The conventional wisdom is that computer viruses can wipe out your data, but they can’t do physical damage. The exception to that rule was, of course, Commodore, the king of cheap 1980s computers. Commodore’s earliest computer, the PET, had an infamous “poke of death” (POKE 59458,62) that would destroy its video display, but the Commodore 64’s sidekick, the 1541 disk drive, had a couple of little-known vulnerabilities as well. Continue reading Commodore hardware viruses–yes, they were possible
Since questions occasionally come up, and I remember well what it was like owning a Commodore in the 1980s in the United States, I’ll share my recollections of it.
It was very different from computing today. It was still interesting, but it was different.
Articles like Top 10 collectibles for value, from the Post-Dispatch this week, frequently make me nervous, mostly because of statements like this one:
[D]id you know that computer parts can bring home cash, too?
Statements like that tend to get people’s hopes up way too high. I find the timing interesting though, seeing as a TRS-80 Model 1 sold at a St. Louis estate sale this past weekend. The estate seller’s reaction? “Normally you can’t give that stuff away.”
The smartest guy in the room cited the Commodore command LOAD “*”,8,1 as something he used for years but never understood why it worked.
It will be a long time before I once again I know something technical that he doesn’t know, so I figured I’d better write it down. And just in case anyone else is interested, now they can know. Continue reading What LOAD “*”,8,1 means
I’ve seen a couple of Commodore-related search queries hit lately, so I’m going to take a stroll down memory lane with two questions:
Can you connect two computers to one single 1541 or 1571 disk drive?
And what was the fastest Commodore modem? Continue reading Dredging up some old Commodore trivia
It’s been many years since 5.25-inch floppy disks suitable for Commodore, Apple, Atari, and other vintage 8-bit computers (not to mention IBM PCs and PC/XTs) have been something you can buy at the store down the street. I found some 360K DS/DD disks on Amazon, but they aren’t available in huge quantities.
Exomizer is a compression program for Commodore and other 8-bit computers. The compressed program still runs, but it takes up less space on disk. Decompressing takes some time, but usually less time than reading more data off a 1541 disk. And unlike native compression tools which sometimes take all night to run, Exomizer runs on modern PCs, so it runs extremely quickly.
The space savings isn’t as much of a consideration now as it was in 1986, but being able to cram as many programs as possible on a single disk image makes access more convenient.
So an upstart company has licensed the Commodore name and unveiled an updated C-64, which is essentially a nettop in a 64-alike case with a 64-like keyboard. Reactions are extreme. People either love it or hate it.
I’d like to have one, but I’m not paying $595 for a nettop. But it should be possible to roll your own.
Connecting a single drive to a Commodore C-64, 128, or VIC-20 is pretty easy: Plug a 6-pin serial cable from the port on the back of the computer to one of the two ports on the back of the drive. It doesn’t matter which port you use. The second port is for “daisy chaining” additional peripherals, such as a printer, or multiple drives.
Older drives like the 1540, 1541, and 1571 are self-contained. Plug a power cable (which, conveniently, is no different from the power cable you use on your modern PC) into the back and power it on. Later 1541-IIs and 1581s use an external power brick. The two drives’ power bricks are interchangeable; however, they do differ from the power brick used by the computer itself. Fortunately, the original power bricks are labeled with the compatible devices, either on a silver sticker on top or molded into the underside.
It’s multiple-drive setups that get trickier. Continue reading How to connect Commodore disk drives
This week the usual sources were flooded with stories about how slow and bloated Openoffice is. I guess this came on the heels of the release of version 2.0; it’s never been much of a secret that Openoffice was big and slow. It’s descended from Staroffice, after all, and it was big and slow too.
Speedup tips ensued.A tips summary appeared at The Inquirer, but I’ll elaborate on them a bit.
First, fire up one of the apps and go to Tools, Options. Click on Java, then uncheck the box that says Use a Java Runtime Environment. This can speed up loadtime by a factor of 10, and I’m not kidding. On my machine, it used to take 30 seconds for one of the applications to load; now it takes 2-3.
Another tip involved clicking on memory, going to Graphics Cache, and changing the value for Use for Openoffice.org to 64 and Memory per object to 8. I wouldn’t do this on low-memory machines but if you have a lot of RAM it does seem to help.
I used to avoid Openoffice because it was slow. If I wanted to wait 30 seconds for my word processor to load, I’d buy a Commodore 64 and hook a 1541 up to it again. The memory usage still bugs me, but on high-memory machines, I’m finally comfortable using it, and that’s good. It’s very nice to have a free office suite that’s practical to use available.