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ARM7 co-processor developed for Beeb and Master computers

By Chris Williams. Published: 20th Oct 2005, 20:37:42 | Permalink | Printable

8bit dinosaurs meet modern day upstart grandchild

Photo of ARM7 co-processor for a BeebThe ultimate upgrade for 8bit Acorn users has been unveiled: A 64MHz ARM 7 co-processor that uses the Tube interface. The kit, designed by Robert Sprowson, includes 16M SDRAM, 512K of Flash ROM and can be upgraded to 64M RAM and 4M Flash ROM. The design uses an Altera FPGA as the digital glue to bind the electronics together, and also features a serial port for debugging.

The Tube interface was originally developed so that a second processor, such as a Zilog Z80 or prototype ARM chip, could work alongside the native 2MHz 6502 CPU. The second processor would do all the hard work, leaving the 6502 to control the computer's IO and any attached devices. Acorn used the Tube interface in the 1980s to develop future ARM cores and the Archimedes range. Fittingly, today's ARM7 is a direct descendant of the original ARM1.

Seriously though, what can you use an 64MHz ARM7 for in a Beeb? "I guess to use a cliche 'it's limited only by your imagination'," replied Robert. Suggested projects include writing complex programs in BASIC as the co-processor is 128 times faster than the 6502 in terms of MIPS, writing a Z80 or 6502 emulator in ARM code, or using the device as an ARM7 development board.

He added: "Personally, I'm looking forward to taking advantage of loads of extra memory to run things like my caller ID logger as I can easily leave the machine on all day and night, because there's no fan."

The ARM7 co-processor should be ready in time for Christmas this year, says Robert, and is suitable for BBC Microcomputer and Master machines.

Links

ARM7 co-processor upgrade

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Discussion

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What a great article. I had wondered what video editing would be like on RISC OS, for university, I ended up taking the Mac route, using Adobe Premiere 2.0 I believe. These were old Macs, and doing a 1 minute video project was absolute torture. Very slow, and highly prone to crashing, I guess due to memory leaks while encoding the video.

If I had the money, I would have taken the Videodesk route instead, and saved myself so much trouble!

Drobe, I'm getting jealous of the quality of your articles now. Please dissist, or I'll get seriously addicted to your site!

 is a RISC OS Usersascott on 21/10/05 2:17AM
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ah, sorry, wrong article, but my final sentence still stands!

 is a RISC OS Usersascott on 21/10/05 2:18AM
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What's the odds we see select for this before for the iyonix?

 is a RISC OS Userjess on 21/10/05 7:59AM
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Pity theres no beebs left now as everyone will have used them for A9@home case mods...

 is a RISC OS UserFuzzy on 21/10/05 11:00AM
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I bought my BBC/B out of my first years college grant. I always wanted a co-processor - the 6502 - but by the time I could afford it, technology had moved on and I bought an A3000, selling my Beeb not long after.

To be honest, I'm not really sure, apart from interest sake, what real value this co processor would have nowadays.

 is a RISC OS UserDS1 on 21/10/05 12:24PM
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DS1> The value IMHO lies in the fact that ARM development systems are usually *expensive* and having a means of experimenting with an ARM in a familiar environment at low cost might prove quite useful indeed.

There's, of course, also the "wow" factor ;)

 is a RISC OS UserAMS on 21/10/05 1:33PM
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What sort of OS is this board going to have on it? It can't be full RISC OS as it has no means to drive the host machine over the Tube (unless some really old legacy stuffs been left hidden in the 26bit variant since pre-ArthurOS). I suspect its going to be a small boot loader and Tube API, but then BASIC is mentioned, so possibly just enough SWIs have been emulated to allow VDU input and output using the Beeb.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 21/10/05 2:14PM
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In reply to Fuzzy:

Although any case mods for the A9 will probably invalidate the warrantee! ;o)

 is a RISC OS UserCol1 on 21/10/05 3:06PM
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Well, the Beeb is overtaking RISC OS computers in terms of HW development!! To Robert Sprowson: what's about a XScale board for the RiscPC? ;-)

 is a RISC OS Userbernie on 24/10/05 10:07AM
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BASIC and TWIN were written originally to run on an emulated ARM, long before any silicon existed. So I think druck's correct - you don't need many SWIs to get them running.

(Assemble-time) A500 support was finally removed in RO3.5 or 3.7, I forget. I suspect 'Brazil' support was removed when it evolved into Arthur.

On a slightly different topic, I had a look at my Springboard manual (ARM dev. system on a PC ISA card). It lists the SWIs it supports, and points you to the BBC Master's Technical User Guide for more info. Thought that was slightly amusing.

 is a RISC OS UserPiers on 29/10/05 12:12PM
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Col1: No need to get the can opener on the A9 - just slot the lot in the spare space floating around the insides of any other machines. You don't have to like blue! ;-)

 is a RISC OS Userjc on 29/10/05 8:56PM
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