The Ben Eater 6502 kit comes with a two line LCD character display. This is very nice for doing some experiments. But I always thought how cool it would be to do output to a real screen.

I finally found the Xosera project, which is an FPGA based graphics adapter. It was originally designed for the rosco_m68k hardware, which uses the Motorola 68000 and derivatives. Fortunately the Xosera board is designed for an 8 bit databus, though internal registers are 16 bit. The project has a very welcoming Discord channel (xosera-users on https://discord.gg/jNcvmRPn). There is a nicely designed PCB available from Tindie, the FPGA comes as a module.

I have added a BOM for the german distributor Reichelt to the ZeroMips hardware repo. It includes everything needed but the GAL22V10. It also includes some spare parts and also parts of the circuit that are not needed for connecting to the 6502.

Connecting Xosera to the CPU breaboard is actually pretty simple: Zeromips schematic

U2 is a PAL used as a simple chip select decoder. Sources can be found in the hardware repo.

IC4 on the Xosera needs a different configuration which is also included.

When you power up the Xosera board, you should get a grey screen in 640x480.

grey screen

In the beginning I had the problem, that IC5 got quite warm. This was due to a RGB LED connected to the FPGA pins that sunk their current into the poor thing. Fortunately there is a jumper trace on the FPGA board that can be cut to disable the LED. That worked nicely.

verify cutting trace was succesful

To match the bus timing I had some logic analyzer fun.

logic analyzer fun

Fortunately the board has debug connectors to attach the logic probes.

logic probes

After all the timing looks pretty neat.

timing looks neat

After writing a small assembly program, I got this output:

not quite there

I was hoping to see the characters ‘ABC’ in the upper right corner instead, so something was still wrong. It needed some more sleep on my side to find that simply forgot to include the character codes that I wanted to output.

The sourcecode is included in the ZeroMips playground repo.

So some very nice progress here. Now I have an extremly powerful video output for my system. Thanks to Xark for all the help while debugging this.