Category Archives: Retro Computing

Commodore 1541 vs clones

The battle of the Commodore 1541 vs clones existed because Commodore’s early track record was rather imperfect.

Commodore’s 1541 floppy disk drive was the first consumer disk drive that cost less than $300, so it has an important place in computing history.

What some people forget is that while it broke new ground, its early owners loved to hate it. It was slow, it was loud, and ran hot. Early units were unreliable too. And to add insult to injury, in 1982 and 1983, Commodore couldn’t build them fast enough to keep up with demand. Even though it had problems, people were eager to buy it. (Disk drives for other computers tended to be problematic too, in this young industry.)

The 1541’s problems led to a number of clones that tried to be a little bit better.

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Whatever happened to Dr. Thomas Pabst?

In 1996, Dr. Thomas Pabst, a German MD then living in England, created a web page where he talked about motherboards, video cards, and a then little-known phenonemon called overclocking. Dubbed Tom’s Hardware Guide, it spawned a long list of imitators, creating a new industry: PC hardware enthusiast sites.

In 2006 he sold the site and walked away.

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The first Compaq computer

The first Compaq computer was its eponymous Compaq Portable. It was a suitcase-sized clone of the original IBM Personal Computer, with an Intel 8088 CPU running at 4.77 MHz running Microsoft MS-DOS. It was hardly the first non-IBM computer to run MS-DOS, but it was the first legal IBM PC clone with a high degree of compatibility.

Compaq announced it in November 1982 and shipped the first unit in March 1983. It originally cost $2995 for a single-drive unit. A dual-drive unit, which was much more useful, cost $3,590.

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Common Commodore 64 commands

People frequently ask me for a list of common or useful Commodore 64 commands, including disk drive commands. Since the C-64’s built in operating system is more of a combination command line/Basic interpreter, it takes some getting used to if you didn’t grow up with it.

These commands assume a stock, unmodified C-64, freshly powered on. Many fast-load cartridges, ROM replacements, or so-called DOS wedge programs include shortcuts for these commands. But these commands work on any C-64 with a disk drive, modified or stock.

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