Commodore 64 Keyboard Gets The USB Treatment Thanks to Arduino

Recently I’ve been repairing a batch of broken Commodore 64’s that I scored on eBay for cheap. Out of the repairs, two boards were beyond hope but still had some usable parts on them so motherboards became donor boards. That left me with a couple empty cases and keyboards so I decided to make a Commodore 64 USB keyboard.

There’s already a nice product called Keyrah that does just this (plus a lot more) and I recommend you checking it out as it adds Amiga keyboard and joystick support.

But if you’re like me and want the challenge, I decided to go the maker route.

First, I searched for any such projects– no sense in re-inventing the wheel. I found a project by Mikkel Holm Olsen called C64 USB Keyboard. It used an Atmel ATMega-8 chip which I’ve learned is very similar to Arduino’s 168/328P chip. It might work but with some modifications– beyond my skill set today. I shelved this project and continued.

The keyboard is basically an 8×8 matrix keypad. There’s already a keypad library for Arduino. A couple of things that I discovered while using this library. One, don’t use pin 13 with the C64 keyboard. It’s probably because of the built in resister and LED that causes the pull ups to not work. An outside pull up might fix this. Two, the library only supports single keypresses.

This is a bummer since you often will press two keys (i.e. the shift key, control, etc). But I worked around it. I put together a quick harness that will connect the Commodore 64 keyboard to the Arduino, aligning the rows and columns to the right pins. I like to make my projects the least destructive way so I use a lot of tape, jumpers and breadboards.

Getting the Arduino to talk USB makes use of the V-USB library which has been ported to Arduino. I really like this implementation because it’s all handled by the Arduino and needs very little passive glue on the outside to make it work. Below is a diagram of how to hook up USB to the Arduino. The values on the diodes are pretty strict and must be 3.6V 500mW zener diodes (although I hear 250mW is better). More information can be found in the V-USB documentation.

I made a small change to the V-USB code and moved the USB data (-) from Arduino pin 4 to pin 3– just edit usbconfig.h inside the UsbKeyboard library. I also commented out the optional connect/disconnect on pin 5 because I simply don’t have the pins to spare! Connected, the inside looks like this.

The pin mapping goes like this:


Category: Forex

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