Connect an Apple II to a TV

Connect an Apple II to a TV

Connecting an Apple II to a modern or modern-ish television is easier than getting a good picture from it. Connecting an Apple II to a 1980s TV is trickier. Here’s how to connect an Apple II to a TV, and some tips for improving the picture.

Apple II computers, from the original 1977 model all the way up to the 16-bit Apple IIgs have an RCA jack supplying standard composite output. This plugs into the composite video jack on a relatively modern TV just like a game console–just ignore the sound inputs, and be prepared to have to adjust the picture for the best quality.

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What happened to 2.88 MB floppies?

What happened to 2.88 MB floppies?

For a while in the 80s, floppy disks reliably doubled in capacity every 2-3 years. But floppy disks stopped increasing in capacity at 2.88 megabytes, and some people are surprised that 2.88 megabyte floppies even existed. What happened to 2.88 MB floppies? And why did the industry stop at such a relatively low capacity?

2.88 megabyte floppies never gained adoption outside of very high-end systems, partly due to their high cost. When more cost-effective options became available, 2.88 megabyte floppies and drives faded away.

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Pi1541 vs SD2IEC

Pi1541 vs SD2IEC

Retro computing is much easier when you don’t have to deal with actual physical disks. Commodore retro computing is that much more so, because you can’t write a 1541 disk image with a standard PC. There are three major ways to use flash-based media on Commodore computers today. People most frequently ask about the two cheapest methods, Pi1541 and SD2IEC. So let’s compare and contrast the Pi1541 vs SD2IEC.

Both the Pi1541 and SD2IEC allow a Commodore computer to use SD cards instead of disks. The major difference is the Pi1541 closely emulates the real 1541 drive, so it works with a larger number of titles than an SD2IEC does.

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Atari 2600 won’t turn on? Try this.

Atari 2600 won’t turn on? Try this.

I was going through my spare parts bins when I found a couple of Atari 2600 consoles I’d forgotten about. It turned out they didn’t work, which is probably why they ended up in those bins. But if your Atari 2600 won’t turn on like mine, you can fix it.

Usually when an Atari 2600 won’t power on, it’s one of four things: a bad AC adapter, a dirty power switch, a loose power jack, or a bad voltage regulator. Two of those problems are super easy to fix, while the other two may require soldering. If you can’t solder, or don’t have the equipment, I still have a suggestion for those fixes too.

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Epyx Fast Load commands

Epyx Fast Load commands

Epyx’s Fast Load cartridge did more than just speed up disk access. It also added a fair bit of functionality in the form of utilities and additional commands. Here’s a look at the Epyx Fast Load commands and how to use them.

Most Fast Load commands followed the convention of Commodore’s DOS Wedge, but it only implemented a subset of it. The cartridge also contained some simple disk utilities, including copiers, a disk editor, and simple file utilities. Also keep in mind if you use a Fast Load cartridge with a Pi1541, you need to reconfigure your Pi1541.

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LHA file format

LHA file format

LHA was a compression algorithm popular in the early 1990s, especially on Amiga computers. It was similar in concept to Zip on PCs, but was slightly more efficient. Amiga software was frequently distributed in LHA file format.

Most modern PC file decompressors, such as 7zip and WinRAR, can extract the LHA file format. If you need to extract an LHA file on an Amiga or an emulator, the most popular LHA utility was called LhA, written by Stefan Boberg.

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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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