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ICT - Computers inside out

What it's all about

I have just completed my GCSE electronics and control. For my coursework, I chose to build a 1970s-style 8-bit computer, writes A-level student Jon Rabbette.

I bought a FIGnition palm-sized computer kit and decided to design and make a case for it. This meant moving the keyboard from the circuit board on to the surface of the case. I used clear acrylic sheets, which had to be laser cut, but when I came to solder the leads attaching the keys to the circuit board, the case became a maze of wires which kept snapping.

After months of effort, I tested it. I found an old cathode ray tube television to use as a monitor, then switched it on and connected the FIGnition. Nothing appeared on screen.

For the rest of the day I struggled with a cathode-ray oscilloscope, logic probe and voltmeter to find the problem. With my deadline two weeks away, I contacted Julian Skidmore, the computer's designer.

For days we exchanged emails on how to troubleshoot problems; after running tests I concluded that the keyboard was short-circuiting. Following a complete overhaul, I wired the computer up, turned it on and everything worked.

I learned the importance of constantly checking for errors, gaining a good understanding of component parts and making sure that designs are practical. I also learned to seek help when you need it and the importance of knowing who to ask.

What else?

Find out more about using the FIGnition educational computer and help students to build their own 8-bit computer with a guide shared by Alan O Donohoe, bit.lyFIGnition

Help students to start computer programming using Ben G's guide to Visual Basic, bit.lyBenGProgramming.

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