Published in PC Hardware

Z80 chip finally retired

by on22 April 2024

Been available for 48 years

After a venerable 48-year tenure, Zilog is bidding farewell to the Z80. Initially an offshoot from the Intel 8080 project, this chip ascended to fame as one of the most cherished and extensively utilised 8-bit CPUs in gaming and general computing.

The legendary integrated circuit, crafted by Federico Faggin, will only be available for a few months for enthusiasts to place their orders before Zilog's manufacturing ally withdraws support for this venerable technology.

According to Techspot, Zilog's announcement states that the Wafer Foundry Manufacturer (WFM) will halt the acceptance of "last time buy" (LTB) orders for the residual Z80 products come mid-June.

Zilog will then orchestrate and timetable LTB orders for the Z80 based on customer demand, while WFM will subsequently confirm the actual delivery dates. Depending on the aggregate LTB demand, the company might enforce more stringent stipulations on the minimum and maximum order quantities.

Federico Faggin, erstwhile Intel engineer and Zilog's founder embarked on this venture in 1974 following his involvement with the Intel 4004, the pioneering 4-bit CPU. The Zilog Z80 debuted in July 1976, envisioned as a software-compatible "extension" and refinement of the Intel 8080 processor.

Conceived by a small team of 12, the Z80 achieved extraordinary success, propelling Zilog to inaugurate its own chip fabrication facilities and swell its workforce to over a thousand within a mere two years. Initially intended for embedded systems, much like its Intel progenitor, the Z80 evolved into a pivotal component in gaming hardware from the 1970s through to the mid-1980s.

The Z80's influence reverberated through the realms of home computers and gaming consoles, leaving an indelible mark on the industry. It powered Sega's Master System and SG-1000, as well as Nintendo's Game Boy and Game Boy Color, bringing joy to countless gamers. It also played a pivotal role in the creation of many iconic arcade games, including the original Pac-Man. Beyond gaming, this 8-bit processor found utility in military hardware, musical synthesizers such as the Roland Jupiter-8, and a plethora of other electronic gadgets, underscoring its versatility and impact.

Zilog disseminated its Z80 blueprint to American firms Synertek and Mostek, bolstering Faggin's production capabilities, and to European giant SGS/STMicroelectronics. The CPU's design was subsequently emulated by manufacturers in Japan, Eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union, while conglomerates like NEC, Toshiba, Sharp, and Hitachi churned out their compatible chip variants.

Zilog has pivoted Z80 production back towards the embedded device sector, delivering advanced microcontroller offerings that maintain compatibility with the original Z80 and Z180 architectures.

Last modified on 22 April 2024
Rate this item
(3 votes)