A C64 intro in CSS

CSS3 C64 is an old school C64 intro created completely in CSS, the technology that is normally used to style web pages. You can read more about it here, and the source code is available in your browser, but also on Github. No need for an Action Replay cartridge to peek under the hood this time!

Thanks Commodore is Awesome for the link.

Deep in her Eyes

I knew this song was familiar when I first heard it. It’s the theme tune to the game Uplink which I haven’t actually played at all but I had the OST from some game bundle.

Turns out it was used in a party invite for Assembly ’94. It was a favourite of mine from back then. You can download the brilliant .s3m version here.

Anyone else have fond memories of the MOD scene? The top favourites on modarchives.org will help!

Digital Acid

“Turn the lights off, stand in the middle of the room and wave your arms about frantically….”

Watch it fullscreen, but not if you’re averse to flashing lights..

Smiley’s People, a BBC podcast I listened to recently inspired me to look up this old Ash & Dave C64 demo. Unfortunately the podcast is not available any more.

Gaia Machina

How did they manage to squeeze all that into a 64k executable? Watch it fullscreen. Amazing.

Reading the top voted comments on this post gives the impression that some /. visitors are not altogether that geeky but the replies are a lot more interesting.

I can’t seem to make heads or tails of this post. It’s techno-babble and word salad. I guess I should remember this feeling when I talk about programming with my non-programming friends.

Sort of sad as a programmer you have no knowledge of some of programming history.

It’s not too late to archive old disks

I have a collection of around 300 Commodore 64 5 1/4 disks. They were last used around 1995 and were kept in an unheated, sometimes damp room in my family home. It’s not all bad, I kept them in proper disk boxes so the disks were mostly upright during that time and not horizontal and pressing down on each other. For a long time I wondered about transferring the disks to more permanent and modern media.

When I had an Amiga I joined it and the C64 together using some sort of serial cable and an ASM programme I painstakingly typed into my C64 from the Amiga. Then when PCs became popular I hooked my 1541-II disk drive to the parallel port of my 486 and transferred over some of my own demos but nothing else. Unfortunately with the passage of time parallel ports became as rare as the Dodo and more complicated cables are now required which discouraged me from trying to build them.

So I did a little shopping last month.

On Ebay France I found an old Commodore 1541-II disk drive in pristine condition. The Irish Ebay site was useless and I couldn’t find any local drives. I bought a Zoom Floppy from Jim Brain in the USA. That’s a USB interface you can use to connect the 1541 to a modern PC. You can use the ordinary IEC cable that came with the 1541 or a parallel port variant to “nibble copy” protected disks.

Shortly after ordering both of those I read this post saying it was too late to archive disks. The author, Jason Scott, warned that we had left it too long to move everything off old floppy disks and other magnetic media. Too much time had elapsed. The magnetic signature of the data would have degraded, the media dirty and unusable. I was worried.

Back in the day I had swapped disks with people all over Europe and further beyond. It was my first contact with people from Germany, Denmark, Poland, Belgium and elsewhere. Stuck on those disks were notes and personalised collections of demos and programmes that couldn’t be found online.

The disk drive arrived first, then a few days later the Zoom Floppy interface. Was it too late? Thankfully no.

I’ve transferred 243 disks now and I’m not finished yet. I couldn’t rescue all the disks I tried. In some the media had stuck to the outer covering. In others the magnetic media was so dirty it wasn’t readable. By the time I got to 180 double sided disks done the disk drive packed it in giving the ominous “74, DRIVE NOT READY” error. All it took was a swipe of an alcohol swab over the drive head and all was right with the world again. Then I retried one of Iain’s disks and it died again so that disk will remain uncopied! As luck would have it some of the disks that would inevitably fail were those I used often and had snippets of code, graphics or music on them! I guess less than 10% failed however which isn’t bad for 20 year old magnetic media.

After a number of failures I went searching online for disk images when I recognised directory listings. CSDB is invaluable, and the Binary Zone disks section lists all the disks they offered. I remember buying demos from there so it was great to get the disk images. I sent Kenz a PayPal donation to thank him for his efforts.

I found many interesting things, including stuff that isn’t online. Some of it I have to talk to a few people about but I found something called DMSREAD (and related utilities) for creating disk images. The nice thing about it was that it would break up the image into smaller files so you could squeeze in an extra disk at the end of a double sided disk. Very important when you had to pay postage! Nothing about the C64 version online that I can find.

Setting up the Zoom Floppy was easy. It comes with no documentation (beyond a copy of the GPL) but the xum1541 homepage has the required install files. I used CBMXfer and GUI4CBM4WIN, both frontends to the Open CBM library to read the disks.
Also read about Rob’s experiences with the Zoom Floppy. I definitely recommend it if you need to connect a Commodore drive to a modern PC!

Once I’m satisfied with my archive I’ll probably throw out the disks but can they be recycled? I presume so. I’ll miss them though. A directory listing of D64 images can’t hope to compete with the variety of disk covers and hand written labels!

This 5 years of my personal data amounted to less than 130MB of data. I’ll run through that amount of space today in half an hour of taking photos so I shudder to think how much storage I’ll need in another 20 years time. I use 1.6TB of the space on an external 2TB drive and I find that external USB drives fail every 2-3 years. I’m currently waiting on a new 2TB drive to replace two 1TB drives that died recently (they mirrored each other so no data lost, unless this 2TB drive dies. Gulp!) but I’ll probably go down the route of a gigabit network and a NAS when I can afford it. Any suggestions for a quiet NAS enclosure are more than welcome in the comments section please!

Batman Forever

Batman Forever is an amazing looking Amstrad CPC demo made last year and won first place in the CPC Demo compo at Forever 2011.

Stunning artwork, great effects but perhaps a little bit of the old school yard “my computer is better than your one” in there too. Not too fond of the Commodore 64 are they? 😉

Also check out pushnpop.net, an Amstrad demoscene website! It even has an article on cross-platform development using Linux and Vim!

Thanks Keith for leaving a comment in my last post about this demo. Well worth watching!

In related news, the 1541-II I ordered last week arrived this morning. I’m waiting on the zoomfloppy USB interface to connect it to my laptop now. Fingers crossed it’ll work and it’s not too late for my 20 year old Commodore 64 5 1/4 discs. I tend to agree that if it wasn’t for piracy ancient games would be lost to history now ..

The demoscene comes to the Wii

Woohoo! Someone in the demoscene has cottoned on to the homebrew efforts on the Wii. ExistenzE is probably the first demo to appear on Nintendo’s Wii Console.


It’s all thanks to the Twilight Hack which allows developers to run their own unofficial software on the Wii. Basically, the game “Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess” has a bug in it and developers took advantage of that to load other software without Nintendo’s blessings. So far a lot of the software released has been technical or not very interesting to your average gamer, but Quake has been ported to the Wii, as has SDLMame (updated download) and other emulators.

I was excited at the prospect of playing Mame games on my Wii until I realised how much it relies on the host CPU. The Wii’s brain isn’t that fast a performer. I wonder how it would handle emulating an arcade machine and throwing sprites and stuff around the screen. Anyone tried SDLMame on it? (Apparently it uses Linux as a host OS to run SDLMame. That’s cool!)