Experiments show the best way to learn computing is with a simple computer* and FIGnition is the only computer so simple you can build it, code it and understand it. Over 320 FIGnition computers have been sold to individuals and schools in the past several months of release and around 200 people have built theirs already, producing working machines; having fun with Forth and contributing software, videos, enhancements and ideas! Thanks to a bulk order from a Uni*, this could be the only Batch 3 advert - there's only 9 left before Batch 4!
In around an hour with just a soldering iron, some solder and a multimeter you can build your own retro computer from 45 simple parts! Connect it to a TV and experience the retro vibe all over again in 8Kb of RAM and wonderful monochrome graphics! FIGnition comes with a full set of parts including the PCB, chip sockets; a fully-programmed, ready to go processor, and mind-blowingly clever keypad :-) !
FIGnition is designed to be built by novices and even people who have never soldered before have successfully built a FIGnition: Parts have standard 0.1" spacings, the instructions are clear and care has been taken to make the machine easy to put together.
FIGnition runs a simple language - Forth. It comes ready to be programmed in-situ with an editor better than most 8-bit home computers. It offers the following features:
A Boot-up time of <1s!
8Kb of RAM, enough for around 2000 lines of Forth code.
At least 384Kb of Flash Storage. You can edit your programs and store them for later use, building up your own libraries of code.
16 User-defined graphics! - FIGnition is designed to be used practically (within its hardware limitations), it's not a crippled machine designed to let you print "Hello World." FIGnition allows you to write a variety of games using your own graphic designs.
Upgradeable firmware - which can be downloaded from the Fignition website and uploaded to your FIGnition via USB (over 12 upgrades since early May mostly for new features and the occasional bug-fix).
A fantastic 4 spare I/O ports for you to attach your own electronics! Control your own power station eh?
FIGnition now uses the high-speed interpreter and runs 12 x faster than the definitive Forth computer, the Jupiter-Ace (which routinely sells on Ebay for hundreds of pounds) and several times faster than any early 80s home computer running Forth.
FIGnition is partially open-sourced on GitHub and will be completely open-sourced and will be fully documented as soon as is possible:
Discover how to create a real video image using nothing more than two resistors and two diodes.
Understand how FIGnition uploads new firmware.
Explore the complexities of Flash storage.
Get to grips with keypads and LEDs.
Learn how a real computer language works and how it converts text into programs.
So Buy It
I think FIGnition is a great way to discover the essentials of a computer, for yourself (it's seriously exciting to know you can actually build one); for your children (under supervision) for students or for the techie in your life. However, FIGnition's proved itself enough already, so I'll let my customers have the last word:
“FIGnition is a fantastic bit of educational kit! Something I can build and use with my children and great for the Retro Computer Museum for learning Electronics and of course programming!” Andy Spencer, Retro Computer Museum Founder.
“ .. I'm also increasing aware of how problematic my childrens' relationship is with technology - they are just consumers of it, and don't really see how they can be anything but customers of technology producers, and I want that to change. I think I first read about FIGnition on the BBC website a few months ago, but it's one of a number of things that I've been thinking about (RaspberryPI, Arduino, etc), especially since I went to PyCon UK last month and met people like Garry Bulmer. FIGnition is the one that hits most of the right buttons for me... ” Daniele Procida, creator of the Lego PowerBook.
“ Thanks so much for this kit, it's brilliant.. and had it fully assembled and working in about half an hour. This kit far surpasses competing kits such as Velleman kits and the instructions were spot on, really easy to follow... ” Thomas Mortensson, Computer Architecture student at Bristol University.
“ I should have mailed you long ago but I just wanted to tell you I've got the package and it works great. I'm having a lot of fun with it. ” Customer from Australia.
“ I received the Fignition, built it, and had a play - it's great stuff...” Gareth Halfacree technology journalist at thinq.co.uk .
Note#1: Soldering involves the use of hot substances and building electronics components involves an element of risk, whose responsibility rests solely with the person who builds the kit; not nichemachines.
Note#2: You'll get a RevD board (which is shown). It has staggered keys to make building and typing on it easier.
Note#3: The 80s being a massively successful experiment in teaching kids to program with simple computers vs the far greater failure of teaching kids to program using the 10,000 times more complex machines that run on modern operating systems.
Note#4: Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at the University of Strathclyde, bulk order in October.