I am following a project called the Commander X 16, a Commodore 64 inspired machine based on, but only somewhat compatible with it.

My question: Is such a retro inspired development in scope of this stack exchange group?

4 Answers 4


Expanding on wizzwizz4's answer and the comments on it:

Questions about the actual workings of the C64 are obviously on-topic, even if phrased as, "The Commander X 16 works this way; does the C64 work the same way?" (I would not necessarily suggest phrasing things that way, but it may be useful if you're referring to some good documentation on the X 16 that saves you a lot of explanation.)

When it comes to porting C64 code, "How do I do this on the X 16?" is not on-topic for the group. However, if your problem is that you have a chunk of C64 code and you don't understand entirely how it works, posting a "How exactly does this work on the C64?" question would be right on topic. You'd need to ask a separate question elsewhere if, once you understand how the code works on the C64, you don't understand how to achieve the same effect on the X 16.

So perhaps the general questions you should be asking yourself before posting here a question inovlving a "modern" system are, "Does answering this question require specific knowledge about a an actual retro system?" and, "Can I split this question into two, one for Retrocomputing dealing with the retro side and one for another more appropriate forum dealing with the new system side?"

EDIT: I've changed my mind.

TLDR: If you agree with the mnems' first comment on this answer, and/or tofro's answer and/or Raffzahn's answer, please remove your vote on this answer and/or downvote it and instead vote those up.

After a month or two, and looking through the comment on this answer and the other answers, I find myself now agreeing with others who take a broader approach than I did above. Specifically:

  • menm's comment: "...the question...is 'Can potential answers to this question be useful to someone using an actual retro system?'" If someone asks, "how do I do write a program that uses more than 64 KB of memory on the Commander X 16?", the technques will be substantially similar to what they would be for the Commodore 128 or Apple II or whatever other retro system happens to use similar techniques. I see no advantage to having some questions about handling >64 KB memory the 6502 be here and others on SO.
  • tofro's answer, "These all require programming techniques no longer taught to developers - Where else should such questions be asked?" Again, is it helpful to have two different places to post about the same techniques just because one developer happens to be working on old hardware and the other new, when they could just as easily be swapped? I don't think so.
  • Raffzahn's answer: I agree with the general gist and like many of the examples, though I probably draw the line in different places for some things. For example, while most FPGA stuff would be better for SO or Electronics, "how do I emulate the 6502 overflow flag behavour in this FPGA code" would pass my "on-topic" test because it's clearly about the 6502.¹

I'm not going to change my original answer above so as not to invalidate the votes on it, but I no longer support my original answer above. this. If this were my question, I would accept tofro's answer.

¹And the 6502 itself passes in my personal opinion even though it's "modern, currently supported" hardware (the W65C02S from Western Design Center). By a reasonable interpretation of the on-topic page, even "how do I handle the 6502 ROR bug" would be off-topic here because that is a "question...about earlier versions of a current machine."

  • 3
    Even more important than "Does answering this question require specific knowledge about a an actual retro system?", the question you really want to ask yourself is "Can potential answers to this question be useful to someone using an actual retro system. That's the actual point of the Retrocomputing SE, after all.
    – mnem
    Sep 27, 2019 at 20:09

Why not?

While not yet being a "real thing" atm, the X16 is purportedly supposed to have:

  • a 6502 or 65816 CPU, which is definitely "retro"
  • A VDP based on a PGA design closely inspired by the Yamaha 9990 series, definitely retro as well, but created using modern technology
  • Apparently one or multiple SID or OPL chips for sound
  • limited address range, thus bank-switching to support a 512/64 kBtes memory map

The design reminds me very much of an MSX computer, but with a MOS CPU.

These all require programming techniques no longer taught to developers - Where else should such questions be asked?

If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck,... I don't care what year it was built.

  • 1
    I think we are going to see a lot more retro inspired machines that shares many attributes of those old machines. Sep 28, 2019 at 18:22

I'd say in general yes, BUT.

And that's a huge but. There must be close ties to what classic designs are/were. Mostly in Hardware, but as well for software. To me that would mean that this system has to be a classic one in the core - like in using a real (old fashioned) CPU. After that questions can be classified much like questions about enhancements to classic computers. After all, were is the difference between an Apple II getting a PCI bus interface to a Steckschwein doing the same? In both cases the task is to make the 65(C)02 somehow handling an external interface. As Tofro said "If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, ..." (*1).

Using this as a base, we can apply the same rules on 'new-old' systems as on the genuine old ones - or emulators, which are, to some degree (more than I like) on-topic. And like with that we can define some clear forbidden zones like

  • Modern side programming
  • Modern side hardware
  • FPGA programming

And unlike mentioned in other places, I do not think that porting is an argument changing anything here. Either it's a question about the old system, than it'll already be on-topic. Or it's a question about (programming) the new, then it needs to adhere to whatever rules do fit within reason.

Some examples what I would consider or not:


  • X16 - The FPGA based graphics system isn't much different from a 99/4 using an F16 replacement
  • Steckschwein
  • New MSX (Non-FPGA)


  • C1 as it's FPGA based (no, the plug-in 65816 doesn't count)
  • Mega65 - same
  • Any of these NES, Mega-Drive, 2600, whatsoever consoles based on FPGA/Emulation
  • KIM Uno - just an AVR emulating a 6502
  • Replica 1 - Somewhat borderline, as it has a 65C02, still, to me, on the no-go side

This doesn't mean that there can't be questions that are valid for RC.SE, but they need to have a very tight focus that obviously (*2) applies as well to the original system.

Some may assume, that my position on this has turned, but that's not the case. If at all, it's a gradual shift due the way RC.SE evolves. My basic position is that RC.SE is about old systems - plus modern use of them. Think of it, this is named RETRO-computing, not CLASSIC-computing. I didn't like the term to start with, as it includes all the things made to look old while they aren't - like emulations. Systems like the X16 (which I think is a crappy design) do well fit the term retro in a positive manner, so I see them as includable - with caution.

*1 - Then it must be a swan - SCNR :))

*2 - That means in question already.

  • 1
    You just gotta add a link to the Steckschwein ;-) Oct 27, 2019 at 3:43
  • @PeterCamilleri Done
    – Raffzahn
    Oct 27, 2019 at 12:10

Only to the extent that it relates to retro systems.

So, you could ask about how the Commodore 64 functions, or how to interface the two machines, but not how to change the Commander X 16's batteries.

  • How would porting C64 code rate? This is the most likely sort of question Sep 10, 2019 at 0:42
  • Then again that is a programming question so maybe the main stack exchange is a better choice? Sep 10, 2019 at 1:09
  • @PeterCamilleri If they're more about the C64's interfaces, yes. Otherwise, maybe – I don't know.
    – wizzwizz4 Mod
    Sep 10, 2019 at 5:41

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