Commodore’s Unreleased C64 Game Machine

In 1990, Commodore released the C64GS.  “GS” stood for “Games System”.  It was Commodore’s attempt to have the wildly successful Commodore 64 compete in the game console market.  On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a bad idea: package a 250469 C64 PCB into a new case, omit the keyboard and you’ve got an inexpensive game console with a large cartridge library already available on launch date.  Given the benefit of hindsight, we know this wasn’t a commercially lucrative venture for Commodore.  Commodore fans blame the lack of success on a variety of reasons, but one reason seems to be universally agreed upon – it was released to the market too late for it to have possibly competed in the console market against the likes of the Sega Genesis.

What if Commodore had released a dedicated C64 game system 5 years earlier?  It turns out, they almost did.  Former Commodore engineer Andy Finkel still has in his possession what looks like a nearly production ready C64 Game machine.

Andy doesn’t recall exactly in which year this device was created, but the date codes on the chips reveal that it would have been at least 1985.

From Andy:

I really don’t remember many details of who did what, other than porting games quickly in time for a show

You can see from the above photo that it’s a console design in a case with a built-in joystick.  The joystick is a two-button Sony model.  Andy couldn’t be positive, but he thought the slide switch located in front of the joystick switched it to function as a paddle controller.  There’s a joystick port on the side for two player games.

While the 1990 C64GS used a regular C64 board, the unreleased 1985 Game Machine had a purpose-built PCB.  The board contains a total of 16 IC chips.

Location Part Number Description
U1 MOS6526 CIA
U3 74LS08 quad 2-input AND gate
U4 MBM27128-30 16K EPROM (kernal and character)
U6 MOS6510 CPU
U7 MOS8562R2 HMOS NTSC VIC-II
U8 MOS251715-01 SuperPLA (64 pin)
U9 MOS8580R4 SID
U10 HM50464P-15 64Kx4 DRAM
U11 HM50464P-15 64Kx4 DRAM
U12 DM74LS27N triple 3-input NOR gate
U14 SN74LS74AN flip flop
U18 HD14066BP quad analog switch/multiplexor
U19 TMM314APL-3 4K SRAM (color RAM)
U20 MOS8701 Clock Generator
U21 HD14066BP quad analog switch/multiplexor
U23 HD74LS14P hex schmitt trigger inverter

It shares the same power input, 9-pin single joystick connector, power switch, RF output and cartridge slot as the Commodore 64 computer.

Andy attempted to dump and preserve the EPROM, but unfortunately it is blank.

We don’t know why this device didn’t make it into production, but it was clearly close to becoming a finished product.

Andy thinks that possibly George Robbins may have more information but he has passed away.  Yash Terakura also might know more about it, but I don’t have contact information for him.

Enjoy a photo gallery of this unreleased C64 Game Machine.  Many thanks to Andy Finkel for providing the photos and any information he was able to remember about it.

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