Commodore 64 Web Server Brings 8-Bit Into The Future

These days, most webservers are big hefty rackmount rigs with roaring fans in giant datacenters. [naDDan]’s webserver is altogether more humble, as it runs on a single Commodore 64. 

The C64 is running Contiki OS, an operating system for 6502-based computers. It’s built with an eye to networking, requiring ethernet hardware for full functionality. In [naDDan]’s case, he’s outfitted his C64 with an ETFE network adapter in the cartridge port to get it online. It serves up the HTML file off a 1541C floppy drive, with the drive buzzing away every time someone loads up the page.

The page itself is simple, showing some basic information on a simple blue background. There is some scrolling text though, as is befitting the 8-bit era. It’s also available in four languages.

[naDDan’s] server can be found here, according to his video, but at the time of writing, it was down for the count. Whether that’s due to a dynamic DNS issue or the simple fact that an 8-bit 6502 isn’t up to heavy traffic is up for debate. Regardless, try for yourself and see how you go. Video after the break.

Read Comic Books On The Commodore 64 With StripStream

Comic books are traditionally printed on paper, either as regular saddle-bound issues or in hardcover compilations. If you wanted to read them on a low-resolution screen run by an 8-bit computer, you were usually out of luck. Until now! Enter StripStream, the comic book reader for the Commodore 64.

StripStream runs on a stock PAL C64 system, using the Datasette interface. A PC program is used to compose a comic into a suitable format for the C64. It then generates a .TAP file which can either be played in a C64 emulator, or recorded onto an audio tape for loading on real hardware.

According to [janderogee], who created the software, just 34 minutes of tape can store over 300 images and 1200 lines of subtitle text. Cassettes were chosen for the storage method as standard 5 1/2″ C64 disks could only hold 165 kilobytes of data per side, meaning two whole double-sided disks would be needed to store the same amount of data. Plus, the linear nature of tape makes sense for a sequentially-read comic story. Just don’t get any ideas about doing a choose-your-adventure thing here, as StripStream isn’t built for random access.

If you don’t want to read regular comics, you can always use a tool to automatically generate them from existing media. Incidentally, StripStream is a great name, but we would have called it Comicdore 64.

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BBS Builder Is A Framework For Running Your Own PETSCII Paradise

The 80s and 90s were the glory days of the BBS. The plain old telephone system was responsible for bringing us connection to other digital beings, along with plenty of spuriously-obtained software and inappropriate ASCII art. [Francesco Sblendorio] has created BBS Builder to harken back to this great era, allowing people to build their own BBSs as they see fit!

BBS Builder consists of basic classes for construction a BBS that operates in PETSCII mode. If that’s unfamiliar to you, it’s the character encoding created by Commodore, also known as CBM ASCII. BBSs created through this software can be accessed by a variety of appropriately 80s machines. The Github page outlines how to create a basic BBS using the code that can be customized to your own liking.

[Francesco] notes the system is compatible with Commodore 64s running RR-NET compatible network cards, WiFi modem cards, and 1541Ultimate hardware using UltimateTerm. Various other methods are supported too, as well as PCs and Macs running Syncterm.

Running a BBS was like running your own website back in the day. With that said, they also had a distinct community flair that is somehow missing from today’s web. Be sure to sound off with your favorite BBS in the comments!

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Hackaday Links: October 30, 2022

Sad news for kids and adults alike as Lego announces the end of the Mindstorms line. The much-wish-listed line of robotics construction toys will be discontinued by the end of this year, nearly a quarter-century after its 1998 introduction, while support for the mobile apps will continue for another couple of years. It’s probably fair to say that Mindstorms launched an entire generation of engineering careers, as it provided a way to quickly prototype ideas that would have been difficult to realize without the snap-fit parts and easily programmed controllers. For our money, that ability to rapidly move from idea to working model was perhaps the strongest argument for using Mindstorms, since it prevented that loss of momentum that so often kills projects. That was before the maker movement, though, and now that servos and microcontrollers are only an Amazon order away and custom plastic structural elements can pop off a 3D printer in a couple of hours, we can see how Mindstorms might no longer be profitable. So maybe it’s a good day to drag out the Mindstorms, or even just that big box of Lego parts, and just sit on the carpet and make something.

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C64 Turned Theremin With A Handful Of Parts

The theremin is popular for its eerie sound output and its non-contact playing style. While they’re typically built using analog hardware, [Linus Åkesson] decided to make one using the venerable Commodore 64.

The instrument works by measuring the capacitance between its two antennas and the Earth. As these capacitances are changed by a human waving their hands around near the respective pitch and volume antennas, the theremin responds by changing the pitch and volume of its output.

In this case, the humble 555 is pressed into service. It runs as an oscillator, with its frequency varying depending on the user’s hand position. There’s one each for pitch and volume, naturally, using a clamp and spoon as antennas. The C64 then reads the frequency the 555s are oscillating at, and then converts these into pitch and volume data to be fed to the SID audio chip.

[Linus Åkesson] demonstrates the build ably by performing a slow rendition of Amazing Grace. The SID synthesizer chip in the C64 does a passable job emulating a theremin, used here with a modulated pulse wave sound. It’s an impressive build and one we fully expect to see at a big chiptune show sooner rather than later. We’re almost surprised nobody came out with a C64 Theremin cartridge back in the day.

We’ve seen other fancy theremin-inspired builds recently too, like this light-based design.

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New OS For Commodore 64 Adds Modern Features

The Commodore 64 was a revolutionary computer for its day and age. After four decades, though, it gets harder and harder to use these computers for anything more than educational or hobby electronics projects. [Gregory Nacu] is fiercly determined to challenge this idea, though, and has gone to great extremes to make this hardware still relevant in the modern age by writing a completely new operating system for the Commodore machines.

Known as C64OS, it squeezes everything it can out of the 8 bit processor and 64 kB of memory. The new OS includes switchable desktop workspaces, a windowing system, draggable icons, a Mac-style menu bar at the top, and drop-down menus for the icons (known as aliases in the demonstrations). The filesystem is largely revamped as well and enables a more modern directory system to be used. There are still some limitations like a screen resolution of 320×200 pixels and a fixed color palette which only allows for a handful of colors, but this OS might give Windows 3.1 a run for its money.

The project is still being actively developed but it has come a long way into a fairly usable state. It can be run on original hardware as well as long as you have a method of getting the image to the antique machine somehow. If not, the OS can likely run on any number of C64 emulators we’ve featured in the past.

Thanks to [Stephen] for the tip!

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TensorFlow Lite – On A Commodore 64

TensorFlow is a machine learning and AI library that has enabled so much and brought AI within the reach of most developers. But it’s fair to say that it’s not for the less powerful computers. For them there’s TensorFlow Lite, in which a model is created on a larger machine and exported to a microcontroller or similarly resource-constrained one. [Nick Bild] has probably taken this to its extreme though, by achieving this feat on a Commodore 64. Not just that, but he’s also done it using Commodore BASIC.

TensorFlow Lite works by the model being created as a C array which is then parsed and run by an interpreter on the microcontroller. This is a little beyond the capabilities of the mighty 64, so he has instead created a Python script that does the job of the interpreter and produces Commodore BASIC code that can run on the 64. The trusty Commodore was one of the more powerful home computers of its day, but we’re fairly certain that its designers never in their wildest dreams expected it to be capable of this!

If you’re interested to know more about TensorFlow Lite, we’ve covered it in the past.

Header: MOS6502, CC BY-SA 3.0.