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

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

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

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

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

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

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.!



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    246 Discussions


    9 months ago

    I love it. You're an inspiration Ben.


    Reply 1 year ago

    This makes me want to try Amiga operating system.

    Left-field Designs

    2 years ago

    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?


    3 years ago

    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.


    10 years ago on Introduction

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

    13 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

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


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    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...


    Reply 3 years ago

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


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    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".


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    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.