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"Split" Two-Part Commodore 64?


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Posted (edited)

I always considered myself pretty knowledgeable when it came to the C64, but never claiming to be an expert by any means. That being said, in all my years, I never seen a C64 split into two parts. Never knew this existed.

Anyone else seen these?

Found one browsing eBay just now.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/184915685522?hash=item2b0dd57092:g:4LIAAOSwnb1g3dC9

splitc64.thumb.jpg.048417ea28472ddba295176e41f47bae.jpg

splitc642.jpg.7a6b5bb00c76a151f314c76214e96eb1.jpg

I would like to see this system. Not sure why, but it fascinates me. 🙂

Edit: Added photos from auction since it will eventually be taken down after being sold and the link will no longer work.

Edited by Strider
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Appears to me that top unit is only the keyboard.  Gonna guess this was for some application where multiple units were stacked in the slimline version without the keyboard.  The keyboard unit only used when one needed to work on a unit.  A BBS setup perhaps?

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Posted (edited)

Given the relative coloring of the top and bottom portions relative to the middle two portions, I don't think it makes any difference that they were injection molded. The keyboard ribbon runs from the top keyboard part around to the far side bottom.

It smells like some homebrew frankensystem, to me, where parts from other enclosures were used to put this together for whatever reason.

Edit: I see now where the listing claims it is a kit and definitely not homebrew, which would explain relative coloration of the pieces. Still, the way the fake middle pieces go together still lead me to believe it is some sort of homebrew. The fact that screws are visible in the mainboard portion of the case, where an "elegant" add on kit would have built the same piece to have posts that the bottom tray screws into...

I don't know what to think about it really, just making my observations.

Edited by Scott Robison
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I guess I could only add my agreement that this seems a little doubtful without more documentation of the history of this setup. If nothing else, I agree that this seems inelegant, particularly with a vanilla ribbon cable connecting the keyboard to the mainboard - surely an official kit would have chosen a more professional-looking cable? Perhaps something a bit more rugged, if the idea is that it can be moved around relatively frequently?

I certainly don't have the expertise to say either way. Sans that, I could only see myself valuing it as much as any other homebrew mod.

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The distinction between kit and homebrew in the 80s was not always that clear and sharp. And, after all, millions of C64s were sold ... if someone hacked something together and then made it into a kit and sold a dozen or even a hundred, it would be a drop in the ocean.

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I found that right as I was getting ready to hop off and go to bed. Now that I have had more time to think about it, I do wonder why it was modified or if it was made for a specific use. Perhaps industrial,  commercial, or could just be someones homebrew.

I agree that it does not seem very "professional". I would like to see the inside and see how everything is soldered and mounted.

Either way, even if it is just a mod, it's the first time I have seen a C64 setup that way. :)

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29 minutes ago, Strider said:

I found that right as I was getting ready to hop off and go to bed. Now that I have had more time to think about it, I do wonder why it was modified or if it was made for a specific use. Perhaps industrial,  commercial, or could just be someones homebrew.

I agree that it does not seem very "professional". I would like to see the inside and see how everything is soldered and mounted.

Either way, even if it is just a mod, it's the first time I have seen a C64 setup that way. 🙂

Ditto (first time I've seen any such thing). I think your idea about some industrial use makes the most sense. Having a long ribbon coming out of the case to relocate the keyboard to a safe location relative to whatever the base was being used to control / monitor / what-have-you.

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Posted (edited)

Rethinking this, since the cable goes inside the mainboard case it wouldn't easily be connected/disconnected to several of these in some commercial application, so I think that's out.

Rather, I think some user didn't like all the cables/attachments coming out from the keyboard.  They'd rather have the single ribbon cable going from keyboard to mainboard, then all the spaghetti from there.  And I'd say they located it to the right (not directly behind, as in the picture) by the way the ribbon cable goes from right side of keyboard to left side of mainboard unit.

How they found the case(s) that matched well enough as it does is beyond me.  The rear notches on the foreign case don't even line up top to bottom as far as I can tell, so I think it was 2 other cases.

Edit: Actually, I think the 2 pieces of "foreign" case are identical, just flipped, one's the bottom of the keyboard, the other is the top of the main board.

Edited by x16tial
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Posted (edited)

Yeah, it's an odd mod that's for sure, and does look like it was hobbled together from available materials when it was done.

The reason I thought industrial was from past experience. I used to work for Coca Cola, many moons ago, and we had to use long extension cables to connect keyboards/displays/etc. to computers that were located outside the production room. Mainly for "add-on" or temporary equipment. The environment in the filler rooms was too humid and generally damp, even though they were air conditioned, for any hardware not sealed inside an environmentally controlled case, or otherwise designed for that environment. In some cases, we had to make our own cables or rig something up to solve a temporary problem.

For a home user, I could totally see someone wanting to hide or move the spaghetti cable monster away from their desktop. 

All good ideas and observations.

Edited by Strider
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  • 5 weeks later...
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Hi guys, well I ended up buying this strange monster and I have to say I am none the wiser.

The person who said above that it looked like both parts were identical was correct.

The thing that confuses me the most is those parts are definitely injection moulded. And in my experience back then to create tooling for a part like this that fits perfectly with the Commodore 64 would cost the equivalent of around $20,000 today. It just isn’t conceivable to me that somebody would do that for a homebrew project. This must’ve had a commercial release or commercial application. There must’ve been many of them manufactured.

Here are some more photographs I took as well as the original ones from the eBay listing. https://photos.app.goo.gl/WZoiVeNmhvxmH9oC9

I have asked Bil Herd and David Pleasance and so far none of them have any idea. Does any of the shed any light on the mystery for you guys?

Needless to say I’d love to make a little video about it but it will be a shame if there was no conclusion. Thanks!

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This is totally a shot in the dark, but it's very intriguing how the cutouts more or less exactly match the cut outs in the bottom of the C64 case.  So this was meant to be a cover for the bottom.  It was not meant as a bottom for the top (keyboard).

What if...

... Commodore prototyped a C64D?  Modeled after the 128D?

...  a different keyboard was intended, not the kludged up version of the top of a breadbin.

What if.

I found this:

Quote

I was reading an old Swedish C64 magazine today and it had an article about "rumors for an upcoming C64D", that was obviously first presented in the German 64'er magazine, it had a scan of the German article, which included a drawing of the C64D

at https://www.lemon64.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=5497&start=0

It would sure be interesting to see the drawing he mentions.  He said it was supposed to basically have an integrated 1581, which I see no evidence here obviously, but maybe this was just a first proof-of-concept.

Or not.

But it *is* interesting to think about.

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Also.. the 3 slots, that, when it's assembled, are on top, at the back.  They look like something was intended to stack on top, with tabs inserted into the slots so that the two units line up and stay lined up.

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That's a fascinating theory, thank you! If this was part of a C64D prototype that would be very exciting indeed.

I must say, I've never seen anything injection moulded like this that didn't come from a Commodore factory. The colour, shape, etc. is all very "Commodore". I'm not even sure other companies would have risked the IP infringement of making something that looked so OEM. I have posted in the Lemon64 thread to see if anyone has a copy of the drawing of the C64D. Maybe someone can dig out the referenced German or Swedish magazine.

BTW I think those slots you mention are just for rigidity, nothing more than that...

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Update: Well I think I found a drawing of a C64D: https://archive.org/details/COMputer1988Nr0228Januar24Februar/page/n65/mode/2up?q="Commodore+64D" 

However that version is an "all in one" design like the A500.

And here's some info in English about a split-level design version (bottom of righthand page): https://archive.org/details/1989-04-compute-magazine/page/n53/mode/2up?q="Commodore+64D"

Certainly what I have here isn't the first one, but as you say it could have been a first stage proof-of-concept to see how detaching the keyboard worked out. Obviously I'd love that to be true, but I must consider that it's a third party product... but again, I just can't imagine anyone spending the thousands of dollars (or pounds) required to create tooling for something that apparently nobody ever even saw come to market. Which brings it back to more likely being a prototype... 😕 I just don't know though.

Screenshot 2021-08-06 at 20.03.51.png

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1 hour ago, Perifractic said:

That's a fascinating theory, thank you! If this was part of a C64D prototype that would be very exciting indeed.

I must say, I've never seen anything injection moulded like this that didn't come from a Commodore factory. The colour, shape, etc. is all very "Commodore". I'm not even sure other companies would have risked the IP infringement of making something that looked so OEM. I have posted in the Lemon64 thread to see if anyone has a copy of the drawing of the C64D. Maybe someone can dig out the referenced German or Swedish magazine.

BTW I think those slots you mention are just for rigidity, nothing more than that...

Those slots actually look like they align with the tabs on the keyboard half of the C64, as though maybe the piece was intended to keep the keyboard mated to the middle piece?

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Also.. the 3 slots, that, when it's assembled, are on top, at the back.  They look like something was intended to stack on top, with tabs inserted into the slots so that the two units line up and stay lined up.

Those slots are actually just the upsidedown mirror image of the video, disk drive, and RF ports. Because one piece was made to fit both the top and bottom (to save tooling money), these slots are present in both identical pieces.
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Those slots actually look like they align with the tabs on the keyboard half of the C64, as though maybe the piece was intended to keep the keyboard mated to the middle piece?

Could be!
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For what it's worth I subscribed to (and acquired from friends and the local jr college) a bunch of computer magazines in the early to late 80s.   I used to like reading and rereading them so my copies were all well thumbed.   (Until my parents gave em all away along with my Commodore machines while I was away at college.  Sigh). 

Anyway, I think that's a kit that was sold in the "back pages" of some of the mags as an aftermarket thing.  Except that I think the picture I remember (and one of the selling points) was  that you would orient the 'base' the other way around -- i.e., with the cartridge slot and ports facing the user for more convenient access.   

So if you want the story, I'd say that you would have to dig through old 80s computer mags and find that advert.   Talk about the proverbial needle in a haystack.  

 

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On 7/3/2021 at 1:46 AM, StephenHorn said:

I guess I could only add my agreement that this seems a little doubtful without more documentation of the history of this setup. If nothing else, I agree that this seems inelegant, particularly with a vanilla ribbon cable connecting the keyboard to the mainboard - surely an official kit would have chosen a more professional-looking cable? Perhaps something a bit more rugged, if the idea is that it can be moved around relatively frequently?

I certainly don't have the expertise to say either way. Sans that, I could only see myself valuing it as much as any other homebrew mod.

About half the 'printer interface' kits had ribbon wires like that just flopping around.   It was really common.  

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The more I think about that C64, the more confused I get. Even with this new information, my brain still goes to an industrial or commercial setting, even more so considering the cost of making such a housing back then, if it's not something repurposed. The fact it's so "Commodore", a prototype case maybe? So many possibilities.  🤔

I would LOVE to know this things history and reason for being.

Now that it's in the hands of Perifractic, maybe we will get closer to knowing it's Retro Recipe! Would love to see it in a video and see it up close!

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4 hours ago, x16tial said:

Also.. the 3 slots, that, when it's assembled, are on top, at the back.  They look like something was intended to stack on top, with tabs inserted into the slots so that the two units line up and stay lined up.

These are the slots I mean.

c64d.jpg

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1 hour ago, Snickers11001001 said:

For what it's worth I subscribed to (and acquired from friends and the local jr college) a bunch of computer magazines in the early to late 80s.   I used to like reading and rereading them so my copies were all well thumbed.   (Until my parents gave em all away along with my Commodore machines while I was away at college.  Sigh). 

Anyway, I think that's a kit that was sold in the "back pages" of some of the mags as an aftermarket thing.  Except that I think the picture I remember (and one of the selling points) was  that you would orient the 'base' the other way around -- i.e., with the cartridge slot and ports facing the user for more convenient access.   

So if you want the story, I'd say that you would have to dig through old 80s computer mags and find that advert.   Talk about the proverbial needle in a haystack.  

 

That makes some sense... it was a way to turn the back of the C64 around to face you for convenient unplugging of carts. Thing is... I've been a C64 fan for decades and never saw this before. I just would have imagined a product that was publicly released to have been seen. Any chance you can find said advert?

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13 minutes ago, x16tial said:

These are the slots I mean.

c64d.jpg

Ah, I'm pretty sure those are to receive the "tabs" from the original case (the tabs that tend to break off original cases). Nothing more.

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