Quick Commodore 64 ITX PC update.

Having ran out of time at the weekend to fully soak test the C64 PC, I’d taken it in to work with me and left it switched on were I can keep an eye on it.

Temperature wise, it rose from around 16c to about 55c during the course of about three hours.

Although 55c isn’t that hot, to appease any concerns I had, I fitted a quiet case fan at lunchtime to to see if that would help. It seems to have done the trick as the tempreature rose much slowly and peaked at around 40c throughout the day. Again I used the adhesive velcro pads to secure the fan in place.

Whilst I had my soldering iron and tool kit to hand, I drilled through the C64 case and fitted the replacement PC on/off switch. It’s a much better switch I was previously using and is conveniently placed on the side of the case instead of the rear.


Commodore C64 ITX PC – Part VII ‘Finished’

Today I finally finished my C64 PC project.

Following on from yesterday, the first job on the list was to create the internal header cable to connect to Keyrah interface board to the motherboard.

Using a USB header cable from my spares, I cut away the USB socket and recrimped the four cables using crimps I picked up from Maplins.

Next, I fitted the pins to a floppy disk IDC following the color coding on the Keyrah schematics sheet. Here’s both ends, original and new.

….fitting to the Keyrah board and  hoping I’ve got the wires the right way around!

With that done, time to start cutting into the rear of the C64 case to allow for the motherboard I/O sockets to poke through.

Ideally I need to cut in the area I’ve marked in red  following the path of the blue line.

The cutting tool took some getting used to but after a short time I started to get the hang of it and was able to cut, grind and sand my way through the case. The tea towel was to stop plastic shavings from going everywhere….it didn’t work! 🙂

Just a little more sanding and I think we’re done.

Next, I tested fitted the PC components to checked the motherboard ports were accessible through the slots I’d just cut. It’s here that I decided not to use the motherboard I/O back plate as this would mean more cutting into the case and I preferred the thin slot that I’d created instead.

At first, the C64 case lid wouldn’t shut correctly as the C64 keyboard wiring loom was getting in the way. After a few well placed tie-wraps I had it tucked away but still the case lid wouldn’t shut completely. It’s then when I noticed that the SATA/ATX molex plugs were getting in the way. For the SATA cable, I simply  moved it to the other SATA port on the motherboard but for the ATX plug had nowhere to go.

I found that it was catching on the C64 keyboard mount so it was out with the cutting tool again to shave off a centimeter or two.

In the end, I had to make multiple cuts, refit and cut again but after a while I’d managed to get it just right. The only other adjustment I had to make was to cut a few  millimeters of each motherboard mounts.

As well as tie-wraping the cables out of the way, I affixed adhesive velco pads to each corner of harddrive. These worked out really well and do a good job of holding the drive in place. They also increase the drive slightly to help increase airflow.

The only things left was to plug in the monitor, power etc, hit the on button and pray!

WOOHOO! It’s alive 🙂

After a victory dance around the garden, the first thing to do was to check to make sure the C64 keyboard worked. With Notepad open they all checked out fine.

Next, I launched a program called ‘Core Temp’. This would give me a desktop widget showing current CPU temperature and also based on what I preconfigured would auto shut down the PC if it reached a high tempreture. On first boot the temp was at 43c and after about 3 hours the temp had raised to 51c. Not too bad but I think I’d feel alot better with a small internal fan fitted.

After setting up the USB wireless dongle I copied over the Gamebase64 files from my main PC and setup the frontend and Vice64.

…..and my first game? Chuckie Egg of course!

Commodore XP.

…and the finishing touch 🙂


Commodore C64 ITX PC – Part VI ‘ITX testing’

With my new ITX motherboard arriving the other day I spent this afternoon testing it and getting the PC components ready for installation into the C64 case.

The box contents include the ITX board, x2 Sata Cables, x1 Sata/molex power cable. I/O backplate, driver CD, motherboard diagram and registration document (also containing a nifty Intel Atom sticker!).

Intel D945GSEJT ITX motherboard with Intel Atom 1.6mhz CPU. I’ve already fitted the SO DIMM containing 2Gb of DDR2 ram.

You can see here, how slim this motherboard is compare to a penny.

I/O ports comprise of DC mains socket, audio jack, VGA & DVI ports, e-Sata port, x2 USB ports and LAN socket. Note, there is no PS/2 port (although there’s pins on the motherboard to connect one should you wish to make up your own.

The first thing I needed to do was to make appropriate header cables for the on/off button, reset button and power LED. I’m still unsure if I want to install a HDD activity LED yet so that might come later.  For now, I just wanted to check that the board was working o.k. so diving into my spare parts box, I found an on/off button and LED that used to belong to another PC front panel.

My initial problem was that the header block from the old PC wasn’t wired in the same order as the header pins on the ITX board. It was also contained in one large single block rather than modern individual header blocks. Second problem was that I also had to make room for the original C64 power LED header block.

I had a look online to see if I could source the parts locally (and without having to wait for delivery) but alas no. Plan ‘B’ was called for…I went to fetch my tool box 🙂

Inserting a small screwdriver I was able to move the locking plastic lug and remove all of the existing cables.

…and using a sharp knife was able to slice away a block of four.  Two for the power switch and two for the power LED.

It’s a bit rough at the moment but I’ll soon have it tidied up. At the moment, this is the power switch and power LED fitted with room for the other header cables.

With that done, I fitted the nylon motherboard standoffs (thanks for these Bobby!) and connected the 2.5″ SATA hardisk and temporary DVD drive. Note, the motherboard does supports IDE devices but has the smaller 44 pin IDC fitted.  Finally, the audio, VGA, power and USB wireless keyboard dongle was fitted.

What a mess 🙂

Woo, green light…so far so good.

Always a sweaty moment, time to press the temporary power button!

‘Big blue flash time!’

Having a look around the BIOS settings. All the usual setting were here and a few extra’s to play with. For now, just checking the memory & HDD have been detected and to note the CPU temperature.

Formatting the harddrive. I should really think about setting up a work area out in the garage. Making a right mess in the kitchen 🙂

…and there we go, Windows XP (MCE edition) and Intel drivers installed.

Next on my list of todo’s was to fabricate a male to male header cable to connect the internal USB header on the motherboard to the internal usb header on the Keyrah. This will ensure that the cable is hidden inside the case as opposed to an external USB cable.

Originally I was going to take two spare USB header – USB A port cables found in most PC’s, cut off the USB port and solder them together (thus making a male to male header cable) however, I didn’t really like this idea. I could solder the bare cable to the Keyrah which I seen done before but…hmm, didn’t want to slip and bugger the Keyrah!

So, with that in mind I headed on out to our local Maplins electronics store to see what I could find and then onto my friend Andy’s house to pick up his Dremel which I’d need to cut  C64 case for the motherboard I/O back panel.

Whilst I was there and browsing at various cables, I picked up a better red power switch that looked much better than the temporary solution I’d fitted. It kinda reminds me of those switches you used to get on C64 reset/action replay cartridges.

Maplins also had a Dremel (well a Rolson rotary tool kit) on sale too so I picked one of these up too. Always wanted one myself and saves me having to disturb Andy.

Tomorrow i’ll finish off making the header cable and them start putting all the various bits together.




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 🙂