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.

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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! Continue reading “Hardsync – DDR Reimagined for the C64″

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.

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[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.

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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.

Putting every chiptune ever in an FPGA

Finally one device combines the power of the Commodore 64 SID, Atari ST YM2149, and Amiga MOD audio into one awesome box. It’s called the RetroCade Synth, and there’s a Kickstarter that is perfect for starting your chiptune composing journey.

[Jack]’s RetroCade synth is connects directly to the Papilio One 500k FPGA. All the classic chiptune ICs can be emulated in this FPGA including the Commodore 64 SID chip, and an Amiga MOD player. Being a follow-up to [Jack]’s previous FPGA YM2149 project, he also threw that chip into the project for good measure. While the RetroCade doesn’t ship with every old chiptune IC – there isn’t support for NES, Atari, GameBoy, or SN76489-based chiptunes yet – that is something [Jack] will add once the Kickstarter is completed.

After the break you can see [Jack] jamming out on his RetroCade project playing a YM2149, SID, and Amiga MOD sounds simultaneously. For $100, it’s comparable to the venerable MIDIbox SID, but also allows anyone to play whatever genre of chiptunes they desire.

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Getting a home built scanner from ’92 up and running again

In 1992, [Arpi] didn’t have much time for Ninja Turtles, Nintendos, and other wonderful wastes of time his fellow geeks were raised on. He was busy building a scanner for his Commodore 64. Although this very impressive build could have been lost to the sands of time, he pulled his project out of the attic for a “Try to use it again” party. Although this party is not a formal competition, we’re going to say that [Arpi] walked home that night with the most geek cred.

While there are no build details, there is a bunch of info to be gleaned from the gallery about how this machine was built. We’re pretty sure a good majority of the build was a typewriter at one point, and it looks like there’s a windshield wiper motor in there somewhere. Like this completely unrelated but similar build, [Arpi]’s scanner uses a photoresistor and a few LEDs to transfer image data to the custom software. In case you were wondering, yes, the ancient 5 1/4 floppy disk was still readable – one of the few advantages of the huge sectors on these disks.

Check out the videos of this scanner in action after the break, and if you’ve got a decades-old hack sitting in your attic (remember that acoustic modem you built?), send it in on the tip line.

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