Visual Transistor-level Simulation of the 6502 - in Javascript.

This my jaw on the floor.

In the summer of 2009, working from a single 6502, we exposed the silicon die, photographed its surface at high resolution and also photographed its substrate. Using these two highly detailed aligned photographs, we created vector polygon models of each of the chip's physical components - about 20,000 of them in total for the 6502. These components form circuits in a few simple ways according to how they contact each other, so by intersecting our polygons, we were able to create a complete digital model and transistor-level simulation of the chip.

This model is very accurate and can run classic 6502 programs, including Atari games. By rendering our polygons with colors corresponding to their 'high' or 'low' logic state, we can show, visually, exactly how the chip operates: how it reads data and instructions from memory, how its registers and internal busses operate, and how toggling a single input pin (the 'clock') on and off drives the entire chip to step through a program and get things done.

You can see this operation right now in your browser (except for Internet Explorer) with our interactive JavaScript simulation. We suggest a fast computer and lots of memory for this version.

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11 Responses:

  1. lafinjack says:

    Now they need to make it in Dwarf Fortress.

  2. fantasygoat says:

    That is crazy.

    • gargargar says:

      I'm in the same pickle you're in. This is so stunning that it makes me squirm with the desire to comment, but where do you go from here? I mean it's a JavaScript simulation of a 6502 done by emulating the actual structure of the silicon layers themselves. They took a *photograph* of the die and used that to reconstruct the model.

      What the hell can you say that isn't already in the original article? I guess I'd wonder if they have any way to go back and forth between this representation and some VLSI format you could send to a fab (I'm imagining a new run of SID chips to keep people from breaking open C64s just to make "chiptunes"). I'm also interested in how this could affect reverse-engineering efforts. Is it even practical with modern semiconductor resolution or whatever other complexity we use now that we didn't in 1975?

      But mostly I begin to understand why so many kids on the net today want to reply to things and just say "this".

  3. doidydoidy says:

    You did say the other day that you were looking for ideas for new screensavers...

  4. luserspaz says:

    Of course, the first thing I did was try to load it in mobile safari. Doesn't seem to work here (or, at least, doesn't display anything useful where the graphics should be). Still, this is awesome.

  5. baconmonkey says:

    guy builds gigantic functional 16-bit Arithmatic Logic Unit in the game Minecraft.

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