17,827 Euro for a Commodore 65 on Ebay

The Commodore 65 was a prototype computer produced by Commodore between 1990 and 1991 to be an improved Commodore 64. I’ve hardly ever come across it online and never heard of it back in the day, but when Commodore was liquidated they sold the prototype machines. If you have one and are willing to part with it you could be in for a nice surprise!

c65 on ebay

This one on Ebay went for €17,827 last month. It’s not as if much can be done with it as it was never official released but I guess you can run it in C64 mode.

Anyone got one or played with one? (via)

Happy Birthday Commodore 64!

issue 50 of Zzap 64!
Issue 50 of Zzap! 64

The Commodore 64 is 30 years old this year and it went on sale in August 1982 so I think it’s about time I wished it a happy birthday. Back then I was messing on a Commodore Vic 20 (or more likely it was 1984 or so), then I had a Speccy and I didn’t get my hands on a C64 until 1989. It was already declining somewhat but it still had a few years of life left in it. Issue 50 of Zzap! 64 was the first issue of that famous magazine I owned. My brother and I bought it in Paul’s Street Shopping Centre! The newsagent is long gone but I have that issue around here somewhere ..

Matt Allen visited a primary school and a secondary school and asked kids there what they thought of the Commodore 64. I don’t think they were impressed by loading errors and long loading times. He probably should have brought a 1541 disk drive and an Action Replay cartridge!

Continue reading Happy Birthday Commodore 64!

My early memories of programming

My earliest memories of programming are directly related to the pain of not being able to save my work.

The first proper computer my family owned was a Commodore Vic-20. I guess my parents bought it in 1984 or 1985 but it might have been earlier. The Vic-20 came out years before but this was recession hit 80’s Ireland. I’m pretty sure the computer was bought in O’Callaghan’s shop, where the betting shop is now on Pembroke Street.

I remember copying a flying bird BASIC listing from the Vic-20 manual one school morning, and I think I made it fly left and right too. What made it stick in my mind was the anguish I felt because I couldn’t save it. We had a Vic-20 you see but we didn’t have a datasette that could record or play back data on cassette tapes. I left the machine on while I went to school which was risky because they had huge heavy power supplies that had a tendency to overheat (not that I knew that then!) Thankfully we did get a datasette later because I remember playing Wacky Waiters on it. Or it might have been some sort of interface that let me plug a regular cassette player into the Vic-20. Chip Electronics sold them in clear plastic bags I think. All a little hazy now unfortunately!

So, thanks to this site I was able to track down a scanned copy of the Vic-20 manual and immediately jumped to the Flying Birds bit. A little bit of rose tint nostalgia on a murky Friday evening almost 30 years later.

What got you into programming?

RIP Jack Tramiel

Jack Tramiel, the man who founded Commodore and brought Atari back from the dead died on Sunday at the age of 83. RIP.

lemon64 thread.

Here’s a great Cringley post on Jack Tramiel.

What I learned this week that I didn’t know before was that the people who worked for Tramiel really loved him. Jack Tramiel was no Steve Jobs: he was better.

The Commodore 64 was a phenomenal success. People forget that in the early 1980s the C64 outsold the Apple ][, IBM PC, and the Atari 400/800 combined. Commodore was the first to sell computers through discount retailers, opening whole new distribution channels. And don’t forget it was Jack who saw the value in Amiga, which in many ways set performance targets that took Apple years to beat. It would have been very interesting to see how the Amiga would have faired had Jack Tramiel stayed at Commodore.

I should have written more in this post yesterday but I didn’t have time. The Commodore 64 was the first computer I really obsessed about and learned loads about. Previously I had dabbled in BASIC using the Vic 20 and then a 48K Spectrum but after I got a C64 I learned how games were coded, learned quite a bit of assembler and produced and distributed my first software. That software wasn’t amazing or anything but I was always learning new things.

So, thanks Jack for creating the company that created such an amazing computer that had a huge influence on my life. When Steve Jobs died last year there were glowing blog posts about his machines. I vaguely recall an Apple II in a school lab but I hardly ever used it. The C64s in the same lab were much more interesting!

Memories of my first computer

A few weeks ago I splashed out on a 60GB Xbox 360, going for a reasonable 200 Euro in HMV and luckily for me I was able to enjoy the HD graphics of this next gen (next gen? It’s 4 years old now but the hardware specs are impressive!) console. Actually, “enjoy” is putting it lightly. Blown away, gobsmacked and amazed are probably better ways of describing my reaction to some of the graphics I saw this machine throwing about! Sometimes it feels like I’m taking part in one big movie.
I miss the Wiimote, I hope Microsoft do bring out a magic wand sooner or later.

One of the great things about being a late adapter is that I can buy most of the games I want in the pre-owned section. Instead of spending 50 Euro they sometimes cost half that!

I’ve gone searching for Xbox 360 blogs but only found a couple that weren’t full of adverts or blatantly self serving. I must be using the wrong keywords. Xbox fans, what are your favourite Xbox blogs?

30 or so years ago the first computer that I remember was a games console. I don’t remember the brand although my brother says it was an Atari. It was a simple machine, with a slot for a game cartridge. It had two grey boxy analog paddles, each with slender sticks and a small red button. Each controller would slot into a space in the console for easy storage. We only had one cartridge, a compilation of “sports” games, but as the machine used stick graphics they were fairly simplistic.
I remember the tennis game with two bats and a single large white pixel of a ball provided hours upon hours of entertainment for us kids.

What followed after that were more serious computers, the Commodore Vic 20, Speccy 48k, Commodore 64, Amiga 500, various PCs running Win 3.1, win 95, 98, Linux, and finally a Macbook and a Dell laptop running Ubuntu Linux. I didn’t own a console until I bought a Nintendo Wii, and then 2 weeks ago the Xbox 360.

Of the Vic 20, I remember typing in a BASIC programme that displayed a simple animated bird that flew around the screen. As we didn’t have a Datasette I couldn’t save it. I left the Vic 20 on while I went to school!

My son Adam’s first memories of games will probably be the Xbox. A far cry from the black and white stick characters of my youth!

The new Commodore 64 laptop

sx-64_build This isn’t the first time a Commodore 64 laptop has been made but it’s probably the coolest one. Commodore’s original SX 64 was built in 1984 and featured a tiny 5 inch CRT screen with a hardly portable body weighing in at 10kg!
I actually saw an SX 64 years ago in Cork Micro, the small computer shop run by the late Sean Bossang in Cork.
A couple of years ago there was the Picodore, a tiny little laptop built from the innards of a C64 DTV joystick. The keyboard’s a little small for my tastes though!
c64_hero And finally, Benjamin has created a real, “normal sized” laptop from the motherboard of a C64C, the final version of the C64 built by Commodore.
It uses the original keyboard too, and “1541-III DTV” to emulate the original 1541 disk drive. This device takes FAT32 formatted SD cards so you can copy D64 images from your PC on to it, insert the card in the laptop and load them immediately. Judging by the movie below, he needs an Action Replay cartridge or something to speed up loading. The emulated drive emulates the slow loading of the original drive too well methinks.

Nice to see Thunderblade make an appearance. I’m sure I have the original C64 tape of that game around here somewhere..

More info on Ben’s post.

VirtualC64 for Mac OS X

VirtualC64 is a new Commodore 64 emulator for Mac OS X. It’s a promising project, let down by the fact that it’s still in beta but by the looks of things development is moving at a steady pace.

When you first run the emulator it will ask you for C64 roms: basic, kernal, chargen and vc1541. Ironically, you can find all these roms inside Vice, another C64 emulator. Look in /Applications/VICE.app/Contents/Resources/ROM/. The 1541 ROM is DRIVES/dos1541.

Loading a game or demo is as easy as dragging the d64 or t64 image into VirtualC64. When you do you’ll see a dialog like this.

picture-6

“Flash file into memory” works great for single load programmes but multiload could be a problem. I tried Armalyte. Mounting the d64 as a disk didn’t work. I couldn’t type anything. Loading the first file on the disk by flashing it brought up the crack intro but failed to load. The neat integrated debugger (click “Inspect”) showed the emulator had died doing jsr $2020 and unfortunately at 2020 was another jsr … ($20 is the character code for a space if memory serves, and the machine code for jsr was $20, so memory was full of spaces!)

picture-3

Blue Max worked much better, as did a 3D Pool game I tried. the crack by Remember included the documentation and again using the debugger I watched as the programme checked for the various key presses. Geeky I know but it brought a smile of recognition to my lips. Here’s that debugger in all it’s glory. Anyone familiar with the C64 should recognise the code beginning at 1AA0. (I had to look up what D016 does. It’s the screen mode. I had completely forgotten. It’s only been 16 years.)

picture-10

One thing it has going for it over Vice, is a real fullscreen mode. The current version of Vice uses some dodgy resolution changing in Linux (that I rarely got to work properly without screwing up my desktop) and I couldn’t get to work in Mac OS X at all. Fire this baby up in fullscreen mode and you’ve got your very own C64 laptop! Cool or what eh?

As luck would have it VirtualC64 has blown a fuse just as I finish this post. If you have a usb joystick plugged in and activated in port 2 it does strange things. First the keyboard wouldn’t work, and flashing a file didn’t run it automatically. Then the keyboard sort of worked but the left arrow character appeared for most key presses. Odd stuff. Unplugging the joystick and restarting the emulator fixed that problem.
Even my Bits ‘n’ Bobs demo worked in it! (Bah, all my screenshots failed. They only show white. I wonder if the emulator does strange things to the Mac while emulating mixed video modes? I mixed character and video modes in the screens I tried to capture, ah well.)

VirtualC64 is a very promising C64 emulator, and it’s GPL too! I’ll certainly be keeping an interested eye on it, and I wish Dirk and the other project members the best of luck with it.

State of the Art by Spaceballs

This Amiga demo blew me away when I first saw it. There are better ones out there but I think the dancing figures were such an unusual feature at the time it struck a chord with a lot of people.

Check out the follow up demo, Nine Fingers and other releases by Spaceballs. Of course, you should grab the original disks for State of the Art and 9 Fingers and watch on a real Amiga rather than watching a low quality Youtube video!

Edge of Disgrace

You know there’s something special waiting for you when all around you people are clambering for the download link of Booze Design‘s new C64 demo, Edge of Disgrace.

The demo won first prize at X-2008 in the Netherlands last weekend. Most entries to the demo competition were uploaded quickly but Booze Design wanted to fix a few last minute bugs and caused no end of hype and hysteria. Just check out some of the comments:

Oxidy: I normally don’t comment on demos anymore, but I can’t help myself this time. Edge of Disgrace tops everything I’ve ever seen on the Commodore 64. It’s absolutely breathtaking and I wet myself numerous times during the bigscreen presentation. So much coder pron, so much fantastic graphics, so well polished. Fantastic work HCL/Dane/Jailbird! 10+

Medicus: All demos available for downloading except for the nr. 1? Is this a cruel joke? :(

Alias Medron: I would like to know how many people press F5 on this page every 10 seconds .. :)
cmooooonn!!!! upload that bloody D64!!!!!

Steppe: As Stainless Steel said, there was a clearly noticable dent in the space-time-continuum while this demo was playing. Caused nausea and wild screaming all over the place. Virtually every goddamn screen was accompanied by cheering and applauding of the crowd. Simply amazing having seen this on the big screen live at the party!

Stainless Steel: I felt a disturbance in the force when this was played at the compo.

A few days ago a teaser video was uploaded to Youtube but it doesn’t do the demo justice. It’s only 2 minutes of the 15 minute experience.

So, is it that good? Yes, it most certainly is. If you ever owned a C64, or any other 8 bit or 16 bit computer or console you should grab a C64 emulator, download Edge of Disgrace and be impressed. I’m amazed at what a 25 year old computer system can do, and even more impressed that the C64 demo scene is still alive and kicking in 2008!

Now to download Natural Wonders 2 and the other entries in the demo compo.