Monday, September 21, 2009

8080A CPUs from NTE

I was in Fry's Electronics recently looking for some parts. I didn't find what I was looking for (non-volatile RAMs) but while I was looking I went through the catalog of parts they carry--the NTE semiconductor catalog.

You could have colored me shocked when I saw the 8080A and its support chips in that catalog! I looked around to make sure I hadn't slipped back 30 years to the Fry's grocery store with the "chips" aisle: potato chips on one side, semiconductors on the other.

What surprised me even more was that while the 8080A was there, the 8085 wasn't.

8085 circuit
A Relatively New 8085 IC in a Circuit Built Three Days Ago
8080A prices from NTE are about the same as 1978 or so, about $20US. In other words, they're at about post 6502 prices, but higher than the Jame-pak blowouts of the early 80's (about $2-3.)

Once you add a clock chip and control signal demux chip you're talking real money, especially today when a solid microcontroller comes in at a buck or less.

The real mystery to me is where these chips are being made. Is there some fab out there still cranking out 70's-era NMOS process wafers? On 2 or 3 inch? Or are these old production stockpiles? Or--heavens forbid--did someone bring the 8080A to a new process? Five-metal sub-micron 8080As, still rated for 2MHz, perhaps? I don't think so, but I never expected to walk into a Fry's in 2009 and find 8080As offered for retail sale, either.

I know the 8085 is still very popular in education, is it still in production? If so, I haven't found it. What keeps the 8080A in production? Does NTE have a supplier that keeps 30 year old fab equipment in his basement with a supply of wafers and a packaging setup in the spare bedroom?

Inquiring minds just can't help wondering...

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