New ITX project – Commodore C64 PC

Along with the Commodore Amiga, the Commodore C64  is by far my favorite computer of all time. I’ve been using one since the mid eighties and have spent many happy hours with this multi-talented beige bread bin.

Over the years I’ve owned quite a few of the original design, the C64c and the failed (but much loved) Commodore 64GS console.

My very 1st Commodore C64, which around 1988 I added an after market case to match the modern new style C64c….ugly isn’t it!

A few month back I read an interesting article about the current owners of Commodore releasing a new PC which takes inspiration from the original C64 design…..and it got me thinking!

Being a fan of ITX based PC’s and the weird and wacky world of making every day objects in to PC’s/servers (see blog post https://stiggyblog.wordpress.com/2009/09/26/commodore-1541-disk-drive-pc-mod-part-1/ ),  I thought it’d be a fun little project to use the casing from an old C64 and turn it into a PC. It’s been done many times before so I’m not doing anything new here but still, it should be a blast to make one.

The more I thought about this project, so formed a mental short list of the things I wanted achieve with this build.  Firstly and most importantly was that I want to keep the illusion of using a real C64 as much as possible. Having a C64 with a modern PC keyboard connected simply wouldn’t do, I want to use the original C64 keyboard.

After researching into this a little further, I came across a few sites where talented folk had managed to scratch build an encoder unit to get the original C64 keyboard working as a PC keyboard. It looks like a difficult process but I was all up for having a go until one of the RCM members pointed me in the direction of Amikit.com and the Keyrah device they have for sale.

With the Keyrah board, it’s possible to connect the interface from the original C64 keyboard and use it as a standard PC keyboard.  Perfect!

Another priority on my list was that I wanted the ability to connect an  original 9 pin joystick much the same as I use with my C64 and other 8-bit computers. I was thinking along the lines of a Cheetah or Quikshot II here. Originally I was going to use the internals from a PC joystick and retro fit it into a 9-pin joystick case, or alternatively use the reissued USB Comp Pro Joystick purchased last month.

Vintage Cheetah Annihilator, one of the many joysticks I picked up last week.

However, as the Keyrah also support 9-pin joysticks and can map directional controls to keyboard input (thinking joystick controls within the C64 emulator here) that’s that box ticked – Although, I’d still like to retro fit a classic joystick with a USB connection one day!

For the C64 emulation (and possible Vic-20, Plus 4) I will be using my favorite emulator – Vice64 (http://www.viceteam.org/.

Depending on which frontend I decide to use, mouse input for Windows is inevitable. I though about retro fitting an original 1351 mouse or Amiga ‘Tank’ mouse to USB but without a scroll wheel I’m not 100% sure I like that.

One fun idea I’ve been toying with is to buy one of those ultra flat usb mice, the one’s that that are only a centimeter tall and fit it inside a C64 rom cartridge. I have a non working ‘Simon’s Basic’ cart I could use for this but fabricating the mouse buttons might prove to be too difficult. At the moment it’s only idea so we’ll have to see.

New C64 mouse?

PC component wise, I have one or two ITX motherboards to choose from. I’ve tested the lower spec model which runs Vice64 very well but the deciding factor will be which one will actually fits comfortably considering that the CPU heatsink are usually quite large. PSU will be in the form of a ITX PSU board fitted inside the C64 case and external laptop ‘brick’ style main adapter.

Harddisk will be a standard SATA 2.5″ or possibly Solid State drive. I don’t plan to install a CD/DVD drive as it would be rarely used and I want to limit the number of holes that I need to drill out of the C64 case for fear and ruining the overall look.

PC power will be wired to the C64 power LED. HDD Activity HDD…hmm, will have to think about that one. Originally i was thinking about attaching an original C64 Action Replay cartridge and wire the LED to the power LED on the cart. Again, another idea I’m not too sure about yet.

If I can get everything ready in time, I’ll be demoing my C64 PC at the next RCM event in October. It should be a laugh to boot it with a ZX Spectrum emulator 🙂

I’ll post build pictures and words as I progress but until that time, if you have any comments,  or suggestions, please feel free post them.

*extra note – Amikit also supply a Keyrah device to suit an Amiga…I’m already thinking about building a Nano ITX or laptop motherboard based Amiga PC 🙂

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