Building an Atmel-powered AVR32 “box”

Written by Stuart Cording

Those of us who are part of a certain generation likely had their first programming experience with one of the many Z80 based personal computers from the 1980s. The experiences of people using Atmel-powered Arduino boards today are similar to that of the 80s generation back then: working on easy to program, capable machines that can be interconnected with world around us.

Alex Borst, a Maker who lives in Germany, has developed a hardware platform based on Atmel’s AVR32 microcontroller that he calls the “AVR32 Box.” Featuring an AT32UC3A0512 microcontroller, a CPLD, 512kBytes extra SRAM, a TFT display and making use of the USB host controller and audio DAC integrated on the AVR32, this hardware configuration initially allowed his kids to listen to MP3s in the car.


Later on, Alex made some minor hardware changes, adding support for a PS/2 keyboard, video output and headphones. The hardware was ready for further experiments!

Using the Atmel software development tools, he developed some of the classic games we all enjoyed playing (when we weren’t trying to write our own code!) – PacMan and Asteroids to name just a few. It was then that Alex had a Maker’s spark of inspiration: would it be possible to relive those long-lost memories of his former experience with the Amstrad/Schneider CPC personal computer?

Several months later, Alex not only succeeded in getting a Z80 emulator to run on his “AVR32 Box,” but managed to get the CPC’s operating system and BASIC interpreter running too, all at the original operating speed.

Many hardware features of the original CPC are implemented, such as support for sound and USB stick access to replace the original floppy disk drive,


Alex notes that some original CPC software fails to run due to missing exotic CPC hardware or the need to achieve the higher 640×200 pixel resolution that the “AVR32 Box” hardware doesn’t support.

Despite this, Alex takes great pride in his achievement and said in his email to us “It is really amazing what can be done with an AVR32, it’s a great controller!”

If you would like to learn more or contact Alex, you can contact him at

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