Stranger Things: The Commodore 64 Version

Warning this is completely unrelated to anything economic, bitcoin or outside the Overton window – this is a self indulgent journey into nerdy 1980’s nostalgia.

Anyone who is not GenX would probably not be aware or know of any other age of the personal computer other than the era of the PC. But way back in the 1980’s, before the complete domination of the PC was assured, there was a period of time that featured a veritable Cambrian explosion of personal computer choice from PC, to Apple, Atari and of course the Commodore64.

We received our Commodore64 as a Christmas present. Such was my nerdery at the time, that I have the distinct memory of excitedly telling a mate on the phone that we’d just gotten a Commodore, to which he furiously cycled over only to be incredibly disappointed that I meant computer rather than car.

The Commodore64 was the mainstay of my gaming youth and served the Griffin family very well in terms of personal computer entertainment, before it was finally usurped and replaced by the Amiga a few years later. Eventually it came to pass that our Commodore64 was packed up and given to my even more country cousins who lived on a farm way up in Narrabri, and there it exited my timeline and was lost to the mists of history and for a time it was forgotten.

Anyhow, many years later my cousin, who use to often call in for a meal when passing through Sydney, mentioned that he’d been helping his father clean out and repack a dust and mouse proof room on the farm, and in the tidy up had come across our old Commodore64 and was consequently wondering if I’d like to have it back.

Naturally I couldn’t resist the opportunity of bathing in such nerdish nostalgia, and instantly agreed to take it back even though at the time we lacked the available space to set it up and use it. Never-the-less I unpacked it and checked it out and it all appeared as I remembered it:

Since I didn’t have the space to immediately set it up, it quickly went back into storage – this time in my mother’s garage. The years passed and we were finally able to carry out the long planned renovations and thus, now equipped with a much yearned for monastic retreat of solitude and contemplation, aka a man cave, I finally dug the Commodore64 back out of the far reaches of the garage and contacted the biggest nerd I know, whom I shall refer to as Bubba Hotep, to assist me in the quest of rebooting the C64.

Bubba is a long known mate who grew up in the same home country town as myself. Bubba had the misfortunate of playing the same under 7’s Redback’s soccer team as myself, and we both went on to long and undistinguished soccer careers in that club that ended by the under 11s. Since we didn’t go to the same local schools our paths largely diverged for the remainder of our schooling, until we became re-acquainted many years later while attending the same University college and discovered a shared fondness for sacrificing gigantic buds to Bong God.

While my nerdery is more than matched in Bubba, his own particular brand of eccentricity is flavoured by a compulsive tendency to horde technology – presumably if the world were to end, he would see himself with his solar panels as having enough basic raw technology to reboot civilization from amongst the potatoes, onions and cider stored in his root cellar. As I was getting more and more excited describing to Bubba my literal barn find Commodore64, he managed to both bring me back down to earth and stun me, by asking if I wanted to use my old Amiga Monitor to connect the C64 up to! Somehow he’d not only ended up with my old Amiga monitor from our University days, and managed to hold onto it for the next 20 years, but he could also give me back my old Amiga that went with it!

In terms of my nerd ranking, Bubba revealed I had a long way to go until I was in the same league as he, as he also had two other Amigas, a Commodore128k and… a VIC20! However as he lacked a Commodor64 in his exotic menagerie of obscure geriatric computers, I was able to entice him to come over and assist in the resurrection rights (I had forgotten all the BASIC computer commands and needed a refresh). To rub in the fact that it was actually ‘He’ who was the biggest nerd in the room, he brought along his VIC20, which also ended up coming in handy for more than simple nerd posturing.

In preparation for the C64 resurrection ceremony I’d ordered a new power supply online, as the existing 5V power supply that came with the original computers were notorious for blowing up after a long hiatus and frying the motherboards of the C64. Using the new power pack that arrived from Poland, we connected the Commodore64 and the old Amiga monitor up to each other and the power supply, and then threw the switch.

Despite us both stepping back from the table as we threw the switch in great trepidation, as though we’d somehow be able to outrun an electric shock should the circuit board explode, there was no shock or explosion. Instead we got the familiar blue screen welcome page:

Hurrah! It worked! (check out the cathode ray tube flicker!!). An afternoon of nerdery then ensued, as I rediscovered forgotten BASIC commands and fired up an ancient touch stone from my childhood.

While we were able to immediately successfully test the Commodore64 out with a cartridge game of ‘Radar Rat Race’:

…and we were then able to load a game of ‘Thermonuclearwargames’ from a cassette tape deck:

…unfortunately all attempts to load games from the 1541 disk drive was a complete failure. Tried everything, pulling it apart and cleaning the heads:

…all to no avail.

When we connected the 1541 disk drive to Bubba’s VIC20 we found it could read it and detected both the drive and the files, but when we typed the load commands in BASIC into the C64, being:

LOAD “$”,8

..and hit return, we waited…. and waited… and waited. We got an endless wait as the C64 went off in search of a device it was doomed to never find.

Googling an answer wasn’t any help, all it revealed was a disturbing correlation between Commodore64 enthusiasts and MTF trannies. Honestly there must seriously be some sort of correlation with high IQ teenage autist computer nerds from the 80s and late mid-life autogenderphilia crises some 40 years later. Thankfully I’m neither on the spectrum nor in possession of hateful feelings towards my genitalia, so I wasn’t too perturbed by this ‘stranger things’ observation, but still we weren’t any closer to solving the mystery of the malfunctioning disc drive.

In the end Bubba referred to an Amiga group that he was a member of (of course) and it became apparent that the problem was within the C64. Sadly one of the two CIA chips or Complex Interface Adaptor chips had died. This means it doesn’t look as though it will be possible to boot any programs up off the disk drive for the foreseeable future, even though the VIC20 demonstrated the drive worked perfectly.

The authentic enthusiasts approach would be to don a tutu, lacey stockings, suspenders and a bra, and order a replacement C 6526 chip and solder out and solder in the replacement. But that it is a difficult task for a skilled solder and given my last attempt at soldering resulted in burnt fingers and a large and useless pool of solder running everywhere, and my wife probably wouldn’t look to fondly on the appropriate C64 attire either, another strategy might be required.

The best solution so far is to purchase a BackBit cartridge, that can plug straight into the back of the C64 and with a modern micro SD card be easily kitted out with the entire suite of VIC20, C64 games and Amiga games ever produced and still have room for your New Romantics CD collection:

Anyhow, so that is how I celebrated the Queens birthday – by engaging in an abashed, unashamed, nostalgic nerdery with the Commodore64.

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robert2013

You know there’s an emulator right?

Agent 47

Amiga 500 master race!

DjenkA

Proud owner of a Spectrum 128 and another Speccy 48.
Oh, and a CRT monitor (willing to donate for a 3 easy terms of small long black coffee on a Sunday mornings)

DjenkA

Did I say I also have a working Philips 17tx250?

DjenkA

I actually serve the dark side mate.

Will apply for citizenship soon and convert to the other-than-dark side

bjw678

How was the problem actually diagnosed?
I know the diodes on the serial bus are prone to failure and suspect that is what is wrong with mine, but emulator so can’t be bothered actually testing or fixing it.

Edit: and I haven’t played pitsop II for 30+ years…

Last edited 1 month ago by bjw678
bjw678

https://ist.uwaterloo.ca/~schepers/MJK/dnp.html

CIA input bits ok?

Until now we concentrated on failures in the output circuitry, but it is also possible that the CIA’s input lines (which are directly connected to the bus (as opposed to the 1541’s VIA)) are damaged. The /CLK line is connected to pin 8 (PA6) and pin 6 is connected to pin 9 (PA7). Use the following POKEs and PEEKs to determine whether the logical levels on the bus are detected correctly:

  
    /CLK  -> "1" : POKE 56576, PEEK (56576) OR 16
                      PRINT PEEK (56576) AND 64
		      
    /CLK  -> "0" : POKE 56576, PEEK (56576) AND 239
                      PRINT PEEK (56576) AND 64

If the “1” POKE results in “0” and the “1” POKE results in “64”, the /CLK line is ok.

    /DATA -> "1" : POKE 56576, PEEK (56576) OR 32
                      PRINT PEEK (56576) AND 128
    
    /DATA -> "0" : POKE 56576, PEEK (56576) AND 223
                      PRINT PEEK (56576) AND 128

If the “1” POKE results in “0” and the “0” POKE results in “128”, the /DATA line is ok.

If either the /CLK or /DATA line is invalid, your CIA does not recognize logical bus levels correctly; replace it.

Note: The above test demands a working output circuitry.

I assume this is the test you meant, see Note. /\
So I’d recommend getting someone to check the circuitry if you didn’t already and actually care. It’s a $2 fix if it’s the diodes.

bjw678

Then you can fix mine 🙂

edit: And the sd card solution is far more practical, but that isn’t really the point is it?

Last edited 1 month ago by bjw678
DjenkA

RS components is a far better choice. Jaycar has dubious quality and carries one size fit all solutions focused on selling something rather than qood outcome

bjw678

for a couple of generic voltage clamp diodes it won’t matter and if they have the ic it will be fine too but in general I’d agree.
The reason they fail quite regularly is probably because the originals aren’t very high quality to begin with.

Last edited 1 month ago by bjw678
Peachy

Looks like we might need a diode and capacitor subforum…

DjenkA

Not inclusive enough. Must Include transistors and resistors.
😉

Peachy

Not sure about the trans…

bjw678

better ask stewie?

Peachy

Please video yourself doing the soldering.

high potential for hilarity as you proceed to burn yourself, melt the whole thing or set it on fire or something!

Sacha

I am more interested in the hilarity that’ll ensue for wearing his ‘appropriate C64 attire’ when doing the soldering.

Peachy

This is good thinking – must dress appropriately for 1960s soldering.

…workmanlike…

Sacha

Au contraire, my friend.

Stewie noted:

“The authentic enthusiasts approach would be to don a tutu, lacey stockings, suspenders and a bra,”

Last edited 1 month ago by Sacha
Peachy

Where did he say that?!

and why is this sort of maid/lumberjack outfit fit for soldering?

Sacha

“Googling an answer wasn’t any help, all it revealed was a disturbing correlation between Commodore64 enthusiasts and MTF trannies. Honestly there must seriously be some sort of correlation with high IQ teenage autist computer nerds from the 80s and late mid-life autogenderphilia crises some 40 years later.”

(MTF= Male To Female transsexual)

And then he used the correlation he found by applying it on himself when working on his C64:

“The authentic enthusiasts approach would be to don a tutu, lacey stockings, suspenders and a bra, and order a replacement C 6526 chip and solder out and solder in the replacement.”

That’s the way I interpreted it anyway.

Sacha

It’s ok Stewie!

Those sexual deviations are perfectly acceptable nowadays.🌈

Maybe you could write an article one day about your struggle to find your ‘identity’.
🙃

Last edited 1 month ago by Sacha
Sacha

Ya, just taking the piss guvna.

Last edited 1 month ago by Sacha
Peachy

I think I see what happened here. I didn’t know what MFT is, so assumed it’s some nerd-thing, like RAM or ESPN and then must have glazed over the outfit description as also ESPN-related…. Without really absorbing it.

Sacha

Sorry Peachy, but that’s just not good enough.

You seriously hurt the man’s feelings!

Sacha

Ripper write-up Stewie!
I think you enjoyed putting that together.

You should definitely write your dystopian novel one day when you can find the time. Or if time is always an issue maybe you could keep writing short stories like above.

I had to look up what MTF stood for 🤪

Also nice to see that they make those BackBit cartridges. It means the ‘nerdy’ market around C64/128 is large enough to justify this, something I wasn’t aware of.

I’m sure I had the same joystick as the one right in front of your C64, does it have those suction thingies on the bottom with which you can secure it on a flat surface? And if I remember correctly the switch on the base facing you when playing was for automatic/rapid fire.

There was also a much better joystick sold at that time, can’t remember the brand. It was a more professional one with micro switches inside as used in the coin operated Arcade games.
Every time it became necessary to buy another joystick I never had the money to afford one of those, so I used up quite a few of the cheaper ones, they would never last long.

I lost my C64 a long time ago.

Up until now twice in my life I gave away/sold all my worldly possessions.
First time when I went to South America, and second time when I came over to Straya.

For some people it might be hard to believe, but I can’t tell you how good it feels to have all your possessions being able to fit in just one sports bag.

I am a big proponent of the saying:
‘The things you own end up owning you’.

Twice in my life ‘I owned nothing and was happy’! 🤣

Last edited 1 month ago by Sacha
bjw678

I suspect stewies sordid search history reflects on the results he is presented with…
I’m sure all I got was stuff about computers/games and the odd dodgy australian car when I searched.

These old computers are also fairly simple and the people who are nostalgic for them are in their prime earning years so not really surprising that various accessories are available for them.
You tend to see the same in music. Acts that were popular 20 or 30 years ago start touring again as their original fans now have the disposable income to pay obscene amounts of money to sit in a winery and relive their youth.

Sacha

Very true.

I remember the Stray Cats doing a tour like that around 2008-2009 and coming to Adelaide where I was living that time.

Unfortunately I was working on a mine site and couldn’t make it.

bjw678

Maybe not so unfortunately. Sometimes the memory is better that the current reality.
Many of the 60’s and 70’s acts still touring are well past their prime.
Although somehow not the rolling stones?

Sacha

“Maybe not so unfortunately. Sometimes the memory is better that the current reality.”

Also very true!

Never got much into the RSs, but they made what I would call ‘real music’ so that’s always a plus.

I always liked ‘Emotional Rescue’ though:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FR3r0z3_oig

bjw678

That aint bad, but I think it probably is if memory serves me correctly…

Sacha

Further to why some oldies are still touring:

Here Bob Dylan (real name Robert Zimmerman) is asked why he is still performing.
And he answers that he is:
“…holding up his end of a bargain he made with the Chief Commander of this earth, and a world we can’t see”.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWDpYjAiOIc

Sacha

Wohahaha!

I’ve been to Bangkok once and the kathoeys act and look more feminine than the ladies.

Sacha

Very liberating!

Have fun re-living your younger gaming years.

Peachy

Stewie, why did you want this commodore thing instead of an XBox or a PS2?

bjw678

For the same reason people want to drive around in a shitty old datsun instead of a nice hyundai i30 that outperforms it in every measurable way(probably including price these days) and is immensely more comfortable. It reminds them of a time before they went senile 😉

Sacha

I resemble that remark!

DjenkA

Character is the first victim of progress. There is hardly any distinction between new cars or most modern stuff.
IMV character is what pushes people towards classic stuff.

bjw678

That’s rose coloured glasses, I can tell the decade of make of a car even if i’m not familiar with it just by looking at it. All cars made around the same time tend to share the same styling.
70’s cars tended to have round protrusions all over, 80’s were boxes 90’s cars became more rounded on the edges and aerodynamic, and modern cars have stupid upswept bottom window line so you can’t see out the back at all.
Classic stuff only has character due to most of it’s peers being gone. It was just as generic as current stuff in it’s day.

Sacha

I think DjenkA is onto something.

Before cars needed to be fuel efficient, designers were not constrained by aerodynamics, so there was virtually no limit on design and looks.

Now due to aerodynamics most cars have the same basic shape, I’m not saying they are all alike, but the designers are limited in what they can do.

I like cars of the pre-electronics/pre fuel efficiency era because when you are driving them you really get the feeling you are driving a machine.
You are more involved in the whole process of just driving itself. You know you are are right behind the engine, you can smell the oil and petrol, hear the rumbling of the V8, hear the squeaks from the chassis. That’s also what I would call character.

It’s so much more fun IMO.
Just not as a daily driver.

Last edited 1 month ago by Sacha
DjenkA

I disagree
Cars now all look alike across the models and brands. In the past, a brand was recognisable and models were distinguishable. E.g. Alfa GT or Spider was easily recognisable between its peers in its days.
Cars used to be designed by humans and they spend lots of time to make something different that would stand the test of time. Now computers design stuff with heavy input on aerodynamics and humans are there just to tweak style. Can’t distinguish beemer 3 and 5. Because change of model can occur relatively fast, design became secondary.
Not just Cars. Look at the design of tellies or even radios of old days

2.bp_.blogspot.compredicta-tv-5-1a039e4369b512e8ceab8231701cfe7458d21124.jpg
bjw678

I beg to differ.
Ford escort 1980
Toyota corolla 1980
Even a 1980 bmw isn’t all that different
1980 Mazda
1980 honda
1980 subaru

Alfa spyder 2020 still stands out as different due to design choices and target market.

It comes down to mass manufactured items tend to reflect the technology of their day.
The alfa, and that TV are not mass manufactured items, but more bespoke and expensive to appeal to a particular market.

Last edited 1 month ago by bjw678
DjenkA

Japs in 80’s were Chinese of 2040. Copy, make it better and less expensive. Chinks are at the copy phase for now. All Japanese cars are lookalike and I think I read somewhere that they have almost liek a convention on some design cues.
One could just see the silhouette of а non Japanese car and almost recognise make and model. There were trends too but not without distinction. Beemer has a styling cues in double lights, rear door windows shape and aggressive stance across the generations. This is come bottle or ribbon etc…

bjw678

Of course the cars you are complaining about being the same today are also the japanese ones?

But OK, even in the 1930’s cars essentially all looked the same, near enough…
https://www.google.com/search?q=1930%27s+car

Sacha

“Can’t distinguish beemer 3 and 5.”

Don’t tell me that’s the excuse you gave to your missus when one day you went out to buy a 3 and came home with a 5 accidentally…

Last edited 1 month ago by Sacha
DjenkA

Nah, I got a 3. An MX-3. But not just any MX, a road legal ricer. Every trip is fun like the days just after I got my first car.

Sacha

DjenkA going out to get some groceries:

https://youtu.be/THZm_jXO2hI?t=65

DjenkA

Haha, what a moron. I said mx3 but it was mx-5 hat I got. I got sucked-in on beemer names

Your vid is good but this is not a road legal car. My mx5 is indistinguishable from any other stock car on the outside.

Sacha

This is one of my favourite sleeper vids:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQJntE70PD0

Om public road in Germany.

I don’t know when they started selling the VW Golf here, but the early models looked unimpressive and are a perfect candidate for a sleeper.

Sacha

They spend a small fortune on modifying these cars to make them able to handle all that extra power.

I suspect the Golf was cruising the autobahn and waiting for opportunities like this. It was nice that the driver in the ‘fast’ 350Z could see the fun of it.

Sacha

I must say the MX-5 looks a lot better.

bjw678

If you want nerd points I have a Silicon graphics octane in the garage that was being thrown out where I worked, and a few old sun desktop workstations that are impractical for doing anything these days.
The sun boxes haven’t been powered up for a good 5 or 10 years and the octane is lacking a roundtoit.
Ironically one of the young guys took another of the octanes and is in his early 20’s with a much better early computer collection than anyone else I know.

bjw678

A demonstration of the awesome graphical ability of the octane*

*may or may not actually have been done by an octane but it looks a lot like the tech demonstrations I saw on one at the same time.

Last edited 1 month ago by bjw678
bjw678

Not really sure, but an octane was pretty cutting edge at the time. It would have been done on it or something similar.

An Octane system featuring 250-MHz R10000 processor, meanwhile, will drop from $38,995 to $24,995.

The Octane line’s entry-level product, which comes with a 225-MHz R10000 MIPS processor, 128MB of memory, a 4GB hard drive, and a 20-inch monitor, will fall to $17,995 from $19,995.

from 1998 and probably USD

Last edited 1 month ago by bjw678
Gouda

Never had a C64, but I get the appeal of older systems. The console I enjoyed most growing up was the SNES, and when the PS/XBOX started taking over I was off in my own world following online translations for 16 bit titles that never got an English localisation. Back then that scene was growing but most of the names involved have gone onto other things now. Being one of those kids who hung around in arcades when younger, CPS2 emulation was also taking off, and the quality of those games still holds up today.

As for games now… there are some gems out there, but many incomplete and full of DLC, or directed towards the online multiplayer market, and I was never one to put up with trashtalking teens.

stagmal

i played n64 and ps2 lol

banjo kazooie owns

bjw678

you gen y’er you.