I mentioned about C64 Reloaded in my previous post. Let’s talk a bit more about it.
Because here it is!
The C64 Reloaded is a new C64 motherboard. It is recreated according to the schematics of C64B3 model, ASSY NO 250466, and is designed to use the original C64 chipset. A good description you’ll find on the announcement on Individual Computers’ website. Basically, it’s a real Commodore 64, only manufactured with today’s standards.
I haven’t had enough time to spend with this machine to call this a review yet. Instead I’ll share a pictorial overview of the board and some of the nice details on it. Read the rest of this entry »
More recently, on March 2015 an interesting Kickstarter project surfaced. It was for newly produced C64 C casings using the original molds. The project has an interesting back story, and the project funding goal of $ 10,000 was met in no less than a day! Eventually, the Kicstarter for the new colored and transparent C64 cases was so popular, that the initial funding goal was filled almost ten-fold. The cases are in production at the moment, and backers should receive their rewards sometime soon.
As to complete the lineup, there is now another crowd funding project going on for new C64 key caps in various colors. The funding goal is quite high, € 25,000. This is no wonder, as this time also the molds for the casting process has to be made. At the time of writing, roughly 60 % of the funding has been met, and the funding period will last for one and half weeks still, ending somewhere around 28th May 2015.
The C64 Reloaded and new C64 casings already came true. I’m hoping that also this third re-manufacturing project becomes reality. Not only hoping, I’m of course backing also on this effort, and I would like to encourage you to do so too!
I’ve covered SwinSID micro and nano few times before. It’s a great idea – a micro controller based SID chip replacement, working as a spare part for a C64 or C128, or as a substitute to some other application like a DIY-synth. For Commodores, it’s especially suited for a gaming machine, as only very few games feature such tricks that would not sound about right on the SwinSID.
However, there’s this downside with the SwinSID that it does not support analog controllers. This is because it’s the SID chip that handles the reading of analog controllers in the C64, and the A/D converters are not implemented in the SwinSID. The number of games supporting paddles, mice or analog joysticks is not that big, but still it’s a shame that they won’t work with SwinSID. Also the few games that support second joystick button are affected. They behave as if the second button would be triggered constantly.
So there is a lack of fully featured replacement for a SID chip. This is a shame as SID chips are sought after, and supply for good and working chips is getting more and more scarce. The demand of SID chips have been recognized, as it’s not that difficult to find a supply of SID chips from Asia. It’s just that many have found out that these chips are often dead, faulty or downright fakes, and often rebadged.
Knowing that there are a lot of these faulty SID chips with bad filters or missing sound channels, it had occurred to me that maybe these could be combined together with SwinSID to make at least a fully featured replacement for the SID chip. Sound from the SwinSID, and A/D converters from an otherwise faulty SID.
Recently I ordered some spare parts from Mutant Caterpillar Games, who have a selection of chips for 8-bit computers in stock, including SID chips. As we were talking together with Ian Gledhill about SID sourcing challenges among other things I mentioned this idea of mine. He kindly sent me few faulty rebadged SID chips to test it out.
The Commodore 64 has a disk drive that is unique in many ways. Not only is the Commodore 1541 said to be the world’s slowest disk drive, but it’s also big, bulky, noisy and has a reputation of being unreliable. Also, it works in an unusual way. In many ways it’s the disk drive that has defined our experience with the C64.
In addition to the original model 1541 there were also the updated models 1541C and 1541-II from Commodore. The drives have different looks, differences in hardware and in ROM versions, but the basic functionality and features are principally identical.
Some later models in Commodore’s 8-bit serial disk drive range were improved in some ways, but those have less importance today. For a C64 as a retro system, the 1541 is the de facto standard. Still, in this time of emulators and hardware add-ons, compatibility with the original 1541 disk drive is regarded as a must.
And today, for someone who doesn’t want to resort to emulators only, the large and unconventional disk drive brings some practical challenges. So understanding the 1541 helps us to understand the options we have for replacing it! Read the rest of this entry »
Already good while ago I bought this MMC2IEC kit from Retro-Donald together with other junk. Basically it is just one hardware design variant that runs the popular and widely used sd2iec firmware. Just like the uIEC, SD2IEC, C64SD and many other devices. If you randomly come by an SD card drive for 8-bit Commodores, it’s probably some sort of SD2IEC/MMC2IEC variant.
This particular variant of the hardware goes by name Peter Sieg Platine, Peter Sieg plate. It’s Lars P. hardware configuration – which is important information when flashing or updating the AVR firmware. The kit came with ATMega 1284 AVR – a 128k chip that is likely to fit also the upcoming updates of sd2iec firmware in future.
Anyhow, this one was not a complete ready to use device, but a DIY kit that consists of nothing but the board, the SD card slot and an optional preprogrammed AVR chip. The kit with programmed AVR didn’t cost very much, and the remaining electric components were only few euros from a local electrics shop.
Even though this kit is no longer available from Retro-Donald’s Sinchai shop, I’ll go ahead and run down what I did with mine and how I built it. After all, this device is so simple, that it would be fairly easy to build one without any kit. If you have the possibility to make the PCB and program the AVR, plus solder all the parts together, you can basically make this very device from scratch.
You know the classic Suncom’s Totally Accurate Controller MK2, right? Better known simply as the TAC-2. The favourite Atari-standard joystick of countless people, with the reputation of being indestructible. Other than durable, it’s also a very good game controller. The design is simple, you can hold it in your hand very comfortably, no matter if you’re left or right-handed. And the feel and tactile response is top-notch.
While not completely fail-proof, at least TAC-2 withstood abuse much better than most other joysticks that were commonly used with Commodore 8-bits, Amigas and Atari computers. Both the durability and usability are result of very, very simple yet functional design.
I mean, have you ever looked inside of that controller? It appears that there isn’t anything that could ever fail.
Here’s a picture of TAC-2 dismantled. You can completely take the stick apart and put it back together without using any other tools than a screwdriver, which is needed for the three screws that hold the case together.
The buttons and directional switches are nothing but robust construction where metal part presses against another when you press a button or the stick into some direction. In its simplicity it’s ingenious.
But in fact there are some common issues with TAC-2. The buttons tend to become unresponsive over time. As with any switch, metal oxidation is the main reason. Or plain dirt. Eventually this may happen with the directional stick too. But in fact, you could try to rub the contact surfaces clean to make better contact without even opening up the controller. Just wiggle the stick around or rotate the button with your thumb while pressing it. You know you used to do that! Read the rest of this entry »
Just a quick heads-up, I recently ordered some stuff from Retro-Donald’s Sinchai-Shop. Finally the goods arrived, and above you can see the loot I got.
Top: Micromys V3. Below, from left to right: EasyFlash 3, MMC2IEC + programmed AVR, Nano SwinSID, Super PLA.
Sinchai.de is an online shop that is specializing in Commodore 8 bit accessories and DIY kits. Unfortunately the site is in German only, as is all communication and support. Additionally the information and instructions for the products may be very slight, and most of the product support seems to be at the German C64 forum Forum-64. The shop supports the community there and vice versa it appears.
At least the product assortment is very interesting, and they ship worldwide. And Google Translate is your friend if you are like me and don’t speak nor read German.
Apart from the language barrier and almost three weeks’ delivery time I’m very pleased with the experience. Might be that Donald is busy putting the now-released EasyFlash 3 boards together! The pieces I finally got are of good quality, and the packaging was well done. Postage rates were reasonable, and generally, so are the prices at the shop. My recommendations.
This is my C64 tower. It has been built nearly 12 years ago by me and a friend of mine. It has seen it’s best days long time ago, but now I’m about to make it better than it ever was.
Built into the old IBM case is a C64E motherboard (the new, short board) from a late C64 C and a much older 1541 disk drive. Basically the machine is an original hardware setup – including the original power supplies. The C64 motherboard is mounted horizontally at he bottom of the case. The C64 PSU is attached to the flank of the case – not very discreet I know. The drive mechanics of the bulky 1541 drive fit perfectly to one of the 5 1/4″ drive bays. The motherboard (or logic board) and transformer have been relocated around the mechanics.
An external power cord plugs into the rear of the machine. The mains voltage is routed to the original transformers trough a two-stage switch and fuses. The two stage switch makes it possible to power the C64 without starting up the disk drive and also to switch off the 1541 while C64 remains on.
The obvious issue of keyboard was also solved in a rather straightforward manner. The keyboard ribbon was simply cut, and then wired to the PC’s serial port connector at the back of the machine. An extension cable for the keyboard was done from old printer cable, which then plugs into the port. Not pretty but does its job!
The other necessary connectors were also routed to the back of the machine. A composite video, dual mono audio and RF antenna connections were routed to the added back plate of the machine using RCA plugs. The transparent back plate is in place of the missing PC PSU. Joystick ports are available at the bottom, as the motherboard barely fits inside the case.
The C64 and 1541 use the case’s power and HDD LEDs as their power LEDs. The power button of the case acts as a reset button for the C64. Read the rest of this entry »
New hardware just keeps on coming for the C64. Now, a new device called Alien Flash Cartridge and the long-awaited Chameleon cartridge are available.
The Alien Flash Cartridge was revealed at Lemon 64 Forums only two weeks ago. It is 16 megabyte Flash memory cartridge that has EasyFlash support and Action Replay compatibility. It also features USB connection that can be used for flashing the cartridge and also to download programs directly to C64 memory. Basically the cartridge has 16 one megabyte memory banks and each of them act like EasyFlash cartridge – except those can be flashed over USB connection. This alone is awesome, plus add the Action Replay mode and the ability to push single load programs to C64’s memory over the USB connection. Certainly a very interesting piece of kit!
If this sounds like must thing to have better act fast. These cartridges can be preordered now and the preordering is open only until 6th March! The developer Stingray sells the cartridges over at his website Multimeter Calibrations Australia. Check the link to Lemon discussion for more info. Find also the few demonstrative YouTube videos.
If I didn’t have EasyFlash and several Action Replay compatible devices already I would be placing order right now!
The Chameleon, in turn, has been in development for a long time. It started out as a “VGA box for C64” but bloated out to become something much greater.
Since the C64 does not provide any higher spec video signal than S-video, the starting point idea for Chameleon was to replicate the VIC-II video chip using a powerful FPGA core and have it generate the VGA video signal to have high quality picture for today’s monitors and televisions. Since there’s some serious processing power available, why not use it also for something else? Well, they did. Read the rest of this entry »
SID-goodness just keeps on coming. Some while ago Tomi Malinen released his DualSID twin-SID PCB. Depending on how the board is assembled and configured you can add either SID model to any C64 model. Additionally, the second SID address can be configured using jumpers. With DualSID board you can have both SID models in one C64 or configure yourself a stereo SID setup for any twin SID application. Anything goes. It’s probably the best and most versatile PCB design so far for adding another SID chip into C64.
I ordered myself few kits already a good while ago, but I have been lazy with my C64 activities lately and have not yet assembled them. I will have to come back to this topic once I have assembled and installed one.
Meanwhile if you’re interested for such board get familiar with the DualSID web site.
Here’s a picture of the kits I ordered:
Three DualSID boards and components for one 6581 and one 8580 model. While the board is the same there are different ways to assemble it depending on which SID model you are going to have as the second one. The FAQ on the site will help to understand the possibilities, limitations and why there are two different ways to assemble the boards.