Z8000 Speed Wire

4 channel 100MHz scope

Debug on a 4 channel 100MHz Iwatsu oscilloscope for a 4MHz circuit. The scope was the equivalent of a small vehicle in price, whereas these days a scope 25x as fast as the circuit will cost much more than a truck.

System 8000 Unix system

Zilog System8000 Unix multi-user box used for Z8001/2 software development.

3U Z8001 prototype boards

Bicc Vero Electronics introduced a rapid prototyping system called “speed wire” which was useful for low profile boards in card cages without loosing a slot. The Z8001 CPU was being tested for memory access by running a series of several thousand NOPS and jumping back to the beginning. The processor was 4MHz in 1982 when the IBM PC was introduced at 4,7MHz. The Z8001 was designed into several USA military projects and was hard-wired rather than micro-coded which gave it decent throughput compared to a similar speed 68000. The Z8001 was segmented, whereas the 68000 had a linear address. The Z8001 was used in Zilog’s Unix system with sixteen users and a hard drive.

Z8001 speed wire board (component side)

Closeup of the wire side which was an insulation displacement method. Up to three connections could be made per contact. A board like this would take about two to three hours to wire, so prototype turn-around was extremely fast compared to standard wire wrapping. Bicc Vero was a UK company who disappeared, but not before gouging out their customers’ eyeballs with pricing.


The System 8000 was purchased in 1983 and the speed wire was done in 1981 or 1982. The Iwatsu scope was purchased in 1982 or 1983.

Z8001 speed wire board (wire side)