MakerLisp Machine

Classic computing on modern hardware: an expandable eZ80 CPU card running bare-metal Lisp

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The MakerLisp machine is a portable, modular computer system, designed to recapture the feel of classic computing, with modern hardware.

The machine centers on a 2” x 3.5” business card-sized CPU, which can be used stand-alone, or plugged in to a 2” x 8” main board, for expansion into a full computer system. A 3D-printed, or laser-cut wood, enclosure holds a small keyboard, an LCD monitor, the circuit boards, and a prototyping area with a breadboard for electronics experimentation and development.

The MakerLisp Machine is a vehicle for students and educators who want to learn, create, and explore fundamentals of computer science and digital electronics, in a small, self-contained system. It’s also great for hobbyists and enthusiasts of vintage computing.

Specifications

  • 50 MHz eZ80 CPU
  • 256 k code flash memory
  • 1 Mb zero wait state RAM
  • USB/UART bridge
  • Battery-backed real-time calendar clock
  • FAT filesystem micro-SD card
  • Connector for prototyping/expansion board gives access to GPIOs, USB keyboard, and VGA Display (prototyping/expansion, USB controller, and VGA controller boards available as accessories)

In addition, the CPU card and expansion board can be housed in a laser-cut wood “Maker Station” enclosure, providing a tray for a keyboard, and a convenient working area for mounting the circuit boards, a breadboard, and other peripheral devices, as seen in this video, introducing the project at the San Diego Maker Faire:

What can you do with the MakerLisp Machine?

Learn Lisp, in an implementation and dialect made just for “Lisp on Bare Metal” educational/DIY projects. With its built-in USB/UART connection to a terminal emulator, and a micro-SD card for your files, put it in your shirt pocket and take your “Lisp world” with you wherever you go.

Plug the CPU card into the expansion board and start using the GPIOs and the Lisp-we-know to control, communicate with, and learn about, electronics and I/O devices. The MakerLisp Machine is an apt vehicle for fundamental computer science and digital electronics education. And the software development environment is completely self-contained, no downloading and flashing of your programs, no other computer and development tools or software required.

Connect any USB keyboard and any VGA monitor, and have a late 70’s/early 80’s classic micro-computer, with modern hardware, but an unmistakably vintage feel. The eZ80 processor is a binary-compatible, extended Z80. This machine is a great playground for CP/M enthusiasts. On the eZ80, running at 50 MHz, your favorite programs will be FAST.

Or use the CPU card and expansion board like any other embedded development system, the standard cross development tools work perfectly. Put whatever you want in the eZ80’s 256k of flash code memory, connect whatever you want to the expansion board. It’s just about the cheapest and fastest eZ80 embedded development system you can buy.

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