"The Zeus LT multi-function interface board plugs into the C64's cartridge slot via a Zion adapter and allows users to control home automation systems, design/test/debug IoT devices, develop retro gaming hardware/software, and more."
"The Zeus LT adds... eight inputs for sensors, four outputs controlled by relays, four outputs controlled by TRIACs, four signaling LEDs connected to the relay outputs, a single power-on LED and a beeper attached to the first relay output."
Some people are excited about single-board computers (SBCs) that fit inside USB ports or whatever. Which is cool and all, but some of us prefer the sturdy beige majesty of a Commodore 64. Powered by eight bits of warm nostalgia and decorated with shiny keycaps that go all the way down, your beloved C64 is now good for more than just binging on Jumpman Junior (assuming you can find the floppies).
Remember that port on the back of your Commodore 64? The one you never used? Well we think it’s about time you plugged something into that port. Specifically, we recommend a Zion adapter connected to one or more Zeus LT expansion boards. Together, these two boards open up a world of possibilities:
To make the magic happen, you will need a Zion adapter board and at least one Zeus LT interface board. Through this campaign, we are offering bundles that include one, two, three, or four Zeus LT boards and a corresponding number of D-sub connector cables. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the design files for all three boards—Zeus LT, Zion LT, and Zion F—will be published online. We’re looking to do everything we can to make this a community project, to help you learn from it, and to help it learn from you!
Zion is a simple but essential interface between your Commodore 64 and your Zeus LT. It comes in two versions and includes the following:
|Zion LT||Zion F|
|Exposed male edge connector for C64 expansion port||✓||✓|
|15-pin D-sub connectors for Zeus LT boards||1||4|
|Female pass-through cartridge slot (for when Zeus LT is not in use)||✓|
The Zeus LT adds external I/O support to your Commodore 64. It includes:
|Output ID||01, 02, 03, 04||05, 06, 07, 08|
|Type of Output||Relay||TRIAC|
|Operating Voltage||0-250 V AC, 0-100 V DC||220 V AC|
|Max Continuous Current||8 A||1.5-5 A|
|Max Power||2000 W||250 W|
Even if it doesn’t bring back fond memories of your first, halting steps across the plush living room carpet of computer programming, BASIC is nonetheless intuitive and easy to pick up. If you want to learn more about BASIC programming, we recommend this Two-Bit History post by Sinclair Target. Meanwhile, consider the LED sequence shown in the video above. That was driven by the following six lines of code:
It turns out, there are a lot of people who love their C64s, and some of those people make cool stuff. The image below shows an SDIECplug, which is an open source device similar to the SD2IEC. Your Commodore 64 can use either of these devices to read from and write to modern flash memory cards. The smallest and cheapest such card has plenty of room for all of the BASIC programs you’re every going to write.
Of course, you certainly can save your code on a floppy. And if you’re lucky enough to have a 1541 tucked away in a closet somewhere, why wouldn’t you? (Don’t forget, all you need is a hole punch to double the storage capacity of those single-sided floppies!)
While you’re looking through your closets, keep your eyes peeled for other old hardware:
Zeus LT is open hardware, and we will publish all design files by the time we are ready to start shipping out completed boards. Those boards will come with a printed quick-start guide. Full documentation will be available online, as will a repository of sample code that covers various application of Zeus LT. We will also set up a technical support website and a customer forum before the end of the campaign. Meanwhile, you can reach us using Crowd Supply’s Ask a technical question form.
Zeus LT has been through three prototype runs, and the Zion F adapter board has been through one. The latest revisions of both designs are working at 100%. We have finalized the Zeus LT, Zion F, and Zion LT BOMs and identified our manufacturing partners, which come highly recommended by several acquaintances who have worked with them in the past. We will personally test all boards before shipping them out to backers.
Once we have tested and verified all units, the entire batch will be sent to the US for distribution to backers via Crowd Supply’s fulfillment services. Delivery within the US is included in the listed price, while delivery outside the US will incur the international surcharge specified for the relevant pledge level. Deliveries to EU countries, Switzerland, Australia, and Canada will have VAT and customs duties paid in advance, so backers in these countries will have no need to deal with Customs.
Our greatest challenge at the moment is the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to exacerbate typical manufacturing risks such as component shortages and delayed shipments. To help combat this, we are ordering some parts preemptively and have identified multiple providers capable of sourcing the others. We have also found several alternative manufacturers.