What is this project all about?
This project is about a MIDI interface in the form of a cartridge to fit the C64 expansion port. It is for connecting MIDI devices such as keyboard and synthesizers, as well as file transfers from a PC or Mac. Additionally the cartridge provides an internal flash memory chip with a menu system, for saving your own programs and games loaded from the internet to the C64. The interface provides MIDI-in, MIDI-out and MIDI-thru. The MIDI-thru connector can be configured to mirror MIDI-in or MIDI-out. At one side is a reset button, which also launches the menu function.
What is the project goal and who is the project for?
The goal is a professional cartridge for the C64 with all required certifications, for C64 fans, who prefer to play with the real C64 instead of with an emulator. Besides the transfer of programs from a PC (only PRG files) and saving of up to 7 PRG files in the flash memory, this interface is very useful for retro musicians as well. There are already some pre-installed programs on the cartridge, with explicit permission of the authors and publishers. Other programs from the internet, or your own programs, can be installed onto the flash drive as needed.
Currently the following programs are pre-installed, and more are planned:
- Menu system: with this program you can start one of seven programs from the flash drive. When the menu system is running, you can transfer programs from the PC/Mac and start them, or save them to one of the 7 flash slots.
- Synthesizer software Pro 16, by Steinberg. Of course, Steinberg doesn't guarantee anything or support this software anymore. (A short German review of the software: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63BqhISzJC8 )
- SID Wizard, by hermit. The current version 1.6 support this MIDI interface. (Project page: http://sourceforge.net/projects/sid-wizard/ )
- optionally you can select the Cynthcart reward for a special MIDI version of the Cynthcart software (homepage: http://www.qotile.net/cynthcart.html you can download the version without MIDI support for free)
Why would you support this project?
Many old MIDI interfaces for the C64 are not available anymore, or only provide limited functionality. This MIDI interface can emulate a lot of the old interfaces which are based on the 6850 chip, such as the ones from Sequential Circuits, Passport, Datel, Siel, JMS, C-Lab or Namesoft, just by changing some jumpers. This allows the use of old C64 software with MIDI functionality today.
How will we use the money if the project is successfully funded?
A prototype is developed and is working. The money will be used to finance the production of the PCB as I need a minimum number of PCBs to make it profitable, because I don't plan to solder it by hand.
There will also be software improvements, currently the menu system is running on the C64 with software for the file transfer from a PC (implemented with Qt). A test on the C128 was successful, but the menu system has to be ported for this platform, and the PC software has to be ported and tested for the Mac. All source code, schematics and layout (in Eagle format) will be provided in a github repository after the project is funded. You can see the schematic and pictures of previous prototypes here: http://www.frank-buss.de/c64/midi/index.html
The hardware is finished and if there are no problems, it will be produced as it is. For the software I'm always open to ideas. If possible, send me PRG files for different old MIDI interfaces, then I can test it to see if it works with my new MIDI interface.
5,000 Euros and over: harder wearing gold plated cartridge
The standard copper pads are good, but if you plug and unplug it very often, it can result in contact problems. The more expensive gold plated pads are more durable.
7,000 Euros and over: individual case
Currenty I plan a standard cartridge case, as demonstrated with the prototype. When I can sell a higher quantity, it is more sensible to use injection moulding for an individual case, where the holes for the MIDI connectors and the reset button is in the mould, and which can have a nice appearance.
Who are the people behind the project?
I'm behind the project, Frank Buss. I started with demo programming some 30 years ago on the C64 and after a break, I continued to develop software and hardware for the C64. In the time between I mainly earned a living as a freelance programmer, but I've done hardware development for clients as well.