As the 1980s came to a close, sales of the once dominant Commodore 64 (C64) began to wane as competitors gobbled up market share and the hardware began to show its age. Commodore had planned an updated successor, the Commodore 65 (C65), and built a number of prototype machines. To the dismay of many present retrocomputing fans, Commodore canceled the project, and the C65 never made it to production.
There is good news to recently emerge for the enthusiast that would like to get their hands on a C65 without spending the tens of thousands of dollars that a prototype typically sells for at auction. MEGA65 has started accepting pre-orders for their open source development kit version of a modern reimagining of the C65.
Purists may be disappointed by not finding a slew of through-hole chips on the motherboard upon cracking the case open. Instead you will find a smattering of surface-mount chips. At the core is a Xilinx Artix-7 FPGA, which implements an 8-bit CPU, with several other support chips to handle functions such as video output. The MEGA65 takes advantage of modern technologies to offer 50 times the processing speed of a C64, HDMI video output, SD card storage, and more.
Closing the case back up, the MEGA65 looks strikingly like the C65 prototypes. The casing and start screen leave nothing to be desired, and the 3 ½ inch floppy drive is fully functional. While the internal hardware may be modern, you would never know it from external appearances.
The development kit currently on offer is not quite the final version. The kit, for example, comes with a clear acrylic case (for a better view of any magic smoke, I suppose). There is also the possibility of bugs existing in this initial version, but FPGAs being what they are, most issues should be fixable via firmware. MEGA65 is taking the development kit path to allow developers time to build a software library, and fix any previously unnoticed bugs, before a general release. Until a larger software library is built, you can use the C65 to run C64 software; it is backwards compatible.
The MEGA65 team gives a beautiful demonstration of their hardware in the video above. Some unsolicited advice I would like to offer to MEGA65 is to check out Safe Meeting. Not to say that you need it or anything. I mean... those could be shorts. Joking aside, the computer looks fantastic and I hope to see MEGA65 move to production runs of the final version very soon.