Commodore USB Interface Thoughts

The USB interface has become the ubiquitous interface for all kinds of peripherals, from file storage to cameras, wireless adapters to input devices. I wonder if there would be interest in a USB interface for Commodore machines, and how “intelligent” it would need to be. For example, I could easily design a “dumb” interface that simply maps the USB electrical interface into the C64/C128/VIC address space, but then each developer would be required to implement all USB protocol functionality. On the other hand, a more intelligent interface would help developers, but would cost more and some development would still be necessary, as many less common USB devices would require custom drivers to implement high level functionality.

Still, the idea seems a sound one. If the right balance is chosen, only software development would be required to use newer USB devices on the C64/C128. Software is much easier to develop and share, and if there are enough owners, it would be worth it to add support for USB devices in programs like GEOS, etc.

I’d appreciate any thoughts readers might have. Is this something you would find useful?

IEC Cable Order

When people order a uIEC unit, some ask if an IEC (disk serial) cable is included or available. After looking in my stash, I did find a batch of Commodore cables, but two things concerned me. First, I have a number of actual drive units with no cables, and I wanted to ensure that each drive in my possession sported a cable in case it is later sold or traded. Second, when my stock is depleted, I will have nothing to offer.

While searching for other items, I came across a few suppliers who offer newly manufactured cables and could do custom lengths. At that point, I contacted Joseph Palumbo of JP PBM (Products by Mail), as he had expressed a need for additional IEC cables months before. As well, I recalled that Gideon Zweijtzer (of 1541 Ultimate fame) was looking for short (12″) IEC cables for the 1541U-II currently in production. I contacted Gideon and asked if he was interested in a purchase. Both Joe and Gideon were interested in moving forward, so I recently ordered 1300 cables of each size (standard 4 foot length and 1541U/uIEC preferred 12″ length). I can only imagine the number of boxes it will take to ship them here, but we will soon be offering black molded IEC cables in both lengths in the store, and Gideon will be receiving a large order to supply 1541U-II buyers.

I’ve received samples of the cable, and tested them. The cable is shielded, offers molded connectors on both ends, and offers 28 AWG stranded wire with an Aluminum Foil shield in addition to the bare shielding wire spiraling around the signal wires. The cabling is reasonably flexible (not quite a flexible as the original OEM cables, but not stiff) and 5.5mm in diameter. They should look right at home in a Commodore 8-bit setup.

24 Pin and 28 Pin Headers Arrive

Finding economical 24 pin and 28 pin IC headers for adapter boards like ROM-el has been a significant challenge. DigiKey and Mouser stock on forked post headers, which are mainly designed for attachment of wires, not soldering to a PCB daughterboard. Aries Electronics offers the correct product, but they are almost $2.00 per piece, which is not sustainable.

Recently, I ventured into bulk purchasing of some components, like the 22/44 .100″ connector for C64/C128 cartridges, and the 6/12 .156″ connector for the C64/C128 cassette port. Given the success, I recently ordered 1000 each of some 24 and 28 pin IC headers, at much better prices. Of course, since I have no immediate need for so many units and I suspect others have the same issue sourcing these items, I’m soon placing them in the store.

Thus, if you’re in need of 24 or 28 pin IC headers, machine pin, low profile, check the store in a few days.

64NIC+ Ethernet Cartridge Order

When the Cincinnati Commodore Computer Club approached me in late 2008 to design a low-cost ethernet cartridge for the C64/C128, I underestimated the interest. Not only has C4 sold out of their stock, but mine is gone as well.

I’m happy to report another order has been made, and should be available in a month or so. No changes, though I may take the lead time to see if I can source some cheap EPROMs for the ROM slot on the cartridge and see what I might be able to bundle in the ROM.

At some point, I’d prefer to improve on the design, but it may very well be that this design is “good enough” for what people want to do.

Storefront Replacement

Since I’ve continued to battle some issues with the existing storefront solution initially chosen, I have decided to pursue another option. I spent the better part of the holiday researching and evaluating different solutions, and I hope the chosen replacement satisfies our business needs. Initially, I eschewed hosted solutions, due to monthly cost concerns, but I then found a solution that made it truly easy to add products and create a professional-looking storefront with a minimum of effort on my part. In fact, the solution madeit so easy I spent the past evening adding products I had held off adding in the past (because previous product setup was not trivial, so I only added products I thought would sell enough to sutify the effort).

The old link will continue to work, but the new store is at As noted, I added more of the JiffyDOS image variants, the uIEC/IDE, uIEC/SD variants, and the ROM-el line.

Since it’s so new, I am sure there are things I need to tweak. Please let me know if you find anything.

JiffyDOS Production Units

JiffyDOS Production Unit
JiffyDOS Production Unit

After many months of preparation, JiffyDOS production ROM overlays are finally ready for distribution. The system utilizes the ROM-el FLASH-based ROM emulator, allowing the units to be fully assembled before programming.  Units should be available shortly for sale in the online store.  Click on the picture for a larger view.

Anyone want to MasC=uerade?

MasC=uerade PCBBased on a customer request, I’ve designed a small adapter card that will allow C64 cartridges to be used in the Commodore VIC-20. The design is not finished, and suggestions are appreciated. Switches allow the IO and BLK select lines to be configured per cartridge. Barring any major changes to the design, I hope to have units available early 2010.

ROM-el testing complete

23XX and 23XXX ROM-el
23XX and 23XXX ROM-el

Aries was backordered on the required 24 and 28 pin headers needed to finish testing, and the order just came in this past week.  Thus, I finally had a chance to solder and test the units.  Testing went well, and I can program the units with my Willem programmer.  Originally designed to hold a 29EE512 64kB EEPROM, I found a good price on Atmel AT49F001 128kB 5V Flash, so I made the necessary adjustments and tested with the new memory.  Testing went well, so I am releasing the design to production.

I have noticed one issue that I need to address.  Some CBM units have an RFI shield that doubles as a heat shield.  To perform the latter function, metal “fingers are stamped out of the shield that press on the top of the ICs.  I need to ensure the metal shield/heat sink does not contact any of the pins on this unit.