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Blog posts and video from Steven as he “COMBS” through the minutia to discover tech, retro-computing, physical computing, gadgets and sci-fi.

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Commodore Plus/4 Series

1 December 2020

retroCombs: MEGA 65 Open the box, assembly, and first use

by Steven B. Combs, Ph.D.
tags: commodore - retro - plus4 - vic20 - c64 - keyboard - keys - calculations - numbers - basic

I’m really excited! I mean, 15 year-old boy excited. That’s how I felt while opening the box, unpacking, assembling, and turning on the new MEGA 65 developer’s kit (DevKit) for the first time. Seriously, I’ve not been that excited about a package in some time; and this from the guy who has two brand new Mac minis (with M1 processors) set to arrive a few days before Christmas.

With all their performance, memory, state-of-the-art ARM processor, and design, they just don’t have that nostalgic feel of the MEGA 65 that takes me back to a time when computers were exciting and more than just a tool to be used every day. Don’t believe I was excited? Check out my video below and then read on for some additional thoughts on the MEGA 65 DevKit.

YouTube Video: retroCombs: Commodore Plus/4, Chapter 6 - Beginning BASIC Programming

In the video below, I open the box, assemble, and fire up my new MEGA 65 DevKit:

Video Errata

There are always errors and I’m not ashamed to admit it. That’s how we learn. Here are the errors in my video.

  1. Audio is my YouTube Kryptonite: I’m so sorry for the horrendous audio for the video. I tried out a new lavaliere mic (which is horrible). Of course you don’t find out how horrible until after you record and download into your audio software. I couldn’t get the sound post processed to anything that sounded good. Sigh.
  2. Batteries not included: Aaron commented on video, after he saw my close up of the motherboard without battery, “We were not able to include the CR1220 battery for the RTC clock, since it would be ALOT of more hassle to comply with safety shipping regulations, declaration of dangerous goods, extra stickers, more costs. It just wasn’t worth it.” Makes perfect sense and these are easy enough to source.
  3. FPGA correction: I said in the video that the TheC64 mini(#ad) and other similar units were FPGAs. They are not, but rather run an emulator on top of Linux. Sorry to have slighted the MEGA 65.
  4. 3 times for 40 times: There seems to be some confusion in the video about whether I say the MEGA is 3 or 40 times faster. You decide. Personally, I believe I said 40; however, I’m biased.
  5. Watch what you put on video: Chuck posted a question and wanted to know if I just gave away my developer kit serial number at around the 9 minute mark. I did; however, the folks at MEGA 65 confirmed it’s a one time code and by the time the video was shared, I had already registered on the developer site. Whew!

Below are the links I mention in the video. Any Amazon links are affiliate links. Thanks for supporting the blog and the YouTube channel!

  1. MEGA 65
  2. Museum of Electronic Games & Art (MEGA)
  3. Trenz MEGA 65
  4. TEDunio Project
  5. Commodore Plus/4 User’s Manual Series

Additional Thoughts

Below are follow-up notes to my video.

  1. The feel: This thing really does feel like a Commodore computer. Even in DevKit form with acrylic case, I feel like I’m using a “real” Commodore computer. I don’t have this feeling when I use the TheC64 mini(#ad). Now I might have that feeling when THEVIC20(#ad) arrives with its full-size keyboard; however, I don’t think either will capture the magic of this device. While the “THE” series is close, they lack the I/O, ports, ethernet, and expandability that make the MEGA 65 feel like the natural successor to the C64 in 2020.
  2. Waiting is hard: I can’t wait for the consumer MEGA 65 release. The molded plastic case will only enhance excitement around this device. I’m hopeful I can purchase just a case that will contain my DevKit. If not, I hate to say it, but I can see myself purchasing the final MEGA 65; and I have no reason to!
  3. GEOS! There’s an optimized version of GEOS on the SD Card! To use; “mount from freezer, reset from freezer, autoboots in 1 sec!” (Thanks, deft!) Oh, I have got to try that! GEOS was my thing back in the day and I would use the C128 version to taunt my Mac friends who spent thousands more to produce the same output on paper.
  4. MOD ready: I have ideas for case mods. The acrylic case is just screaming for mods. No spoilers, but I hope I can find some time over the break to share my ideas.
  5. Read the manual: The digital version of the manual is available. There’s still so much I don’t know about this computer such as; how to load cores, how to use the freezer, what can be done in the firmware, how do I upgrade this machine, how do I connect it to my network, and how do I swap out .d81 disks? I have soooo many questions and the only way I’m going to learn is by reading the manuals provided; which are already in pretty good shape. Oh, and of course pester the guys on Discord.
  6. The missing screw: Did I ever put the missing screw back in the case? Not yet. Because…
  7. PlexiLaser is awesome: I reached out to them and they are shipping replacement spacers. Once I receive those replacements, I’ll add them and the missing screw and…
  8. Wipe down the case: I’ve found even more dust and packing peanut debris inside the case. The acrylic case is a static magnet.
  9. Much more to come: As I learn more about the MEGA 65 DevKit, I’ll share via this blog and on my YouTube channel. I will likely make good use of my new FAST LOAD series; short video so you can quickly get back to your own retro-computing projects. Make sure to subscribe and set alerts on my YouTube channel if you want to follow along and also add this blog to your favorite RSS reader.

I tend to add additional thoughts as I think of them, so check back later. I’ll time stamp any additions.

Join the Fun

Help make this post better! Share your feedback, questions, and ideas. Leave your comments and thoughts below or in the comments under the MEGA 65 video.

Thanks for reading and watching and if you are so inclined, please share this video with the hashtag #retroCombs.

🕹️ retroCombs OUT!

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