Commodore Plus 4 and Commodore 16

Commodore Plus 4 and Commodore 16

Dan Bowman kindly pointed me to former Commodore engineer Bil Herd’s discussion of the ill-fated Commodore TED machines on Hackaday. Here in the States, few remember the TED specifically, but some people may remember that oddball Commodore Plus 4 that closeout companies sold for $79 in 1985 and 1986. The Commodore Plus 4 was one of those TED machines. So was the Commodore 16.

What went wrong with those machines? Commodore miscalculated what the home computer market was doing. The TED was a solution to too many problems, and ended up not solving any of them all that well. Arguably it’s more popular with vintage computer enthusiasts today than it was in the 1980s. Read more

Cleaning NES games and consoles

Cleaning NES games and consoles

Anyone old enough to have played with an original Nintendo NES knows the problem: You plug in the cartridge, turn on the system, and get a blank screen and the power light blinks at you. The schoolyard fix is to take out the cartridge, blow into it, then put it back into the system. Then, with a little luck, you can play your game. The trouble is, that’s just a short-term fix. In the long run, it makes the problem worse and eventually the system can’t play games at all. The solution is to clean them. Here’s a process for cleaning NES games.

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How to use a Commodore 64

How to use a Commodore 64

The Commodore 64 is rather unlike modern computers. It has a CPU and memory like a modern computer does, but the operating system and overall user experience is alien to someone used to computers that run Windows or Mac OS. So to modern eyes, it’s not completely obvious how to use a Commodore 64.

Commodore had a dominance of the market in the 1980s that would have made Apple jealous at any point in its history, but ultimately Commodore lost, so the Commodore 64’s bloodline is extinct.

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Commodore 64 operating system

Commodore 64 operating system

The Commodore 64 didn’t have an operating system in the traditional sense that we now think of one. It most certainly did have a method of interacting with the user and handling I/O, including disk files. But the way it all worked seems strange today. Here’s what made the native Commodore 64 operating system different, and the alternatives that surfaced during the 64’s long life.

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Central Hardware, St. Louis history

Central Hardware, St. Louis history

St. Louis-based Central Hardware was one of the first big-box home improvement chains. It peaked in 1993 at 39 stores in six states in the midwest, employing 3,700 people. It was once the 19th largest hardware retailer in the United States.

Central Hardware’s motto was “everything from scoop to nuts,” a play on the English idiom “soup to nuts,” which means beginning to end. Their inventory was over 40,000 SKUs, comparable to today’s home improvement stores. Its stores regularly exceeded 50,000 square feet. That’s about half the size of a typical home improvement store today, but it was large for the 1970s and 1980s. Traditional hardware stores ranged in size from 2,000 to 10,000 square feet. Its employees wore orange vests so customers knew who to ask for help.

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Most valuable baseball cards of the 1990s

Most valuable baseball cards of the 1990s

Baseball cards were big in the 1980s, which led to overproduction and the baseball card bubble. That overproduction spilled over into the 1990s, and so did some of baseball’s scandals. Between that, and so many people buying and preserving cards during that decade, there aren’t a lot of super-valuable cards from the 1990s. But that doesn’t mean all 1990s baseball cards are worthless, and you’re more likely to find a stash from the ’90s than the ’70s. So let’s take a look at the most valuable baseball cards of the 1990s. The decade includes at least one big surprise.

The 1990s featured a number of exceptional players. And by late decade, the manufacturers had mostly sorted out their overproduction issues. Late 1990s cards also tend to be very attractive, with vivid colors and high quality photography. So the 1990s can be a nice decade to collect, even if the 1980s jaded you like it did me.

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Commodore RAM expansion units

Commodore RAM expansion units

The 6502-family CPUs in Commodore 8-bit computers famously used 64K of RAM at a time. But in 1985, Commodore introduced a cartridge that added up to 512K of RAM to the 128. Commodore followed up soon after with a 256K cartridge for the 64. How did Commodore RAM expansion units work?

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Most valuable rookie card

Most valuable rookie card

When it comes to baseball cards, rookie cards are usually more valuable than non-rookie cards. But when we think of the Pantheon of valuable baseball cards, they tend not to be rookies. Instead, they tend to be scarce cards from hugely popular, iconic sets. The T206 Wagner. The 1933 Goudey Lajoie. The 1952 Topps Mantle. So what is the most valuable rookie card?

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