After getting the CoCo3FPGA running last week, I started thinking about a case to house it.
Every so often the Color Computer mail list will erupt with the perennial discussion of what a “CoCo 4″ would be like. (I prefer the term Next Generation CoCo, since there were already at least 3 or 4 computer systems that made some attempt to claim the “CoCo 4″ title back in the early 1990s, notably the TC-9 Tomcat / TC-70, and the MM/1.) The discussion generally falls into two camps. One advocates an enhanced CoCo that is purely emulated, running on modern PC hardware, possibly distributed with a very minimalistic free operating system to host it. The other camp favors a hardware approach, probably using FPGAs. (Arguably, the present CoCo3FPGA project has more enhancements over the CoCo 3 than the CoCo 2 did over the original CoCo, from the perspective of features the user can appreciate, and Gary Becker has suggested future improvements, such as enhanced graphics modes.)
Much of the discussion centers around the question of what makes a CoCo a CoCo. Aside from running some large subset of existing Color Computer software, which can presently be done on modern PCs running emulators, what qualities would one look for in a successor machine? The aesthetic experience is often mentioned in these discussions.
Bearing that in mind, I remembered that I had a CoCo 3 case left over from repackaging one in a mini tower case back in the ’90s, and I decided to adapt it to house the FPGA CoCo. In it I found a broken CoCo 2 keyboard, which I gutted to make a housing for a mini PS/2 keyboard. I had to cut out a little of the CoCo’s upper case to get it to fit, but aside from the keys being colored a little differently than the CoCo’s plastic, it almost looks like it belongs there.
I made some internal cabling for the VGA port, the DriveWire serial port, and the reset button, and mounted connectors on the rear of the computer. I reused the reset button that I had de-soldered from the CoCo main board when I adapted it for the mini tower case.
The result is an FPGA CoCo that looks like a Color Computer. I call it the FPGA CoCo HGE * It powers on in an instant and doesn’t have to boot some other OS before it becomes a CoCo. It looks like a CoCo. It feels like a CoCo. And in my humble opinion, running at an effective 21 MHz, and with built-in DriveWire support, it is at least a CoCo 3++ with the potential for more great features in the future.
*Hot Glue Edition — between the keyboard assembly, the video mod, and the reset switch, there is about an entire stick of hot glue in there.