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Colour Maximite Microcomputer, Pt.1

The original Maximite microcomputer (March-May 2011) has been a huge hit with readers and thousands are now in use all over the world, from Australia to Russia. So how do you improve on such a big hit? How about by adding eight vibrant colours and a stereo music synthesiser for a start? The result is stunning and it takes the Maximite to a whole new level.

By Geoff Graham

Click for larger image
The Colour Maximite interfaces to a VGA monitor and a standard PS/2 key­board. You can see how small the unit is compared to these external parts. The monitor is shown here displaying the start-up screen, with MMBasic loaded and ready to run programs.

The Maximite is a small, self-contained computer that is ideal for experimenting, learning programming and for use as an embedded controller. It uses a standard VGA monitor for display, a standard PS2 keyboard for input and an SD card for storage.

It includes its own operating system and BASIC programming language (called MMBasic), so you do not need to tether it to a larger computer. It also starts up instantly, so you can just plug it in and immediately get going by entering commands and a program.

The new Colour Maximite has 40 input/output (I/O) lines which can be independently configured as  analog
inputs, digital inputs or digital outputs. You can measure voltages and frequencies, detect switch closures, and so on, and get it to respond by turning on lights, closing relays, etc – all under control of your BASIC program.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about the Colour Maximite is that, like its predecessor, everything (VGA, USB, colour, music, etc) is generated by a single chip that costs less than $10.

For people who are familiar with the original Maximite, the Colour Maximite has a similar component count so the cost of building the colour version should be about the same. It’s also reasonably easy to build; just an hour or two is all that’s needed.

Features & Specifications

• Self-contained high-performance microcomputer.

• Microchip 32-bit processor running at 80MHz with 512KB flash memory and
   128KB RAM.

• Colour VGA output, 480 x 432 pixels with eight colours (black, red,
   green, blue, cyan, yellow, purple and white).

• Standard PS/2-style keyboard input.

• Stereo audio synthesiser for music and sound effects.

• Battery backed real-time clock (optional).

 • 20 external I/O lines which can be configured as analog inputs, digital
   inputs/outputs, frequency measurement, etc.

 • Arduino compatible connector with an additional 20 I/O lines that
   are  independent of the original 20 I/Os.

 • SD card support – up to 32GB for storing programs and  files.

 • USB port for connecting to a personal computer (Windows, Mac or Linux)
   as a terminal or for file transfer.

• Extensive communications protocols including serial, I2C, SPI and 1-wire.

• 2-channel audio/analog/PWM analog output.

• Graphic capability includes selectable fonts, user designed fonts, drawing
    lines, circles, squares and control over any pixel with any colour.

• Special commands for animated games. BLIT will copy a block of the
    video screen at high speed and SPRITE will create animated sprites
    that can be moved on the screen without disturbing the background.

• Firmware upgrades via USB.

• Full-featured BASIC interpreter and operating system.

• Instant on (ready for you to type in and test programs).

• Powered from USB, 9V plugpack or battery.

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