM running on a Z80, which was popular in the late 1970s to mid 1980s. As a result, there is at least a gigabyte of software available including programming languages, spreadsheet programs and word processors. CPM is a text based operating system and is a simple version of DOS.
This board is perfect if you are building that highly complex robot or home automation system and keep finding that single chip computers like pics, arduinos and atmegas just don't have the memory.
Modern technology means that hard drives and floppy drives can exist on single memory chips, and computers that used to need a three phase power supply can now be emulated on a board powered by batteries.
A number of N8VEM boards are being built all over the world by a group of friendly enthusiasts http://groups.google.com.au/group/n8vem
Boards are an open source design, and you can build your own or buy one from an enthusiast in the US at cost price ($20). Eproms can be purchased pre-programmed or you can program your own.
Let's put one together and see what it can do...
Step 1: Join the Google Group
I sent a message to the group a few weeks ago and asked to join. I ordered a board and it arrived a week later, which is pretty quick from the US to Australia.
I didn't have many of the parts, so I got the parts list from here http://n8vem.googlegroups.com/web/TestPrototype_BOM_PART-LIST.lst?gda=6DMrhVQAAABRoI8ydU505jGCwGWcAnRLVYTZaCdyJias028kLbDjM7mHeIlRNZNuWyWm5kKNAJr2D8gD3ctlIYKczaAghgqdUwk_6Qi3BU8HCN0q6OYwM6JXPqrFQS5SIfKND7QsaYY
Quite a few stores have the parts, including Digikey, Jameco and Futurlec. All the logic chips are specified as LS parts. LS is a bit old school and the chips use more power and run warm. I substituted all the LS chips for the more modern HCT range. HCT are directly compatible but use far less power. Similarly, I went for a CMOS Z80, a CMOS UART (16C550) and a CMOS input/output chip (82C55).
The board arrived about the same time as the parts, and it was time to start soldering.