I fixed up a Nintendo 64 this past weekend. People of a certain age affectionately refer to it just as “the 64,” though to me, “the 64” refers to a computer with 64K of memory introduced in 1982. I have an inherent bias against almost anything that reminds me of 1997, but in spite of my biases, I found a number of things to like about the system after spending a few hours with it.
Commodore and Atari used an early implementation of s-video on their home computers in order to show off their computers’ advanced-for-their-time graphics. Many monitors sold for those computers featured compatibility with this feature, which was called “separated” or “y/c” composite or at the time. JVC called the feature “s-video” when they started using it on their SVHS camcorders starting in 1987, and JVC’s name stuck. Other companies followed suit, and s-video and the mini DIN plug became an industry standard.
Commodore and Atari used a different connector than JVC did, but all it takes to use s-video gear with those old monitors is a cable, which you can make with about $10 worth of parts from Radio Shack. Continue reading Using s-video gear with Commodore monitors
It is less than obvious how to connect a Commodore 64 to a modern television, especially if your C-64 didn’t come with the cables or the manual.
There are, as it turns out, several ways to do it.The C-64 and 128 have an RCA jack on the back that matches the RCA jacks on the front of most televisions. Confusingly, this isn’t the key.
That RCA port sends out a modulated RF signal, not a standard video signal. To use that port, you need a switchbox that connects to your TV antenna. Commodore used the same switchbox as Atari, so you may have one laying around or be able to find one in a box of ancient computer and videogame cables. Those switchboxes used to be a standard item at Radio Shack, so you may get lucky there. Or there’s always Ebay.
If your TV has a round antenna connector rather than a two-wire connector, you’re in luck. All you need is a converter. Radio Shack part number 278-276 is equivalent if you want to get it today, but it’s cheaper at Amazon. If you go to Radio Shack, ask for that part number specifically–if you ask for a part to connect a Commodore to a television, don’t expect to get far. Incidentally, that same part also works with Atari consoles (Atari 2600, anyone?) and 8-bit computers like the Atari 400 and 800.
But that’s not your only option, and today, it’s not even the best option. Near that plug, you’ll find a round DIN-type plug. On most C-64s and the C-128, it has 8 pins. On the very early versions of the C64, it has 5 pins.
Commodore video cables have the proper DIN plug on one end and RCA plugs on the other. If it has two plugs, it’ll plug right into the composite video and audio plugs on the front of most modern televisions or VCRs. The color codes should even match. If the video cable has three plugs, what you have is actually separated composite, an early implementation of S-Video. No problem; get a Y-adapter such with a male connector on one end and two female jacks on the other end (Radio Shack part # 274-881), plug the red and yellow RCA plugs from the Commodore cable into that, and then plug the adapter into the video plug on your TV.
What if you can’t find a Commodore video cable? If you’re handy with a soldering iron, you can make your own cable with parts from Radio Shack. You’ll need a 5-pin DIN plug, two male RCA plugs, and two lengths of speaker wire. Shielded cable like RGU-58 would be better, but isn’t totally necessary.
Here’s the pinout on the Commodore video port.
no connection -----8 7-----no connection 6---------chroma out audio out -----3 1----- luminance (B & W signal) audio in -----5 4----- composite video out 2----- ground
Solder one wire from each of your lengths of speaker cable to pin 2 on the DIN plug. Solder the other end of each wire to the outside post of each RCA connector. Solder the other wire of one cable to pin 4 and to the RCA plug, and label that wire pair “video.” Solder the remaining wire to pin 3 and to the other RCA plug, and label that wire pair “audio.”
If you have a S-Video plug on your TV and you want a higher-quality display, I have instructions for a Commodore-to-S-video cable.
Way back when, a Commodore monitor gave a much nicer picture than a television, because the switchbox degraded the signal significantly. But a modern TV with standard RCA video connectors gives at least the same quality display that a Commodore monitor did, if not better, since picture tubes have improved in quality in the last 20 years.
I saw a search for this in my logs and I don’t know how many people have ever explained how to do this. In the 1980s it seemed almost obvious, but times have changed.