After experimenting with VICE on the Raspberry Pi the decision was made not to do a C64π project. I have done some loose research and some other ARM boards. Next to the Raspberry Pi model B, many other boards i.e. Pandaboard ES, ODROID-X, BeagleBoard came to my Google search hits.
Being doubtful on the performance of the VICE on those platforms i have chosen the Intel Atom path which should provide me enough performance to make the new C64 more versatile. Also Stiggy’s ‘Commodore C64 ITX PC’ inspired me to do a similar project. An Intel based main board allows me a wider variety of operating systems. Also having all the important connections on the backside of the board is a non-compromisable requirement for me.
As the scope of the main board selection has now broadened the horizon i was able to set some more requirements although there is one major restriction: the interior dimensions of the C64. The board could not be larger than the mini ITX form factor and on top of that not high than ~2.5mm\1 inch in the front side of the board. Most boards have the power connector on the front of the board and that is a problem for a C64 transplant. Regarding powering the main board, another requirement stuck it’s head around the corner. An internal PSU would certainly not fit into the casing and a picoPSU from Mini-box.com was too high for internal head space.
So actually the wide range of possible main board was really narrowed down to a single few. Looking at the specs and versatility of the Intel boards i have made the decision to go for the recently released Atom N2800 (dual core, each core two threads) based DN2800MT. Actually the board that StiGGy used, an Intel D945GSEJT, is the predecessor of he main board that I have chosen.
The specs are really impressive, just to name a few:
- mini ITX, low profile only 20mm (0.79 inch) high, just check out the 360° View here
- HDMI and VGA ports and eDP/LVDS connectors
- Many expansion options, even two miniPCI Express card slots, see interactive layout
- On board DC-DC power (8v-19v) input allowing a wide range of laptop adapters to be used.
- 3 years warranty (i hope that i won’t be needing it!)
So all this sound really promising… apart from the now poorly supported PowerVR SGX 545, see this review at LinuxTECH.NET. But might change in the future, i always have hope!
So here is the shopping list:
- Commodore 64 “bread bin” style case
- Keyrah USB-to-C64-keyboard interface by Individual Computers Jens Schönfeld GmbH
- Intel® Desktop Board DN2800MT
- Kingston memory 2 X 2GB (PC3 – 8500 CL7 204-pin SODIMMs)
- Crucial m4 64GB mSATA (6Gb/s) SSD, full length miniPCI Express form factor
- Intel Centrino 1030, WiFi and BT combo, half length miniPCI Express form factor
- Laptop power supply, 100-240VAC/19VDC ~60Watt
Picking the cleanest looking C64 which was in my stock made things easier. Actually the case was a little dusted but at least it doesn’t have any holes, switches, knobs or any other modification. Cleaning out the machine means: taking everything apart, all keys from the keyboard and the mainboard out. After a nice cleansing bath, using the grease eating Dasty, the C64 looks, feels and smell as new again.
After around 0f years of 8-bit experience it is time for a change. The main board is replaced and a keyboard interface are now the new inhabitants of the good old familiar C64 casing. The Keyrah interface is still not connected internally. Just plug in a cable from one of the many internal USB interfaces on the Intel main board on the to Keyrah PCB, which is very easy. This gives the C64SSD the retro look and feeling of old skool computing.
Clean, lean and mean that is how an computer should look like, also on the inside. Beside a few extra cables, to be precise: one internal USB connection from the main board to the Keyrah interface and a set of wireless cables connecting the on board WiFi card to the outside world, this is all what is going to be inside.
The mainboard selfs sports a 64GB mSATA card (which is positioned top left), the Wifi/BT combo (perfectly lined up to right of the SDD card) and left to the big black heatsink the memory is located. This eliminates the messy SATA and power cabling.
The Keyrah interface, which really puts the slogan on the spot, connects the genuine C64 keyboard via USB back to the motherboard. Also the two joystick ports can be used for some good old retrogaming. The Keyrah will be connected internally to the motherboard on a later stage. Jens Schönfeld put some, non-technical, key sentences on the Keyrah PCB, let’s see:
“good hardware for good computers”
“this is a good place for a clever line.”
“For Sirrah – the unexpected impact”
“Don’t act like someone you’re not.”
On the rear my C64SSD now flaunts the default but interesting connectors. From left to right;
- Power socket for the 19VDC adapter
- Two USB 2.0 ports
- One Ethernet port (1Gb,100Mb,10Mb/sec)
- VGA port
- Two high current/fast charging USB 2.0 ports
- HDMI port
- Line out (green)
- Mic in (pink)
It took me 4 hours to make this first version of the main board transplantation. After cutting, drilling and grinding the base outline, the rough shape was formed. It still took me some effort to make the half height I/O shield fitted into the lower part of the C64 casing. The most difficult part is fitting the top again. I used the a poor man’s Dremel, Ferm FCt-300 Multitool, to cut out the large pieces, a large flat file for the rough outline and a set of needle files. The most part of the time is the measuring followed by the manual filing and the least time, around 15 minutes, i spend with the 230VAC powered Dremel-killer.
Still i need to do some small details on the hardware side of my C64SSD but for now version 1.0 is a fact!
Nice detail, although i need to apologise for the bad quality picture (using an iPhone 4), on the serial pf the machine.
The serial number of my C64, “UKB1663887″, matches the serial number as defined in the BIOS of the motherboard:
Now i need to find a nice distribution to run the software on… to be continued!
Today I received the very cheap and perfectly working WiFi/BT antenna which I ordered through eBay at a chinese reseller/manufacturer. It fits perfectly the tiny connectors on the Intel Centrino 1030 WiFi/BT combo board.
Compared to a custom C64x from Commodore USA my install looks really clean cut, IMHO!
As typing on the C64 works, you know that keys are missing or the combination are hard to remember for full functionality outside of VICE or so, i purchased a Rapoo E2700 keyboard. Although it isn’t a BT keyboard, which i originally wanted for the clean look, the key sticking on the USB port is really small and it works perfectly smooth. The keyboard also sports a touchpad for (incidental) mouse work, besides the BT mouse which i use for regular work.
It’s size of the keyboard itself really tiny and only handy for incidental work, so this will push me to the C64 clicky clacky keys again, a lovely touch and sound.