A Retro Touch Pad You Can Use On Modern Computers

As [Jan Derogee] explains in the faux-retro video after the break, drawing on classic 8-bit computers was something of a pain. The rudimentary light pens and joysticks of the 1980s allowed for free-form input, but were clumsy and awkward to use. Which is why he set out to create an ideal drawing device for the C64 using modern electronics. For the sake of completion, he also gave it a USB HID mode so it would work on somewhat more modern computers.

His device, which he’s calling the Commo Pad, looks like it could have been transported here directly from the 1980s, but it’s built from entirely new hardware. The case is actually made of wood that [Jan] sanded and painted to give it that chunky plastic aesthetic that we all know and love, and the retro artwork on the touch panel really goes a long way to sell the vintage vibe.

Speaking of which, the touch panel is perhaps the most interesting component of the entire build. It’s actually a resistive panel that was meant for mounting to an LCD that [Jan] has connected to an Arduino. All he had to do was provide a stable frame for it and print out some art work to slide in behind it.

The Arduino and associated electronics allow the Commo Pad to be picked up by the C64 as either a joystick or mouse, which means it doesn’t need any custom software on the computer side to function. Similarly, it can also mimic a USB mouse if you want to plug it into something made a bit later than 1982. Should you be so inclined to make it wireless, the addition of a Bluetooth seems like it would be relatively trivial.

If the Commo Pad doesn’t have enough of a retro-futuristic vibe for your tastes, we recently covered a custom optical touch panel that looked like it could double as a prop from Blade Runner which might do the trick.

11 thoughts on “A Retro Touch Pad You Can Use On Modern Computers

  1. “The Arduino and associated electronics allow the Commo Pad get picked up by the C64 as either a joystick or mouse”

    As either a KoalaPad, Joystick or Mouse”, please do not forget the Koalapad, as this what got this project started.

    1. Hey! It’s been a while. Nice to see you are still working on the old Commodore stuff. This project is exactly what I was working on too (again). My intention was to fit the circuit and touch screen into a dead koalapad frame however, but I love this. Well done! I wish I hadn’t taken so long to get mine going now.

      1. Hey Pyrofer, thanks for the compliment.
        But you can still work on your koalapad project. Because how cool would it be to see the faces of your co-workers when you plug it into your PC at work?
        Are you up for the challenge (looking forward to see a repaired koalapad using modern touchpad and electronics)? I’m sure that it would make a nice post on hackaday?

    1. https://cloud.google.com/text-to-speech/
      use setting:
      english (united states)
      wavenet
      en-us-wavenet-c

      The audio was recorded (connect the computers audio line-out to audio line-in) with audacity and pasted into the video editor… not very professional or practical for large pieces of text, but it did the job… far from perfect, but way more pleasant to listen to then my own voice.

  2. Bummer, I saw the grid and hoped it was a diy capacitive PCB!

    At least it is giving me some second thoughts toward actually putting a touchscreen on my WiiU gamepad portable, if only the resistive driver wasn’t $20 from Adafruit :/

  3. Ah, just occurred to me, there’s a fair few “1st gen” (though really they were around in other forms for a decade longer than you think) e-readers around cheap or free with resistive touch screens that you might salvage. I’ve got an awful walmart special with hardware and software deficiencies that I’ve been wondering what to do with.

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