back to article Retro-tech fan seeks cash for Commodore 64 clones

A brand new 1982-style Commodore 64 for just $75 (£48)? Yes, it is crazy, but that’s not stopping one enterprising retro-tech fan from trying to make it happen. Daniel Biehl has a Commodore 64 - a real one - but he knows it won’t last forever. So he wants to build a machine that will run all the C64 software out there and work …

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Silver badge
WTF?

He wants $150k?! Never going to happen, there just aren't that many people who give a fuck about a C64, and those that do already have one, why spend $75+ on a "new" one.

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Holmes

Raspberry Pi in an oversized case?

You read the Indiegogo project and he doesn't know about electronics, or tooling, but has picked a price. Something seems amiss.

One could however look at tooling a box, with keyboard, etc. that a Raspberry Pi just plugs in to. The only issue is then an OS.

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Stop

"Something seems amiss."

Yes, something does seem amiss - namely, that it's a flexible funding campaign. That means Biehl will get every dollar pledged even if he doesn't make his target. You should never, ever trust or pledge to a flexible funding campaign; far too many of them are scams.

It would be good if El Reg could put a note on the article warning people about this.

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Thumb Up

Re: "Something seems amiss."

Stupidly, there is a good business idea in this, i.e. Raspberry Pi case seller (potentially one that supplied ISOs). Plug, play, job done. I believe Cherry* will even manufacture custom keyboards - although it depends on the minimum run. I might get a rough plan done and try and get an estimate on it.

One can run the VICE C64 emulator on a Pi**, so a business would just have to create an ISO that boots in to a game selection. There is also BeebEm*** for anyone who thinks the BBC Micro should be first.

*http://www.cherrycorp.com/english/keyboards/index.htm

**http://elinux.org/RPi_VICE_C64_Emulator

***http://www.mkw.me.uk/beebem/

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Go

Re: "Something seems amiss."

Or you can stick a raspberry pi into a real C64 case, like I have here -> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-kvtKI-Tp4

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Re: "Something seems amiss."

I stuck my Raspberry Pi into a C64X case.

Rather stupid, as the case was probably 10x what I paid for the Pi. I had originally planned it to be a PicoITX media server.

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Facepalm

Money for nothing?

With the best will in the world; this seems pointless. The bloke has none of the skills necessary to make this happen, and no intention to get the rights to make something that even looks like the machine he want to emulate.

So what he's proposing is a generic "computer in a keyboard" - which has been done many times.

In his case he could just do this: http://hackaday.com/2012/07/09/refurbing-a-c64-with-a-raspberry-pi/

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Pint

I would support this if:

the guy was in the UK. His other stretch projects are:

ZX Speccy

BBC Micro

Amstrad

just a little British pride!

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Happy

Re: I would support this if:

And a blooming Teletext emulator please too!

Sod it, maybe just emulate the 80s wholesale - turn Swindon into an 80s theme park or something! Synthpop, 8-bit computing and red and black interior design for all - welcome to Swindon! (written in 7 segment digit display style fonts of course!)

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Trollface

Re: I would support this if:

I'm confused, is Swindon not an 80's theme park?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I would support this if:

I remember reading years ago (maybe ten?) that someone had created a BBC Micro on a chip and it successfully ran beeb code.

But I can't find a single reference to it now and I'm beginning to wonder if I imagined it. Has anyone else ever heard of this?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I would support this if:

MiniB? http://www.sprow.co.uk/bbc/minib.htm

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I would support this if:

Cheers, it probably was the MiniB. Not quite a single chip and no video, but a lot smaller.

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Facepalm

Single chip C64 and DIY C64

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C64_Direct-to-TV

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C-One

http://www.syntiac.com/fpga64.html

Did he do any research?

I think Blehl's problem is he's a retro-computing nut, not a whiz-bang electronics nut, and I expect enthusiasm for recreating a C4 won't be as great as he thinks it is, but I guess you can't blame him for trying.

I note he's raised $150 out of $150,000 with just 18 days to go. I would guess Project Bread Bin is about to turn into Project Dust Bin.

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g e
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Facepalm

Ummmmmm but

If it's not going to be an emulator then he'll be wanting a 2MHz 6502 (IIRC)? And that's before you deal with the ROM (c) issues.

So it's not exactly going to fly, is it. Better off with a Raspberry Pi and an emu (not the feathery/RodHull sort)

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The magic word is

FPGA. You can implement a 6502, VIC chip, SID etc in hardware, not by software emulation. You can also reprogram it to be different machines. Take a look at the MCC 216 as an example, you can load it up with anything between a VCS2600 and an Amiga.

The $75 price point does however seem to have been pulled from his arse and it looks pretty much like a scam.

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Trollface

Re: Ummmmmm but

That would be a 1Mhz 6510.....

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it's kind of a nice idea

I wish it was those days again when those machines were new. Everything seemed much more exciting and special. And it would be great to play with a machine from that era again.

But really what use is it? I feel the money would be much better spent trying to recreate the concepts on modern hardware instead. Which is what raspberry-pi, and some of the android consoles like Ouya are trying to recapture with some success.

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Van

Nostalgia has too much of a grip on him. I wish it was 'those days' again also. Unfortunately we're too spoilt today.

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Please not again!!!!!!

Hasn't this been done enough before?

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They still make 6502s, you know

http://www.westerndesigncenter.com/

So one of these, or an FPGA, or if there's enough volume an ASIC? But yeah, it's been done before. He ought to talk to Jeri Ellsworth.

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I'd like a brand spanking new C64

But where the hell am I going to be able to buy tapes for it?

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As an earlier poster wrote, "The bloke has none of the skills necessary to make this happen, and no intention to get the rights to make something that even looks like the machine he want to emulate."

So, a career in marketing middle management awaits. The earnings would be determined by how much of a slimy backstabber he can bring himself to be.

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FAIL

Raspberry Pi dooms all such projects

There's a lot to be said for a computer in a keyboard that plugs into a television that can run all your old 8-bit software. So when is someone going to build a Raspberry Pi into a Happy Hacking Lite2 keyboard?

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41NX93T7DZL.jpg

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Alert

Meh..

I've thought of putting the moon on a stick idea and I'd like esheep to fund it..

But hey..

C64p (DTV C64 based laptop) http://www.sd2iec.co.uk/id9.html - No esheep funding required ;)

Love and kisses... HRH RH

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Already done, more or less...

This basically already exists in the Chameleon.

http://www.syntiac.com/chameleon.html

You can power it from USB (no actual C64 required) and have an FPGA-based C64 running cycle correct and plugged into a VGA monitor. You can even stick Amiga or Spectrum firmwares on the FPGA instead & have those running in hardware.

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Silver badge

How?

able to connect to the internet via a local network, and use Micro SD cards for storage

I know nothing about the C64, but given its age I would be surprised to learn that it runs an operating system with either of these capabilities. I suppose it might be possible to emulate a cassette recorder with SD cards (the emulator will need to run very slowly and fail on a random basis). But is he planning to write his own network stack in Basic?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: How?

Sorry to ruin your snark, but there do in fact exist both TCP/IP implementations that will run on a C64, and an Ethernet interface that can be plugged into the cartridge port of a C64.

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DJV
Alert

Re: How?

Not only that, but this site is (supposedly) being run directly from a C64!

http://www.c64web.com/

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Silver badge

How about...

How about putting all the network stack onto a virtual diskette drive?

If you change the ROM or load additional software into RAM you are loosing compatibility, but the diskette drive already has a fairly abstract interface. I'm not a good expert in that area, but from glancing over the documentation I've found, it may be possible to use the peripheral interface to talk to a TCP/IP stack running outside of the C64.

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Can't call it Commodore 64

How about Rear Admiral 64?

Apparently rear admiral is a higher rank anyway...

Really though, not having any electronic knowledge is not really an issue for the sorts of people that this sort of item appeals to - when your idea is something that a large portion of your target market would consider to be a neat little project they could achieve with a similar amount of money in spare time (popping a raspberry pi into a c64 case or similar), the business case begins to make rather less sense...

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As other people have pointed out...

There's already a "hardware" C64 emulator, which was embedded in a Quickshot-styled joystick that could be hooked straight into your TV - the Direct-to-TV thing Jason mentioned.

There's also a PC which is built into a "breadbin" case - see http://www.popgive.com/2011/04/commodore-64-is-back.html for details.

(A friend has one; it looks quite funky but is also prone to overheating...)

Overall, this guy is basically reinventing the commodore-shaped wheel...

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Holmes

"Project Bread Bin" has been Binned

Apparently he's called the whole thing off now.

From the site: "I've decided to cancel the project. It seems someone who is very public and someone who I admire has publically pronounced the whole thing a scam."

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Pint

Old World Blues

Eyes firmly fixed on the past, unable to see the future for what it is. Unable to change. Unable to move on. Their eyes burning with the faint light of memories, lost in time. Sad, really.

I miss playing Sword of Fargoal, too. But to me, it's just a relic in the dust bin of my past. Nice to think about, once in a while, but I'm usually busy looking to the future. I have also found that when you DO get a chance to play those old games, they are just not as great as you remember them to be.

If you do desire to look into the past fondly, don't do it while standing in the dark - you may be eaten by a Grue!

(Yes, I'm old enough to have played Infocom games. I've played the Pong coin op game, too - back when dirt was a relatively new thing). Beer icon, because there is no "older than dirt" icon - and I like my Blue Moon beer.

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FAIL

It's been cancelled... it was a failure from the get go...

Here is the reasons:

1. The case molding and fabrication and tooling requires a minimum production order of at least $250,000. That is just to produce a couple thousand C64 cases and keyboard molding. When Commodore USA produce the C64x case molding and the mechanical keys. Both of which was produced by two different companies. Cherry produced the mechanical keys and keyboard component. A plastic molding company to produce the case in the same kind of plastic and the keycaps so they aren't just painted. It's in the dyeing of the plastic otherwise the plastic would typically be a clear-ish. The type of plastic and the colors had to be made to match original. At least, that was the goal point and that was expensive. Even for a fairly well financed Barry Altman and company. To do a real C64 case in the exact same mold pattern for the back and the keys being exactly laid out the same would also cost about the same if not a little bit more given inflation.

Failure #2:

FPGAs and PCB and other components on the board will not be able to be produced even if you ordered 100 Million unit batch runs. Not going to come down in price because NONE of the FPGA vendors drops the price enough for such high FPGA volume. Although , if you ran orders in the 250,000+ unit, you can produce in ASIC with components on an PCB about the size used in the C64DTV (30-in 1 C64 Joystick) sold through QVC and others (v1,v2,v3 boards) and the same board & tech used in the Hummer direct to TV toy sold through Radio Shack.

The C64DTV is not a perfect emulation. Some might argue it as a poor emulation via hardware. Then again, it was probably the best out there at the time of initial release. However, Turbo Chameleon by iNDIVIDUAL COMPUTERS with several more years of FPGA 'core' refinements and improvements made on a more capable FPGA then was part of a stock "Commodore One" aka "C-One Reconfigurable Computer" has improved compatibility.

This means the person would have to be starting from scratch with at best the core versions that were released for Commodore One where the source was published. TC64's core is not released and is protected IP in which I am very certain the IP owner(s) would collectively take action against Daniel Biehl.

As for the case molding of the Commodore 64, that is not protected by copyright laws or trademark laws (except the C= commodore 64 logo). Which would mean contacting the Dutch company or whoever that actually owns it right now. It would be protected under patent but any patent on that case has expired.

The copyrights to the firmware is still a technically copyrighted matter.

Failure #3, lack of trademark and copyrights for the firmware via any permission from Commodore IP owners. Potential for an additional failure of IP rights of the FPGA cores of those who own it.

Jeri Ellsworth's FPGA core is under her own rights and at best is dated and technically to use it for a commercial venture will need permission from her and possibly the Commodore IP holders. As for the ASIC core, she produced for the C64DTV/Hummer will require her permission and also that of the IP holders of Commodore IP and that also may include getting into connection with the owners of Ironstone Partners and Mammoth Toys and all the other stakeholders on that.

This means there is a lot of work involved just to revive that and make a new production run with all the "connectors on the board. If you produced the same volume then it is conceivable to produce the unit at a cost per board unit of less than say, $15-$30 dollars. Which if you are willing to reduce board footprint. the large footprint necessary to make the User port and Expansion port at the same dimensions would be costly. However, it you took the C64x frame work then producing a board that will be maybe 6" x 6" with headers for connecting all the necessary cases and then contacting Cherry to make a PS/2 compatible version of the keyboard they made for Commodore USA. Again, the cases and the keyboard would probably take a deal of work. Alternatively, getting the surplus of C64x cases and using a small ATMEL board to convert the C64x (probably USB) keyboard to PS/2 proper signals and mapping the keys so they'll map across sensibly to the C64DTV logic.

If one was to use already done work and can get the surplus of C64x cases at dirt cheap prices then all the better.

It would be awesome but it isn't going to happen.

Daniel, I'm not necessarily calling what your plan is a "scam" as that would mean you INTENDED to drefraud people. Honestly being an idiot and not having done your homework would say that you project was doomed to fail from the start. At $150,000, you aren't even close. You need closer to $15 Million down payment, $150 Million equity-reserve bank account and you need to have already got into contracts and you wouldn't use this kind of venue. If you seriously want to produce a real hardware project, you need to be talking to venture capitalists and you need to have equity worth. Hardware electronics requires you to either be a well to do trust fund baby with lots of cash (making at least $10 Million a year personal and already have a cash cow business making about 5-10 times that) to even be considered seriously in order to meet your vision.

This is because the companies that you need to contact will not even talk to you unless you are talking serious cash.

You can't just plop a 65c02 from WDC in place of the 6510 used in the C64. There is differences and those differences will break compatibility with lots of programs which your so called target audience uses largely for entertainment because very few people in the entire world and a small percentage of the Commodore 64 enthusiasts even use the Commodore 64 as their primary computer. They use it for nostalgia and demonstrations in most cases or to play a game or demo. That's about the limit of real use of Commodore hardware in 2013. It has been almost 20 years since Commodore went bankrupt. By the time you could possibly bring such a project to market even if you were appropriately financed, it would be 20 years since the last C64 was manufactured by Commodore International Ltd. in 1995.

The C64x was a PC in a C6-ish case.

Your lack of research and understanding of the undertaking and the very fact that most of the people just aren't interested in some big ol' commercial venture. I'd bet the head fellow at individual computers of whom is head of the Turbo Chameleon project would give you a big birdie unless you are Bill Gates with his kind of cash to influence. Otherwise, it is unlikely he'll license you the TC core or make an ASIC version of it.

Daniel Biehl, your project is a big epic FAIL from get go.

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Gold badge

Atari...

The Atari supports adding device handlers, so you could have a USB keyboard as K:, S: screen handler (for stuff that printed to screen instead of writing directly to video RAMM), the physical (floppy) drives would show as D1: and D2: while D3-D8: at least were reserved for other drives. A RAM disk may be at D8: while a SDcard may be D7:. Oh and casette was C:. I think the Commodore had a similar capability of adding on drives at least. Reimplementing the Commodore and Atari video hardware will be difficult, however; among other oddities, the Atari's video hardware would run a "display list", which could change video modes every 2 scanlines. Certain games and applications took full advantage of this.

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