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Two new C64 board replacements announced*


Laner
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Yesterday, Gideon Zweijtzer (The 1541 Ultimate developer) announced that he is working on a C64 mainboard replacement, the Ultimate 64. You can read more at the link, but the short version is it's FGPA based, with niceties like HDMI out, Ethernet, 1541 Ultimate built in, etc. It will also have built in SID emulation, but will come with a socket to drop in a real 6581 or 8580.

 

Today, in a not entirely unexpected move, Jens at iComp updated the page on the C64 Reloaded mk2.* This was announced last year, but it appears that pre-orders will be opening up shortly. This is more of a direct replacement for the C64 - you'll need to supply a handful of original ICs, including the 6510 and SID chips - whereas the Ultimate 64 looks to be a thoroughly modern redevelopment.

 

Either way, it's nice to see the C64 getting some attention on this front. Personally, my C64s have dropped off one by one due to age, and I'm always a little hesitant to fire up my main one for fear that it'll kick the bucket sooner rather than later. Having some modern replacement options is great.

Edited by Laner
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I question if there is enough market for two such boards, given they're not really for free. I can see why some conneisseurs would want Jens' redesigned board that is using newer helping components, draws less power and generates less heat. Gideon's board is more like a C64DTV in full sized form factor. I suppose he'll have a very good VIC-II emulation, and those asking for HDMI finally get what they need.

 

It is speculated that Gideon's board will be possible to load with other FPGA cores over time, which kind of will make it a modern C-1 or if you like, compared to all other more or less encased FPGA boards. That might be nice, if you like the C64 keyboard and its form factor.

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I question if there is enough market for two such boards, given they're not really for free. I can see why some conneisseurs would want Jens' redesigned board that is using newer helping components, draws less power and generates less heat. Gideon's board is more like a C64DTV in full sized form factor. I suppose he'll have a very good VIC-II emulation, and those asking for HDMI finally get what they need.

 

With the two boards being so different and doing different things - plenty of room in the market.

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Let me rephrase my question:

 

Is there a market for two different 200+ Euro C64 replacement motherboards, even if they're not identical products?

 

I have been a C64 user since 1986 or so and while I'm all for new hardware solutions, both to solve old problems and to add new functionality, I am not looking to spend 200 Euros for a motherboard that does what my existing C64 computers already are doing, but then again perhaps I'm not enough of conneisseur or hardcore user.

 

Of course I doubted every man and his dog (except me) would be buying the Ultimate 1541 at 150 Euros each too, so perhaps it is just me who is too tight about my money and the majority of active and semi active users actually figure that is pocket money for a one time solution.

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I may be an outlier, but I'll probably buy both, finances permitting...

 

The Reloaded, so I can put all of the harvested chips I have to use. More "authentic" in a general sense.

 

Then the Ultimate for a more modern experience... no need for old chips, built in ethernet, HDMI, 1541 emulation, etc.

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I am quite excited about both projects. There is also a MK3 FPGA based board from Individual Computers coming up- only speculating on features, but perhaps it will have built in Turbo Chameleon features like Gideon's 1541 Ultimate built in.

 

A BIG question about the MK2. I see it comes with 128 kb of RAM instead of 64. Would this also make this partly a Commodore 128? It would be missing RGB and some keyboard keys, but would this run 128 software? 40/80 columns? If so it seems odd that the feature list would gloss over the 128 RAM feature so quickly.

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Doubtful. There's a lot more to the 128 than just the extra RAM; the CPU is faster, the BASIC is different, the video chip is larger (not to mention the extra one for 80 column mode), not to mention the Z80 for CP/M mode. It's more likely that Gideon's FGPA approach would be able to support a C128 mode.

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Yeah, I figured. Interesting note on the color ram; it will be nice to hear more about the functionality of the extra ram. Will games load faster maybe? Other than stereo SID, I don't recall the C64 having a lot of upgrades like there are with all the Atari 8 bit (stereo pokey, Ult 1MB, RGB, faster cpu, bigger video...)

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Perhaps the second bank of 64K will work like a small RAM Expansion Unit (REU)? There were such memory expansions in the range of 256K, 512K and RAMlink up to 16 MB. There were also CPU turbos, both in terms of 2-4 MHz 6502 solutions, a lot of those hacks in Germany, and the famous 20 MHz 65816 based SuperCPU. So in terms of uncommon additions, the C64 probably had as many as the Atari 8-bits. The question though is how much support each expansion faced.

 

Supporting the C128 ROMs probably would not be much of an issue if Jens wanted. Regarding clock frequency, I've come to understand the 2 MHz mode is only available in combination with 80 columns, so if the goal would be to only support 40 column C128, the board would not need to cater for 2 MHz. In which terms the VIC-II chip in the C128 has additional functionality I'm unsure of. Then again the amount of C128 only software is not overwhelmingly large, in particular if you remove the 80 column part. Not having a Z80 so you can't boot CP/M would only be a matter when it comes to patching the ROM so it doesn't try to boot from a non-existing CPU.

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