As a child, Kevin Vance, a computer programmer from Pennsylvania; did his first gaming, design work and BASIC programming on a Commodore 64; before moving on to making games on a PC in the ‘90s. Now, he’s returned to his roots with a Raspberry Pi Pico project that sees one of the tiny Raspberry Pi Pico microcontroller boards wrapped in a C64 ROM cartridge; and it’s a huge success.
The cartridge, which sees the Pico sit on a custom PCB; has an edge connector to slot into the cartridge slot on the rear of the C64. Cartridges weren’t as widely used, as distributing software on disk or tape was much cheaper; but there was a healthy amount of software shipped using cartridges. The C64 boots in seconds using a cartridge; and their 16 address lines give access to the entire address space on offer. They were limited to 16KB of storage; though later in the machine’s lifetime some manufacturers offered bank-switched cartridges that could overcome this limitation.
For those who were doing something else in the ‘80s; the Commodore 64 was an 8-bit home computer with 64kb of RAM based on the MOS Technology 6510 CPU running at around 1MHz depending on region. It launched in 1982 for $595 ($1,600 today); and would go on to sell around 17 million units, outselling Atari machines, early Apple computers, and PC compatibles. Vance intends to put all his code, along with PCB design and firmware details, on his GitHub.