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C64 Buying advice


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I'm planning to get a C64 from Ebay in the next few months, and was wondering if anyone had buying advice as to which model to get / what I need to be careful about / Are there any critical parts such as video cables or power supplies that are difficult to buy separately etc. In particular, I'm worried about machines that have been 'tested for power' since something that turns on can still be a brick due to something a bad bios chip.

 

Thanks in advance

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Lots of chips could be bad if a unit has only been tested to power. RAM chips, PLAs, etc. try to get one that is at least shown to boot. Even that is not a guarantee though the machine will still boot with bad sound chip (SID) and others.

 

Old power supplies are dangerous to your commodore's health...

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Beware of untested system. Odds are it's been tested and found non-working. Also SID chip are highly sought after and dishonest seller may sell C64 without SID. C64 will work without SID chip but you get no sound at all. Try to stick with listing that is 100% tested working and not missing any chip, eBay will cover you if the C64 arrives missing a piece or is not working. (eBay even forces seller to eat return shipping)

 

As for version, there really is no best version. The older brown model is more common than later white C64-C. You do want to make sure it's not the oldest model with 5 pin DIN for video, it won't do S-Video without hacking inside to bring out the missing signal. Avoid the "silver label" model, those tended to be overpriced anyway and best left to collector rather than player.

 

Lastly, get power saver or a replacement power supply, the original black brick are ticking bomb. Cheaply designed with no protection if the 5v fails, it usually fries the C64.

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Besides making sure it's 100% tested and EVERYTHING works, make sure the seller packs it properly. I bought one and the seller used four or six blue paper towels for packing on one side, a thin piece of foam on the bottom, and everything from the lot jammed in the middle. So when it arrived, three keys snapped off and the sound didn't work.

 

I told him about and instead of sending it all back for a refund, I opted to replace the SID chip and when I can, the keys. The lot came with a complete in box Elite and a few other games, a decent 3rd party power supply, the second model floppy drive, and some other stuff so I didn't want to send it all back or deal with any extra crap. But seriously make sure it's well packed. The stuff is old, heavy, and, in my case, brittle.

 

I use a ZoomFloppy because I wanted to use actually floppies to play games. It's fairly straight forward, but make sure you read and follow the directions and watch videos. I'm pretty happy with it except I can't get Alien to start, which can mean a bad image I downloaded or the floppy is corrupt (I bought a bundle of used ones on eBay). I haven't tried troubleshooting it, I'm on a Dreamcast kick, but other games have worked that I downloaded. Most people will recommend a SD type device, but research and decide what device will better fit your needs or buy both.

 

Oh yeah, and be prepared to kick yourself for not getting a system back when they were cheaper. The 100% working ones command a big price. You could always refurbish one. There's a lot of great videos on YouTube showing you how to clean them, replace keys, and more.

Edited by xenomorpher
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Like everyone has said, make sure the photos show it powered on and working. Also consider a third party power supply as the stock C64 ones are a bit ropey and can kill the computer when they go bad. A 128 is a good alternative but if you are set on the C64 then look for the 'c' version as it has some improvements that make it a bit more reliable.

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Yeah, for instance while the infamous PLA chip tends to break in a lot of breadbox C64's, the reworked PLA chip in the short board C64C's nearly ever breaks. Note though that early C64C had the original motherboard, usually you can differ between the models on whether the graphic symbols are printed on the front side or on top of the keys, but even that is not foolproof.

 

Also it is great if the computer comes with a composite video cable, but that one isn't particularly rare or hard to manufacture so be aware of sellers trying to talk up the value due to a third party cable that you could solder yourself or buy for far less than $10.

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I've been thinking of selling my C64 collection but I'm in Canada and shipping to the US may make it not worth it. I'm not sure. I don't use it a lot and could use the space and cash. I haven't bothered since I haven't gotten any bites on my other sale threads. I don't think big items from Canada to the US make sense to buyers.

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Anything "untested" or "tested for power" I just assume means "broken". It's trivial to test most of these things and it's a lot more lucrative to write "untested" and then claim ignorance/no returns later than it is to write "for repair/parts" when you post a listing on Ebay.

 

Never buy anything that's untested unless you pay the same or lower as what you would for a broken system, and you're prepared to fix it. Sometimes you might get lucky, but it's better to be lucky and happy than the opposite.

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As a seller, I worry about the opposite - I sell fully tested and working systems and some ass hat claims it doesn't work, and sends me back his broken unit instead and gets his money back.

 

What I'm saying is, as a buyer, you're fully protected if you buy a C64 and it doesn't work. However, you're best bet is to try places like Atariage where your chances of buying a quality item that's fully tested are a lot higher.

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Thanks for the advice everyone. It seems like I'm late in the game to get into the C64 at a good price, and that for all the rich history there are potentially frustrating drawbacks with the hardware as well. Maybe I'll just bide my time and keep my eyes open for a good C64 deal and just be content with my yard sale find Amiga 1200. Methinks for now I'll scratch my early 80's computer itch with a TI/99, they seem cheap and reliable even though the games and software are slim pickings. Thanks again folks!

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What do you think is a good price for a C64? If you maybe join a local computer club you could get one for next to nothing. Sometimes you can stumble upon them at thrift stores. Don't give up. Of course a TI-99/4a is also a great retro machine but if your heart is set on a 64 then I am sure you will find one.

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I would keep an eye out for the newer model of the C64 Reloaded from https://icomp.de/shop-icomp/en/shop/product/c64-reloaded.html

 

I believe the stock of his NOS chips has been depleted, but you can still get them from eBay and other sources. Plus now that he has purchased the molds for the C64C from that guy in Texas, we will soon have a new source of cases to use with *real* Commodore branding.

 

I'm looking forward to getting the one with the brown color scheme of the original 64 myself. No word yet on dates for any of this of course.

 

https://icomp.de/shop-icomp/en/33/items/commodore-back-in-germany.html

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  • 2 weeks later...

Coming from someone who has had his fair share of non-working or semi working C64 units, I would suggest only buying one from someone who can guarantee it working 100% and has tested it inside and out. I have had units that appeared to work fine later to find that one of the joystick ports didn't go up *sometimes* and other oddball issues. I grew up with and love the C64, but sad to say they are (in my experience) not as durable as other systems of the era. I now have one that works perfectly and I got it from a member of these forums. I wouldn't recommend ebay for one of these to be honest. Not to say that you cannot get one that works fine from there, but my experience has been pretty bad with C64 computer purchases from there. Seems it is the dumping ground for bad C64 hardware.

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The best advice I could give is - don't buy one! Get a C-128/C-128Dcr instead. It's a much better machine, and it works as a real C-64 too. The C-128's power supply will not kill the computer if it goes up, the 128 mode is amazing in 80 columns (this requires a Commodore 1080/1084 or 2002 monitor) and also has CP/M. You can use, and take full advantage of the 1571 disk drive (none of the 1541's problems), to just mention a couple of things.

I have both, and rarely use my C-64 these days.

A word of warning about the TI 99/4A. They are, indeed, nice computers - IF you get the expansion chassis with the keyboard, so you can have the RAM expansion, disk drives, etc... The basic keyboard unit, can use only cartridges, and is a very limited "system".

Edited by motrucker
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The best advice I could give is - don't buy one! Get a C-128/C-128Dcr instead. It's a much better machine, and it works as a real C-64 too. The C-128's power supply will not kill the computer if it goes up, the 128 mode is amazing in 80 columns (this requires a Commodore 1080/1084 or 2002 monitor) and also has CP/M. You can use, and take full advantage of the 1571 disk drive (none of the 1541's problems), to just mention a couple of things.

I have both, and rarely use my C-64 these days.

A word of warning about the TI 99/4A. They are, indeed, nice computers - IF you get the expansion chassis with the keyboard, so you can have the RAM expansion, disk drives, etc... The basic keyboard unit, can use only cartridges, and is a very limited "system".

 

I cannot recommend the C128 primarily because of the vertical line issue present in these machines. I had a few of them and while I learned to overlook it for the most part, as soon as I played the same games on a C64 and did not experience it I was done with the C128. Funny thing is that Bil Herd mentions "knowing why due to an interaction with the modulator and the VIC chip" but does not elaborate or provide any possible fix (at 2:51):

 

 

I emailed him a while ago and he never responded. I spoke to Ray Carlsen and he does not think this is the cause, but did not seem to know exactly why it occurs either. Oh well, guess Bil's creation will be plagued with this issue forever. I ended up selling my C128 and going back to a good ol' C64 which does not exhibit the issue at all. The PSU "killing" your C64 is a non-issue nowadays with the availability of Ray's excellent power supply replacements (which are powering my C64, Vic-20 and Amiga 500 machines nowadays).

 

The TI99/4A (on an off topic, but was mentioned) is not any more limited. It can be expanded with modern solutions and the "basic" unit is what I use with FlashRom99 which provides SD card access. As with any other computer yes you have to buy stuff to get into the modern digital age of things (NanoPEB, FlashROM99, etc) but don't make it out to be some kind of "warning". You can buy the basic TI99/4A and build on it as time goes on...no problem.

 

So, in the end (and back on topic) if you don't mind THIS line issue, by all means get a C128 instead:

post-21417-0-68619500-1492923795_thumb.jpg

Edited by eightbit
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Interesting. I had a 128 for many years (bought new in 1985) and it never had a display issue like the one shown above, though it was also always hooked up to a TV and not a monitor. It was a first revision model (Caps Lock-Q bug anyone?) so maybe that's why? The 128 was a fantastic, if under untilized machine. I think mine spent 90% of its time in 64 mode.

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Despite eightbit's being so against the C-128, it is a good machine with fewer real, and potential problems than the C-64. But, I wasn't cutting down the C-64 - it's great as far as it goes.

He almost makes me wonder why so many people use the C-128.

 

 

 

On the contrary, I am not at all against the C128. It was one of my most desired computers back in the day (that and the 128D). It wasn't until I finally got one years later that I was able to experience it firsthand and noticed the line issue. It's not a big deal, but when you are used to it not being there (from using a C64 for years)) it's hard to overlook.

 

And why do so many people use it? Well, same reason so many people use TI99's, Atari 800XL's, etc. They are nostalgic for the computer, or people are finally making some use of the extra 64K :) All I am saying is that if you have never owned a 64 or a 128 and are coming in new...get a C64.

Edited by eightbit
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