Hooking up an actual CD-ROM drive to the Commodore

Some time ago, I wrote an article on how you could use a regular “music” CD as a medium to store your applications for the C64. The way you loaded the programs was similar to the process involved when loading data from tape.
Expanding on this idea of having your data stored on a CD, how cool would it have been if your Commodore had a real CD-ROM drive… surely this was something that never existed, as the Commodore being a machine of the 80s was never capable of such futuristic devices, right?

Well, there was actually a way to hook up a genuine CD-ROM to your home computer but it involved the use of a CMD HD20 and a nice little program called CD-ROM-Commander that became available around 1995.
The HD20 was a necessary piece of hardware as it was a SCSI device that had a spare SCSI-port at the back which could effectively be used to hook up a SCSI CD-ROM device.
You had to make sure though (by use of the dip-switches) that the HD20 and the CD-ROM had different SCSI device numbers but that was not too difficult. The most difficult part was (if you didn’t want to pay the high costs for an external CD-ROM drive) hooking up the relatively cheap internal PC CD-ROM drives. As these didn’t come with an external power supply (as they would get their power from the PC) you had to find your way around the soldering iron or get a specialist electronics shop to make one for you. You also had to follow the “SCSI-rules” meaning that you had to “terminate” the CD-ROM in the chain.

Once all this was setup, you could load the CD-ROM-Commander program, specify the different device parameters and start working with CD-ROMs on your Commodore.
If the files on the CD-ROM were saved in the disk-image format (D64), you could load the images directly and even copy them directly to floppy disks in your attached disk drive.

Admittedly, a bit of an expensive workaround to hook up a CD-ROM drive, but nonetheless, it prolonged the shelve life of the best selling computer of all time and it was again testament that Commodore truly built the best home computer ever!

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2 Responses to Hooking up an actual CD-ROM drive to the Commodore

  1. Hi there,

    I just have to say that it is amazing that you can connect a CD-ROM drive to the Commodore 64. There’s so much awesome hardware available for it and even new stuff is produced today, in 2012!

    I’m more of an Amiga fan, but I certainly respect the C64. What a great machine! :)

  2. Robby "The C= guy"

    It sure was and the fact that you could hack to your hearts delight make it, even to this day, a great machine to experiment and tinker with. There’s just so much cool stuff that these machines allowed you to do.

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