Introduction: Commodore 64 Laptop

Picture of Commodore 64 Laptop

This is a fully functional Commodore 64 laptop using actual hardware, specifically the C64C motherboard which was one of the last and smallest revisions. It uses a Gamecube power supply in place of the original power brick.

It's much greener than using the original configuration because you:

a) don't need a CRT
b) don't need a slow, power-wasting disk drive
c) everything is powered by a single power supply.

Also this is one less Commodore 64 that will end up in a landfill, wasting away to nothingness after once being the greatest 8-bit computer of all time, 2nd only to possibly the Atari 800!

Plus all of the ribbon cabling was recycled from old computers - it's cheap, if not free, and doesn't goto waste.

Step 1: Initial Hacking

Picture of Initial Hacking

As mentioned before this started with a C64C motherboard. Its smaller than most, but I needed it to be even smaller. I chopped off the power input/joystick end and also shaved off the cassette port tabs. I ditched everything about the original case design except the size - I wanted to keep the whole thing at 153 x 10.53, which is about the smallest it can get with the 153 LCD
screen involved.

Step 2: Modding the Original Keyboard

Picture of Modding the Original Keyboard

The keyboard needed some hacking to make this size, specifically the function keys. I lobbed them off, bypassed the traces and then rewired the keyboard plug so the whole thing was thinner.

I recycled the original connectors so there was one less thing to buy!

The keyboard& with the function part sawed off. I opted to use the original keyboard because 80s computers had such great keyboards, why ditch em?

Step 3: Rewiring the Joystick Ports

Picture of Rewiring the Joystick Ports

A close up of the keyboard and joystick area on the motherboard. Some kind engineer put vias in for all the joystick connections, so even with the joystick ports cut off, it was easy to rewire. The new function keys are wired directly to the keyboard pins on the motherboard as well.

Step 4: Design Work

Picture of Design Work

Time to start the design! Once again I did everything in Adobe Illustrator
because thats how I roll. I started the layout around noon on a Wednesday, with a goal of routing it Friday morning.

I used a lot of V-bits to give everything sharp angles and a very 80s feel. This includes the screen, which is recessed in the lid to allow room for the raised keys when closed. This top deep bevel matches up to the bevels around the lower portion when closed.

The case is in 4 parts, 2 for the lid, 2 for the base. Like the recent Xbox 360 laptops everything is curved, beveled, and slow to rout.

Finally I did a color revision of the laptop design (This was probably on a Thursday night just before The Office came on) This shows me how the unit will look and simulates the shading on all of the surfaces. I ended up going a darker beige when I painted it because light beige didn’t look quite right.

Step 5: Assembling the Keyboard Frame

Picture of Assembling the Keyboard Frame

Next I installed the parts around the keyboard frame. This includes the SD disk drive thing, the sound amp, 2 speakers (its not stereo but I wanted a full sound), volume slider, LED indicators, function keys and the Nokia LCD screen you can attach to the 1541-III-DTV for whatever reason. As usual black plastic screen door material was used to cover the holes.

All of this connects via 1 cable header to the main motherboard so its easy to take the unit apart when testing. This is in contrast to say my Xbox 360 laptop where there are& lets see& 4 different things you have to connect when placing the lid.

Step 6: Installing the Main Components

I laid parts side-by-side instead of on top of each other, it gives me a lot more breathing room with wires and is less of a headache.

As mentioned earlier I used a Gamecube power supply for this project. It plugs into the back, then goes to a big meaty PC power supply switch. When switched this sends 12 volts to the LCD, 12 volts to the SID and a switching regulator creates 5 volts for the C64 logic, audio amp and 1541-III-DTV.

The LCD is from AEI components and runs off the same single 12 volt power supply.

Audio amplification was done with an LM386 amp, pretty simple to wire up and can run off the main 5 volt rail.

Step 7: Testing the Unit

Picture of Testing the Unit

Before screwing everything together I test the unit to see if it's working, not on fire, if the 1541-III-DTV SD card is working, etc.

Looks good, so I can attach the McMaster-Carr friction hinges to the back, call it a day, and play some M.U.L.E.!


TravisM18 (author)2016-01-21

Just another piece of nostalga.

TravisM18 (author)TravisM182017-10-04

This makes me want to try Amiga operating system.

Left-field Designs (author)2016-12-11

I may have missed this but you mention rewiring the joystick port, but what about the tape deck and cartridge ports? Are you just interested in running basic programming tasks on the cli?

TravisM18 (author)2016-01-22

I think I would like a color LCD and make a ubuntu or linux mint pc using a pine 64 computer board. It may need a wifi modual but at 2.5-3.5w it can run droid also but would work for running emulators and web browsing and movies. They cost around 15 dollars for the low end the high end has 2 gig of ram but a quad core arm at 1.2ghz is pretty good for under five watts. I guess it would be a serious upgrade. But for nostalga a guy build an apple two wrist watch.

ReCreate (author)2009-04-12

umm...that is a computer...right? What are its specs? And i never saw any processor or heatsink,so what is that?

Sandisk1duo (author)ReCreate2009-04-12

the commodore doesn't need a heat sink compare it's specs to something like an ardurino board

ReCreate (author)Sandisk1duo2009-04-12 What is the commodore? Is it like an ancient pc or something?

Sandisk1duo (author)ReCreate2009-04-12

yep, back in it's day, this was THE computer to have

ReCreate (author)Sandisk1duo2009-04-13

i bet it can't run windows vista :P Anyways,what os did it run? windows1.0? DOS?

robotguy4 (author)ReCreate2009-07-06

Did you mean?
i bet it can't crash windows vista :P

ReCreate (author)robotguy42009-07-06

I don't get it...

robotguy4 (author)ReCreate2009-07-07

What I'm saying is Vista sucks. Not Microsoft. They suck too, but only because they consist mostly of engineers, not designers (and vice versa with Apple). Vista runs seems to run very slowly on most computers. I like XP better...

ReCreate (author)robotguy42009-07-07

Yeah, Though i like 7 Better than Vista, It still does not beat XP ;)

rawsketch (author)ReCreate2016-01-13

Kiddo, FYI the C=64 OS (Commodore Basic V2) was licensed from Microsoft, created by a 22 years old dude named Bill Gates.

Macka (author)robotguy42010-07-18

How can being composed mostly of engineers make a company suck?

What makes Microsoft suck is the people running the company, not the engineers. 

Also, engineers are designers, they design structures, electronics, mechanical devices and software. No engineers and the world as we know it stops.

What makes Apple suck is their entire model of hands off, don't touch anything, we control your computer, not you and not to mention the "every sale must make a minimum 25% profit".

robotguy4 (author)Macka2010-08-02

Meh, good points. Understood completely and agree about Apple. Supposedly that was partially due to Steve Jobs realizing that not copyrighting the idea of a visual interface after Windows came out. Either way, its annoying. You need an Apple to make iPod apps... What I meant to say was "Microsoft seems to consist mostly of people who design with very little regard to design or usability for the user." Also, after using Windows 7, I think Windows is slowly getting better in this department... Or maybe its because I got used to Windows... Whatever.

DrCoolSanta (author)robotguy42009-10-16

lmao... good one :D

lbrewer42 (author)ReCreate2009-04-16

These computers were so popular that they outsold any model ever made. In fact, they outsold IBM platforms two to one at their peak.

Commodore dropped them to make the AMIGA line of computers. It was these dastardly machines (the Amiga) that made me so very upset when they went out of business due to inept managemnet and no marketing to speak of (this killed them as word of mouth HAD sold the C-64 so well and they thought the AMIGA would follow). Unfortunately the masees in the US were as blind as normal to peer pressure and a machine which was very much ahead of its time was overlooked because it was not "name brand." Sometime, if you are geeky enough, look up the specs. They will amaze you.
They had true multitasking by using dedicated chips for graphics, one for sound, and one for I/O - they did not need to pseud-multitasking machines (before duo core etc) which simply did a fast trick of juggling available time between multiple tasks very quickly. We are finally, sort of, getting back to this line of thinking in computer architecture by making multiple core machines.

I still think if the AI people would mimic the AMIGA architecture (more modelled like a human brain) with dedicated chips (speech center, vision center, processing etc of the brain) for each major task, that AI would be much closer to being a reality. instead we have on poor CPU trying (at blazing speeds) to juggle all the tasks that are required to define the environment around them.

Anyway - the stability of Commodore products (software-wise) was flawless. Only now has OS X Tiger impressed me as being near the stability of the AMIGA system. And, yes, I am fairly well versed in all 3 systems of AMIGA, Mac, and Microsoft platforms. And, yes, I also have OS X Leopard - but,I have had a few minor quirks with Leopard -- an icon in the dock not being drawn correctly, and speech recognition shut itself off.

The C=64 (the notation normally used when referring to the Commodore 64 is an equal sign b/c of the logo Commodore used looked like a C with an equal sign squeezed in between the upper and lower curve of the C) did not have an OS per se. It was a pre GUI computer that was set so that upon powering up it was in Commodore BASIC. It was named the Commodore 64 b/c of the whopping 64 K of memory it had in it (ooh!).

Ebay it. Google it. Wickipedia it. Commodore was the most popularly owned home computer. In fact, the C=64's predecessor, the Vic 20 even had William Shatner beam into a TV commercial to promote it! This was in the beginning when Commodore actually did advertise and did well because of it.

Anyone who used Commodore computers will tell you there was a dark ages of computer ineptitude which followed Commodre's demise. It is about time we have caught up to at least the "feel" of the Amiga.

mediasmith (author)lbrewer422010-07-19

I hate to argue with you.... mostly because you are right. But, you did leave out a few things. Commodore computers were extremely fast for their relatively unimpressive processor specs. Most software executed directly from very efficient machine code. There was a GUI, GEOS, which was way beyond the first versions of Windows to come along a few years later. When I say "efficient code" try to imagine a GUI AND a Pagemaker clone on a single 180K floppy disk. And it all worked. No such thing as a "crash." All this operated with 65 K memory and it ran fast enough for commercial use. Initial prices were as you stated but they quickly dropped to about half of that around here. Hats off to our old friend that started the ball rolling.

inchman (author)lbrewer422010-01-18

I want to echo these statements.  As being a C=64 freak, this computer not only was ahead of it’s time, but it also advanced the PC and what it could do.I still believe to this date, that if the C=64 had a faster disk drive, the computers we would all be using would be from Commodore!  They knew HOW to make computers sing and dance with very limited resources.I still have two of them, with all of the trimmings.
In 1984 I had all of these devices, AT THE SAME TIME on a single C=64…
2 disk drives
RGB Color Monitor with sound
Cassette Drive
Koala Pad (like a stylist and template.)
Light pen (read<touch screen>)
COLOR terminal printer
2400 BAUD Modem
B&W Printer

There was no other computer at the time that could do all of this for under $10,000. 
Not to mention the games for it were seemingly endless!  (Not to mention, great game play.)Before MS, I had “Cut and Paste” a pretty good word processor not to mention many other applications to do routine work.  If I didn’t have an app, I could write one in no time.As a side note, there were also a series of books that were “choose your own adventure” types were you had to program the computer to get the answers for the next chapter of the book.

Tumunga (author)inchman2010-07-18

I had my C=64 set up with the 2 floppies, a 1200 baud modem, and what really got me (aside from the gameplay) was Geoworks. It looked like an actual windowed environment, and the things it could do with my brother 9-pin printer. Give it enough time, and a half wore out ribbon in the printer, it would print fancy fonts, in scalable sizes, on the paper. It would take a couple hundred passes with the printer, but it would do it. This was back in the late 80's.

mediasmith (author)lbrewer422009-04-16

Yes. We certainly will. We will also sit and wonder how runtime GEOS would fit in a 180kb floppy disk WITH page layout software similar (in look, feel and capability, to Pagemake of a much later vintage. IIRC: The Amiga was a cult icon with animators. "Max Headroom" was done on an Amiga and marked one of the first forays into feature animation. "Anyone who used Commodore computers will tell you there was a dark ages of computer ineptitude which followed Commodre's demise. It is about time we have caught up to at least the "feel" of the Amiga."

IIRC, the early animations for Babylon 5 were done on Amiga/Video Toaster builds...

ReCreate (author)lbrewer422009-04-16

Thanks,ill read your comment when i have some time(no offence meant its just Way too long)

IBeHoey (author)ReCreate2009-04-13

How does one know about DOS but, yet, has never heard of the Commodore 64? Anyway, BASIC v2 is the OS it runs, which is a very user friendly environment that just about anyone can pick up and learn. I know its where I got my start

ReCreate (author)IBeHoey2009-04-13

I don't know how i know things and i don't know things that i should know about if i know other things? What are its specs? 500khz processor?

orksecurity (author)ReCreate2010-07-18

jmurockstar (author)ReCreate2009-04-13

google is your friend:

Nice build... I miss my old C64

ReCreate (author)jmurockstar2009-04-13

Oh my gosh 1 mhz processor(highest ) and 900khz processor in the other one. and 64k of ram! WOW you could like run windows vista on that. man,even an alarm clock has better specs than that

klingoncowboy4 (author)ReCreate2009-04-16

why would you want to run vista?

ReCreate (author)klingoncowboy42009-04-16

it was a joke

klingoncowboy4 (author)ReCreate2009-04-16

ah well myself I would have picked Fedora... but that is just me

Sandisk1duo (author)ReCreate2009-04-13

comepare the computer to something like... a graphing calculator


You gotta take into account that these "simpler" devices still have a charm that faster equipment simply can't have. For example try to google mods for the TI 83 series. Then lookup mods for the C64. You will find a pile of them.

For the TI 83 my fav is the turbo mode mod (if you remove a resitor from the board the cpu overclocks, but if you do that you get the same problem you get on older DOS games on new hardware.)

ReCreate (author)Sandisk1duo2009-04-13

ha wow

PH03Nix (author)Sandisk1duo2009-04-13

the graphing calculator would probably still kick the crap out of the C64

Gamernotnerd (author)ReCreate2009-07-25

It ran Commodore Basic, search it.

ReCreate (author)Gamernotnerd2009-07-25

Your a bit too late...I learned that last year when i got my commodore XD(someone was throwing away a commodore 64)

dsi1 (author)ReCreate2009-04-19

The C-64 was the first real computer that many folks got started on. At the time the available RAM on the thing was large - 46K or so. The price as a breakthrough too - around $400. The 5.25" floppy drive was sold separately for $600. This means you could get an advanced computer and drive for $1000, a steal compared to an Apple. As to your questions: 1) You're right, it can't run Vista, then again, most of my computers can't either. 2) The OS was stored on a chip and boot up was very fast compared to our computers today. Upgrading the OS was not a concern since that could be only done by changing the hardware. Things are a lot tougher these days with constant upgrades.

klingoncowboy4 (author)ReCreate2009-04-16

lmao these babies were around and discontinued before windows 1 was released


For various reasons (not the least of which being the speed of the hardware) it cannot run M$. Another key reason being that M$ is primaraly i386 based, whith a few exceptions such as support for Xeons and a breif stint with NT on a SPARC.

ReCreate (author)klingoncowboy42009-04-16

wow,that is aincient,did the cavemen build those things?

klingoncowboy4 (author)ReCreate2009-04-16

on a reletive scale this is more of a roman invention

ReCreate (author)klingoncowboy42009-04-16

hmm...about 25 million years ago :P

Sandisk1duo (author)ReCreate2009-04-13

trying to run vista would be like trying to stuff an XBOX 360 disk into a gameboy

ReCreate (author)Sandisk1duo2009-04-14

Ha yeah

IG-88 (author)ReCreate2009-04-16

Are you for real? You've never heard of a commodore?

ReCreate (author)IG-882009-04-16

No,i am fake,can't you tell? I am from mars,in mars the first computer was 10GHz And we run Microsoft doors,the newest os for the computers there is Microsoft Doors 7. We also have Doors PX which unusually is compatible with Windows XP. And the free Alternative to Doors here is Untub Minux. And instead of the World wide web,We have Galaxy Wide Web,Normal connection speed is 10 terabytes a second,yeah its ok,not much.

Tomcat94 (author)ReCreate2010-07-16

Hahaha, nice. XD

Madrias357 (author)ReCreate2009-06-12

Good one.

ReCreate (author)Madrias3572009-06-12


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