Intel's fabrication plants can churn out hundreds of thousands of processor chips a day. But what does it take to handcraft a single 8-bit CPU and a computer? Give or take 18 months, about $1,000 and 1,253 pieces of wire.
Steve Chamberlin, a Belmont, California, videogame developer by day, set out on a quest to custom design and build his own 8-bit computer. The homebrew CPU would be called Big Mess of Wires or BMOW. Despite its name, it is a painstakingly created work of art.
"Computers can seem like complete black boxes. We understand what they do, but not how they do it, really," says Chamberlin. "When I was finally able to mentally connect the dots all the way from the physics of a transistor up to a functioning computer, it was an incredible thrill."