I suddenly have this urge.
The urge to own a Commodore 64 again.
It’s been the computer of my childhood, and the machine that got me interested into pursuing a career in computers. Unfortunately I sold it a long time ago. I got an Amiga 500 for it in return so at that time it wasn’t too bad, but now I wish I had held on to it. But done is done, so here we are.
So the only way to solve the problem is to give in to the urge 🙂
So I started scoping the all-knowing Internets to find information on the current C64 scene. How alive is it? Are there any new innovations? What does a 2nd hand C64 cost etc? What else do I need?
As I progress in my searches I stumble upon the “C64 Reloaded Project“. It’s a competely new mainboard design but utilizes the real chips the original C64 uses, like the 6510 CPU, the SID sound chip and the CIA interfacing chips. It comes as a bare board however, so you need to source the IC’s yourself. Now I could also just buy a 2nd hand working C64 and be done with it, but then again, these machines are already 30 years old, and the risk of failure of these machines is increasing by the day. The production processes in those days, and the passive components like the capacitors, transistors and diodes used are not as good as their modern day equivalents. So building a completely new machine, but which is still behaving exactly the same as the original one, is for me the way to go. I will still make sure to also have a fully working original one, but that should be the result of overbuying a couple of old C64s to source for parts anyway. Since most of the 2nd hand C64s come with drives, powersupplies etc I will probably have a lot of leftover stuff.
The Reloaded MK 2 board comes at a price of EUR184,95, which may sound steep, but if you compare prices to what the original Commodore 64 costed in 1982 when I got mine ($582), add inflation and it would now be something like $1500, so if I stay under that price I should be good 😉 I would still also need some real drives and cartridges, and also some official JiffyDos licenses since that product is still beeing sold. Shouldn’t be too much, but it all adds up.
Of course I still need to source the rest of the chips, but the SID chips can be bought straight from the company that makes the Reloaded MK2 board so that saves me some searching. They limited the purchase of SID chips to people that buy a board, since these chips are so scarce nowadays. A cool feature of the board is that it can house two SID chips to create a stereo playback, which the original C64 couldnt do. So I decided to buy 2 SID chips for EUR20,- a piece. The board also features ZIF sockets, and that will make it very easy to switch out the main IC’s, and quickly test the spare parts pool I’m gonna set up.
The IC spare part pool
I want to future proof my C64 so next on the shopping list are 2 CPUs, 4 CIA (I/O interface) chips, and 2 PAL VICs (video), since I want to have at least two of each extra. The rest will come from dead or mangled C64s I’m gonna scoop up from Marktplaats.
The individual ICs are all available on Ebay, but since they are becoming scarce, prices are steep, on average EUR25-30 per chip. Another big benefit of the Reloaded board is that it can mix and match different generations of ICs, so I could mix an old 6526 CIA, with a new VIC for instance. The board automatically adjusts the chip timings and voltages to perfection. So I don’t have to be very selective with picking specific chip revisions.
The case for a new case
C64s come in two case types; the somewhat clumsy but classic “breadbin” design, and the C64C slimline design. I prefer the slimline design a bit over the breadbin, and that’s gonna be the case for my Reloaded Mk II. The bad news is that the slimline case only was made in white, which means that almost all the cases of those machines are now (severely) yellowed due to sunlight and aging. The classic breadbin colour grey/brown has this a bit less, but still also discolours. Now you could use a process called Retrobright to solve that problem but I don’t wanna be messing around with chemicals and UV lamps etc. Luckily someone found the old moulds of the C64C case and has decided to reproduce them, and also in various colours, so I can buy one brand new, and also with a type of plastic that won’t discolour over time. The company is called Pixelwizard.
I chose the original breadbin grey as the color, so it’s gonna still be an homage to the classic model. The case itself changes hands for EUR59, but you need some extra kit for it such as keyboard brackets, screws, and powerswitch cover if you use the Reloaded MK2 board, and a led assembly. I decided to buy the Gamer Edition, which includes a remake of the Competition Pro joystick. Total cost of this order is EUR 142 incl shipping.
In the next part i’ll talk about the physical and virtual drives I’m gonna connect to the system, and the other stuff I’m gonna to buy. Stay tuned!