An Emulated Commodore 64 Operating System for the Raspberry Pi

Commodore-PI

 

It’s no secret that Commodore users love their old machines with the Commodore C64 being chief among them with 27 Million units sold worldwide. Speaking as a former Commodore Business Machines (CBM) engineer the real surprise for us is the ongoing interest and devotion to an era typified by lumbering 8 bit machines and a color palette consisting of 16 colors. Come to think about it, that’s the description of Minecraft!

Jump forward to today and it’s a generation later. We find that the number of working units is diminishing as age and the laws of entropy and physics take their toll.

Enter the Commodore Pi, an emulated Commodore 64 operating system for the Raspberry Pi. The goals of the project include an HDMI and composite compatible video output, SID based sound, Sprites and other notable Commodore features. They also plan to have hooks for more modern technology to include Ethernet, GPIO and expansion RAM.

A video demo of the emulator can be found below. If you’re just warming up to the Commodore world, you’ll definitely want to know the real story behind the C128.

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Commodore 64 Power Glove Is So Bad

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The Nintendo Power Glove was terrible. Really, really terrible. Thanks to modern components, though, it’s possible to recreate the Power Glove experience in a way that doesn’t suck so much. That’s what [Leif] did with his motion sensing glove for the Commodore 64.

Instead of rolling his own IMU and putting it in a glove, [Leif] is using SonicWear SoMo, a glove originally designed to generate MIDI data for performance pieces. Inside this glove is a 9 DOF gyro/accelerometer/magnetometer, uC, battery, and XBee that can be easily reprogrammed to do something a little more (or less) useful than simply sending MIDI notes and commands.

[Leif] reprogrammed the XBees to use I/O line passing instead of sending serial data, and connected the recieving XBee to the C64 joystick port through a very simple circuit with a hex inverter.

All the code to turn a SonicWear glove into a C64 controller is available on the Github, and there’s a neat demo video of [Leif] demoing his glove at the VCF Midwest late last month.

Testing DRAM From a Commodore 64

dram

A few months ago, [Josh] was given an old Commodore 64. He needed to make an AV cable and find a new power supply, and even after testing these new parts out, [Josh] found it still wouldn’t boot. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth — or perhaps he enjoys the challenge – he set out on restoring a thirty year old circuit board.

He replaced a few chips and the caps, but found he had no way to test the DRAM chips. Compared to SRAM or Static RAM used by other computers of the era, DRAM is a bit harder to interface, requiring a capacitor in each memory cell to be refreshed a few dozen times every second. With a bit of help from his good friend [CNLohr], [Josh] figured out a circuit to read and write to his chips and build a small board based on the ATmega8U2 microcontroller for testing purposes.

Hackaday Links: September 1, 2013

hackaday-links-chain

[Anton] has been doing some Commodore 64 Datasette experiments. He managed to connect the C64 audio traces to his smartphone and use it for tape playback.

Not wanting to actually disassemble his Mendel 3D printer, [SteveDC] figured out how to make extenders that increase his build height by about 40%.

We have fond memories of owning an 8088 PC. We did a lot of experimental programming on it but never anything as impressive as getting the TCP/IP stack to run on it. Then again, we’re not sure there was such a thing back when we owned the 10 MHz hardware. That’s right, the microcontrollers we mess around with now days are much faster than that old beast was.

When he goes running at night [Tall-drinks] straps a pico projector to his chest. We guess you’d call the readout a heads-up display… but it’s really more heads-down since it’s projecting on the pavement.

See how things heat up as a Raspberry Pi boots. This video was made using a thermal imaging camera to help diagnose a misbehaving board.

We don’t have very many trinkets on our desk (that would steal space normally reserved for clutter). But be would happily make room for this motorcycle model made from VCR parts (translated).

Making a Commodore 64 portable

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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.

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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.
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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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