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!
Continue reading “New OS For Commodore 64 Adds Modern Features”
The C64 may be the best-selling computer of all time, but Commodore made several machines before that, too. [Mjnurney] always loved the Commodore PET, and set about building some new machines in the PET’s unique all-in-one form factor.
The case design started with measurements taken from an original Commodore PET, of which [Mjnurney] has three. Then, it was modified and extended to make room for a proper keyboard. The case also mounts a 14″ IPS display, two 15W speakers, and a gas strut enabling the case to be propped open for easy maintenance. It’s actually made out of real sheet metal, too!
The primary version mounts an Amiga 500 inside, including its classic keyboard. However, [Mjnurney] has developed a PC version, too. Both look great, and it’s wild to see Netflix displayed on a machine that looks more at home in 1977. Perhaps most of all, though, we love the dual floppy drives just below the screen.
Throwback cases pay tribute to some of our favorite machines. The tiny ones are perhaps the cutest of all.
Continue reading “Hackaday Prize 2022: A Functional Commodore PET Tribute”
The Commodore 64 is a much-loved 8-bit retro computer that first appeared in 1982 and finally faded away around a decade later. The Commodore company started by [Jack Tramiel] went on to make the Amiga, and eventually ceased trading some time in the late 1990s. All history, now kept alive only by enthusiasts, right? Well, not quite, as the C64 has been the subject of a number of revivals both miniature and full-sized over the years. The latest came in the form of a Kickstarter for the C64x, a seemingly legitimately-branded Commodore 64-shaped PC, but it seems that has now been paused due to a complaint from an Italian company claiming to be the real heirs of Commodore. So will the real Commodore please stand up?
The origin of the Kickstarter C64x breadbin C64 PC is well enough documented, having its roots in a legitimate 2010 offering for which the person behind the C64x appears to have gained the rights. The Italian company is also called Commodore and uses the familiar branding from the glory days to sell some Commodore-themed games, novelties, and a tablet computer, but its website is a little tight-lipped about how it came by the use of that IP. Could it have come upon those rights through the 1990s German owner of the brand, Escom? We’d be fascinated to know.
Continue reading “Will The Real Commodore Please Stand Up?”
If you worked with computers back in the 1970s, there’s a good chance you used a light pen at some point: a simple input device that you’d point at the CRT screen to highlight text, choose menu options or manipulate graphic objects. Although ubiquitous in those days, the light pen lost the battle for ergonomics to the humble mouse and was all but extinct by the late 1980s. Touchscreen styluses implement a similar function today, but touching the screen somehow doesn’t feel the same as simply pointing at it.
We therefore applaud [Maciej Witkowiak]’s efforts to bring the light pen into the 21st century by building a USB interface for a Commodore 64/128 light pen. At its heart is an Arduino Micro Pro that implements the USB HID protocol to communicate with any modern computer. It connects to the classic light pen as well as to the computer’s analog display signal and uses those to calculate the delay between the video synchronization pulses and the light pen’s output. The sync pulses are extracted from the video signal by an LM1881, a sync separator chip that will be familiar to anyone who’s worked with analog video signals.
The Arduino calculates the light pen’s position based on the measured timing intervals and reports it to the computer, using the absolute positioning mode that’s also used by things like drawing pads. [Maciej] demonstrates his system in the video embedded below, in which he uses it to operate the menus on an X window system. A great success then, although there’s one catch: light pens only work on CRT displays, so you’ll need to drag one of those big glass beasts out of storage if you want to try this yourself.
We’ve featured the Commodore light pen before in this odd gaming input device. A similar device built with a discrete LED matrix is a good illustration of the light pen’s working principle.
Continue reading “Odd Inputs And Peculiar Peripherals: Using A Commodore Light Pen On A Modern(ish) Computer”
The Commodore 64 remains one of the most influential of the 8-bit home computers four decades after its launch, so not surprisingly there is a huge enthusiast community surrounding it. With so many produced over the years it was available one might think that there would be no shortage of surviving specimens, but sadly time and component failure have taken their toll and the classic micro is not always the most reliable kid on the block. Thus a cottage industry has sprung up supplying C64 parts, leading [The Retro Shack] to have a go at making a new one entirely from scratch.
As you can see in the video below the break it’s not quite an entirely new ’64, as parts including some of the custom silicon come from failed boards. The PCB is a modern recreation of the original and the SID sound chip is an ARMsid though, and most of the parts come from a handy bagged-up kit that makes assembling the BoM much easier. Instead of the big silver box of the original RF modulator is a modern composite board, and there are a few issues with minor connector part differences.
Assembly is simply a very long through-hole soldering process, and once he’d completed it there was the expected refusal to work. We’ve all been there, and eventually he traced it to an incorrectly fitted chip. If you think you’ve seen a few brand new C64s here before you’d be correct, one of them even used LEGO for those elusive keycaps.
Continue reading “A (Nearly All) New Commodore 64”
This year marks the anniversary of the most popular selling home computer ever, the Commodore 64, which made its debut in 1982. Note that I am saying “home computer” and not personal computer (PC) because back then the term PC was not yet in use for home computer users.
Some of you have probably not heard of Commodore, which is kind of sad, though there is a simple reason why — Commodore is no longer around to maintain its legacy. If one were to watch a documentary about the 1980s they may see a picture of an Apple computer or its founders but most likely would not see a picture of a Commodore computer in spite of selling tens of millions of units.
To understand the success of the C64 I would first back up and talk about the fabled era of home computers which starts with understanding the microprocessor of the day, the venerable 6502. Check out the video and follow along below.
Continue reading “Commodore C64: The Most Popular Home Computer Ever Turns 40”
Some of the most popular vintage computers are now more than forty years old, and their memory just ain’t how it used to be. Identifying bad memory chips can quickly become a chore, so [Jan Beta] spent some time putting together a cheap DRAM tester out of spare parts.
This little tester can be used with 4164 and 41256 DRAM memory chips. 4164 DRAM was used in several popular home computers throughout the 1970s and 1980s, including the Apple ][ series, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum and many more. Likewise, the 41256 was used in the Commodore Amiga. These computers are incredibly popular in the vintage computing community, and its not uncommon to find bad memory in any of them.
With an Arduino at its core, this DRAM tester uses the most basic of electronic components, and any modest tinkerer should have pretty much everything in stock. The original project can be found here, including the Arduino code. Just pop the suspect chip into the ZIF socket, hit the reset switch, and wait for the LED – green is good, and red means it’s toast.
It’s a great sanity check for when you’re neck deep in suspect DRAM. A failed test is a sure sign that the chip is bad, however the tester does occasionally report a false pass. Not every issue can be identified with such a simple tester, however it’s great at weeding out the chips that are definitely dead.
If you’re not short on cash, then the Chip Tester Pro may be more to your liking, however it’s hard to beat the simplicity and thriftiness of building your own simple tester from spare parts. If you’re a little more adventurous, this in-circuit debugger could come in handy.
Continue reading “Simple DRAM Tester Built With Spare Parts”