the big picture


The Big Picture is a computer, an instrument, sassy companion, abacus and a cumbersome gadget for lighting LEDs. Composed of at least 50% wire by volume, the machine served as a tool to give students an insight into the building blocks of a computer. On its deck are an 8-bit microcontroller, 256K Static RAM, programming keypad, display, I/O decoder, A/D and D/A converters – all bound together by gluePAL (programmable array logic). Programmable in assembly (and initially by hand), building this machine was one of my fondest memories, de-bugging included.

The Big Picture derives its name from its schematic. Image courtesy of Tom Hayes, Learning the Art of Electronics.

Having the tangible experience of making, de-bugging, and programming my machine gave me direct insight into how computing systems work.