PragmatIC creates flexible version of 6502 chip

Written by: Andrew Wade | Published:
Apple I circuit board inscribed by Steve Wozniak (Credit: ArnoldReinhold via CC)

UK-based PragmatIC has made a flexible version of the classic 6502 processor, which appeared in iconic computers from Apple and Commodore.

Originally developed in 1975, the 6502 helped kickstart the home computer revolution, coming in at a fraction of the cost of its competitors at the time. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak used it in the Apple I, with variants of the chip also helping to power the Apple II, Commodore 64, BBC Micro, Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and Atari 2600.

Flexible electronics specialist PragmatIC recreated the 6502 in an updated form using its FlexIC Foundry, which embeds electronics into flexible, plastic substrates. According to the company, the processor was laid out and manufactured in less than two weeks, something that would not be possible with traditional silicon chip manufacture.

“We are delighted to have made a flexible 6502, the processor that is credited with creating the personal computer revolution,” said Scott White, CEO of PragmatIC Semiconductor. “The design symbolises one of our key beliefs that a new paradigm for semiconductors is required to enable innovators to build extraordinary electronics solutions that improve everyday life.”

The 6502 was developed at MOS Technology by a team of designers who had left Motorola because they were convinced that the high cost of the company’s 6800 processor was a barrier to high volume adoption. Today, the design is still supported by Western Design Center (WDC), which estimate that licensees have shipped over 6 billion embedded 65xx processors, with hundreds of millions more shipped each year.

“I see what PragmatIC is doing to be as transformational as what we did at MOS Technology back in the 1970s,” said Bill Mensch, founder of WDC, who created the original 6502 alongside Chuck Peddle.

“In validating the 6502 design on their FlexIC Foundry, we can now extend the original goal of the design to support embedded processing for the Internet of Everything.”

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