Is building a computer for a first year project feasible?

Discussion in 'The Projects Forum' started by amilton542, Dec 16, 2013.

  1. amilton542

    Thread Starter Active Member

    Nov 13, 2010
    494
    64
    Hi,

    I'm a first year undergrad', and with every project I always get excited. For the final year I want to design and build a computer, so this gives me, roughly, two years to prepare.

    This computer will not be a "kit". The only kit part to it will be the power supply, I/O, and memory. It will not be anything too exotic, so I would like to employ a floppy disc drive if I can (I like the primitive touch).

    Anyway, if I put my mind to it, I feel confident I could accomplish the hardware side of the coin, but as for the software I'm at ends with what I could do with this computer; connect to the internet, obviously, and get a few programs on there, but I would like the operating system to be Windows.

    So, the question I would like to ask is, can this computer be done?
     
  2. shteii01

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 19, 2010
    3,373
    494
    The biggest problem, to me, are the drivers.

    Do you know how Linux OS came about?
    If I remember right, Linus Thorvald wrote the driver or several drivers. That is what made the OS run the hardware, the drivers.
     
  3. amilton542

    Thread Starter Active Member

    Nov 13, 2010
    494
    64
    No I don't, but because I hate computers and I've decided to build one, Linux OS has been documented.

    I've had to navigate away from digital electronics a bit and focus my attention on data communication and computer networks; otherwise, from what I can gather, the computer will be rendered useless.

    What problems have you experienced with, "drivers" ?
     
  4. MrChips

    Moderator

    Oct 2, 2009
    12,410
    3,353
    I have years of experiencing building and working with computers. This is not a project I would wish to attempt.

    This is not as easy as you think. It is definitely not a beginner's task.

    This is not easy to do either unless you copy all the drivers and the entire Windows OS.

    Again, not a simple task.

    You can gain a lot of experience building your own hardware and writing your own code. One approach is to start off with a simple microcontroller and roll your own software. Interface to a 16 character x 2 line LCD and play with that for a bit. Then you can add a graphics LCD.

    A more advanced route would be to build a computer that runs a small version of Linux.

    Tell us how much experience you already have and how far you wish to take this.
     
  5. shteii01

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 19, 2010
    3,373
    494
    The drivers are not "". The drivers are specific pieces of software.

    To go back to Linus Thorvald. There was an operating system. It might have been Unix or some flavor of it. The point is that the OS already existed, was mature. The hardware part is also interesting. The hardware was also mature, meaning it was well developed, easily available, relatively inexpensive. The main point is that we are not dealing with one off or with prototypes.

    But! The OS and the hardware were not meant to work together. Linus set down and spent I don't know how many weeks or months writing programs that would allow OS and hardware "talk" to each other. These pieces of software are the drivers. That was his huge contribution and that is why Linux is named in his honor.

    He did not create the OS. He did not create the hardware. He is the one who wrote the software that allowed two separate pieces of technology, Unix OS and PC compatible hardware, to work productively together.




    You can build a computer hardware. It is not easy, but it is doable. You can take off the shelf OS like Windows. But mating them together... that is the last and hard task.

    My advice is to take Windows 3.11 and build hardware around 286 or 386 (maybe 486 or early Pentium) cpu. This way you will have Windows drivers for hardware. If you want Windows.
    Or.
    You can use DOS and write your own driver for specific piece of hardware.
     
  6. BobTPH

    Active Member

    Jun 5, 2013
    782
    114
    Building a computer can mean many things.

    1. Putting together a motherboard, I/O cards, drives etc.
    2. Using a microprocessor chip and building the motherboard yourself.
    3. Using an FPLA and designing the microprocessor at the level of locic gates etc.
    4. Using TTL or CMOS level logic chips to contruct a computer from scratch.
    5. Using transistors to contstruct a computer from scratch.

    Where are you on this list?

    Bob
     
  7. shteii01

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 19, 2010
    3,373
    494
    Windows OS was mentioned. If it remains a requirement... then the choice is clear.
     
  8. wayneh

    Expert

    Sep 9, 2010
    12,083
    3,020
    I would think a first year undergrad that hates computers might find a more forward-looking project to work on than retreading the steps that were a well-worn path 30 years ago. ;)
     
  9. Austin Clark

    Member

    Dec 28, 2011
    409
    44
    Building the hardware shouldn't be too difficult, but building it to be compatible with anything semi-modern will be extremely challenging. It's not like you can just drag and drop an operating system onto any old hardware architecture. Even if the machine had binary compatible instructions, you'd have to know exactly how all the peripherals interact with the machine and such, I wouldn't even know where to begin.

    Ultimately, build the machine, write your own simple compiler, high level language, and OS, then call it a day.
     
  10. BobTPH

    Active Member

    Jun 5, 2013
    782
    114
    Only if the OP knows what you know.

    Bob
     
  11. amilton542

    Thread Starter Active Member

    Nov 13, 2010
    494
    64
    I know, this is why I always prepare in advance.

    Yes, I will experiment with minor projects that ultimately progress, at most, to the end product.

    I'm from the realm of electromagnetism, primarily. I have numerous breeds of motor projects under my belt, electrical installation, general maintenance and numerous hours trouble shooting C programs; that's about it really.
     
  12. BobTPH

    Active Member

    Jun 5, 2013
    782
    114
    Since you are back.

    Everyone here has a different idea about what you mean by "building your own computer". Can you please answer my previous post so we know what you are talking about?

    Bob
     
  13. amilton542

    Thread Starter Active Member

    Nov 13, 2010
    494
    64
    #2 - Using a microprocessor chip and building the motherboard yourself.

    #4 - Using TTL or CMOS level logic chips to contruct a computer from scratch.
     
  14. Brownout

    Well-Known Member

    Jan 10, 2012
    2,375
    998
    If you intend to use an Intel or AMD chipset and design your computer around those, then it's theoritically possible. If you think you're going to redesign a whole new chipset and load windows, then forget it.
     
  15. BobTPH

    Active Member

    Jun 5, 2013
    782
    114
    Even #2 is beyond the abilities of not only a beginner, but most professionals. We are talking probably an 8-layer PCB running in the 100's of Megahertz region, with over 1 GHz to the processor.

    For #4, no way for Windows. Maybe a 4 or 8-bit processor, but I would consider this a multi-year project.

    Bob
     
  16. amilton542

    Thread Starter Active Member

    Nov 13, 2010
    494
    64
    Yes! I want to design my computer around an Intel processor.
     
  17. amilton542

    Thread Starter Active Member

    Nov 13, 2010
    494
    64
    My friend, I will do it.
     
  18. Brownout

    Well-Known Member

    Jan 10, 2012
    2,375
    998
    Frankly, I have doubts you will. Since you asked for advise in regard to the feasability, you should listen to the advise and not disregard it. Computers are designed by teams of very experienced engineers. They have signal intergrity experts, digital design experts and fully equipped and financed labs. I recommend a more reasonable project. There are lots of computers you can design and build on a simple project board, and run 4-12MHz on bare metal software.
     
  19. GopherT

    AAC Fanatic!

    Nov 23, 2012
    5,979
    3,686
    No.




    .







    .
     
  20. amilton542

    Thread Starter Active Member

    Nov 13, 2010
    494
    64
    I know, I know. You're right.

    What do you suggest?
     
Loading...