Author Topic: PCB design on 8 bit computers  (Read 2596 times)

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Offline Alex Eisenhut

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PCB design on 8 bit computers
« on: May 05, 2022, 08:52:38 pm »
Does anyone know of or has used any kind of PCB design software, as simple as it may be, on any 8 bit computer back in the 1980s let's say?

The earliest simplest one I used was smArtwork on PC-XT or whatever. Anyone say simpler?
Hoarder of 8-bit Commodore relics and 1960s Tektronix 500-series stuff.
 

Offline rob77

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Re: PCB design on 8 bit computers
« Reply #1 on: May 05, 2022, 10:38:54 pm »
back in the 80's we used grid paper with 100mil spacing to design the PCB. then transferred the holes to a copper clad with a center punch and painted the lines onto the copper clad before etching ;)

i highly doubt any 8bit home computer of the era would be fast enough to draw a bunch of vectors... end even if it was.. the only printers available for home users were dot matrix printers not usable for printing transparencies ;)
 

Offline themadhippy

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Re: PCB design on 8 bit computers
« Reply #2 on: May 05, 2022, 10:42:40 pm »
 

Offline SiliconWizard

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Re: PCB design on 8 bit computers
« Reply #3 on: May 05, 2022, 11:06:54 pm »
Does a  zx spectrum count
https://spectrumcomputing.co.uk/entry/17474/ZX-Spectrum/PCB_Designer

I remember one on Amstrad CPC too, but I can't remember the name. Maybe it was a port of the same.
 

Offline nctnico

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Re: PCB design on 8 bit computers
« Reply #4 on: May 05, 2022, 11:11:40 pm »
Does anyone know of or has used any kind of PCB design software, as simple as it may be, on any 8 bit computer back in the 1980s let's say?
The first commercial software I sold was a PCB design program to run on the MSX2. That was in the late 80's but it was more like a glorified 'paint' than anything else.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2022, 11:14:08 pm by nctnico »
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Offline rob77

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Re: PCB design on 8 bit computers
« Reply #5 on: May 05, 2022, 11:55:14 pm »
Does a  zx spectrum count
https://spectrumcomputing.co.uk/entry/17474/ZX-Spectrum/PCB_Designer

and what did you do with the result ? :D how did you transfer it to a copper clad ?

there were many glorified paint programs but for real PCB design it's pointless.. don't forget the low resolution of the graphics back then.

 

Offline themadhippy

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Re: PCB design on 8 bit computers
« Reply #6 on: May 06, 2022, 12:04:43 am »



Quote
and what did you do with the result ? :D how did you transfer it to a copper clad ?


Quote
PCB DESIGNER (SPECTRUM 48/128K)
INTRODUCTION
------------
PCB LAYOUT: (PCB)
Allows you to produce printed circuits directly from your EPSON
RX/LX/FX or near compatible dot matrix printer using a dense 1:1
printout on positive photoresist coated copper laminate, or
professional quality using the DOUBLE SIZE print routine with photo
reduction.
 

Offline rob77

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Re: PCB design on 8 bit computers
« Reply #7 on: May 06, 2022, 12:16:43 am »



Quote
and what did you do with the result ? :D how did you transfer it to a copper clad ?


Quote
PCB DESIGNER (SPECTRUM 48/128K)
INTRODUCTION
------------
PCB LAYOUT: (PCB)
Allows you to produce printed circuits directly from your EPSON
RX/LX/FX or near compatible dot matrix printer using a dense 1:1
printout on positive photoresist coated copper laminate, or
professional quality using the DOUBLE SIZE print routine with photo
reduction.

have you ever tried to use a dot matrix printer's output as a transparency ? if you had a 9pin printer even the dense "graphics" print was pretty shit... and what material did you use ? paper sprayed with the "transparency" spray did not produce the best contrast and the ink wasn't the best at blocking UV either. anything else (plastic transparency films...etc..) was pretty much unusable in a dot matrix printer.

first usable PCB design tools available to home users came with the PC era and laser printers. laser printers provided good contrast and the toner was pretty good at blocking UV light.
 

Offline nctnico

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Re: PCB design on 8 bit computers
« Reply #8 on: May 06, 2022, 12:17:08 am »
Does a  zx spectrum count
https://spectrumcomputing.co.uk/entry/17474/ZX-Spectrum/PCB_Designer

and what did you do with the result ? :D how did you transfer it to a copper clad ?

there were many glorified paint programs but for real PCB design it's pointless.. don't forget the low resolution of the graphics back then.
Well, a matrix printer output copied onto transparant for UV or toner transfer worked just fine (a gas station around the corner had a good copier and they had wide opening hours). I tuned my program so that the pitch of commonly used matrix printers was an integer multiple of 2.54mm grid so the output had a 1:1 scale straight from the printer.
« Last Edit: May 06, 2022, 12:18:40 am by nctnico »
There are small lies, big lies and then there is what is on the screen of your oscilloscope.
 
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Offline thinkfat

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Re: PCB design on 8 bit computers
« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2022, 07:00:04 am »
It looks like Data Becker published a program called "Platine 64" for the C64, in 1985. I might have had it in my vast collection of, ehm, backups, back then. But I never used it.
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Online darkspr1te

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Re: PCB design on 8 bit computers
« Reply #10 on: May 06, 2022, 08:10:58 am »
It looks like Data Becker published a program called "Platine 64" for the C64, in 1985. I might have had it in my vast collection of, ehm, backups, back then. But I never used it.
I also used the program, and it's sister program on the BBC micro, how ever the only way of transferring to transparent sheets we had was the scratch off PCB symbols, so we over layed the transparent sheet over the print and recopied it out. it was a school after all and they could not afford a real photo copier, only those old ones with plates.
 

Offline Circlotron

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Re: PCB design on 8 bit computers
« Reply #11 on: May 06, 2022, 08:50:27 am »
first usable PCB design tools available to home users came with the PC era and laser printers. laser printers provided good contrast and the toner was pretty good at blocking UV light.
Back in the day I remember on one occasion printing the artwork to paper with a 24 pin printer and then faxing it to my PCB guy.  :-DD It was a simple layout but it got the job done and saved me a trip in the car.
 

Offline AndyC_772

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Re: PCB design on 8 bit computers
« Reply #12 on: May 06, 2022, 09:33:06 am »
I remember faxing drill drawings to PCB suppliers to get quotes, but never actual artwork.

Offline granzeier

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Re: PCB design on 8 bit computers
« Reply #13 on: May 06, 2022, 10:25:50 am »
have you ever tried to use a dot matrix printer's output as a transparency ? if you had a 9pin printer even the dense "graphics" print was pretty shit... and what material did you use ? paper sprayed with the "transparency" spray did not produce the best contrast and the ink wasn't the best at blocking UV either. anything else (plastic transparency films...etc..) was pretty much unusable in a dot matrix printer.

first usable PCB design tools available to home users came with the PC era and laser printers. laser printers provided good contrast and the toner was pretty good at blocking UV light.
I used a regular PC (it was kind of insane - by the end of the PCB, it took over 20 minutes for a redraw *) and printed it out, on my dot matrix printer (I don't remember for sure, but I think it was 24-pin) at double-sized. I took the print out to a copy house, and had them reduce it on transparencies. The transparencies were pretty decent, and the reduction cleaned it up nicely.

* A couple years later, I tried the program on a 386DX2 with a 387 and a 40 Megabyte HD... the redraws for that same board took less than a second!
 

Offline rob77

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Re: PCB design on 8 bit computers
« Reply #14 on: May 06, 2022, 11:39:07 am »
I used a regular PC (it was kind of insane - by the end of the PCB, it took over 20 minutes for a redraw *)

been there... on a 6Mhz 286 without a math co-processor  |O :-DD
 

Offline free_electron

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Re: PCB design on 8 bit computers
« Reply #15 on: May 06, 2022, 02:10:25 pm »
smArtwork on PC-XT or whatever. Anyone say simpler?
yeah baby !. That was da bomb back in the day. it could drive 8 and 24 needle dot matrix and had a special mode where it would only move one row if needles at a time to get really black printout.
it also would shave the pads on a dip packages if you ran a trace between them.
f1 place track f2 remove track, f3 place pad, f4 remove pad, f5 wide/narrow
dip e 600 24 : draw a dip in eastern direction 600 mil wide 24 pins...

Then i got access to Protel autotrax 1.61 and never looked back. Protel for windows 3.0 , protel 99 , 99se, dxp, dxp2004 , winter 9 summer 10 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 including vault 3.1 and now Nexus server.
I got my own license back in the 99se days.


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Offline HwAoRrDk

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Re: PCB design on 8 bit computers
« Reply #16 on: May 06, 2022, 04:42:42 pm »
* A couple years later, I tried the program on a 386DX2 with a 387 and a 40 Megabyte HD... the redraws for that same board took less than a second!

I was messing around with an old copy of CADStar a while back, running it under DOSbox. There you can crank up the emulated CPU speed so far that redraws are almost instantaneous! I showed it to my dad and he said he would've killed for that kind of performance back in those days. :)
 

Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: PCB design on 8 bit computers
« Reply #17 on: May 06, 2022, 04:58:52 pm »
I wrote my own PCB software on a BBC micro. Very basic but just about useable. I think output was on an X-Y plotter on drafting film
https://youtu.be/la-sGpTpkxE?t=376
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Online RoGeorge

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Re: PCB design on 8 bit computers
« Reply #18 on: May 06, 2022, 06:59:43 pm »
I wrote my own PCB software on a BBC micro. Very basic but just about useable. I think output was on an X-Y plotter on drafting film
https://youtu.be/la-sGpTpkxE?t=376

Super cool!  :-+

Offline Alex Eisenhut

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Re: PCB design on 8 bit computers
« Reply #19 on: May 07, 2022, 06:00:19 pm »
Thanks for the replies. Amazing stuff. When I was a kid in '80s the extent of PCBs for me was two layer copper clad and dry transfer rub on patterns and ferric chloride etchant. Making a board with a few 16 pin DIPs was about the limit at the time for me, making the vias connect with bits of resistor legs, etc...

In other words any mistakes or trial and error was manual rework of the actual resist on the PCB. And drilling the holes accurately with my little red and black plastic "jeweller's drill" , ugh.

I was merely daydreaming about PCB design on a Commodore 64 in the '80s, it would have been like smArtwork or Mike's software, a specialized drawing program that lets you play around before committing to the board.

I wouldn't have needed a printer, just a working guideline on the screen.

It would have been beyond me at the time to program it myself. Probably still is now.... 500 lines of BASIC? Can't imagine editing that on a 40 column C64!
Hoarder of 8-bit Commodore relics and 1960s Tektronix 500-series stuff.
 

Offline Circlotron

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Re: PCB design on 8 bit computers
« Reply #20 on: May 08, 2022, 12:01:34 pm »
Smartwork had a cool autorouter. As I remember it, you would specify the start and finish points and a wiggly worm would progressively find its way through all the obstacles from point to point.
 

Offline Benta

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Re: PCB design on 8 bit computers
« Reply #21 on: May 10, 2022, 06:43:12 pm »
I remember using using a PCB layout package on a CP/M (Z80) machine in the early 80s.
The graphics were character based using o O \ / - | for pads and tracks. Can't recall the name.
It was mainly a manual layout/routing tool. After doing the layout, you'd print to a dot-matrix printer and then use the printout for a layout on foil using transfer symbols and tape.
It saved a lot of preliminary pencil/eraser work on paper, that was it's main function.
 

Offline Benta

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Re: PCB design on 8 bit computers
« Reply #22 on: May 10, 2022, 06:45:16 pm »
Smartwork had a cool autorouter. As I remember it, you would specify the start and finish points and a wiggly worm would progressively find its way through all the obstacles from point to point.
I recall that one, used it myself. It was for PCs, though (preferably with EGA graphics, though CGA would also work).
 

Offline Canis Dirus Leidy

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Re: PCB design on 8 bit computers
« Reply #23 on: June 08, 2022, 11:12:27 am »
Does a  zx spectrum count
https://spectrumcomputing.co.uk/entry/17474/ZX-Spectrum/PCB_Designer
And there was also "Layout 86", relatively popular (mainly due to the lack of alternatives) in the exUSSR.

and what did you do with the result ? :D how did you transfer it to a copper clad ?
By hands, of course. At first, the printout was used as a stencil for marking future holes with a punch, and then as a reference when you draw traces with a makeshift drawing pen.
 

Offline BrianHG

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Re: PCB design on 8 bit computers
« Reply #24 on: June 19, 2022, 05:24:41 am »
Just before the 90's, on my Amiga, I did 2 layer PCBs in deluxe paint III which allowed huge 1bpp bitmap sizes running at 300dpi (multiple pages were supported allowing me to flip layers), using a standard grid spacing, default brushes for component footprints and luckily had access to both early 300dpi laser acetate printing & film printer for film exposure.  I then found a Schematic and PCB capture software on the Amiga called Pro-Net and Pro-Board.  Fairly buggy, but it did work and most of the bugs were gone by around 1991-1992 when the last release was made.  I successfully made 8 layer boards with it and also designed my own gerber translator and scaler which took it's old style aperture files to embed them into the newer gerber file format which allowed me to use the software until the late 90's when I then switched over to Protel.

I still have all Pro-Net/Pro-Board (both software and PCBs) my work to this day.  Sadly, I lost my Deluxe Paint PCBs.
« Last Edit: June 19, 2022, 05:29:26 am by BrianHG »
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