Presented by

  • Paul Gardner-Stephen

    Paul Gardner-Stephen

    Paul has been writing open-source software since the lat 1990s, and is best known for the Serval Mesh off-grid communications system, the 64NET system for connecting Commodore 64 computers to more boring computers, making and using a working shoe-phone, the MEGA65 retro-computer, and most recently, making a Commodore 64 compatible smartphone, the MEGAphone. His interests revolve around increasing resiliency, and mitigating the effects of disasters. He sees a strong and transparent democracy as important for ensuring social justice, especially for the vulnerable. As part of this, he is passionate about the need to create systems that exhibit Digital Sovereignty, so that systems can survive in the face of state-level adversaries and geo-political turmoil.


Open-hardware often (but not always) results in what we might call "soviet style" devices, that are highly functional, but perhaps not as visually appealing or polished in appearance as commercial equivalents. However, this is not always the case. Together with a bunch of similarly crazy folks, we have succeeded in making a complete community-designed and funded open-hardware computer, including a beautiful mechanical keyboard and injection moulded case. We are of course, talking about the MEGA65 retro computer. The MEGA65 is a re-creation of the never released Commodore(tm) 65 / 64DX computers, of which numerous prototypes existed. So our goal was to create something that looks just like the original, and that could share the joy of 1980s computing to both new and old audiences. In this talk we discuss how we went about creating the physical form, culminating in a device that even owners of the original Commodore(tm) 65 prototypes agree is better and more polished. This will include how we tackled the design of the case, and getting that translated into working (and paid for!) injection moulds, as well as the full custom mechanical keyboard and its beautiful double-shot top and front printed key caps, and the full custom motherboard, and also how we managed to buy a bunch of 3.5" floppy drives in 2020 to go in the machines -- all without the stress and burden of running a traditional crowd-funding campaign. The session will be a mix of sharing our path, together with open discussion so that folks who are thinking about making open hardware systems can pick our brains, so that we can help others along their open-hardware journeys.