Creating A Commodore 64 Cartridge On Single-Sided Stripboard

The DIY Commodore 64 cartridge. (Credit: Linus Åkesson)
The DIY Commodore 64 cartridge. (Credit: Linus Åkesson)

When you want to write software for a system like the Commodore 64, the obvious and safe choice is to create an image that can be used with a tape or floppy drive emulator. Yet these come with the obvious disadvantage of loading time and manual steps, much like with the original hardware. Unfortunately, if you crave that instant-on experience that cartridges offer – courtesy of them being plugged directly into the system’s CPU bus – you better get an EE diploma to figure it all out. Or maybe not, as [Linus Åkesson] found out when he created a custom cartridge to boot his Commodordian project from.

For the core of the cartridge a bit of stripboard was sufficient to interface with the C64’s cartridge slot. Despite being single-sided, all the required signals were on one side of the slot. These include the EXROM line that informs the system that a cartridge is present, the ROML line that informs the cartridge when the system is trying to read from it, and of course the data bus. After this the interaction gets somewhat interesting, due to the use of the single-sided stripboard, as the address bus and other signals are on the non-connected side.

Working around this was the biggest challenge, but by creatively using the ROML and DotClk lines and by disabling the display output, the ATmega88 and 74HC541-based cartridge a working solution was created. There is still room for improvement here, naturally, but it would appear that if the goal is simply to autoload software on boot, this is definitely a workable solution. One could also splurge on double-sided stripboard, but that would strip away most of the fun of this solution.

Rocky Strikes Back At Red Hat

The world of Linux has seen some disquiet over recent weeks following the decision of Red Hat to restrict source code distribution for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) to only their paying customers. We’re sure that there will be plenty of fall-out to come from this news, but what can be done if your project relies upon access to those Red Hat sources?

The Red-Hat-derived Rocky Linux distro relies on access to RHEL source, so the news could have been something of a disaster. Fortunately for Rocky users though, they appear to have found a reliable way to bypass the restriction and retain access to those RHEL sources. Red Hat would like anyone wanting source access to pay them handsomely for the privilege, but the Rocky folks have spotted a way to bypass this. Using readily available cloud images they can spin up a RHEL system and use it to download their sources, and they can do this as an automated process.

We covered this story as it unfolded last week, and it seemed inevitable then that something of this nature would be found, as for all Red Hat’s wishes a GPL-licensed piece of code can’t be prevented from being shared. So Rocky users and the wider community will for now retain access to the code, but will Red Hat strike back? It’s inevitable that there will be a further backlash from the community against any such moves, but will Red Hat be foolhardy enough to further damage their standing in this regard? They’re certainly not the only large distro losing touch with their users.

A Quick And Easy Tape Measure Turnstile Antenna For MILSAT Snooping

The number of satellites whizzing by over our heads at any moment is staggering, and growing at a rapid rate as new constellations are launched. But sometimes it’s the old birds that are the most interesting, as is the case with some obsolete but still functional military communications satellites, which thanks to a lack of forethought are largely unsecured and easily exploitable. And all that’s needed to snoop in on them is a cheap ham radio and something like this simple and portable satcom antenna.

As proof of the global nature of the radio hobby, the design in the video below by Brit [Tech Minds] borrows heavily from previous work by Italian ham [Ivo Brugnera (I6IBE)], which itself was adapted to use 3D-printed parts in a German blog post a few years ago. The common thread is the use of tape measures for the elements of the aptly named turnstile antenna, a tried and true material for lightweight, foldable antennas that amateur radio enthusiasts have been using for years. The antenna is similar in design to the classic three-element Yagi-Uda, with a crossed pair of driven elements in the middle of a boom that also supports a reflector and a director. Strips of tape measure material are held to the 20-mm aluminum tubing boom with 3D-printed brackets. A phasing harness of precisely cut coax cable connects to the driven elements and runs down the boom; the quarter-wavelength loop serves to introduce the 90° phase shift needed for the circularly polarized signal from the satellites.

A quick scan with a vector antenna analyzer showed just how well this antenna performs on the 220-MHz band, and the antenna was easily able to pick up the Brazilian satellite pirate’s chatter. The tape measure elements make the antenna easy to handle and foldable, not to mention pretty cheap to build. And what’s not to love about that?

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It’s Easy To Make Gears Out Of Wood

Typically, most of the gears we use in our life are made of plastic or metal. However, wood gears can do just fine in some simple roles, and they’re utterly pleasant to make, as this video from [botto bie] demonstrates.

With steady hands, it’s easy to make basic gears by hand with basic tools and a printer. You just need the help of a spur gear generator to produce the required outlines for you to follow. [botto bie] uses the online tool from Evolvent Design which will spit out DXF or SVG files as you desire.

Basic woodworking techniques are used to produce the gears, and they prove simple and effective. A rack is produced by first applying a involute tooth template with paper to a rectangular piece of wood. A series of circular and table jigsaw operations are then used to cut out the required material to produce the rack. A variety of toothed gears are produced in a similar fashion.

If you’re lacking a CNC machine or a 3D printer, this can be a great way to experiment. Bonus points if you use your wooden geartrain as part of some kind of exciting mechanism, like an automated marble run or musical contraption. Video after the break.

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Picopad Is A New Open Source Game Console

Microcontrollers are so powerful these days that you can build color handheld games with them that match or exceed what you’d ever get on the Game Boys and Game Gears of yesteryear. The Picopad aims to offer just this, in an open-source hackable format that’s friendly to experimenters.

As you might have guessed from the name, the Picopad is based on the Raspberry Pi Pico and its RP2040 microcontroller. It features four face buttons and a D-pad, along with a small color LCD with a 320×240 resolution. There is also a microSD slot upon which programs can be stored, and also an expansion port with headers for a variety of IO from the RP2040 itself including both GPIOs, serial, I2C and analog input pins. The housing is constructed out of PCBs, with some cheerful gaming artwork adding a fun aesthetic. Development is via a custom C SDK, with support for Micropython as well.

If you want to build your own and don’t fancy starting from scratch, kits are available online. We’ve seen some other great gaming experiments with the Raspberry Pi Pico before, too, like an open-world 3D game and ZX Spectrum emulators. Video after the break.

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Vintage Computer Festival Southwest: Bil And Al’s Excellent Adventure

There was a time when seeing an actual computer was a big deal. They were in air-conditioned rooms with raised floors and locked doors. Even at a university, you were likely only to get access to a keypunch machine or a terminal. Then small computers came out, but computer stores were few and far between. Now you can go to any local store that sells electronics and put your hands on hardware that would have been black magic in those days. But the computers back then were also much easier to understand completely. Look at your main computer today. Do you know all the assembly language instructions for it? Can you access the GPU and the MMU? Could you build your own memory for it? Sure, you don’t have to do those things, but it was fun knowing that you could. That seemed to be the overwhelming sentiment among the attendees we spoke to at the Vintage Computer Festival last weekend: We like computers that we can completely understand and troubleshoot.

If you weren’t one of the 900 or so attendees, we can help. Check out our video summary, dive into even more interviews with Bil Herd and guests on our YouTube channel, or just keep reading. The festival happens at several locations throughout the year, but this was the first time one has been in the Southwest for about ten years!

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Hackaday Podcast 225: Leafy Meats, Wind To Heat, And A Machine That’s Neat

This week, Editor-in-Chief Elliot Williams and Kristina Panos don’t have a whole lot in the way of news, but we do know this: the Green Hacks Challenge of the 2023 Hackaday Prize ends precisely at 7AM PDT on July 4th. Show us what you can do in the realm of hacking for the planet, be it solar-based, wind-powered, recycled-trash-powered — you get the idea.

Kristina is now completely down for the count on What’s That Sound, although this week, she was sort of in the neighborhood. But no matter, because we know several of you will nail it. Then it’s on to the hacks, where we have quite a bit to say this week when it comes to cars.

From there we take a look at a really fun gumball run, ponder the uses of leafy meats, and fawn over an Amiga-inspired build. Finally we talk PCB earring art, hacking the IKEA Kvart, and discuss the potential uses for wind-to-heat power.

Check out the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in  the comments!

Download and savor at your leisure.

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