The Commodore 64 is arguably one of the best computers to hit the market back in the early ’80s, so much so that enthusiasts have been building clones of the great PC for decades. Most C64 clones rely on emulation to simulate its hardware, and while the emulation platforms are tried and true, it’s just not the same as using real electronics. Electrical engineer Gideon Zweijtzer is one of those enthusiasts, and he’s designed a replacement mainboard that’s a hardware implementation for the entire C64.
Gideon’s Ultimate 64 is FPGA-based, which implements the logic gates of the original C64, so there’s no need for emulation. The mainboard is similar in design to the C64 and offers much of the same I/Os as the original, including joystick ports, tape port, and user port, which isn’t in the original position but accessed through an onboard header. Those I/Os allow users to connect the original peripherals to the system, which offers native support.
The Ultimate 64 also houses an HDMI port, Ethernet port, and USB ports (one of them is internal) for use with modern hardware, and offers an updated audio system with 8-voice SID implementation, along with seven voices of sampled audio in 8 or 16-bit with up to a 48kHz sample rate. Gideon included some open slots for the original SID chips as well.
In addition, theUltimate 64 incorporates Gideon’s Ultimate-II+ platform, which mimics a pair of Commodore 1541 drives, and can accept the original cartridges or emulations. The Ultimate-II+ even features an internal speaker (outputs drive and floppy sounds), a 100Mbps Ethernet port, battery-backed RTC, dual SID implementation (8X voices each), FAT/FAT32 support, and more. The Ultimate-64 is currently available for pre-order for about $244 and has an expected delivery date at some point in Q3 of this year. The Ultimate-II+ is already available for those that just need a cartridge adapter/emulator for approximately $138.