View Full Version : Letters to the Editor: Commodore 64

07-26-2003, 10:00 PM

I'm looking for the issue of HSM that has a guy's (I think he was in Alabama) mill conversion to CNC using a Commodore 64 early computer. I looked in the search engine here---nothing there as it is not an article. I remember the picture. I sure would hate to search thru ALL my old issues!

I'm off to rec.crafts.metalworking's archive to maybe find something related.


07-28-2003, 12:08 AM
Ah yes, the "Comode" 64. Those were the days. You'd be better off using an older PC. At least you'd have some memory to work with and could run DOS. Sure would make interfacing easier and cheaper. (RS-232)
If I recall, the C64 ran at about 1Mhz. and had IEEE-4...bla,bla,bla interfaces. You'd be lucky to get 300 baud through the lines. Most people can type faster than that!

07-28-2003, 04:29 AM
As a pure terminal to send GCode a commodor would probably work as well as anything. You'd be out of luck in finding really good software. But for sending GCode blocks in a list I think it would work very well. It's just that really good PC's are everywere that are many times as capable as the commodore.

07-28-2003, 12:10 PM
The C64 does indeed run at 1mhz. It does not have a real RS232 interface although it is not much work to cobble one up. It will not meet the standard of -12 +12 but most RS232 equipment will recognize +5 and zero just fine. The biggest problem is that the serial I/O is implemented in software on the C64 and the timings as written by Commodore are not correct. I had to write my own serial I/O routines to make it communicate with standard devices without errors. Unless you are prepared to do this I would not recommend wasting time on it. Use an old 486 PC. You can probably pick one up at a yard sale for $25 or so.

07-28-2003, 12:51 PM
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by SJorgensen:
As a pure terminal to send GCode a commodor would probably work as well as anything. You'd be out of luck in finding really good software. But for sending GCode blocks in a list I think it would work very well. It's just that really good PC's are everywere that are many times as capable as the commodore.
Hi Spence,
So what would the process be to utilize a 486 or so PC, starting from scratch, to set-up a home brew systen on a mill-drill miller?
I'm not too much into electronics and nil on programming, but I can learn. As to general machining? I can take an old Hendey or Bridgeport and work to gage block dimensions even without DRO.
On the job I have done setups and operated the runs on Warner and Swasey automatic lathes, the old NC tape lathe---Warner & Swasey 1-SC both chuckers and collet fed bar stock systems and limted experience on some CNC's but never any serious programming, just offset page manipulation and some editing to fine tune the job, but I was good enough to do just one piece jobs to .0005" tolerances to satisfaction, the tape program already done, my job was to just load the tape into memory, then set the job up and run it. On the NC tape lathes, editing was limited to a one time deal as to just a block per time, quite a pain indeed, better to rewrite the perforrated tape. I worked the machines as a job, I did not have to modify a standard bred machine to convert to CNC capability.
I imagine the home brew process is a lengthy endeavor. Is there any good URL links to hit on?
Also, thanks for the input by the rest of the guys to my query.

07-28-2003, 01:05 PM
I think you could find a Pentium 200Mhz PC easier than a C64. The code would be easier to work with on the PC, without out having peeks and pokes as with earlier versions of computers languages like Basic.


07-28-2003, 01:44 PM

Check out this site.


07-28-2003, 09:25 PM
Hey, they still sell those Commodeadors, or better yet, the Amiga. These are used by many a television station -m especially Public Access, for the bulletin board services, and the "titles", "name unders" and effects for the Public Access productions.

I ran a Public Access for two years here in my city - an interim manager along with my machining job, the station has three of them, and actually replaced one. The software technology exists still, and is in fact even being built upon.

A supplier for Commodeadoors is Great Northern Video, Concord, NH.

The reason for the comadors in video is this: The PC runs a screen based on "Square" pixelation. Look at your monitor, and if you have good eyes, you see the pixeling is square. same, zoom in on a photograph taken by digital, or captured off the net - square pixels.

Television, not HDTV, is round pixels, and actually VERY coarse. A square pixeled computer shows up very prominently.

How ever, since I left the Public Access - still on the "board" of operations - and after I B and Moaned for months whild still running the show, they bought a PC with an adaptor card - the card alone is $395.00, which converts PC square pixels to round, and with the "poor" definition of the regular TV.

OK, so a digression from machining,. These are expensive, and use hard drives like a laptop (the commodore had no hard drive, the Amiga, the next generation did). Your best bet, as I have done on four machines now, is to use anything from a 486 - 133 on up as a control, the software is very findable .I used Microkinnetics, but my Anilam S1400 Mills actuallu have PLCs, servo, and such, use a 486 computer as the platform, and have their own software. Fanuc also has PC based controls. But back to reality, the PC works best, there are many vendors with good prices for CNC controllers.

The Commodore article, I remember this one, there might be some good basic information for you, but adapt to the PC platform.

07-29-2003, 06:29 AM
You will get faster performance from a Linux system on any 486 based unit. Just remember that Windows is a pig and will suck horsepower form the cad/cam software - so if you insist on windows get a 1Ghz or faster machine with at least 512k memory (98SE - requires a bug fix for memory) Win2000 or XP get at least 1Gb. of memory. Even with big horsepower it might still stutter in windows BTW! http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//frown.gif

07-29-2003, 11:15 AM
Hey, you can still get many CNC controller programs in plain old DOS system, which is what I have for all of my controllers. The Microkinnetics has both win 95/98 ver., and DOS ver. I run the offline on win 98, but the actual control on DOS, and have a straight "boot in" (bat)sequence through the Autoexec right to the program

As for the Linux system, you have to make sure the controller program is adapted, or can be adapted to Linux as I recall. Tried to put the new Microkinnetics "windows based" on one of my two "show" Linux machines, no deal.

Someday I am sure I will convert to Linux, either as soon as i figure out how to get the windows programs I have now to work in Linux, or something as standard as MasterCAM, CadKey, Word 2000 (our school, and pretty much an industry word standard) and even the small soild works comes about that is Linux compatible.

If you can tell me how to do this, much appreciation would be given, even a Thrud for God line.

07-29-2003, 12:09 PM
I guess it depends on what you mean by "Home Brew". In my case I got a big Bridgeport machine with its own controller. This machine and probably most of them are designed to recieve commands in a list of GCodes. These are simply sent in a list like an old Teletype (remote typewriter) to the machine in standard ASCII code. Since the machine can only consume the commands at a rate as fast as it can cut, in this regard it doesn't require a really fast computer. That being said, once you have computer control of three axis you can quickly move up to complex moves like contouring and 3D milling. Previewing the motions on a computer is best done on a fast and capable computer and modern software that converts the 3D graphical representation into GCode commands using what they call "post processing" that is specific to the controlling system of your machine. As far as computers goes I started with Atari but in recent years I have thrown away whole computers up to about 600mhz in speed. Any of these machines would be able to keep up with the milling machine as far as the Gcode goes. I found the serial interface worked best with just the transmit and recieve and signal ground connected. The other parameters are easily changed or determined by experimentation if you can't find the documentation. If you need to "home brew" the whole system you will need a whole lot more equipment and software. The stepper controllers and stepper drivers are what will determine the rest of your needs. Many of these work off of the parallel port instead of the serial port. I don't know if they try to adhere to CNC or NC standards to any great degree so you may have to reinvent the wheel to get anything done.

07-30-2003, 03:45 AM
www.linuxcnc.org (http://www.linuxcnc.org) and download the "Enhanced Machine Controller" software (EMC)- develoded by NIST to standarize and validate the machine interface on open architecture controllers. It is free. A good project for some of your "keeners" in your class! http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif

This can even be run on an Xbox if you hack the box as has been done on the net. (Do you feel the burn, Evil Bill?) http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif