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Connecting old computers and consoles to not-as-old televisions is frequently a challenge. Sadly, the VIC-20, Commodore’s runaway bestseller from 1982, is no exception to that. Here’s how to connect a Commodore VIC-20 to a TV.
Unfortunately, there are fewer options for connecting a VIC than there are the slightly newer and more common C-64, but I’ll walk you through the options you do have.
Commodore and Atari used an early implementation of s-video on their home computers in order to show off their computers’ advanced-for-their-time graphics. Many monitors sold for those computers featured compatibility with this feature, which was called “separated” or “y/c” composite or at the time. JVC called the feature “s-video” when they started using it on their SVHS camcorders starting in 1987, and JVC’s name stuck. Other companies followed suit, and s-video and the mini DIN plug became an industry standard.
Commodore and Atari used a different connector than JVC did, but all it takes to use s-video gear with those old monitors is a cable, which you can make with about $10 worth of parts from Radio Shack.Read More »Using s-video gear with Commodore monitors
Amiga monitors aren’t always the easiest thing to come by. Of course just about every Amiga sold was also sold with a monitor. But sadly, many of the monitors weren’t as reliable as the computer. So being able to connect an Amiga to a TV helps.
There are several options, and while some are far from ideal, most of them are suitable for playing video games. And these days I’m sure you’re a lot more interested in Shadow of the Beast than you are in Amiga Word Perfect 4.1. Read More »How to connect an Amiga to a TV
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.
In the 1980s, a computer monitor offered a clearer picture than a TV by eliminating the need to modulate/demodulate the video signal, which caused degradation. But in 2003, it’s next to impossible to find affordable composite monitors for 20-year-old computers, and when you can find them, their size pales in comparison to a $99 TV. Why bother with a really old, curvy 13″ monitor when you can retro-compute in luxury on a flat 19″ TV?
Fortunately, if a TV offers composite jacks, you can connect a computer directly to it. No tricks involved–you connect it just like you would a VCR.
But Commodore 8-bit computers (the 64, 128, and Plus/4) used a trick to get a clearer picture: They seperated the chroma and luma signals. This is exactly what S-Video does today. So it’s possible to get a better-still picture out of a Commodore, if your TV has S-Video jacks.
Note: Older C-64s had a 5-pin video connector that only provided straight composite. Those connect just like a VIC-20. Don’t modify it to provide S-Video, the machine is worth much more unmodified.
By far the easiest way to connect a Commodore to S-Video is to buy a cable. They’re common on Ebay for about $20.
You can also make your own if you want. Making video cables isn’t difficult, assuming you have decent soldering skills. Usual disclaimers apply: I make no guarantee as to the accuracy of this information. I believe my sources are accurate but I don’t have a working Commodore to try this on right now. Connecting the cables wrong should only result in lots of noise and lots of snow on your TV screen, but if you somehow mess up your computer, it’s not my responsibility.
Later C-64s, C-128s and Plus/4s used an 8-pin DIN connector. S-Video uses a 4-pin mini-DIN connector, the same connector used on Macintosh keyboards from about 1986-1997.
If you already have a Commodore video cable, you can easily make an adapter. Get a 4-pin mini-DIN connector and two female RCA plugs, red and yellow. Connect S-Video pin 3 to the center of the yellow plug. Connect pin 2 to the outside of the yellow plug. Connect pin 4 to the center of the red plug, and pin 1 to the outside of the red plug.
If you don’t have a cable but can locate the appropriate connectors, you can make a cable like so:
Commodore S-Video 2 4 3 4 5 2 1 1 8 3 6 7 (solder side) (solder side)
Commodore pin 1 goes to S-Video pin 3 (luma)
Commodore pin 6 goes to S-Video pin 4 (chroma)
Commodore pin 2 goes to S-Video pins 1 and 2 (ground)
Commodore pin 3 goes to the center of an RCA connector for audio. Connect the outside of the RCA connector to Commodore pin 2.
To make a straight composite cable for a C-64 or VIC-20 (the VIC had a 5-pin plug, and so did early 64s–the later plug is backwards compatible with this 5-pin plug), connect Commodore pin 4 to the center of a yellow male RCA plug. Connect Commodore pin 2 to the outside of the yellow plug. Connect Commodore pin 3 to the center of a white RCA male plug, and Commodore pin 2 to the outside of the white plug.