Printers for vintage computers

Printers for vintage computers

For many vintage computer enthusiasts, printing is a curiosity. But it can be nice to be able to print from a vintage machine. And there are relatively modern printers that work with vintage computers without the hassle of finding ribbons. The key is to find a laser printer that can emulate older Epson FX-series dot matrix printers. This takes some legwork and some research, but it’s doable.

Some people consider using a modern LCD cheating, but I don’t think using a laser printer is. Laser printers existed in the 1980s. They were just expensive. This means you can team up your vintage computer with a compatible laser printer to build what would have been a dream outfit when your retro computer was new.

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Build your own Commodore 64 power supply

Build your own Commodore 64 power supply

Hobbyists have been building their own replacement C-64 power supplies for decades. I first talked to someone about it in the mid 1990s, when I was still in college. But no one, to my knowledge, has ever given a step by step build process for a DIY power supply. So I will. Here’s how to build your own Commodore 64 power supply.

All you need to build a DIY C-64 power supply are the two cables you can make or salvage from an original power supply, a 9V transformer, a 5V switching power supply module, a case to put it in, and possibly some bits of wire and wire nuts. The only tools you need are a screwdriver and a multimeter.

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Amiga chip RAM vs fast RAM vs slow RAM

Amiga chip RAM vs fast RAM vs slow RAM

The great thing about Amigas was they had a flat 32-bit memory architecture from day one. Unlike 16-bit DOS PCs, memory was memory–to an extent. Amigas did have three types of memory. So let’s look at Amiga chip RAM vs fast RAM vs slow RAM.

Amiga chip RAM was visible to the CPU as well as the sound and video chips. Fast RAM and slow RAM were not, but fast RAM, which sat higher in the CPU’s address space, could run programs faster than either slow RAM or chip RAM.

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Align a Commodore 1541 disk drive

Align a Commodore 1541 disk drive

This year I set out to put together a working C-64 setup. And it worked great for about a week. Then when I started trying to load a few disks I hadn’t touched since sometime in 1992, my disk drives started protesting. I went from having two working 1541 disk drives to zero, thanks to alignment issues. Here’s how to align a Commodore 1541 disk drive.

Aligning a Commodore 1541 requires an alignment program, an unprotected commercially produced disk that works (Commodore’s Test/Demo disk is ideal), a screw driver, some thread locker, and a Commodore 64. It helps to have moderate mechanical ability and better than average patience. The 1541 was notorious for disk alignment issues, but it’s possible to fix them.

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The Golden Circle and computers

The Golden Circle and computers

Why are there two standards for computers, and why do Apple computers enjoy a cult following while PCs seem bland and boring and offer nothing but a low price? I think Simon Sinek’s theory of the Golden Circle applies to computer marketing and provides a good explanation.

Apple marketing starts with why they build things, proceeds to how they build them, and ends with what they are. PC marketing generally emphasizes compatibility and price, which leaves you vulnerable to someone beating you on price, and doesn’t build a following.

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Pi1541 and fast load cartridges

Pi1541 and fast load cartridges

This spring I bought myself a couple of things: a Raspberry Pi, so I could build a Pi1541, and an Epyx Fast Load cartridge. I didn’t have a Pi1541 as a kid of course, and I didn’t have a fast load cartridge either, but I wanted to speed up my new Pi1541. Imagine my disappointment when my two new toys didn’t work together. Here’s how to make the Pi1541 and fast load cartridges play nice together.

By default, the mode the Pi1541 boots into isn’t compatible with fast load cartridges. You have to enable an option to load the file browser off a disk image called FB.D64, and then the two devices work together the way you probably intended.

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Atari PC1: The Atari IBM-compatible

Atari PC1: The Atari IBM-compatible

Atari made a line of PCs in the 1980s, which seems contradictory because it is. Atari was known for doing its own thing, not for copying the rest of the industry. In the context of the time, it’s possible to understand why Atari did it. But in hindsight, it’s easy to see why the Atari PC1 was a mistake and how it impacted the rest of the line.

Atari made several PCs, including the 8088-based PC1, PC2 and PC3; the 286-based PC4, the 386-based PC5. But their lack of expandability and difficulty competing on price limited their appeal.

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Epyx Fast Load mods

Epyx Fast Load mods

It’s not uncommon to find modified Epyx Fast Load cartridges. This cartridge was super popular in the 1980s, but there were generally one or two reasons to modify it by adding a button, a switch, or both to it. Both were common Epyx Fast Load mods to make the cartridge more useful.

Usually a switch on a Fast Load cartridge is intended to disable it, while a button is probably to reset the computer. Both were common modifications that tech-savvy owners made to save wear and tear on their computers.

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What to look for in a Commodore 64

What to look for in a Commodore 64

If you’re into retro computing, the Commodore 64 is hard to escape. It was the most popular computer model of all time, so it was everywhere in the 1980s. But the machine does have its quirks, which can be either endearing or maddening. Here’s what to look for in a Commodore 64.

Certain models and eras of Commodore 64 are more dependable than others. Early models will appeal to people who want something slightly challenging to repair, while a newer model is definitely better for someone who wants a retro machine that works without putting up a fuss.

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