I am a Commodore 64 enthusiast. It is still my favorite computer system ever made. My childhood initiation into the computer world was through this machine. I dreamed of making an “Ultimate” Commodore 64 with sketches and specs with all kinds of nonsense. Today, my Commodore 64 sits beside me in my SuperCubicle with an SD2IEC drive from TheFutureWas8bit.com and an Ethernet adapter from Individual Computers. There is a back-burner project that has been on going with my C64. I hope to be able to get all that to a point that it is worth talking about.
Recently, I stumbled upon this very interesting bit of hardware. It is a replacement main board for the Commodore 64. It’s called the Ultimate 64. According to the site, it is a hardware implementation using FPGA of the entire C64 and it includes the Ultimate-II+ solution so a kind of all-in-one machine with the latest “enhancements” as it were.
No more is there an RF modulated output. The original component remains but now there is an HDMI output. There is even a mode to emulate the CRT feel on a modern screen. That probably won’t be how I’d use it but most certainly the HDMI output will be used.
An upgraded yet compatible audio system is built in. It has an 8 voice SID implementation as well as 7 voices of sampled audio in 8 or 16-bit samples of up to 48 kHz sample rate. There are open slots to put in original SID chips if you so choose.
It still accepts cartridges and you can set the machine to have the RAM Expansion Unit (REU) of up to 16 MB. How they get that to work is a mystery to me since the 6510 can only address 64KB of RAM. Some sort of bank switching… I guess… according to this. How they do that sounds like some magic to me.
A bunch of C64 cartridge emulations to include the Epyx Fastloader, Retro Replay and many others.
Flexible Freezer menu that allows you to select, mount and create D64 (the native Commodore 64 disk images).
Most importantly, are the little upgrades that make me smile, 3 USB ports, Ethernet and even Wifi. I am interested in seeing what fantastic software creations will come of these little upgrades, especially those that would make use of Commodore 64 networking.
It can still make use of the original disk drives, if you so choose. Also note, there is no userport on this board. There are headers, however so that you can either create a cable to userport or eventually one will be released.
Commodore 64 Unix
Although it hasn’t been updated since 2004, there is a project on Sourceforge called LUnix, meaning, Little Unix. It is a preemptive multitasking operating system for the Commodore 64 and Commodore 128 with dynamic memory management. It supports TCP/IP networking has a terminal with basic support for shell scripts and quite a lot more. It gives me pause to think, there is much, much more than my C64 can do, especially if you were to run it on a modernized implementation like the Ultimate 64.
I did try running the latest version, v0.21 but I got a kernel panic. Due to a lack of time, this is something I will revisit at another time.
I am really excited to see this rather fantastic bit of innovation for the Commodore 64. This certainly keeps the platform alive much longer and maybe even see it morphed into something that is even more capable without losing the charm of the original machine. I will be interested in seeing what new and wonderful creations will come of this enhanced breed of Commodore 64s. Today, I have two disabled machines due to hardware failures I cannot diagnose. I am thinking the Ultimate 64 might be my course of action to get one of those machines operational once again. Every house needs at least two functional Commodore 64s, right?