FPGA Design - The Making of an Intel 8086 Microprocessor

Elie Rosen
Prof. Michael Caggiano


The Intel 8086 microprocessor was first introduced in 1978. Since then the semiconductor industry has changed vastly from the old chip manufacturing techniques of the time. Today we can fit thousands of Intel 8086 microprocessors in the same size package with use of modern semiconductor techniques such as the ability to design with 22nm feature size and better yield from improved wafer quality. This paper examines how we can still learn from preceding technology with a more modern twist. By utilizing field programmable gate arrays, we can easily implement the same technology from the past and learn about architectures that are still relevant in today’s modern processors.


The primary goal of this project is to re-create an Intel 8086 Microprocessor based on an open source implementation of the processor's hardware description language. In order to accomplish this, it was necessary to: 1) create and embed a BIOS into static ROM and 2) load the compiled hardware onto the FPGA device. Once completed, an x86-based operating system, such as MS-DOS 6.22, was installed as a proof-of-concept demonstrating that the implemented processor worked.

Intel 8086

• First produced in 1978.
• The first official 16-bit processor capable of supporting up to a revolutionary 1 megabyte of memory and 64 kilobytes of Input / Output data (I/0).
• Backwards compatable with 8-bit applications to encourage corporations to switch to the new technology.
• Paved the way to future computing with the introduction of x86 architecture.

FPGA Hardware

• The field-programmable gate array consists of over 10,000 individual logic slices that can be programmed to act as individual low level logic devices and gates.
• By configuring the logic elements to work together, large and complex devices can be
created (for example, an Intel 8086 microprocessor).