What is the 6502?

The 6502 is an 8-bit microprocessor that was and still is, incredibly successful. When launched in 1975, it was the cheapest microprocessor on the market and caused the competition to reduce their prices. Its introduction contributed to the computer revolution of the 1980s, with the 6502 or a variant of it appearing in many systems (Apple II, Atari 2600, Atari 8-bit family, NES, Atari Lynx, Commodore 64 and the BBC Micro).

The 6502 was designed by a team from MOS technology. The team had previously worked at Motorola, working on the 6800. The 6502 benefitted from this, as it is essentially a less expensive and faster version of the 6800. Chuck Peddle, one of the team members had seen that customers were put off by the high cost of microprocessors and that they wanted a smaller instruction set.

Soon after, Commodore International purchased MOS technology. Commodore International continued to sell the 6502 and licenses to other manufacturers. It was also second-sourced by Synertek and Rockwell.

To this day, the 6502 continues to be popular, with the CMOS iteration by the Western Design Center being used in embedded systems and by enthusiasts.