The MikroLeo Is a Four-Bit “Didactic Microcomputer” That Aims to Teach Core Computing Concepts

Brazilian electrical engineer Edson Junior Acordi developed a “didactic microcomputer” design called MikroLeo, designed with a simple four-instruction set for teaching basic computer concepts.

“[MikroLeo] it is intended for students, enthusiasts, hackers, professors and anyone who wants to understand or improve their knowledge of electronics and learn how a simple computer works,” explains Acordi about this project, which was founded in collaboration with Matheus Fernando Tasso and Carlos Daniel de. Souza Nunes.”In addition, it is also an attempt to rescue the story about the beginning of the development of integrated circuits and computers on a single chip, to show the capabilities that these devices had at that time.”

The MikroLeo design, which can be built on a series of interconnected breadboards or on a two-layer PCB with external features, uses a four-bit custom processor with up to 4kB of RAM, 4kB of ROM, four inputs each. and output ports with a total of 16 inputs and 16 outputs, and avoids the associated complexity of modern devices by being built entirely without microprocessors, microcontrollers, or microcode.

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The construction of the machine’s instruction set is based on the Harvard design with a reduced instruction set of only 20 instructions – however, Acordi notes, adjusting the addressing mode or the shift bits allows a total of 64 possible instruction combinations. The design also includes four registers – an accumulator, two general-purpose registers, and one special-purpose register, all four bits in width – and two flags, a carry flag and a zero flag.

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The PCB design is complete as the computer is now undergoing final testing. (📹: Edson Junior Acordi)

Other features of the design include the ability to run step-by-step, at 3MHz clock speed and a precise time base, or at adjustable speed, indirect addressing to support routing, and the ability to program directly using physical inputs. switch or by connecting to an Arduino or Espressif ESP32 mini-board.

MikroLeo design files and source code are available in the GitHub project repository under the CERN Open Hardware License Version 2 Reciprocal Strongly and the GNU General Public License 3 respectively.

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