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!
A computing platform is never really dead unless people stop developing new software for it. By that measure, the Commodore 64 is alive and well: new games, demos, and utilities are still being released on a regular basis. Getting those new programs onto an old computer was always a bit of a hassle though, requiring either an SD card adapter for the Commodore or a direct cable connection from an internet-connected PC. Luckily, there’s now a simpler way to get your latest software updates thanks to a WiFi adapter called WiC64. This adapter plugs into the expansion port of a classic Commodore and lets you download programs directly into memory. [Tommy Ovesen] over at [Arctic Retro] bought one and explored its many features.
The basic design of the WiC64 is straightforward: an ESP32 mounted on an adapter board that connects its data bus to that of the Commodore 64, 128 or VIC-20. A simple program, which you still need to transfer the old way, lets you configure the device and connect to a WiFi network. Once that’s done, an interactive BBS-style program is launched that allows you to access a range of online services. The WiC64 developers provide these, but since the system is fully open-source there’s nothing stopping you from running your own servers as well.
Services currently available include an RSS reader, several multiplayer online games, and even a radio station that plays non-stop SID tunes. There’s also a direct link to CSDB, an online database of Commodore 64 programs and demos which you can now simply download and run directly on your C64 – in effect, a modern app store for a classic computer.
One feature that really seems to defy the C64’s hardware limitations is a fully functional version of Google Maps. Even with the Commodore’s limited resolution and color depth, it does a pretty decent job of showing maps, satellite photos, and even Street View images.
Using the WiC64 requires no hardware modifications to the Commodore 64, but a custom ROM is available that enables a few convenient features such as
LOADing programs directly from a web address. There have been several attempts at getting classic Commodores online, but none so far that managed to get complex apps like Google Maps running. We have seen YouTube videos being played on a Commodore PET though.
Continue reading “The WiC64 Brings Classic Commodores Online, Google Maps Included” →
Call it fake or simply new, but when [DusteD] set out to build a brand-new Commodore 64 with only new parts, it resulted in Project MaxFake64 that is electrically and binary compatible with any genuine C64 out there. While not really ‘fake’ in the sense that a C64 emulator is fake, it is in the sense that it uses no parts produced before this millennium. This might actually be easier than getting a used C64 in fully working condition these days.
In total, the project contains an aftermarket C64 power supply by Electroware, a brand new C64C case, a C64 (ASSY NO 250407) mainboard based on the genuine board, a generic RF modular module, an FPGA-based Kawari VIC-II replacement, a 6502 MPU using a 6502-to-6510 adapter by Monotech PCs, a dual-GAL-based PLA replacement, EPROMs for the kernal, character and BASIC ROMs (with in-socket hacks), and a SinSID Nano as (temporary) SID replacement.
Issues discovered during the process include some cracking on the (transparent) C64C case and lack of availability on CIA replacements like the J6526. The keyboard will also be replaced at some later point, and items like the joystick ports were salvaged from an old C64 rather than purchased brand new. None of which are fundamental problems, and might actually make financial sense when it comes to finding replacement parts in the future.
[Ted Fried] wrote in with not one but two (2!) new drop-in replacements for widespread old-school CPUs: the Zilog Z80 and the Intel 8088. Both of the “chips” run in cycle-accurate mode as well as in a super turbo mode, which can run so fast that you’ll need to use the Teensy’s internal RAM just to keep up.
Both of these designs have a hardware and software component. The PCBs basically adapt the pinout of the Teensy to the target CPU, with a bunch of 74VLC latches on board to do the voltage level conversion. The rest is a matter of emulating all of the instructions on the Teensy, which is more than fast enough to keep up. If this sounds familiar to you, it’s basically the same approach that [Ted] used last year to bring us his replacement for the 6502 found in the Apple ][ and Commodore 64.
Why would you want an emulated CPU when the originals are still available? [Ted] inherited a busted Osborne I, an ancient Z80 luggable. By replacing the original Z80 with his emulation, he could diagnose the entire system, which led him to discover some bad DRAM chips and get the old beast running again. Or maybe you just want to play IBM XT games at insane speeds?
And it looks like [Ted] has updated his 6502 emulation to include the undocumented C64 opcodes, so if you’re into that scene, you should be covered as well.
If any of this tickles your fancy, head over to [Ted]’s blog, microcore labs, and follow along. Although now that he’s covered most of the famous retrocomputers, we have to ask ourselves what processor is going to be next?
Like the Commodore 64 and other keyboard computers of yore, the [Elevated Systems]’s CJ64 fits all of its processing and I/O into a single keyboard-shaped package.
This iteration of the project takes it to the next level with an enclosure milled out of aluminum instead of the mere 3D printed enclosure of the previous versions. With a Framework mainboard, the ports are configurable via the Framework expansion card system giving you even more options to customize this build. To round it out, this keyboard PC doesn’t scrimp on the keyboard part either with mechanical switches and MT3 profile keycaps.
If you’d like to build one of these for yourself, [Elevated Systems] has uploaded the 3D printed enclosure files to his GitHub repository. The files for machining are available as well, but only to patrons.
For some more Framework-based mods, check out this Framework Tablet, the Framedeck, or this other retro-inspired Framework build. If you want an all-in-keyboard slabtop, then maybe check out Are Slabtops the Future of Computing?
Continue reading “Mechanical Keyboard With A Framework Inside” →
If you’ve used a corporate VPN or an online-banking system in the past fifteen years or so, chances are you’ve got a few of those little authenticator key fobs lying around, still displaying a new code every 30 seconds. Today such one-time codes are typically sent to you by text message or generated by a dedicated smartphone app, which is convenient but a bit boring. If you miss having a dedicated piece of hardware for your login codes, then we’ve got good news for you: [Cameron Kaiser] has managed to turn a Commodore SX-64 into a two-factor authenticator. Unlike a key fob that’s one gadget you’re not likely to lose, and any thief would probably need to spend quite some time figuring out how to operate it. Continue reading “Generating Two-Factor Authentication Codes With A Commodore 64” →
Ah, the beloved Commodore 64. The “best-selling computer system of all time”. And hobbyists are keeping the dream alive, still producing software for it today. Which leads us to a problem with using such old equipment. When you get your copy of Petscii Robots on cassette, and try to fastload it, your machine might just consistently fail to load the program. That’s fine, time to pull out the cue-tips and rubbing alcohol, and give the read heads a good cleaning. But what if that doesn’t do the job? You may just have another problem, like tape speed drift.
There are several different ways to measure the current tape speed, to dial it in properly. The best is probably a reference cassette with a known tone. Just connect your frequency counter or digital oscilloscope, and dial in the adjustment pot until your Datasette is producing the expected tone. Oh, you don’t have a frequency counter? Well good news, [Jan Derogee] has a solution for you. See, you already have your Datasette connected to a perfectly serviceable frequency counter — your Commodore computer. He’s put out a free program that counts the pulses coming from the Datasette in a second. So play a reference cassette, run the program, and dial in your Datasette deck. Simple! Stick around after the break for a very tongue-in-cheek demonstration of the problem and solution.
Continue reading “Commodore Datasette Does Its Own Calibration” →