[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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C64 joystick adapter

[Marcus Gritsch] wanted to do his retro gaming using retro hardware… or at least using some retro hardware. Although he was playing his Commodore 64 games in an emulator, he figured that using an original controller would boost the nostalgia quite a bit. This is a vintage Competition Pro joystick that has buttons and a joystick of a similar quality to arcade hardware and a DE-9 connector. He managed to connect new to old by building his own USB to C64 joystick adapter.

His project started out by breadboarding a circuit based on a PIC 24FJ64GB002 microcontroller. This does all of the work, having native USB support, and no problem reading and translating the signals from the old hardware which are simply conductors for each internal switch that pull to ground when actuated. Once working, he soldered everything to some protoboard; a connector at each end, the chip itself, a voltage regulator, and some passive components. It’s a, robust build that should give him years of emulated fun.

Dedicated hacker adds USB capabilities to his Commodore 64


To say that Commodore 64 aficionados are a dedicated group would be quite the understatement. There are still quite a few individuals that spend all sorts of time building and programming for the C64 in order to make using them enjoyable, and to keep up to date with current technologies.

[Luigi] is one of these people. He wanted a way to easily transfer files between his PC and his C64 that was fast but cheap. To [Luigi], this meant USB file transfers, which would take quite a bit of work to implement. He started out by rolling his own BASIC interpreter which could eventually be extended to support USB. Using his BASIC-Plus interpreter, he was able to implement a USB Kernel, which could transfer files at 1.2 KB/s via a USB to serial adapter. Wanting faster file transfers, he built a USB to parallel adapter, which resulted in a nearly 8-fold increase in speed.

So, if you have been dying to have USB capabilities on your C64, look no further, [Luigi] has just what you need!

Continue reading to see a quick video of USB-64 in action.

[Thanks, Matt]

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Commodore 64 USB controller adapter for your PC


[Frank], like many people, has a soft spot in his heart for the Commodore 64. He prefers to play his C64 games on his computer nowadays, but likes using his old school Competition Pro rather than some modern controller with remapped buttons. The only problem with using the controller is that his new computer doesn’t have any ports that accommodate its 9-pin D-sub connector.

The VICE emulator maps keyboard inputs to controller actions, so he decided to build himself a D-sub to USB adapter that implements a virtual USB keyboard. He wrote a firmware package for the Freescale MC9S08JS16L microcontroller that allows him to send keypresses to his emulator whenever he performs an action with his Competition Pro joystick.

The circuit looks easier to duplicate than some other C64 interfaces we have seen before, and as you can see in the video below, it works quite well. We imagine that this setup can be used to connect all sorts of old input devices to modern PCs with little to no tweaking.

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