What was the most popular Commodore 64 monitor? What’s the best one today? Those aren’t quite as straightforward questions as they might seem. While there are a small number of clear-cut favorites, the truth is there were lots of different monitors C-64 users used in the 80s. And there are lots of options today too.
The “proper,” period-correct monitor for a Commodore 64 is the brown 1701 or 1702 for the breadbin-style C-64, or the beige 1802 for the streamlined C-64C. But there were lots of other third-party monitors, and many people used television sets.
I thought the debate ended when the file format went obsolete, but then GIF came back as an animated file format. And with it came the argument of how to pronounce GIF. Is it JIF or GIF?
Steve White, the inventor of the file format, pronounces it JIF, and in the 80s, so did just about everyone else. In the mid 90s, pronouncing it like GIFT without the “T” became common, the logic being that the “G” stands for “Graphics,” not “Jraphics.”
Sometimes when you’re fitting a motherboard into a case, especially an aftermarket board into a name-brand case, the connectors for the panel LEDs and switches don’t match up with the board. You can usually rewire it fairly easily, but extending them means splicing the wires. But there’s an easier solution, and it’s cheap. Here’s how to rewire or extend case front panel connectors with plug-in connectors.
I ran into this on my IBM PC/AT. Its HDD connector wasn’t long enough to reach an ISA IDE card because it was designed for a full-length card. And the LED for the power light didn’t reach either. The problem is less rare with recent hardware, but not non-existent.
The original breadbin-style Commodore 64 and VIC-20 are designed to be easy to open while keeping production cost reasonably low. But they made the design so easy it’s hard. Worse yet, due to the age of the plastics, if you open one today the way Commodore intended, you can damage it. So here’s how to open a Commodore 64 or VIC-20. Let’s also talk about how to fix one if you damage the case when opening it.
The breadbin-style 64 and VIC-20 have three large L-shaped tabs on the back that originally behaved like pivots or hinges. If you try to use them like a hinge today, you’ll probably hear plastic popping, so the trick is to open the case slightly, then pull the top forward.
Setting up a Super Nintendo can get tricky if you can’t find all of the cables. Cables from some other Nintendo consoles will work, but not always. Plus, TV sets have changed a lot since the 1990s, and that makes it much more difficult. HDTVs don’t necessarily have the same options as vintage TVs. So here’s how to hook up a Super Nintendo.
The Super Nintendo was really designed to use composite video or S-Video, like a VCR. It shares the same square connector with many other Nintendo consoles, but a cable to use the Wii with HDMI, for example, doesn’t work on an SNES. The SNES requires a different, more expensive converter for HDMI.
Cheap PCs from the 90s and late 1980s often had a digital display that indicated the CPU speed. They were kitschy, and I can’t say I’ve ever seen a brand-name PC with one, but many cheap cases made overseas had them. That meant the computers that came from the little clone shop down the street probably had them.
Atari was on top of the world in 1982, so much so that the movie Blade Runner featured it as a dominant company in 2049. But it fell hard and fast, and several times. Here’s why Atari failed and didn’t maintain world dominance for 80 years like we once expected.
Atari’s failure happened on two fronts, the computer market and the game console market. Atari was an early pioneer in both, but its upstart competitors ultimately understood both markets better. But in all fairness, not all of the companies that understood the market better survived either.
Setting up a Nintendo 64 wasn’t supposed to be hard, but it can get tricky if you can’t find all of the cables. Cables from some other Nintendo consoles will work, but not always. Plus, TV sets have changed a lot since the 1990s, so an HDTV won’t have the same options as an older TV, which makes it much more difficult. So here’s how to hook up a Nintendo 64.
The Nintendo 64 was really designed to use composite video, like a VCR. It shares the same square connector with many other Nintendo consoles, but a cable to use the Wii with HDMI, for example, doesn’t work on an N64. The N64 requires a different, more expensive converter for HDMI.
Recently I’ve heard a few people singing the virtues of the ESS Audiodrive, a budget sound card from the 1990s. It turns out that in several regards, especially if you want to run older software, the ESS Audiodrive is a better Sound Blaster than the Sound Blaster 16.
The ESS Audiodrive is a 16-bit ISA sound card that can emulate older Sound Blasters. Some late 90s software supports it natively, but older DOS games use it as a Sound Blaster, Sound Blaster Pro, or Ad Lib.
I have what appears to be an IBM 5170 in my collection. I’ve owned it since the mid 1990s. There’s not much original about it. Part of that is due to the ravages of time. But it’s mine. And since I did some fairly major repairs to it myself, I’m pretty attached to my Frankenstein PC/AT.
It’s a Frankenstein because it has parts from at least six different computers in it.