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Recapturing My Youth: The Pi 64 Project

I've been watching a lot of retro videos from a lot of YouTube folks for the past few months, particularly those from The 8-Bit Guy, Perifractic, and Jan Beta, and I arrived at a conclusion: I miss my Commodore 64.

For those of you who are young, the Commodore 64 was many peoples' first foray into personal computing. It wasn't mine (mine was a Commodore VIC 20) but it was the most substantial for me. The Commodore VIC 20 was great for having a computer in the house (something my parents believed very strongly in) but the 64 was the first computer I had that I did actual schoolwork on. I have a deep connection to the platform for what it opened up for me. I had a lot of accessories for it and, thanks to my grandfather who owned it before me and was the biggest geek in the family, I got a running start the minute I plugged it in. Buying a secondhand Commodore 64 is not a good move right now. The prices are so inflated that it's hard to comprehend anyone doing it. A good condition Commodore 64 that needs no work and looks decent is out of my price range, which means of course that I have to turn to a different type of project. I'm going to turn one of my spare Raspberry Pi boards into a Commodore 64. I first heard about the Keyrah board from a YouTuber that I don't remember. The Keyrah board allows you to take a Commodore 64 (or 128, or VIC 20, or others) keyboard and hook it up to a USB port, but it's also a converter for old joysticks and will even power the LED so it lights up when you get it all going. It's really really cool. So I ordered a Keyrah (from Germany) and went to Ebay, where I found a Commodore 64C case and keyboard (one from Poland and the other from Germany).

It works, but it's yellow and dirty!

The case and keyboard arrived a few weeks later and while the condition is acceptable, the keyboard is yellowed badly and, after removing all the keys, there was a thick layer of dust under the keys. A spritz of Windex fixed that, but the yellow keys are going to require some retro-briting to fix up (which I'm going to do this weekend). Then it'll be on to mounting all the electronics and getting everything configured and running and once all of that is done I can do something fantastic: relive my childhood.

Am I being overly nostalgic? Am I remembering the Commodore 64 better than it actually was? Probably. In fact, almost definitely. In the end, though, I'm a maker, and the idea of making a computer that meant so much to me when I was younger is so good to me that I can't resist. Stay tuned for more updates as this project progresses!

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