Sharp SM5 Microcontroller
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The PIF and CIC (inside the cartridge) are both custom versions of Sharp SM5 4-bit microcontrollers.
These microcontrollers were also used in the Game & Watch handheld games, so Nintendo already had developers that were familiar with them. While the core functionality of the PIF and CIC are generally understood, the microcontroller model is custom and therefore not well known.
There has been some effort to reverse engineer the PIF and CIC communication to ease the process for creating compatible flash carts. At least 2 projects went through the time effort and money to decap the chips and view the internals of to better understand what they are doing.