The WARP SPEED cartridge from Cinemaware is nice!

“Why limp along on impulse power when you can jump to Warpspeed?”

The Warp Speed cartridge was Cinemaware’s answer to the Epyx Fastload. I can vividly recall reading the advertisements for this cart but I never knew anyone who had one. I finally picked one up and figured it might make an interesting video to explore it.

Of particular interest are the fast I/O benchmarks. Here are the charts from my video. The benchmarking was done with the CBM Disk Transfer Benchmark tool. I’ll update the benchmarks on that page after I finish posting this.

The load speed is a decent showing, but, note the save speed. I think this is the fastest speeder cartridge for saving files that I know of. In order to get faster than this (for save speed), you need to use DolphinDOS.

Continue reading

Benchmarking the 1541 Disk Drive (and others)

TL;DR: Today I’ve released a C64 tool: CBM Disk Transfer Benchmark.

Please don’t make any more YouTube videos measuring load times with smartphone stopwatch apps. Thanks!

Read below for my ruminations.

Click for charts

The 1541 disk drive that my family got along with a Commodore 64 and 1702A monitor was slow. Really slow. The slow speed of the 1541 disk drive is legendary. I won’t go into the whole backstory from Commodore, but what it meant in my house was that most of the games we had on disk took a very long time to load.

Continue reading

JiffyDOS and SD2IEC Command Quick Reference Card

Here’s a cheat sheet I printed up because I tend to forget less often used commands for the JiffyDOS DOS wedge. It also has some commands for the SD2IEC for changing and saving the default drive number.

4×6″ Formatted PDF: JiffyDOS_Quick_Reference_Card.pdf

Text file: JiffyDOS Commands.txt Also, the text is wrapped so that the first list of function keys displays nicely on my 1541 Ultimate (and Ultimate 64) file viewer, so this text file can be dropped in the root of the SD card for quick access in the menu.

I printed this out and laminated it. Here are some pics.

 

Continue reading

My Ultimate 64 and a Commodore SX-64

I finally got my new C64C case from Pixelwizard Retro Shop. If you don’t know about these: these are new cases made from original Commodore C64C molds. They are a perfect fit for real hardware because they are from the real molds. And they make a great option for pairing with a new Ultimate 64. And if you don’t know about that: the U64 is a modern FPGA implementation of the C64 (and then some), with network, USB storage, and HDMI output.

I chose the SX-64 style case. I happened to come across an Aldi C64 keyboard, actually pretty rare in the USA. I like this keyboard because it is nearly white, making a good style match to the original SX-64 colors.

So here are some pics!

Getting Stereo sound from mono SID tunes on my Ultimate 64 (Retro Ruminations Video)

I recently acquired an Ultimate 64 Elite board. After I configured it for stereo sound using one of the internal emulated SIDs, and a real socketed SID, I posted a video to facebook showing it off. I got a few requests for screen shots of the settings, and thought a full video would be fun, demonstrating the actual sound as well as the settings.

Also, I have been planning to post short “ruminations” on my thoughts about Commodore and other vintage computing/gaming hardware. I figured this would be a good first video. Please use the YouTube subscribe button if you’d like to see more… and like the video, too!

Seen in this video:

Ultimate 64 Elite
Ultimate 64 A/V Breakout

SID file for this music: Bombo.sid (tune #2) (I prefer having it play back at NTSC speed.)

Commodore 64 Power Supplies: Patient Killers of Vintage Computers

A Commodore power brick, waiting to kill a computer. Its arms are tied; we are safe for now.

The original Commodore 64 power supplies are the ticking timebombs of your Commodore hardware collection. The 5-volt DC output of these power bricks tend to increase over time, eventually damaging various parts of the computer it is powering. Typically, the RAM is the first victim of overvoltage.

Continue reading

A PAL C64C, manhandled in transit.

My Quest for a PAL C64 (and a perfect CRT display for it)

Well, “quest” is a little bit of an exaggeration. In reality, I had decided to stop thinking “I wish I had a PAL C64” as I had been for many years, and just get one.

Some background.

For those who may not know, there are significant differences between the video standards of North America (NTSC) and Europe (PAL). These differences translate into incompatibilities between NTSC and PAL Commodore 64s with respect to what software they can correctly run, as each region had its own hardware designed with timings specific to the required video standards. Sometimes the difference is not important, but often it is. When developing my demo last year, I was keenly aware of this, and it can be a real challenge to write timing-sensitive code that works properly on both systems. You can read here for some technical details. But the bottom line is this: If you are using NTSC hardware, like I always have, you have limited support for modern software.

This isn’t a big deal at all if you are running C64 software in an emulator like VICE, but if you are like me, and have a penchant for CRT displays with old hardware, it really is a limiting factor.  Why?

Most of the activity in “the scene” is going on in Europe, where they take advantage of the slower frame-rate and extra CPU cycles PAL-timing gives them.

And frankly, when it comes to retro computer and gaming hardware, there really is no substitute for a genuine cathode ray tube display. Which means: if you want to be able to run a variety of software, especially new software, you need to get a Commodore 64 that was sold in Europe.

So.

I found a seller in Italy who was willing to part with a nice-condition C64C. He took the time to properly pack the unit in an amply over-sized box. I paid for express shipping, and he sent it promptly. About a week later, this arrived at my door.

The box had obviously been set in water and soaked up a lot of it. The USPS claimed it arrived to them in that condition. I was surprised it even made it to me — the shipping label practically fell off when I took the paper masche, I mean box.

Continue reading

Pi1541: a cycle-exact 1541 emulator for Raspberry Pi

Steve White has developed a wonderful application for a Raspberry Pi 3: Pi1541

Pi1541 is a cycle-exact emulator for the 1541 disk drive. Have a look-see. If you want to try this out, you’ll need some soldering skills to make the cable that attaches the C64 IEC bus to the Pi’s GPIO.

If you’ve already got Gideon’s 1541 Ultimate, there’s not much call for the Pi1541, but a Pi costs you less and you might have fun with the DIY aspect of putting it together. (The 1541 Ultimate still can’t be beat, especially considering the freezer functions you get with it.)

Also, I haven’t tried the Pi1541 yet, but I suspect the SD2IEC output  from GB Organizer would work well with it. Steve’s Pi1541 seems to work much like an SD2IEC on the computer-side.

Here’s one of Steve’s videos on the project: