C64 Keyboard Layouts

Back in the days, Commodore 64’s were modified to accommodate other keyboard layouts with special character sets – like Spanish, Swedish or Danish. I have an Assy 250407 Rev. B breadbox (link) that was originally used at a Danish high school, so the character set has been changed to Danish by swapping the Kernal and Character ROM’s. I have had a few of these machines and it seems like the chips and adapters were manufactured by a professional company back in the days. A .pdf copy of the Danish mounting instructions can be found here.

Commodore 64 Danish Keyboard layout. Original PCB's made for Danish schools. See more on breadbox64.com

Commodore 64 Danish Character set made for Danish schools. Read more on breadbox64.com.

Instead of swapping the keys, small labels were added to indicate the three additional characters.

Commodore 64 with a Danish Keyboard layout. Stickers put on top of keyboards with the special characters. More on breadbox64.com

And here are the three special characters…

Commodore 64 with Danish Character set made for Danish schools. Read more on breadbox64.com.

The small PCB’s simply replace the original Commodore Kernal and Character ROM’s.

Commodore 64 Danish Keyboard layout. Original PCB's made for Danish schools. See more on breadbox64.com

Commodore 64 with a Danish Character set made for Danish schools. Read more on breadbox64.com.

I also wanted to share another professionaly looking Kernal/Character set that I have not seen anywhere else. It was ‘hidden’ in a broken machine I came across and I was quite surpised to be greeted with this screen when the machine finally booted.

Commodore 64 Danish Keyboard layout from 'Expert Radiohuset'. Original PCB's made for a Danish company. See more on breadbox64.com

It also has a Danish character set, but the colors of the background, border and text have been changed. Apparantly the company ‘Expert Radiohuset’ was a local radio/electronic’s store that was placed just a few miles from my house back in the 80s. My best guess is that the store modded the ROM’s for their in-store machines to get peoples attention – but I have no idea why they would change it. I dumped the ROM’s and the only changes I could find were made to the Kernal and related to the colors and text, much like I did in this post (link). The ROM’s can be found here as a .zip file (link).

The PCB’s are green on top and the quality actually seems higher than the ones described above. The ROM’s look like this.

Commodore 64 Danish Keyboard layout from 'Expert Radiohuset'. Original PCB's made for a Danish company. See more on breadbox64.com

Commodore 64 with the start-up screen color changed. The character set was made for a Danish company called Expert Radiohuset. Read more on breadbox64.com.

And here are the ROM’s mounted in a machine.

Commodore 64 Danish Keyboard layout from 'Expert Radiohuset'. Original PCB's made for a Danish company. See more on breadbox64.com

Commodore 64 Danish Keyboard layout from 'Expert Radiohuset'. Original PCB's made for a Danish company. See more on breadbox64.com

I guess the idea of modding the start-up screen by customizing the colors and text is not new after all…

© breadbox64.com 2016

8 comments on “C64 Keyboard Layouts

  1. I have a C64 with a Swedish/Finnish keyboard layout, but buttons are normal without stickers and no additional pcb added. Just changed roms. Looks like roms had some stickers that are now missing. Curious thing is also that every chip is socketed exept for the ram’s. I don’t know if these are rare or not. Haven’t seen any other unit like this.

    Keyboard: link
    Letters: link
    ROM’s: link

  2. Hi Mikko, thanks for sharing! I’ve seen pictures of the non-sticker Swedish keyboard keys before, but I don’t know how rare this is. They look great by the way! I would definately prefer the real thing instead of the sticker solution mine has 🙂

  3. Hi Mikko!
    There are different versions of the swedish C64. The swedish C64C was sold with stickers on the keycaps only but the C64 breadboxes were sold sometimes with stickers and sometimes with real keycaps. I have all three of them in my collection. Handic also sold stickers and ROM’s separately as upgrade-kits for people who already had non-Swedish C64’s. In Japan it was the other way round. People bought standard Kernal and Char ROMs to downgrade the japanese C64 (to make them compatible). That is why it took me so long to find a Japanese C64 with original ROMs.

  4. Any chance of sharing a dump of those ROMs? Would be both funny to try them out + change the background color (something I do at every boot).

  5. I’ve added a link in the text to a .zip file containing the Kernal and Char files 🙂 A direct download of the .zip file Kernal and Char files can be found here: link

  6. I came across the exact same charset while repairing a C64 for a friend, about a month ago. (We are both from Denmark). I took an interest, because the ROM is different from the original Danish charset (901225-01-DK) released by Commodore back in the early 80’ies.
    Original charsets from Commodore (Danish or otherwise) use double pixel width, even though the charset is “high res”. I read somewhere that this was to avoid red and blue shadows on old televisions. Apparently bright thin lines would cause this problem on television picture tubes back then. Anyway, the charset you have linked to from “Expert Radiohuset”, equals the charset in my friends C64 (it was bought in Bilka in 1984). I have found no references to it on the internet, and I do not believe it to be a genuine Commodore release (I could be wrong of cause). My suspicion is strengthened by the fact, that I have found some flaws in the ROM (same flaws in your charset from Expert Radiohuset as found in my friends charset from Bilka)
    1. The very last byte in the Char ROM is wrong. In reads $AA but it should be $F0. The effects of that error can be seen by typing poke 1024,255 and then shift the charset to lowercase (C= + shift).
    2. Another (debatable) flaw is that horizontal and vertical petscii graphics (e.g. shift + C and shift + B) does not align with corner petscii graphics (e.g. C= + A and C= + S). You must use other chars than shift + C/B to get the graphics to align. Given the fact that this problem is not found on original charsets, petscii graphics tend to look disorganized and messy. The Commodore Christmas Demo is a good example..

    I took it upon me to fix the problems I found with the charset in order to complete my C64 repair project. A fixed ROM image can be found here: link

  7. Hi Karsten, thanks for your thorough report on the ‘Expert Radiohuset’ Character ROM 🙂

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