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In the year 2020, the 8-bit revolution begins anew

Introducing the BeamRacer

A groundbreaking expansion card for the Commodore 64

Display List Coprocessor

Programmable Bitmap Sequencer

Lumafix Pro™ and GrayDotOff™

8-bit Design and Tight System Integration

BeamRacer enables precise control of the VIC-II graphics chip, allowing for a host of novel visual effects and freeing the main CPU for other tasks.

It expands C64 with a new programmable subsystem that continues Commodore's philosophy of keeping things wide open to experimentation.

The board has been carefully designed to mesh with C64’s architecture and preserve its 8-bit spirit. None of the VIC-II’s unique characteristics and behaviours are altered in any way, maintaining full compatibility with existing software base and decades worth of programming techniques and tricks.


This Changes Everything

VIC-II has a new best friend

BeamRacer adds a new member to C64’s family of chips—VASYL—a programmable coprocessor whose role is making the venerable VIC-II shine. With its own instruction set, local memory, and privileged, precisely timed access to VIC-II, VASYL upgrades the C64 in two ways: provides an effortless yet highly accurate way of controlling the VIC-II, and frees the main CPU for other tasks. Think Amiga Copper on steroids.

Under new management

BeamRacer wraps itself around VIC-II and takes responsiblity for managing its communication with the rest of the system. To minimize interference with the 6510 operations, VASYL relies on local memory to store its program and data. It also has a custom connection to VIC-II that can be isolated from the main system bus, allowing the 6510 to run at full speed most of the time. VASYL can even program itself, further reducing the need to bother the main CPU with mundane and repetitive graphics tasks.

We flex bitmaps

Bitmap sequencer is a VIC-II circuit responsible for feeding display data to the video pipeline. Its inflexibility is one of the reasons the HiRes mode does not see much use, and visual effects that are easy to achieve on some other 8-bit machines, require sophisticated tricks to pull off on the C64.
BeamRacer makes the sequencer fully programmable, with video data coming from any location, in any order, and to any screen area (including top and bottom borders).

VBASIC lends a hand

Not everyone is an assembler programmer. But even hardcore code grinders appreciate high-level languages for their compactness and fast prototyping. VBASIC serves both groups: weekend code warriors can access new capabilities enabled by BeamRacer without diving into intricacies of 6510 assembly language. Seasoned C64 developers will appreciate being able to test their ideas interactively, shortening the code-test-debug cycle.

Disassemble at will

And speaking of debugging, we even added a VASYL disassembler to VBASIC, making it an indispensable tool for any BeamRacer programmer. With the accompanying visual memory viewer (mouse-enabled!) and register name decoding, hunting and squashing bugs is more fun than ever!

No bars, no blur, no problem

It's a well-known VIC-II’s deficiency—vertical bars across the screen, their intensity varying with the chip’s version and model. While especially troubling on modern digital displays, they can be noticed even on a small CRT. Over the years hackers have developed hardware solutions that attenuate the bars, but they always affect display quality, blurring the picture and reducing contrast.

That is, until today. BeamRacer comes with an integrated Lumafix Pro (patent pending) that produces crystal-clear, sharp image.

Unmodified picture

Regular Lumafix

Lumafix Pro


Available August 2020

Global distribution by Silver Dream Enterprises Ltd

Coming Soon

BeamRacer specifications

Memorize this, there will be a test later...

Highlights

  • Display-synchronized coprocessor
  • Programmable video sequencer
  • Integrated Lumafix Pro
  • H-MOS II "gray dots" software on/off switch
  • Invisible on boot-up, software activated

VASYL

(Video Assistance and Support Logic)

  • Altera EPM1270
  • Architecture: full 8-bit
  • 17 instructions (synchronization, register transfer, control flow)
  • Throughput: 1 instruction per system clock cycle
  • 21 registers
  • IRQ generator

Clock, capacity, connectivity

  • Clock: 8.18 MHz (NTSC), 7.88 MHz (PAL)
  • Lumafix: AEC/PHI0 2,000-2,200 Ohm
  • Local RAM: 8 banks of 64 KB each
  • Firmware updates: USB-C (compatible with USB 1/2/3)

VBASIC

  • 32 new commands and functions
  • Uses only 5 KB RAM
  • Built-in VASYL disassembler
  • Supports hexadecimal input and output
  • Compatible with JiffyDOS and DolphinDOS extensions

General

  • Height: 2.1 in / 5.2 cm
  • Width: 2.6 in / 6.6 cm
  • Weight: 1.8 oz / 50 g
  • Power consumption: <85 mA
  • Installation: VIC-II socket (no soldering)

VIC-II compatibility

  • 6567R56A (NTSC-M)
  • 6567R8 (NTSC-M)
  • 6569 (PAL-B)
  • 6572 (PAL-N)
  • 8562 (HMOS-II NTSC)
  • 8565 (HMOS-II PAL)

Motherboards tested

  • 250407
  • 250425
  • 250466
  • 250469
  • 326296
  • Reloaded Mk2

Other features