MOS Technology 6551

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The 6551 Asynchronous Communications Interface Adapter (ACIA) was an integrated circuit made by MOS Technology. It served as a companion UART chip for the widely popular 6502 microprocessor. Intended to implement RS-232, its specifications called for a maximum speed of 19,200 bits per second. It was used in the Commodore PET, Commodore Plus/4, Apple Computer's Super Serial Card for the Apple II family, and possibly other lesser-known computers.

Commodore International omitted the 6551 from the popular VIC-20, C64, and C128 home computers. Instead, these systems implemented a bit-banging UART via KERNAL routines. This RS-232 implementation was not reliable over 1200 bit/s (see errata comments in the 6526 article), forcing some programmers of terminal programs to write carefully calibrated custom serial routines. The popular terminal program NovaTerm was able to achieve 4800 bit/s on the C64, and DesTerm achieved 9600 bit/s on the C128. Several other terminal programs achieved 2400 bit/s. Novaterm 9.6 on a Commodore 64 or 128, can achieve a maximum rate of 9600 bit/s on the user port, using an EZ-232 interface, designed by Jim Brain.

Several companies, including Dr. Evil Labs and Creative Micro Designs, marketed an add-on cartridge containing a 6551 and an industry-standard RS-232 port to allow the C64 and 128 to use high-speed modems from companies such as U.S. Robotics and Hayes Communications. The Dr. Evil and CMD cartridges pushed the 6551 to a maximum speed of 38,400, and with a faster-still clock crystal, some end users reported getting 115,200 bit/s out of the chip. The ADTPro file transfer program turns off the baud rate generator in the 6551 allowing 115,200 bit/s transfers with an unmodified clock crystal.

Variants[edit]

The Rockwell 65C52 combines two CMOS 6551s on a chip.

The similar Motorola 6850 is often used for MIDI.

External links[edit]


Interface chips from MOS Technology and second source/clone vendors

6520 PIA6522 VIA6523 TIA6525 TPI6526 CIA6529 SPI6530 RRIOT6532 RIOT6551 ACIA