Below are some project suggestions by year. Note that projects from earlier years may still be interesting to do.
Project Suggestions for 2012
This year I have some projects relating to the EDSAC Replica Project at Bletchely Park.
EDSAC Rebuild - chassis monitor
Build a tPad or DE0-nano based system to monitor an EDSAC chassis. The idea is to have a tiny (e.g. DE0-nano) system in each chassis connected to the test points in order to monitor what the valves are doing. Help can be given to interface the low-voltage FPGA board to the higher voltage chassis. Thought needs to be given to modelling what a chassis does and determining the valid range of signal rise and fall times and the timing relationship between signals. A tPad version with graphical output to help with chassis diagnostics would be desirable and could be considered as an optional extra for the project.
EDSAC Rebuild - cartoon of an EDSAC
The EDSAC rebuild project is focused on a historical recreation of the machine which will be technically interesting but is likely to have little visual appeal for the average punter. As an alternative, a cartoon like machine could be produced which more visually presents the key functional features of the machine. For example, delay-line memories could be modelled using a linear array of LEDs, some visible mechanical oscillation or movement of ball bearings in a clear tube.
Project Suggestions from 2011
I'm principally interested in hardware oriented projects. The kit used in the ECAD+Arch Labs can be used to prototype a huge range of devices. Using an more advanced HDL like Bluespec (see my examples pages) can also speed up development but with some learning cost at the beginning.
Recreate Legacy Processors
Using modern hardware description languages it is now quite tractable to implement legacy processors quickly. How about a SystemVerilog or Bluespec version of a PDP8? Or perhaps a stack machine to execute Forth programs?
The level of difficulty is obviously dependent upon the processor chosen and the existence of tools (instruction set simulator, etc.) that would help development.
Build a GPU capable of the fixed functions in OpenGL 1.1. Probably a complex project.
I'd be interested in interfacing the ECAD+Arch Labs board to Lego to replace the Mindstorm controller. This could be an I/O processor coupled to the ARM on the Excalibur part. The ARM would require a library to allow easy configuration of systems. Extensions might be constraint based programming of Lego devices, simulation, etc.