IntroductionThe Commodore 64's operating system has many shortcomings. Storage devices are really slow, you often have to type unformfortable difficult commands, there exists machine code monitor, the list is long. However, the operating system of the C64 is quite extensible and quickly after the C64 did appear on the market, cartridges started to appear that did fix its shortcomings. These cartridges did offer fastloaders, BASIC extensions, game trainers, freezers and whatever feature for the C64's operating system you could think of. These cartridges are know as utility cartridges by C64 users.
The Final Cartridge III became available when the sophisticatedness of utility cartridges did reach its peak in the 80s. The Final Cartridge III had the first widely used out-of-order fastloader, that could speed up a simple 1541 floppy drive no less than 15 times. It added the ability to scroll in BASIC, a feature that many consider so usefull that they consider it a killer feature which alone is enough to use the FC3. The FC3 has has one of the best machine code monitors, useful BASIC extensions, and advanced backup mechanism and an innovative GUI made the FCIII possibily the most advanced utility cartridge in the golden age of the Commodore 64.
The Final Cartridge III 101% is a recreation of the Final Cartridge III at the fundamental level. Unlike earlier clones, it doesn't just replicate the old hardware, but the hardware has been recreated and improved. At the same time, new firmware has been created that improves the cartridge.
The Final Cartridge 101% firmware and hardware are two projects that can be used independently of each other. You can use the Final Cartridge 101% firmware on your favourite FC3 implementation such as for example the VICE emulator, the 1541 Ultimate or the EasyFlash 3. At the same time, you are free to install any firmware on the Final Cartridge III hardware, regardless whether it is the original firmware, the FC3 101% firmware, the FCIII+ firmware, or the GEOS desktop firmware. The choice is yours.
Final Cartridge 101% firmware
Final Cartridge 101% firmware is an improved firmware for the Final Cartridge III. The Final Cartridge III still is a highly useful cartridge to use with a C64 in the 21st century. However, 21st century use of the C64 differs differs in some ways to how the C64 was used in the 80s:
- We connect much more serial devices to our Commodore 64. We no longer just have a single 1541, we may have multiple of them, we have a modern storage devices such as SD2IEC and 1541 Ultimate.
- JiffyDOS is nowadays a very important and widely used KERNAL replacement.
- A REU is a common hardware expansion
- Tapes aren't that important anymore
- Printers aren't that important anymore.
- It boots to BASIC by default. Yes, the FC3 desktop was advanced and ahead of its time, but at the same time, no software was released for it, making it not that useful. Pressing RUN/STOP while switching on the C64 was a standard procedure for FC3 owners. The FC3 101% recognizes this and boots to BASIC by default.
- REU registers free. Because a REU is nowadays a common used piece of hardware, it becomes a bit of an annoyance that FC3 and REU could not be used at the same time. The FC3 101% frees up the memory locations used by the REU and as of such, there is no conflict anymore. The .crt file of the FC3 101% has a bit set that makes the 1541 Ultimate unlock the REU in the menu, so if you use the FC3 101% firmware on a 1541 Ultimate, you will be able to use both at the same time.
- Fastloader 1571 compatibility.The fastloader has improved 1571 compatibility and now is compatible with double sided diskettes in 1MHz mode (JiffyDOS) and 2MHz mode.
- The monitor understands undocumented opcodes
- Decimal operands You can now use decimal operands in the monitor, for example: AC000 LDA #0
- Device numbers beyond 8 and 9 are accepted.
- Backups load from any device
Final Cartridge III 101% firmware is compatible with any Final Cartridge III implementation. You can use of the many clones you can find on the internet, use the 1541 Ultimate, EasyFlash 3, Kung Fu Flash or run it in an emulator. However, using the Final Cartridge III 101% has the advantage that the cartridge is flashable from the Commodore 64 itself, so you can simply upgrade the firmware from diskette.
It is not ruled out that future firmware will require the Final Cartridge III 101% hardware.
Please download The Cartridge III 101% firmware here:
- Final Cartridge III 101% firmware ver 1 in CRT format
- Final Cartridge III 101% firmware ver 1 in BIN format
Final Cartridge III 101% hardwareThe Final Cartridge III 101% is a flashable cartridge that allows you to install your own firmware on the cartridge. In fact, you must install firmware yourself before you can use it. For example, you can install the original firmware, the Final Cartridge III+ firmware, or my improved firmware. GEOS instead of the FC3 desktop? No problem. And of course you can decide to install another firmware anytime you wish.
Note that The Final Cartridge III is one of the few utility cartridges for which source code is available. However, until now, unless you built your own cartridge it wasn't that easy to use modified firmware. With the flash capability of The Final Cartridge III 101%, the availability of source code becomes much more useful!
The Final Cartridge III 101% hardware offers the following improvements over the original hardware:
- The Final Cartridge III 101% offers 256KB of flash memory, four times the 64KB capacity of the original FCIII. This allows for much larger firmwares, allowing for more complex extensions to the C64's operating system.
- The freezer button on the original FCIII works well, but is not fool-proof and there is a small chance it fails and crashes. The Final Cartridge III 101% has an improved freezer circuit that avoids this issue.
- Because of its backup function and its usefulness for cracking software, FCIII was feared among software publishers. A good thing about the FCIII is that if you use its kill function to deactivate it, it actually disables its hardware and is almost completely undetectable, while it retains all of its freezing and backup capabilities. However, it could still quite easily be detected, because the IO1/IO2 ROM wasn't disabled. The Final Cartridge III 101% fixes this and is completely undetectable after you use its kill function.
Flash utilityThe Final Cartridge III 101% hardware is a flashable cartridge. In fact, it doesn't come with cartridge firmware installed, you have to install the firmware of your choice yourself.
- Flash utility for the Final Cartridge III 101%
- Manual for the flash utility
- Source code for the flash utility
Reconstructed manualI am working on a reconstruction of the manual for the Final Cartridge III. This manual is at the moment available in the following languages:
Github projectI am developing the Final Cartridge III 101% on Github:
Schematics and designThe Final Cartridge III 101% consists of just 3 chips: A 256KB flash ROM, a 74HC273 register and the FC3 controller. A simple boost converter built from discrete components can generate a 12V programming voltage for the flash ROM.
The FC3 controller is a GreenPAK SLG46620. GreenPAK is a series of programmable chips from Renesas. These chips are not very comparable to existing programmable chips, they work differently from GALs, CPLDs and FPGAs, but they have an internal logic circuit inside. The FC3 101% can be considered a test how suitable these chips are to build hardware for retro computers and the results are very positive.
Download the schematics and controller chip design:
- Final Cartridge 101% schematics
- Internal schematics of the Final Cartrdige III 101% controller chip
- GreenPAK SLG46620 design file for the Final Cartrdige III 101% controller chip
Obtaining a cartridgeI am selling the Final Cartridge III 101% cartridge on SellMyRetro. The cartridge is pre-assembled. Because an utility cartridge is plugged in and removed many times, the cartridge comes on a gold plated (ENIG) PCB for durability. The cartridge also comes with a cartridge case.
Please make your choice:
It is not mandatory to use Sell My Retro, if you don't like to create an account there. If you would like to buy directly, fill in the following form:
ContactDo you have any questions or would you like to contact me for some other reason? You can e-mail me at daniel.mantione at freepascal dot org, or use the following form:
ThanksMany thanks to the designers of the original Final Cartridge III:
- E. Th. v.d. Enden
- Wil Sparreboom
- Gerard van Assem
- Nare Derksen
- Uwe Stahl
- Ton Peters
- Jacques van Schajik
- Patrick Mast
The Final Cartridge III firmware is copyrighted material of the original creators. The Final Cartridge 101% firmware is a modification of the original firmware and therebound bound by copyright of the original creators. This project is for the benefit of the 21th century Commodore 64 community and meant to preserve and enhance The Final Cartridge III.
The Final Cartridge III 101% hardware is radically different from the original hardware and therefore not affected by original copyrights.
(C) 2021 by DaniŽl Mantione