Handheld Commodore 64 Gets a Full Tactile Keyboard

Cem Tezcan added a full tactile keyboard to his already impressive handheld Commodore 64.

Our British readers may have had the iconic ZX Spectrum, but here int the good ol' US of A we got the mighty Commodore 64. It was affordable, powerful, and had a real keyboard. As with the ZX Spectrum, the Commodore 64's widespread adoption resulted in a massive library of video games. To play those games on the go, Cem Tezcan built a handheld Commodore 64 console. That was perfect for gaming, but didn't provide the full experience. To make sure he wasn't missing out on an anything, Tezcan added a full tactile keyboard to his handheld Commodore 64.

Tezcan's original handheld Commodore 64 was already a marvel of modern maker ingenuity. Inside of its custom 3D-printed enclosure (in classic beige, of course), was a Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+ running emulation software. Power came from a pair of 18650 lithium-ion battery cells and graphics displayed on a 5" IPS LCD screen. In place of a standard joystick, Tezcan equipped his handheld with a USB gamepad PCB and buttons from a third-party PlayStation-style controller. That setup was perfect for games that only require a joystick/gamepad, but it didn't let Tezcam type within software or play games that require typing.

To address that oversight, Tezcam constructed a keyboard add-on module. The basis of that module is a keyboard PCB developed by C64Istanbul. That uses an Arduino Pro Micro board as a controller and has the proper keyboard mapping to match a real Commodore 64. When plugged into the Raspberry Pi via USB, it shows up as a standard USB HID keyboard, which the emulation software recognizes. The keyboard module received a matching 3D-printed enclosure, complete with a printed overlay to mimic the style of the original Commodore 64.

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