Commodore 64 laptop mod

Commodore 64 laptop mod

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.”

Commodore 64 laptop mod Commodore 64 laptop mod

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.

Commodore 64 laptop mod Commodore 64 laptop mod


Discuss in the forums Reply
Gunsmith 7th April 2009, 14:27 Quote
Star*Dagger 7th April 2009, 15:01 Quote
You are Hired!
chrisb2e9 7th April 2009, 15:43 Quote
So cool.
DXR_13KE 7th April 2009, 16:40 Quote
AWESOME!!! if he puts these things in his CV he is sure to be hired!
Nexxo 7th April 2009, 16:50 Quote
How cheesecake is THAT!?!

Beautiful... just beautiful.
Drexial 7th April 2009, 17:27 Quote
Originally Posted by Gunsmith

EXACTLY what I said out loud when I saw this.
WildThing 7th April 2009, 18:12 Quote
Yeah, what a cool mod! Seems like a pretty talented guy imo.
yodasarmpit 7th April 2009, 18:36 Quote
WOW, I am actually impressed.
B1GBUD 7th April 2009, 19:09 Quote
Seriously wicked!

Oh please do an MSX next!!
StephenK 7th April 2009, 20:41 Quote
So Beautiful!
itazura 7th April 2009, 20:44 Quote
oh, that is excellent.

then again, it would be excellent -- ben heck IS a legend, after all :D
D B 8th April 2009, 02:04 Quote
So very Cool!
mayhem 8th April 2009, 02:04 Quote
Nice bit of work there. hes done some awsome jobs in the past with ps3 and xbox 360's ....
flibblesan 8th April 2009, 07:14 Quote
Great work, but nothing beats the mightly Atari 1500XL
Mister_X 8th April 2009, 08:35 Quote
Commodore always beats Atari
AlexB 8th April 2009, 09:52 Quote
Great job, but I don't see the point.
War-Rasta 8th April 2009, 21:35 Quote
It doesn't need to have a point. It's about bragging rights and old school 1337ness.
mattari 18th March 2011, 11:09 Quote
That is fantastic! I know Ben Heck has recently done an Atari XBOX 360 mod. Apparantly the video will be online next week but here's the trailer - but it got me wondering whether a Commodore 64 one was possible too.

I wonder whether he accepts requests? Any ideas what else we could get him to build??
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