Friday Hack Chat: Electronics Design And Naming A Puppy

For one reason or another, Hackaday has an extended family of ridiculously capable contributors. One of the most illustrious is [Bil Herd], Commodore refugee, electronic engineer, medic, and all-around awesome guy. He’ll be joining us over on Hackaday.io this Friday for a Hack Chat on Electronics Design.

This Friday, we’re hosting a Hack Chat with [Bil]. If you want to talk Commodore, this is the guy. If you want to talk about PLAs and programmable digital logic, this is the guy. If you want to know how to build a system from scratch in just a few months, [Bil]’s your man. [Bil] has decades of experience and his design work was produced by the millions. You’ll rarely come across someone with as much experience, and he’ll be in our Hack Chat this Friday.

[Bil] has a long career in electronics design, beginning with fixing CB radios and televisions back when fixing TVs was still a thing. Eventually, he worked his way up the engineering ladder at Commodore Business Machines where he designed the Commodore TED machines and the amazing Commodore 128.

After surviving Commodore, [Bil] has worked at a trauma center in Camden, NJ, flown with medics in the Army, and eventually came over to Hackaday where he produces videos from subjects ranging from direct digital synthesis, programmable logic, active filters, and how CMOS actually works. Basically, if it involves electronics, [Bil] knows what’s up.

Oh, as an added bonus, we get to name a puppy this week. [Bil] got a new puppy and it needs a name. Send in your suggestions!

Here’s How To Take Part:

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events on the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This hack chat will take place at noon Pacific time on Friday, June 16th. Confused about where and when ‘noon’ is? Here’s a time and date converter!

Log into Hackaday.io, visit that page, and look for the ‘Join this Project’ Button. Once you’re part of the project, the button will change to ‘Team Messaging’, which takes you directly to the Hack Chat.

You don’t have to wait until Friday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about

Hackaday Prize Entry: The FPGA Commodore

The history of Commodore 8-bit computers ends with a fantastically powerful, revolutionary, and extraordinarily collectible device. The Commodore 65 was the chicken lip’ last-ditch effort to squeeze every last bit out of the legacy of the Commodore 64. Basically, it was a rework of a 10-year-old design, adding advanced features from the Amiga, but still retaining backwards compatibility. Only 200 prototypes were produced, and when these things hit the auction block, they can fetch as much as an original Apple I.

For their Hackaday Prize entry, resident hackaday.io FPGA wizard [Antti Lukats] and a team of retrocomputing enthusiasts are remaking the Commodore 65. Finally, the ultimate Commodore 8-bit will be available to all. Not only is this going to be a perfect replica of what is arguably the most desirable 8-bit computer of all time, it’s going to have new features like HDMI, Ethernet, and connections for a lot of FPGA I/O pins.

The PCB for this project is designed to fit inside the original case and includes an Artix A200T FPGA right in the middle of the board. HDMI and VGA connectors fill the edges of the board, there’s a connector for a floppy disk, and the serial port, cartridge slot, and DE9 joystick connectors are still present.

You can check out an interview from the Mega65 team below. It’s in German, but Google auto-generated and auto-translated captions actually work really, really well.

Continue reading “Hackaday Prize Entry: The FPGA Commodore”

VCF: The Guys Keeping Up With Commodore

This year at the Vintage Computer Festival, war was beginning. The organizers of the con pulled a coup this year, and instead of giving individual exhibitors a space dedicated to their wares, various factions in the war of the 8-bitters were encouraged to pool their resources and create the best exhibit for their particular brand of home computers. The battle raged between the Trash-80 camp and the Apple resistance. In the end, only one home computer exhibit would remain. Are you keeping up with Commodore? Because Commodore is keeping up with you. This exhibit from [Anthony Becker], [Chris Fala], [Todd George], and [Bill Winters] among others is the greatest collection of Commodore ever assembled in one place.

This year’s Commodore exhibit was a free for all of every piece of the hardware Commodore (or Zombie Commodore) has ever produced. Remember netbooks? Commodore made one. Remember when people carried dedicated devices to play MP3s? Commodore was there. Did you know you can spend $20,000 USD on a 30-year-old computer? That’s Commodore.

Continue reading “VCF: The Guys Keeping Up With Commodore”

VCF: 3D Printing In The 80s

The Vintage Computer Festival East is going down right now, and I’m surrounded by the height of technology from the 1970s and 80s. Oddly enough, Hackaday frequently covers another technology from the 80s, although you wouldn’t think of it as such. 3D printing was invented in the late 1980s, and since patents are only around for 20 years, this means 3D printing first became popular back in the 2000’s.

In the 1970s, the first personal computers came out of garages. In the early 2000s, the first 3D printers came out of workshops and hackerspaces. These parallels pose an interesting question – is it possible to build a 1980s-era 3D printer controlled by a contemporary computer? That was the focus of a talk from [Ethan Dicks] of the Columbus Idea Foundry this weekend at the Vintage Computer Festival.

Continue reading “VCF: 3D Printing In The 80s”

Computers For The Masses, Not The Classes

Retro is new again, and everywhere you look you’ll find films, documentaries, and TV shows cashing in on the nostalgia of their target audience. There is one inaccuracy you’ll find with this these shows: Apple computers are everywhere. This isn’t a historical truth – Commodore was everywhere, the C64 was the computer the nerds actually used, and to this day, the Commodore 64 is still the best-selling computer in history.

Commodore is gone, replaced with a superfund site, but the people who made the best computers in history are still around. At the 2016 Hackaday SuperConference, Bil Herd gave a talk on the second act of Commodore’s three-act tragedy. Bil is a frequent contributor around these parts, and as always he illuminates the 1980s far better than Halt and Catch Fire ever could.

Continue reading “Computers For The Masses, Not The Classes”

Commodore Home – Your Smart Home For 1983

The Internet of Things is a horrific waste of time, even though no one knows exactly what it is. What would make it better? Classic Commodore gear, of course. Now you can run your smart home with a Commodore 64 and Commodore Home, the newest smart home framework from [retro.moe].

Commodore Home comes with the standard smart home features you would expect. The home lighting solution is a dot matrix printer, a few gears, and string tied to the light switch. Activate the printer, and the lights turn on and off. Brilliant. Multiple light switches can be controlled by daisy chaining printers.

Security is important in the smart home, and while the intruder alarm isn’t completely functional, future versions of Commodore Home will dial a modem, log into a BBS, and leave a message whenever an authorized person enters your home.

All of this is possible thanks to advances in UniJoystiCle technology, also from [retro.moe]. This device takes a standard ESP8266 WiFi module and turns it into a smartphone-to-joystick port bridge for the Commodore 64.

Unlike every other piece of IoT hardware being sold today, Commodore Home won’t stop working when the company behind it goes belly up; Commodore has been dead for twenty years already. You can grab all the software for Commodore Home over on the Githubs, or you can check out the video below.

Continue reading “Commodore Home – Your Smart Home For 1983”

Refurbishing Six Commodore 64s in Parallel

[Drygol] found himself with six Commodore 64’s in various states of disrepair. Because batch work is often more efficient, he detailed the process of restoring all of them in parallel in this one-, two-, three-part series.

The first step was to whiten the cases. Old cases turn yellow from the degradation of the fire retardant additives in the plastic. The proven method to fix this is with a paste called Retr0bright. [Drygol] used hair bleaching paste which is very similar. The cases came out nicely whitened from their treatment.

Next he repaired the keyboard PCB and whitened the keys as well. Drinking was involved, but it all came out okay. The circuit boards were cleaned and inspected. There were a few corroded spots, broken chips, and bad solder joints to be repaired. A few common mods were also installed.

In the final part of the series two of the C64s have SD cards installed into them. A few interesting fixes were done to repair broken plastics. Lastly the two worst cases were painted. In the end [Drygol] found himself with six perfectly working and attractive C64s. Who know’s what he’ll do with them, but we all know that was not the point.