It’s Raining Brand-new Commodore 64s

There’s never been a better time to build your own Commodore 64, apparently. Within a day of each other, we got tipped off on three (3!) separate C64 builds from two different hackers.

This has been made possible by a series of disparate projects that have individually recreated a piece of the full machine. Replacement motherboards exist, like the Ultimate 64 and the C64 Reloaded Mk2. New cases can be had courtesy of Pixelwizard. Even new keyboard bases can be had thanks to the Mechboard 64 project.

[Eric Hill] took all these parts and built his own C64 from scratch. And not content with one, he repeated the process and built another.

These two machines serve as demos for the two different motherboard options. Taken together, they serve to demonstrate how many of the vintage Commodore components have been remanufactured by the fan community: with the exception of the keycaps and possibly some of the silicon, all the parts in both machines are new.

Did we just say “keycaps?” This became the pet project of [Perifractic], who discovered that certain Lego Technic pieces had the same cross-shaped slot as the original Commodore 64 keys. After some experimentation, a full set of Lego keycaps was produced. (YouTube, embedded below.) Far from a thrown-together set of random pieces, the sets are available for order with printed tiles with recreation graphics. And this lets you build a C64 using precisely zero parts that came out of a Commodore factory. It’s a testament to the popularity of the world’s best selling computer that it is now once again possible to build one with brand new parts.

If you want to replicate this feat, [Perifractic]’s website is set up to make ordering everything you need easy. Things have certainly come a long way from the first reproduction cases launched on Kickstarter a few years ago.

[Thanks to Keith O for the tip!]

32 thoughts on “It’s Raining Brand-new Commodore 64s

  1. > with the exception of the keycaps and possibly some of the silicon, all the parts in both machines are new.

    That’s when being part of the mechanical keyboard community allows you to say that even that can be (and was!) achieved: back in 2015 there was a group buy for a keycap set dubbed SA Retro. One of the optional kits (called PETSCII) had all the Commodore glyphs on the front of the keycaps, inspired by the original C64. Those could be remade, if enough people gathers for a group buy (and probably asking authorization for the creator of the keyset, as he probably have

    SA is a keycap profile made by Signature Plastics, one of the few companies out there that produces them.

    Links:
    https://geekhack.org/index.php?PHPSESSID=i2fpjptv8cr4orbb3olsp14h9615e003&topic=71636.0
    https://ctrlalt.io/buys/sa-retro
    https://www.solutionsinplastic.com/
    https://pimpmykeyboard.com/
    https://deskthority.net/wiki/Signature_Plastics_SA_family

        1. NO one has ever made a breadbin repro case. But you could absolutely put either motherboard as well as the mechboard into a breadbin case. They all fit perfectly.

          1. With the advent of relatively-inexpensive 3d printing resources, why not model and print your own, after scanning an original breadbox for the specs?

  2. Cool project but seriously, Lego keyboard? WHY? When one can both buy keyswitches and have custom keycaps made today without paying an arm and leg. The keyboard in the video both looks horrid and will be terrible to type on with the totally flat Lego bricks.

    1. Regarding totally flat keycaps and terrible typing, you never seen a modern laptop?
      I must be some ode or homage to the old chicklet keyboard I guess.

      Regarding the project: I like legos, I like C64s, and perhaps this isn’t perfect, it somehow appeals to me.

    2. He designed a full Lego case that can house original parts and supports either an original keyboard or an original with Lego caps swapped in. And now offers a path for replacement parts. If you check the video he does comparative typing tests to sanity check it. I encourage checking out the projects. The fact that the sizes are so compatible is fascinating. Plus he’s a fungi (that one is for you Perifractic!).

  3. Years ago, they used C64s at my kids’ school. But they had a box full of failed units, and when word got around that I’m an EE, I got recruited to fix them.

    I’m not going to actually diagnose a bad CPU, but I figured maybe it’s something simple like a power supply problem.

    It was easier than that. The most common problem was a flaky space bar or ENTER key. I swabbed the contacts with alcohol, and it was good to go.

    There are probably still some former PTO moms who think I’m an electronics genius.

  4. Just get a real Commodore 64 with a real SID Chip be a lot cheaper. Don’t see much point in this because of the price. Can understand if you need a new casing but having a whole new inside is not going to improve nothing. Plus you still can’t beat the real SID Chip. I know you can improve video out for a better picture for modern TV, But you can mod a original C64 to do that. Am I missing the point here on something? Just seem it’s alot of money to spend for nothing better then the original. Be better making a handheld version of the C64.

    1. Well in the case of the fpga board you have the benefit of virtual disk drives, hdmi out and some other goodies. Then again, if you replace the motherboard is it really still a C64?

    2. As time goes on there will be less real C64s able to be kept in full working condition and C64s aren’t prevalent or cheap everywhere in the world. People still want to have the ‘C64 experience’ and that’s why these projects are starting to exist.

  5. It is really not raining C-64’s.
    Some of the emulators are incomplete and the owners of the projects are hard to find.
    Some of the new projects for C-64 are hard to find or buy.
    Some of the links in the above posts say “unavailable” meaning you can’t get it.

  6. I ordered one of the original C64’s on Ebay a few years ago. I had endless fun developing BASIC programs on it, though I never got to really explore what that machine was capable of because I never got around to buying any sort of disk drive. I’ve decided that sometime soon I’m going to buy one of those SD2IEC adapters so I can use an SD card to store all my Commodore programs and run them from that card. The C64 is currently sitting at my parents’ house because I’ve moved several times since I first bought it and I simply didn’t have the space for it. Hopefully I’ll be able to find a new home for that machine where I can actually make full use of it and turn it into the retro battlestation it was meant to be.

    1. I want them to go away from decorative purposes. Even the router provided by my ISP has a ridiculously bright blue decorative LED for it’s ‘operating normally’ state. I have some Qi chargers for my phone that light up blue when the phone is charging… I took them apart and severed that connection.

  7. So, he requires all of the parts to be totally compatible with the originals, and won’t accept things like custom keycaps for Cherry switches. Yet he’s fine with an FPGA – which I’m sure isn’t pin compatible – with the originals. What’s the point. If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, who cares?

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