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.

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Commodore 64 vs 64c

Commodore 64 vs 64c

The Commodore 64 went through a number of revisions throughout its long life. The most outwardly visible of those revisions was the transition from the tan, boxy C-64 to the thinner, lighter-colored 64c. If you’e wondering about the Commodore 64 vs 64c, here’s what you need to know.

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C64 vs. Apple II

C64 vs. Apple II

The C64 vs. Apple II was perhaps the most epic battle of the 8-bit era. Both companies sold millions of machines, yet both nearly went out of business in the process.

Comparing the two machines with the largest software libraries of the 8-bit era is a bit difficult, but that’s what makes it fun. The two machines are similar enough that some people ask if the Commodore 64 was an Apple product. The answer is no.

As a weird aside, it was possible, with a Mimic Systems Spartan, to turn a C-64 into an Apple II. Not many did, but the reason why is another story.

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Roll your own Retro-64

So an upstart company has licensed the Commodore name and unveiled an updated C-64, which is essentially a nettop in a 64-alike case with a 64-like keyboard. Reactions are extreme. People either love it or hate it.

I’d like to have one, but I’m not paying $595 for a nettop. But it should be possible to roll your own.

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How to connect a Commodore 64 or 128 to a modem

I guess it’s not exactly obvious, to someone looking at a Commodore 64 or 128, how a modem plugs in. Commodore modems plugged into the port on the far right hand side, looking from the back. If the port is labeled at all, it will be labeled “User port.” Although it had other uses, that port was used for modems far more than for any other purpose.

They used the modems to call a BBS, and what they did on the BBS wasn’t always legal. But that’s another story.

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How to get a Commodore 64 for $20

In 2006, Radio Shack sold a Hummer racing game based on Jeri Ellsworth’s C64-on-a-chip design.

A number of people spent time figuring out how to turn the Radio Shack game into a full-blown C64. There is a FAQ available.One cool thing about these is that it’s very easy to add a PS/2 keyboard to them. Having a C-64 with an IBM Model M keyboard sure sounds nice…

I also found a forum dedicated to this and other Commodore-related topics.

Ah, memories…

How to connect a Commodore 64 to a television

How to connect a Commodore 64 to a television

It is less than obvious how to connect a Commodore 64 to a television, especially a modern television, and it’s even more difficult if your C-64 didn’t come with the cables or the manual.

There are, as it turns out, several ways to do it. The C-64 and 128 have an RCA jack on the back that matches the RCA jacks on most televisions, whether LCD or CRT. Confusingly, this isn’t the key. If you just plug a cable from the RCA jack into the RCA input on a TV, you won’t get a display.

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The Commodore 64 Direct to TV is out

It’s out, and the entire inventory of 250K units was bought by QVC.

So much for getting one of these at Kmart. Anyway, it’s a C64 in a joystick enclosure with 30 games built in, similar to the Atari 2600 and Intellivision units you see in stores.The game selection is a bit disappointing, with an awful lot of obscure titles and, aside from the included Epyx titles, very few big hits. According to the designer, the problem is tracking down the copyright holders of some of these 20-year-old titles in order to get permission to use them.

Two of my all-time favorites are on there: Jumpman Jr. and Pitstop 2. But, alas, no Seven Cities of Gold, no Dig Dug, no Pirates!, no Giana Sisters…

I’d think about getting one, but I’m sure the main appeal would be turning it into a full C64, which is supposed to be possible.

Cheap hardware won’t stop software piracy

Who’s to blame for rampant software piracy? According to Steve Ballmer, AMD and Intel. Oh, and Dell. Charge less for the computer, and there’ll be more money to pay for Windows and Office.

Steve Ballmer doesn’t know his history.

I agree that the world needs a $100 computer. I really wish VIA would make a CPU that it could sell for $10-$20. You can’t make money selling $10 CPUs, you say? Tell that to Commodore’s MOS Technology division, the company that made the 6502 series of CPUs used in millions of computers made by Apple, Atari, and Commodore in the 1980s. Atari and Nintendo also used it in their videogame machines.

The price of a 6502 in electronics catalogs during the 1980s was around $11.95.

I agree that a cheap, basic computer would be good for the industry. In many parts of the world, even the entry-level $399 computers are extravagent. I read today that in Russia, the average montly salary is $240. It’s ludicrous to expect to sell a lot of $500 computers in a market like that. Save 10 percent of your salary for two years and you still haven’t paid for it.

But somehow these people who can’t afford $500 computers are going to buy a $100 computer and a $500 copy of Microsoft Office.

You’ve been living in the high-rent district too long, Ballmer. You’re out of touch with reality.

I remember the days when someone could walk into Sears or any number of other places and buy a $99 computer along with a $99 disk drive (they used to be separate pieces), take it home, and hook it up to an old television for a monitor. People resorted to lots of measures to get software. Most libraries had books of type-in programs you could check out. Magazines full of type-ins were available on any newsstand. Public domain software was available too. I know one local computer store chain here in Missouri kept a library. If you spent $200 at the store, you could copy all of the public domain software you wanted.

You could buy commercial software too. It was a little harder to find than it is today, but there was a chain of software stores called Babbage’s that had a presence in most shopping malls, and a lot of department stores had a small software section. But software could be expensive.

Most people I knew pirated software by the carload. Sure, a lot of them could have afforded to buy a couple of titles a month and build a software library legitimately. But it seems like there were always more than two must-have releases every month. Since few could afford to buy all of the must-haves, a lot of people pirated all of them.

That cheap computer market basically killed itself. People won’t buy a $100 computer if there’s no software for it. That was a contributing factor in the demise of the 8-bit Ataris. The C64 market started declining in the mid-1980s and only lasted as long as the Apple II market did. It should have lasted longer. The C64 outsold the Apple II series almost 4 to 1. But the people who bought the costlier Apples and IBMs were more inclined to buy software instead of pirating it. The software publishers went where the dollars were.

By and large, the people buying $100 computers today won’t use the money they save to buy a lot of software. Some of them will. But the majority of these $100 computers will end up running Linux, or pirated copies of Windows and Office.

I still think it’s something that needs to be done. It’s hard to get a good job without computer skills, but it’s hard to get a computer without a good job. Believe it or not, this is even true in some parts of the United States, let alone the parts of the world with smaller economies. A Volkscomputer would be a good thing. And I think the company that makes it would stand to make quite a bit of money.

But it won’t do much for Microsoft’s bottom line.

Commodore\’s back!

Long, long ago, I owned a computer that was so reliable that it only ever crashed on me and caused me to lose work once. I remember it well, and I was livid about it. So much so that I never used that word processor again. And the computer never crashed on me or caused me to lose work again.

That computer was a Commodore 128.It was slow, it didn’t multitask, and I could barely type on its awful keyboard, and it irritated me that MicroLeague Baseball took 15 minutes to load if I wanted to use its General Manager and its Stat Compiler add-ons (of course I did), but from a pure reliability standpoint, that simple machine was the best computer I’ve ever owned.

Of course, Commodore’s naysayers–there always were a lot of them and probably still are–would argue that a tricycle is more reliable than a Chevrolet Corvette. Which is true. But let’s get something else perfectly clear. A tricycle and a Corvette are both toys. And so are the majority of computers built today. It’s a matter of whether you want a $200 game system (a C64 plus disk drive) or a $2,000 game system (a Pentium 4).

And yes, I know there are a lot of things a Commodore won’t do that the new stuff does. I work with the new stuff every day. But sometimes I long for simpler times. I’d have that C128 set up, except it’s developed a problem in the last decade and doesn’t work reliably anymore. I know how to make an X1541 cable and I know where to get the software so I can use an obsolete PC as a Commodore hard drive. So there is a good use for a 386 with a 200-meg hard drive. But without the computer… And yes, I know I could use an emulator, but something about it just isn’t the same.

So, yes, I got excited when Tulip Computers, the Dutch computer company that bought the intellectual property of the old Commodore International back in 1997 and then sat on it for 7 years, announced this week that it’s going to release a C64-based mini-console this year. If you’re not familiar with these, imagine the internals of a classic game system shrunk down and crammed into a joystick with video outs to plug into your TV, with a couple dozen game titles built into ROM. At least one Atari 2600 mini-console exists, and there’s another one I see in shopping malls that seems to be based on the Nintendo NES.

Well, the C64 mini-console is going to have the Epyx Summer/Winter/California Games series among the 30 titles it has built in. It had better have Pitstop II also. Pitstop II gets my vote for the best C64 game ever.

Yeah, I’m gonna buy one.

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