Commodore 64 vs 128

Commodore 64 vs 128

Commodore introduced the Commodore 128 in 1985 as an upgrade path from the Commodore 64, the most popular model of computer of all time. The 128 addressed the 64’s biggest shortcomings while remaining mostly compatible with its hardware and software. That makes the Commodore 64 vs 128 a natural comparison, even more natural than comparing the 64 with the VIC-20.

The Commodore 128 was an extension of the Commodore 64, with more memory, a faster disk drive, a faster CPU, and 80-column video. It also featured a very high degree of compatibility, which helped both machines sell better.

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What it was like owning a Commodore in the 1980s

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. Technology moved fast in the 1980s, so if you blinked, you missed stuff.

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Floppy disks for Commodore and other vintage computers

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.

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How to connect Commodore disk drives

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. And even though a fast load cartridge speeds up the drive, it plugs into the computer.

Older drives like the 1540, 1541, and 1571 are self-contained. Plug a power cable (which, conveniently, is no different from the power cable used on a most desktop PCs) 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. Read more

My what-I-did-tonight piece

I hate to do a boring this-is-what-I-did-tonight post, but I figure the occasional one of those is better than silence from my direction.
I’m sick again. I think this is some kind of record. This pattern of five-day breaks between illnesses really better not last much longer.

So I went out to stock up on sick supplies. You know the drill: chicken soup, zinc lozenges, vitamins. I went in to get my vitamins, then found myself blocked in, so I continued down the aisle and found the first vacant aisle to cut through. Of course it was the make-up section. I felt especially manly cutting through the make-up section, especially considering my next stop was… the sewing section. I needed a needle and thread, for two reasons. I’ve got two shirts with buttons popped off, and I learned a cool way to bind books, but you need a drill (which I have) and a needle and thread (which I didn’t) in order to do it.

So I picked up a couple different colors of thread, then wandered aimlessly for a while until I stumbled across the needles. I found a 25-pack for 64 cents. Good deal.

I really, really hope I looked as lost as I felt.

So when I got home I bound a short book. The idea is this: You drill holes a quarter inch from the top and the bottom, then drill two more holes spaced two inches apart. Cut a length of thread about four times as long as the book is high. You can get the sewing technique from this PDF file. Traditionally, you use Japanese stab binding for short books of drawings, poetry, or journals. But I found it works just fine for everyday stuff. I recently printed a few public domain texts from Project Gutenberg, and this provides me with an easy and extremely cheap way to bind them.

I was trying unsuccessfully to sew on a button when my phone rang. It was my girlfriend. She asked what I was doing. I told her I was making a fool of myself trying to remember how to sew on a button. She described a technique to me, and when I got off the phone with her, I gave it another try. I think I ended up using a combination of her technique and my mom’s, but it worked. The button’s not going anywhere.

Something she said gave me my masculinity back. She asked how I was at threading needles. I said I had some trouble doing it. She said part of the reason sewing is traditionally a women’s thing is because women have smaller hands, which are more adept to the fine movements that sewing requires. My hands aren’t huge, but they’re bigger than most women’s. She said threading a needle requires good vision, concentration, and a steady hand. I’ve got good vision and concentration. But every time I tried to do something that required a steady hand, my dad just shook his head and said, “You’ll never be a surgeon.” And they’ve only gotten worse with age.

And before all this, I spent some time writing up a piece talking about all the lovely things Microsoft did to DR DOS in the late 1980s. This is in response to some mudslinging that happened over at my recent anti-Microsoft piece. Normally I’d just ignore a troll who doesn’t even have enough guts to put his name on his taunts–all I know about him is his IP address is, which tells me he’s using a cable modem attached to AT&T’s network, he lives in or around Salt Lake City, Utah, and at this moment he’s not online–but I think this story needs to be told anyway. Depth is good. Sources are good. And there’s a wealth of information in the legal filings from Caldera. And those filings prove that my memory of these events–I remember reading about the dirty tricks in the early 1990s on local St. Louis BBSs–was pretty accurate.

I’m not surprised. I have a knack for remembering this stuff, and I had occasion to meet an awful lot of really knowledgeable people back then.

If I can still remember that Commodore’s single-sided 170K 5.25″ drive was the 1541, its double-sided 340K drive was the 1571, and its 800K 3.5″ drive was the 1581 and I remember the command to make the 1571 emulate the 1541, and why you would want to emulate a 1541, I can probably just as easily remember what you had to do to get Windows 3.1 running under DR DOS and what the reasons were for jumping through those hoops. That history is more recent, and at this stage in my life, I’m a lot more likely to have occasion to use it.

Not that I’m trying to brag. I can remember the names of the DR DOS system files, and I can remember George Brett’s batting average in 1983, but at the end of a five-minute conversation with someone I just met, I’ll probably struggle to remember a name. Or if you send me to the store, you’d better give me a list, because I’m good at forgetting that kind of stuff.

I suspect the DR DOS piece is half done. I might just get it posted this week.

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