Ben Heck's portable Commodore 64 features an original C64C motherboard and loads games from an SD card.
Anyone who keeps a regular eye on gadget blogs will know the idol-worthy name of Ben Heck. He’s the master modder who’s managed to make a portable version of almost every popular games machine in history, while also retaining the machine’s original hardware. These include the N64
, the PlayStation
and even an Xbox 360 laptop
. However, for his latest project, Heck decided to create a Commodore 64 laptop, and the result looks like a very slick job.
On the mod’s project log
, Heck explains that he wanted to “make something that looked exactly like a computer from the early 80s, yet in a new form.”
This would include the beige colour scheme, as well as a design that looked like it had come from the home computer heyday.
For the innards, Heck gutted a C64C machine, which was a later revision to the original Commodore 64, which features a slightly smaller motherboard. Even so, Heck still had to cut off the cassette port tabs, as well as the end of the motherboard with the power input and joystick port. The keyboard also needed to be modded in order to squeeze it into the chassis. Heck describes how he cut off the function keys, and “bypassed the traces and then rewired the keyboard plug so the whole thing was thinner.”
Heck says that the case itself was made in the same way that he made his Xbox 360 laptop mod for THQ
, and the end result has a thickness of 2.35in. Meanwhile, the 15in screen sits in a recess inside the lid, so that the unit can still close on top of the Commodore 64’s classic chunky keys.
So how do you load games onto this contraption without a disk drive or a cassette recorder? Heck got around this problem by using an SD card to emulate a floppy drive. This was achieved by using this 1541-III DTV device
, and Heck says that you just need to format the SD card with FAT32 and you can then dump your Commodore 64 game snapshots onto the card using your PC, and then play them on the Commodore 64. The SD card also feeds information to the small LCD below the keyboard. This is “not really necessary,”
admits Heck, “but was fun to add.”
The machine also includes two speakers (not stereo) to reproduce the sound in games, and Heck also created the logos from scratch using his vector graphic skills that he learned in his previous job as a graphic designer. Commenting on the end result, Heck says that “this is probably one of, if not my favorite project I have done. It just looks so beautifully ugly it’s great, like it came out of a time machine from an alternate reality 80’s where this existed.”
It certainly looks a lot better than the portable SX-64 machine
that Commodore built itself.
As a side note, Heck also says that “if anyone is looking for a graphic artist/industrial designer, I am officially putting myself on the market. I think I need a break from self-employment and a change in general. Let me know if interested… seriously, I’d be up for it.”
Have you ever modded a retro computer or console, and which machines would you most like to see modded into portable versions? Let us know your thoughts in the forums