Making a Commodore 64 portable

making-a-c64-portable

This is [Wpqrek's] Commodore 64 modified to go on the road with him. The elderly machine has a special place in his heart as it was what he learned to code on. He performed a series of hacks which house everything necessary to use the machine inside the original case.

Obviously the hack that has the most effect when it comes to portability was swapping a display for the small LCD mounted above the number keys. This was a pretty simple process because the screen, originally intended for a rear view camera in a vehicle, already had a composite video input. To emulate the floppy disc drive he’s using an SD card via an sd2iec board which he laid out himself. Rounding up the alterations is a stereo SID. The second channel uses the pre-amp circuit cut from a second C64. This audio hardware will let him do cool things like playing some classic Zeppelin.

You can get a video tour of these alterations after the break.

[Read more...]

Playing Led Zeppelin on a C64

In the C64 demoscene there are a ton of awesome software hacks that push the Commodore 64, the 1MHz 6510-based computer from 1982, to its limits. Most of these C64 demos are very much limited by the hardware inside the C64, but the demoscene is always coming up with new ways of pushing the envelope. [No Quarter] just sent in one of these software hacks that propel the capabilities of the C64 into the realm of absurdity by playing full length songs directly from the floppy drive.

Playing a song on the C64 begins with an Amiga and a Perfect Sound digitizer to convert the digital audio file into a 4-bit sample. Once this sample is transferred over to the C64 where it was manually timed so streaming it off a 1581 disk drive would result in the song playing at the correct pitch. It’s an amazing work of optimization; the audio data is streamed off the disk just as fast as it’s played from memory, an amazing data throughput rate for the ‘ol C64

After the break you can see [No Quarter] playing Led Zeppelin, Bon Jovi, Shania Twain, and Extreme. A very, very cool project and with the addition of a C64 hard drive makes it possible to have a media player for the C64.
[Read more...]

A nostalgic look at what a 13 year old can do with a C64

[Armin] recently pulled out his Commodore 64 and looked back on the projects he did as a kid. The surprising thing is that we’re not talking quite as far in the past as you might image. He was 13 in 2002 and the family didn’t have a PC. But more than a decade before his father had purchased a C64 and [Armin] dug into the manual to teach himself how to code. This week he connected the old hardware to his video capture card to give us a demonstration on what he accomplished.

He had seen Windows 95 at the local computer club and figured why not program a clone of the software for the machine at hand? He called it Windows 105 (because that number is higher than 95) and worked out ways to mimic programs like DOS, Corel Draw, Notepad, and some of the programs from Microsoft Office. They didn’t include all the functionality of the real thing, but the look was there.

The story does have a happy ending. [Armin's] parents saw what he was doing and managed to pick up a PC for him to play with. Now he’s a professional programmer looking back on the formative years that got him there. We’ve embedded one of his demo videos after the break for your enjoyment.

[Read more...]

Hardsync – DDR Reimagined for the C64

hardsync

For those of you that like to play dance games, but [DDR] for the [PS2] uses too modern hardware for your tastes, [Hardsync] may be for you. Although the chiptune-style music coming out of the [C64] may not appeal to everyone, one would have to imagine that a game like this could have been a huge hit 30 years ago.

As for the hardware itself, it does indeed use one PS2 element, the dance mat. It’s hooked into one of the C64 joystick ports. In this case, the cable was cut, but it would also be possible to make a non-destructive adapter for it so as not to interfere with any future PS2 fun.

The program is made so that fellow retro-dancers can make their own songs. Each song is a discreet file, and can be reconfigured to your own personal mix. Be sure to check out the video after the break of this old-school dance machine in use after the break! [Read more...]

Dumping a C64 kernel

[Blark] picked up a couple of Commodore 64 machines on Craig’s List so that he could play around with the SID chips inside. But there’s some other fun stuff in there and his attention was drawn to the PROM which stores the kernel. He thought it would be a fun adventure to build a ROM dumper capable of storing binary images.

In the video after the break you can see that when powered up the dumper immediately starts streaming hex values to the terminal. The system is set up to feed a Python script which packs the data stream into an image file. The reading is done by a PIC 18F4520, streaming the data in at 9600 baud with a generous delay between each address read to get the cleanest read possible. He had a bit of help from the AVR Freaks to get to this point.

We’d guess he’s going to pull the image off the chip several times and compare results to filter out any possible data corruption. From there we’re not sure what he’ll do with the files but there’s always the possibility of making is own emulator using this kernel image.

[Read more...]

[Jeri Ellsworth] on making her c64 bass keytar

[Jeri Ellsworth] finally set aside some time to talk about the build process for her Commodore 64 bass keytar. We think what started by taking a band saw to the guitar body ended up as a fantastic new instrument.

When she was showing off the project at Maker Faire we really only got a cursory look at what it could do. Her most recent video covers all that went into pulling off the project. Once the bulk of the guitar body was gone she tore the guts out of a dead c64 in order to mate the case with the guitar neck. Always the craftsman, she altered the computer’s badge to preserve the iconic look, then went to work adding pickups to each string using piezo sensors. This was done with Maker Faire in mind because magnetic pickups would have been unreliable around all of the tesla coils one might find at the event. These were amplified and filtered before being processed via an FPGA which connects to the original c64 SID 6581 chip.

[Read more...]

Two retro successes with a Commodore 64

Slowly but surely, Hackaday readers have been logging onto our retro edition with some very old hardware. Of course we’re featuring the coolest as retro successes. [azog] and [logik] entered the pantheon of brave souls who loaded up Hackaday with a Commodore 64 this week, and their builds are pretty impressive to say the least.

[logik]‘s build was nearly doomed from the start: he used a C64 found dumpster diving one day with a bad power supply and half-dead VRAM chips. The first order of business was getting the C64 talking to a PC with the help of a MAX232 serial IC and loading up 64HDD to transfer a copy of Novaterm. From there it was a simple matter of connecting to an Ubuntu box and pulling up our retro site with the help of a text-only web browser.

[azog] didn’t want to abuse Lynx with his submission so he connected a Commodore 64 Ethernet card and loaded up Contiki. The banner image (above) is the ASCII Hackaday logo rendered with the C64′s PETSCII character set, something I did not foresee when I created our retro edition. Still, freakin’ awesome.

As a small aside, we’re going to open up the comments for this post to suggestions and recommendations you’ve got for the Hackaday retro edition. What would you like to see? The Retrocomputing guide is woefully inadequate, we know, but there’s a project in the works (getting WiFi over a serial port on a 68k Mac) that should be well received.