That can be automated too. A random pattern would be 50% right to start. Use a measurement based analysis of the resulting operation and then random ly alter bits until it passes unit testing. Many parts don't have all that much program space. How long can it take? Great job for machines. ;)
At a particular point in time they did have advantages for low power relatively simple control systems requiring a few IO pins. I was quite struck on the 16F877 because it had enough pins to direct drive a 4 digit seven segment LCD display at bare metal level with almost no power consumption to speak of when run on a 32kHz clock crystal.
Cheapness and robustness usually tended to outweigh any disadvantages.
Today I would be more inclined to go with an ARM core for HLL use.
They were pretty handy price performance around the turn of the century and very easy for hobbyists to get into without expensive kit. You could practically program one using the printer port of a PC and bit bashing.
Today there are any number of really rather impressive sub $20 single board computers kicking around that show off the features of the various chipsets that have been mass produced for consumer routers and the like.
Not sure I would want to start a new project using a PIC today. YMMV
also the AVR 8 bit at 16 or 20 MHz is a speed demon with a very good power consumption-to-milliMIPS ratio. Some might argue "you can't do DSP on a 50 cent 8 bit micro-controller" oh yes you can. It's not your granpa's 8 bit
No, MINIC 1, designed by guys from Sussex(?) UNI.... First used on CNC machine tools with Herbert Machine Tools in Coventry. Octal M/C too. Diode array microprogram, 8/16K ferrite core store, 1MHz clock PMSL !
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And a nice speaker input from the top bit of the instruction register. One quickly learned the different gurgles and beeps from it, so it was possible to have coffee ( -- oops, tea -- ) in another room and still be aware what's going on.
It had delay-line registers (nickel spirals) which made the CPU sensitive to temperature and clock frequency variations.
The logic was done with ferrite memory cores, with fan-in and fan-out of 3 (IIRC). There was a three-phase clocking scheme to keep the data flowing into the proper direction.
Being a human paper tape machine isn't the same as coding in binary. I kno w that the instruction set of the PDP-11 was simple enough and had fields t hat aligned to 3 bit octal digits making binary (or I guess octal technical ly) coding possible. Is that what you are talking about?
Funny. HHLs make coding so much easier... if you pick the right HLL. I wo rk in Forth with allows you to work as close to the metal as you like or ab stract to any level you can construct. Pretty nice really. Not your typic al HLL at all.