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ESP32 and where we are now

Back a year ago, Hackaday found a Basic Interpreter Hidden In Esp32 Silicon (by Elliot Williams).  Documentation now exists at Read the Docs.

Now, for comparison, consider the TRS 80 Model I “introduced by Radio Shack on August 3, 1977….The initial price was $599.95, which included a typewriter-style (not membrane) keyboard, monitor, and cassette recorder. … It ran a Zilog Z80 at 1.77 MHz and came with 4K of RAM, and a 4K ROM of what was called Level I BASIC.” The display was 16 lines of 64 characters or 128×48 graphics. The cassette interface could run at up to 500 baud. 

Now consider the ESP32. It has 448 KB of ROM, 520 KB SRAM, another 8 KB of clock SRAM, and 1 K bit of one time write chip parameter memory. In addition to this, a basic system often has another 4 MB of external flash memory for program storage. See an Overview of ESP32 features. What do they practically mean?  That means this chip has 112 times the TRS 80 fixed memory, 130 times the working memory, and some extra. The external program storage would hold about 24 floppies worth of data.

There are three processors in the chip. Two are 32 bit and run at 240 MHz. The serial I/O will run at 960,000 baud. The third CPU is a special low power processor designed for long battery life while calling for the main processors and the radio only as needed. The two main processors run at 135 times the speed of the TRS 80 and handle four times the data on each cycle. The low power processor in its most battery saving but still alive mode still runs at nearly five times the TRS-80 speed.

And an ESP 32 ready to go can be had for under $10. Add in a power supply, keyboard, and display and you have an outlay less than a tenth the cost of a TRS 80 without considering inflation.