Links We Like: Decapping Integrated Circuits, 1980s Smartwatches, and the Soviet Video Arcade

This week’s links dive into the recent past. Unearthing the smartwatches of the 1980s business professional, revealing the innards of 1970s integrated circuits, and peering into the video game arcades of 1970s and 1980s Soviet Russia.

Break out your best Max Headroom sunglasses, pour a glass of Crystal Pepsi, and get ready to enjoy some techno induced nostalgia.

Inside the Integrated Circuit

The Zeptobars blog is a must follow for anyone that likes to see what’s actually inside the tiny opaque electronic components known as integrated circuits. Invented by Jack Kilby in 1958, the integrated circuit revolutionized the industry by shrinking the circuit size, but makes casual design observation challenging.

Do NOT try this at home!

Using caustic acids, Zeptobars removes the outer protective casing of the integrated circuit in a process known as decapping. Once the dangerous chemicals are removed, the revealed circuitry is photographed in high-resolution with the aid of a microscope.

Covering integrated circuits from 1970s z80 microcontroller to the Playstation CPU to the modern ESP-8666 WiFi chip there’s a great diversity of chips decapped and photographed.

But these aren’t just pretty pictures. Zeptobars uses a permissive license on all the photographs they take, which allows others to use the imagery and help educate about circuit design — Ken Shirriff’s reverse engineering blog posts are a great example.

Keep up the great work, Zeptobars!


Smartwatch 1980s Style

Long before there was a Pebble or Apple Watch, there was the SEIKO Data-2000. This line of wrist-attached-computers launched in 1983 and sought make the essentials of office life portable. The watch stored basic notes, appointments, and could compute basic arithmetic all input from its keyboard accessory, and all this for a $295 USD retail price.

There’s more to the Pocket Calculator Show website than just the SEIKO watch. There are plenty of other smartwatches and wacky electronics devices. A personal favorite is the Casio TM-100 watch with built-in FM transmitter. You’ll also find extravagantly absurd devices like an electronic horse racing game.


Arcade Machines of the Soviet Union

If find yourself in Russia looking for things to do, pay a visit to the Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines located in both Moscow and St. Petersburg. For everyone else, surf over to their website.

You won’t find Ms Pacman or Street Fighter in this collection. It’s an interesting cultural encounter for anyone who has popped a few too many quarters in an arcade machine. You’ll see the familiar geometry of the arcade cabinet, but with completely different graphics and gameplay.

Though the site offers an English version, stick with the Russian pages. There is more content, plus you can let your browser handle the translations. BOING BOING and Kotaku have articles worth checking out too.

I’m absolutely visiting one of the museum locations the next time I’m in Russia!


Have a great weekend, make sure to share any interesting links you find with us in the forums.

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