Friday, June 29, 2007
This is a project I have been thinking about for over a year, and I finally got around to doing it. First, a little background. I was in the first computer class my Jr. High School offered back in 1983. It was populated with Apple II's, Commodore PET's and Commodore 64's. I learned to use all three, but fell in love with the C-64 and saved my allowance and birthday money and bought one of my own the following year. I learned to program in BASIC and did a little bit with LOGO.
Eventually I had the C-64, two 1541 drives, several different joysticks, a Koala graphics tablet, a light pen, stacks of COMPUTE magazines, a tape drive and a blazingly fast 300 baud modem to surf the BBS chat rooms with.
For the most part though, I just wrote games and played games on my 64. Entire weekends were lost scrounging around dark passageways and battling Grues. Thanks ZORK!
Fast-forward twenty-two years and I still had had that same C-64 in a box in my garage. Last year I broke it out and relived my childhood for a weekend. That's what got me thinking about putting a modern computer in a Commodore 64 case. I had heard about Mini ITX motherboards and how people were putting them in all sorts strange places. While looking around on the internet I found someone who gutted a C-64 and put a Mini ITX in it, but he can't use the keyboard, then I found someone who put a Mini ITX in the 1541 Drive enclosure, but couldn't use the original keyboard.
To me, I wasn't going to do it unless I could use both the C-64 and the 1541 Drive. But I wasn't about to butcher up a working Commodore 64 to do it. E-Bay here I come. I found a non-working C-64 and 2 broken 1541 drives as a package deal there for under $30. Sold!
Last week I ordered a fanless VIA EPIA ME-6000 Mini ITX Motherboard, threw in 512 MB of Ram, a 500 Gigabyte hard drive and I was ready to roll.
First I removed the motherboard from the C-64. Then I ordered a Keyrah USB interface. This board makes converting a C-64 or VIC-20 into a modern USB keyboard Stupid Simple! Hook the wiring harness from the Keyboard to the Keyrah, put it back together and plug a USB cord from the C-64 to your computer. Couldn't be easier.
The rest of the project required a Dremel Tool, Cordless Drill, Sandpaper, a Hole Saw, a Soldering Iron, Wire Cutters, Strippers and Crimpers, a set of Jewler's Screwdrivers and a steady supply of Cigaretttes and Corona's!
Originally, I didn't have a fan cutout in the top of the 1541. I wanted it to look stock. But after I got it up and running, I let it run overnight and checked it the next morning and even though the power supply had a fan, it was still too hot inside the case. So I ran down and picked up a red LED fan, used a hole saw to cut the hole in the top of the case and put a chrome fan guard over it. It's not stock, but it's cooler and I don't think it looks bad.
The original green LED on the front of the 1541 is hooked up to the power leads on the motherboard, so it comes on when you turn the computer on. The small red LED that used to be the disk activity light is now hooked up to the hard drive activity light. The red LED on the Commodore that used to be the power light now goes on and off with the switch on the side of the Keyrah. With the switch off, it performs like a normal, modern day keyboard. When the switch is on, some of the keys act like the original C-64 for when you are running one of the C-64 emulators.
After I got it working the way I wanted, I had to figure out what to DO with it. I already have my main computer in the office, one for the kids, a media center in the family room, a computerized jukebox in the basement with 400 Gigs of music on it, a MAME arcade cabinet in the basement with 6000 arcade games and a Laptop computer. I decided to turn my Commodore 64 into a movie server. That is why I opted for such a big hard drive. I am currently in the process of ripping all my DVD's to the hard drive and I will be playing them with Snapstream's Beyond Media program.
I'm not running any emulators on it currently. I just have a stripped down version of Windows XP Pro on it and Snapstream's Beyond Media for playing my movies. It's also hooked up to the network, so I can stream a movie off it and watch it in the family room, or any of the others PC's in the house. It is currently in the basement hooked up to a 5.1 surround sound processor and an overhead projector. I never thought I would one day be watching DVD movies using a Commodore 64 on a 4 foot by 5 foot wide screen projector.
All Set Up & Playing Movies!!!!!!!!!!