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Commodore 64: Wiring up the User Port

The User Port on the Commodore 64 is a combined parallel port + serial port. Both of these can be used after a little wiring effort. Memotronics has the ports available, with nice handles. The handle is imperative for ease of removal. You really don't want to be pulling on wires to unplug anexternal device! I purchased this and also couldn't resist the 200 random LED bag.

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User Port Socket Alignment

There's a row of letters and a row of numbers... make sure the numbers are along the top. Looking at the back of the C64, you'll notice there's two slots for socket alignment. To the right are two pins, then the center block, then 1 pin on the left.

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Yes, the socket is plugged on upside-down in that middle picture!

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The socket from memotronics comes with two white spacers in a plastic bag. Slide them into the slots appropriate for each side of the socket. Once done, tin up your wires and solder through to the parallel port.

Connecting it to our circuit

The whole reason behind this is to control the circuit described here and here. The goal was to use a standard interface, being the parallel port. The Amiga and the PC happily work; the Commodore was next. As mentioned above, the data pins are there, we just need to wire it through.

One really good point: once you've attached the wire to the parallel port end, draw a black line down pin one to the other end. Knowing which wire is which will get confusing once you've jammed it through the user port socket 'cap'. I actually surprised myself expecting to see the black line elsewhere and was glad I'd drawn it.

With the User Port socket in hand, I reviewed a few documents to work out which pins did what. All pinouts was a good source, until I realised that 'I' was missing. I assumed they got it wrong and so went searching further. The c64 Wiki has a pinout also, which also doesn't include 'I'. What's that old saying? No 'I' in 'Team'? There's no 'I' in 'User Port' either...

One quick check elsewhere at told me that the port I had from memotronics, which has an 'I', is incorrect. So... just make sure that the

The 'middle' 8 lower pins of the socket are the data pins that 1-to-1 match D0-D7 of the parallel port. You can then use Pin 1 and 12 to GND on the parallel (18-25) and yes, 17 is GND, but not on Amiga!

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Putting it all together

Everything plugged together nicely... I powered up the circuit first; you should always make sure perpipherals are powered on first, prior to turning on the C64. Either way, LEDs lit as per usual and then it was time to hack in BASIC. You can see on the screen that I tried to output an 8-bit binary value to the 595... but the results weren't stable. It was late and I'd accomplished the first task: The pins were wired in and the LEDs between the optos and the C64 lit as expected!

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What's Next?

Either I continue hacking BASIC and get the 595 driven, or I use something like cc65 and write real C. I think I'll go the latter. I also want to hook up the Serial port here... so I'll extend my little dongle to have a serial port hanging out of it also.

See this post on cc65 for an example of how to program the Usre Port via C!

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