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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Commodore was a high-flying 1980s computer company that imploded in the early 1990s. But the name is a bit curious. What is the meaning of the word commodore?
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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.
Continue reading Whatever happened to Dr. Thomas Pabst?
Overclocking didn’t start in the 90s, and it wasn’t limited to PCs either. Here’s a history of overclocking from a guy who did it some, and talked to guys who did it a lot in the 80s.
I don’t recommend overclocking, and today Microsoft can prove it’s a bad idea. But overclocking has a long and colorful history.
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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 $3,590.
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I’ve been seeing some references to LOAD “$”,8,1 lately. I think this is due to Commodore 64s making appearances in pop culture. If you’re wondering what this curious command means, I’ll explain it.
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What happened to Packard Bell? It ceased operations in the United States in 2000, after a 14-year reign of terror on the consumer market.
But there’s more to the story than that. The Packard Bell story is a brilliant piece of marketing. The computers were terrible, but the marketing was as good as it gets.
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Purists prefer CRT monitors for a more authentic experience, but if you don’t mind an LCD, here’s a good LCD monitor for retro computing. Look for a Dell 2001fp manufactured in June 2005 or before. For bonus points, try to find one with a soundbar.
With any luck, you should be able to find one for under $60. Sometimes well under $60.
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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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Commodore’s 1541-II disk drive has a pair of DIP switches on the back to let you change its device number. DOS and Windows computers use drive letters to address its disk drives (usually A: and B:). Commodore used the numbers 8-11 to address them. Here’s how to set the 1541-II DIP switches so you can run more than one drive.
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