"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication" - Steve Jobs
August 24, 2021 -- PragmatIC Semiconductor, a world leader in flexible electronics, is proud to announce that it has manufactured a flexible version of the 6502 processor, the iconic design that kick-started the personal computer revolution.
Launched in 1975, the ground breaking device was a fraction of the price of competitor chips, which is why Steve Wozniak built it into his Apple I computer. The chip and its variants went on to become the main brains of seminal computers like the Apple II, Commodore PET, Commodore 64 and BBC Micro, as well as pioneering gaming platforms including the Nintendo Entertainment System and Atari 2600. The design is still supported today by Western Design Center (WDC), who estimate that their licensees have shipped over 6 billion embedded 65xx processors, growing by hundreds of millions per year.
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 was a barrier to high volume adoption. At the time, the perceived wisdom was that computing power was not for the masses, as immortalised by Ken Olsen of DEC who said “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home”. The rest, as they say, is history.
PragmatIC’s flexible 6502 was laid out and manufactured in less than two weeks, demonstrating the game-changing ability of our FlexIC Foundry to support rapid realisation of semiconductor hardware. A second iteration has already been taped out to optimise pinout, footprint and speed, leveraging an agile design approach that would never be possible with the high cost and long lead times of silicon fabrication.
“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.”
“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 with 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.”
About PragmatIC Semiconductor
PragmatIC Semiconductor is a world leader in ultra-low-cost flexible electronics. Our unique technology platform enables innovators to create novel solutions to everyday problems that are beyond the scope of conventional electronics. Our ConnectIC® family of flexible integrated circuits (FlexICs) are thinner than a human hair and extend proven applications such as RFID and NFC into mass market use cases, enabling the potential for trillions of smart objects that can engage with consumers and their environments. Our novel, differentiated products are being adopted by a growing base of global companies across diverse markets, including consumer goods, games, retail, pharmaceutical and security. Alternatively, designers can create their own application-specific flexible devices using our FlexIC Foundry® offering at a fraction of the cost and time required for traditional silicon circuits, opening up multiple new markets beyond RFID. These FlexICs are manufactured on our revolutionary FlexLogIC® production system, a highly scalable manufacturing model for cost-effective high-volume production, achieved with orders of magnitude less capital investment and operating cost compared to a traditional silicon IC fab. PragmatIC is headquartered in Cambridge, UK, with our first billion-unit production facility in Sedgefield. Shareholders include Cambridge Innovation Capital, Arm and Avery Dennison.
About Western Design Center and the 6502 processor
The Western Design Center, Inc. (WDC) Founded in 1978 by William D. Mensch, Jr., WDC has licensed its 65xx brand microprocessor Intellectual Property (IP/Cores) to the electronics industry since 1981. WDC is considered a pioneer in the design and licensing of microprocessor technology Intellectual Property (IP) cores and inspired Acorn engineers to create the wildly popular ARMxx series of microprocessors. GTE, Rockwell, MOS Technology, Synertek, and NCR were some of WDC’s first licensees. In addition, WDC began selling 65xx brand microprocessor chips to Apple Computer in 1984 making it the first supplier of microprocessors as a fabless semiconductor company. More information is available at: