Before the Commodore 64 or Apple II, there was the Commodore PET 8032, the first personal computer available to the general public. It had a 1 MHz processor, support for up to 8KB of RAM, and a monochrome display.
In other words, a modern $35 Raspberry Pi is way more powerful than this piece of computing history… and also kind of serving a similar purpose — making computers more accessible to students and home users.
So it seems fitting that developer Lorenzo Herrera has posted a set of instructions for 3D printing a case, adding some components, and transforming a Raspberry Pi into a tiny replica of the PET. It’s called the Commodore PET Mini.
Aside from access to a 3D printer, you’ll need a 2.8 inch, 320 x 240 pixel display, a power switch, some cables, magnets, screws, and other components. While you can assemble those parts on your own, Herrera is also considering selling kits with prices ranging from about 87€ ($99) to 209€ ($237) depending on which parts you need and whether you’re willing to do some soldering on your own.
In addition to offering downloadable designs for the eight 3D-printed parts and assembly instructions, Herrera also offers software suggestions, instructions for installing drivers for the screen he recommends, optional instructions for adding sound or a battery, and a recommendation that you invest in a Bluetooth keyboard, gamepad, or other peripherals to actually interact with the computer.
The 3D designs are also available at Github, where you can submit suggestions for improvements or changes.
I’d rather have the PET 2001 with built in datasette drive and chiclet keyboard that I remember programming on in high school. should be a fairly easy mod 🙂
All these throwback machines are missing the one thing they all need, the hardest part to recreate, the keyboard.
Somebody needs to figure a way to recreate the retro keyboards with the same layout and feel but with a USB interface to plug into modern machine running an emulator.
Wonder what sort of IP bottlenecks one would run into trying to build a clone of a dead product’s distinctive layout? Obviously the IBM PC was clonable, but can somebody duplicate a C64 keyboard and not get sued by one or more of the charnel houses still trying to harvest meat from the corpse of CBM? Or the old Atari, Tandy, TI, etc. machines? Cloning the Apple ][ keyboard is obviously right out of the question of course, but what if one sold it as a clone of the Franklin Ace?
Hi John! You made a really good point there! If we were to make an absolutely complete replica of the mini computer, the keyboard would be by far the most complex part to build! Commodore might have faced the same dilemma when creating the C64 Mini. I also though of this, and did some investigation. It turns out you can build your own keyboard with something like a Teensy board (https://www.pjrc.com/teensy), or even an Arduino, those boards are tiny and would fit inside the Commodore PET Mini without any problems. The real problem comes with the keys themselves: I wasn’t able to find microswitches that were small enough so I could create a keyboard that fits in the case in the current scale. And even if I did, wiring all those tiny switches would be a difficult job, almost clocksmith-kind!
So the only practical solution would be to scale up the replica to reach a workable size for the keyboard (right now the scale of the Commodore PET Mini is mandated by the size of the screen).
Adding a keyboard that way would be a fantastic fork of the project!
The Franklin Ace. Good times…. Good times…
If anyone was going to sue over a keyboard design, they’d already be suing over the design of the entire machine. It even has the copyrighted and trademarked logos on it!
The real reason is nobody’s doing full-sized replicas, so there’s not much point in reproducing the keyboard, which is the most complex mechanical part of any replica design. The rest is just a shell after all.
You could also say they are doing them as minis because without the keyboard there isn’t a point in making them original size. And without the keyboard there isn’t much point anyway, just run the same emulator on anything hooked up to a screen. Running that old 8bit software on a PC keyboard instead of the original is often painful since the layout is so different. Which is why most of the attention goes to stuff that used a joystick since that isn’t much different.
The problem seems to be getting a custom keyboard in lots less than “a cargo container” is too expensive to be practical. If you end up selling for over $100 for a keyboard nobody is interested but at $30 you could probably move a lot of them.
Would rather have a tiny SX-64
Here you go… https://www.etsy.com/listing/508421244/mini-commodore-sx-64-3d-printed?
Sound like a challenge! 😀 Would also love to have a mini SX, also adorable!
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