The Benefits Of Restoring A C64 With A Modern FPGA Board

The Commodore 64 was the highest selling computer of all time, and will likely forever remain that way due to the fragmentation of models in the market ever since. Due to this, it’s hardly surprising that it still has a strong following many years after its heyday. This means that the avid restorer has a wide range of parts and support available at the click of a button. [DusteD] is just one such person who had a busted-up C64 laying around, and decided to make it a project.

[DusteD] wanted to reuse the original case, and decided it should remain a Commodore 64 after an initial attempt at a mini-ITX swap went awry. Desiring a reliable machine, an Ultimate64 FPGA board was selected to replace the original faulty motherboard. This has the benefit of being hardware compatible with the classic C64, while allowing [DusteD] to tinker and program to his heart’s content, without having to worry about blowing up valuable original parts. It also provides several interesting modern features, like HDMI output, USB, and even Ethernet connectivity. This allows one to experiment with the platform without the hassles of all the inherent limitations of 1980s technology.

As a fan of the classic SID sound chip, [DusteD] was also highly interested in the audio output of the Ultimate64. Recordings were made of the emulated output from the FPGA, as well as the sound output from a real SID installed in the board, both through the mixed output and directly from the chip via a SIDTAP. Those interested can download the 800MB of recordings and compare the output; there’s a summary of the differences noted listed on the site as well.

[DusteD] makes a great argument for the benefits of building up a C64 rig in this way. It’s a great way to get started for those eager to explore the world of Commodore’s 8-bit hardware without the hassles and expenses of buying all the real gear. As it stands, the C64 aftermarket is so advanced now, that you can build an entirely new machine from scratch if you so desire. Go forth and enjoy!

7 thoughts on “The Benefits Of Restoring A C64 With A Modern FPGA Board

    1. You need Transistors, a lot of them. Or you go a level higher and use a bunch of logic gates. (NANDs)
      Our you go even higher level, und use a bunch of counters/decoders/multiplexers with some lookup tables/logic gates.
      Alternatively, get a FPGA and code it in Verilog..

      it all depends on you goals
      – do you want to learn how logic gates work ? use the transistors.
      – to learn how basic CPU design works, use the logicgates/counters/decoders.
      – to learn more complex CPU chip designs, then FPGAs with Verilog are the way to go.

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