You can be nostalgic about something for a lot longer than that thing was current. So it is with the Commodore 64, the Speccy and early computers in general.
I had a rubber keyed Spectrum 48K for a couple of years followed by a C64 that I used every day for another 4 years or so and here we are in 2019 and I’m reading about those ancient computers. I’m not the only one. There are vibrant communities around both computers and it’s great to see!
Somehow I can’t see myself feeling the same way about Windows 3.1, but I have to admit I have maybe not so fond memories of tuning autoexec.bat to get a few KB more memory in the DOS days…
What are the books I’m reading and where can I get them?
Many years ago I mentioned the first computer system that came into my family home. I couldn’t remember what it was called and it had been thrown out years before. I had searched retro console sites, looking through “history of computing” Youtube videos, and more but I couldn’t find it anywhere.
That was until Saturday afternoon while out on a photowalk in Cork City! In the window of the retro gaming shop on North Main Street was a sight I had last seen more than thirty years previously. I couldn’t believe it!
Now that I have a name, the Telesport SD 050C I could look it up and I found out that it was one of a number of Pong clone machines released in the late 1970’s. The 050C family aren’t very rare and aren’t worth much but it was a strange nostalgic feeling looking at it there after all this time.
It’s a Pong clone. The screenshots above are basic but in the early 80s it was a lot of fun. I don’t remember the model we had having that many colours. Must have been an earlier model I guess. Here’s a brief history lesson:
The world was undergoing “PONG Madness”. It seemed only natural that developers would create advancements to the original AY-3-8500 chip to incorporate color and even more games. This explains the amount of PONG systems since each machine contained a different chip. However things were handled different in some areas particularly in Europe.
Europe did not see the release of the Intellivision and Atari 2600 till the early 1980s. This allowed Pong to have a longer success. Rather then creating a new machine for each new chip, developers took the General Instruments popular line of chips and slapped them into cartridges. These carts were not like ROM carts used in later systems. They simply housed a specific General Instruments processor chip with pin outs to interface with a console. These were the PC-50X line of cartridges (see the Games section for specifics).
With the PC-50X cartridges available, console manufacturers were able to produce a machine that could play several games and market them at a low cost. The units were made in various countries and were marketed by Creatronic, Hanimex, ITMC, Rollet, GrandStand, Soundic and lord knows how many other manufacturers. There are literally over two hundred console variations that utilized this technology.
The initial model SD-050 varied in terms of outward appearance (colors, etc), manufacturers names and slight modifications. However each unit had the same overall design with two detachable controllers with 10 buttons located on the top of the machine. These 10 buttons, which clearly identify a PC-50X based console, were used to select the different games available on each cart. The SD-050 model only produced black and white video.
New models such as the SD-070 and SD-090 appeared and sold well into the 80s since the units were far cheaper then the newer consoles making waves in the US and Japan. These newer models played the same carts, but added additional settings, sound and SECAM color (4 colors).
There were far too many PC-50X cart accepting consoles and it is difficult to list them all.
More links to read up on the PC-50X cartridge and related machines:
I found one video on Youtube featuring this machine!
I resisted the urge to buy that machine last weekend. I may have a CRT TV in the attic but the games are so simplistic it’s best to leave them in the past where they belong. The machine architecture isn’t emulated but the games could be remade easily by anyone interested. Hmm, maybe..
The Dinosaurs episode of This Developer’s Life struck a chord with me. Not because of Fortran or Dataflex although hearing about developers dealing with small memory constraints or attempts to convert an archaic piece of code into something shiny did make me grin stupidly.
No, there’s a bit about the Commodore 64 in there and some great SID chip music throughout the podcast. That sealed the deal for me! 🙂
The Commodore 65 was a prototype computer produced by Commodore between 1990 and 1991 to be an improved Commodore 64. I’ve hardly ever come across it online and never heard of it back in the day, but when Commodore was liquidated they sold the prototype machines. If you have one and are willing to part with it you could be in for a nice surprise!
This one on Ebay went for €17,827 last month. It’s not as if much can be done with it as it was never official released but I guess you can run it in C64 mode.
That means there is now a gigantic collection of retro computing history on archive.org. There’s lots of stuff from the C64 to the Speccy, from the Apple Lisa to the TRS 80 there. I’m bowled over by the huge Commodore 64 collection and even found some tunes ex-Ozone member Merman created in the late 90’s. None of our demos there yet though.
Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” as played on a real Commodore 64. The song was digitized on an Amiga, downsampled to 4 bit audio and copied onto a 3.5″ inch disk that the Commodore 1581 drive could read from. The song data was streamed in realtime from the drive to the tiny 64Kb of memory in the computer and fed to the SID chip for our aural delight. I presume the screen has been blanked to save processing power, or the data for the sample gets dumped into screen memory.
This did require an Amiga with the Perfect Sound digitizer. I hooked up the CD player to the digitizer and then using a custom routine on the Amiga, my brother would convert the data to a 4 bit sample. Then we used a null modem cable and Novaterm with a cartridge port adapter to transfer the data to a 1581 floppy. Quite a bit of work went into this.
20 years ago I recorded my own voice onto a cassette saying the word “Ozone” (the name of my demogroup) and I figured out how to sample my voice using the Commodore cassette deck hooked up to the C64. I can’t remember now what memory register it used, I’ll have to search my disk images or examine a C64 memory map one of these days. The quality was terrible but if you knew what was being said you could make it out. It had to be kept short because I’d ran out of memory! I think I used it in the last part of my demo “Awareness of Reality”. (via)
My earliest memories of programming are directly related to the pain of not being able to save my work.
The first proper computer my family owned was a Commodore Vic-20. I guess my parents bought it in 1984 or 1985 but it might have been earlier. The Vic-20 came out years before but this was recession hit 80’s Ireland. I’m pretty sure the computer was bought in O’Callaghan’s shop, where the betting shop is now on Pembroke Street.
I remember copying a flying bird BASIC listing from the Vic-20 manual one school morning, and I think I made it fly left and right too. What made it stick in my mind was the anguish I felt because I couldn’t save it. We had a Vic-20 you see but we didn’t have a datasette that could record or play back data on cassette tapes. I left the machine on while I went to school which was risky because they had huge heavy power supplies that had a tendency to overheat (not that I knew that then!) Thankfully we did get a datasette later because I remember playing Wacky Waiters on it. Or it might have been some sort of interface that let me plug a regular cassette player into the Vic-20. Chip Electronics sold them in clear plastic bags I think. All a little hazy now unfortunately!
So, thanks to this site I was able to track down a scanned copy of the Vic-20 manual and immediately jumped to the Flying Birds bit. A little bit of rose tint nostalgia on a murky Friday evening almost 30 years later.
What got you into programming?
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