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Advice for someone new to the Commodore 64?


Calibus
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Hi,

back in the 80s I was a TRS-80 user, and was quite aware of the presence of the Commodore 64 (as well as the Atari, Apple ][ etc etc) but didn't have the money for one.

 

I'm thinking of sticking my toe in the Commodore waters (I always wanted a machine with hardware sprites and GOOD sound) and I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions for a new buyer on what to look for in a system - and what to run away in terror from. (i.e. Rev 1 = Good, Rev 3 = Bad etc)

 

Ideally, I'd like to be able to use it with a VGA monitor, which I can share with other computers that are also VGA capable, such as my Apple IIgs.

 

I also don't really want to mess with tape - plenty of my youth was wasted waiting on slow TRS-80 tapes, and I already have a pile of 5.25" drives, so I'd rather not add to that either.

 

I'd ideally like to be able to acquire some sort of compatible floppy emulator that uses compact flash cards or preferably SD cards.

 

If there is already a topic where people discuss "Must Haves" or similar, I'd appreciate someone pointing me to it.

 

thanks

 

 

Jim

 

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1: There is a small variation among C64s that there's no real best C64. They all have nearly identical parts (SID changes in later models), all have virtually same troubleshooting guide, and all. The white C64C has better PLA that is less likely to fail. But any C64 will do.

 

2: C64 does not support VGA. They can only do RF to old analog TV (sorry, later digital TV that has ATSC tuner only will not work), composite, or S-Video. S-Video is not quite to proper spec but CBM made it before S-Video standard was set, a simple resistor addition usually works. If you must get VGA, you will need composite to VGA adapter

 

3: Most games sold in North America are on disk format, you can safely skip tape drive. Many games released for PAL model in Europe are for tape drive though.

 

4: SD2IEC are available cheap as replacement disk drives that uses SD card. However it doesn't have full 1541 emulation, some games will not work right. Ultimate 1541 and UK1541 are fully compatible but they are over $100.

 

I don't know of a must have list, Lemon64 may be a better place. I do however have a word of caution: don't use the stock C64 power supply. When it goes bad, it won't shut down. It will dump unsafe voltage into C64 and fry them. Get C64 Saver or a custom made C64 power supply replacement.

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Yep, the definite 'must-have' is to do some research on power supply options. I made my own from some simple ready to go parts, others make them from scratch. A C64 saver is easiest way I guess (mine didn't come with a power supply so I had no choice!). Also apparently a C128 power supply is safe, but rare...

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If you splurge on a Turbo Chameleon 64, you'll get both VGA emulation and a SD device in one. You'll probably have to donate one of your kidneys to afford it.

 

Possibly though you're interested in the upcoming Ultimate 64 which is a FPGA implementation with VGA out, built in 1541 Ultimate II etc. It is no real C64 and will also make you donate a kidney first, but it is somewhere in the middle between an old C64 with its legacy connections, and emulating it on a modern PC.

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I do however have a word of caution: don't use the stock C64 power supply. When it goes bad, it won't shut down. It will dump unsafe voltage into C64 and fry them. Get C64 Saver or a custom made C64 power supply replacement.

 

Very true, I recently got a C64 Saver from Ray Carlson only to discover 3 of my 4 stock PSU's were bad. I'm thinking of buying one of Ray's cheaper wall warts as a replacement.

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1: There is a small variation among C64s that there's no real best C64. They all have nearly identical parts (SID changes in later models), all have virtually same troubleshooting guide, and all. The white C64C has better PLA that is less likely to fail. But any C64 will do.

 

2: C64 does not support VGA. They can only do RF to old analog TV (sorry, later digital TV that has ATSC tuner only will not work), composite, or S-Video. S-Video is not quite to proper spec but CBM made it before S-Video standard was set, a simple resistor addition usually works. If you must get VGA, you will need composite to VGA adapter

 

3: Most games sold in North America are on disk format, you can safely skip tape drive. Many games released for PAL model in Europe are for tape drive though.

 

4: SD2IEC are available cheap as replacement disk drives that uses SD card. However it doesn't have full 1541 emulation, some games will not work right. Ultimate 1541 and UK1541 are fully compatible but they are over $100.

 

I don't know of a must have list, Lemon64 may be a better place. I do however have a word of caution: don't use the stock C64 power supply. When it goes bad, it won't shut down. It will dump unsafe voltage into C64 and fry them. Get C64 Saver or a custom made C64 power supply replacement.

 

 

Ah, looks like Ultimate 1541-II is what I'd be looking for.

From glancing at the product webpage, looks like it's fairly plentiful also.

 

Thanks for the tip on the power supplies, I wonder if it is just due to age, or did these power supplies go bad back in the day also?

 

Jim

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I don't know about the 115V ones, but I had a bunch of 220V ones that simply died in the late 80's. Not that they went berzerk and fed overvoltage on the lines to zap the computer, they just died and needed to be replaced. I think the circuit is considered to be a bad design or at least optimistic that it should work in the long run.

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Can't stress replacing the PSU enough. In North American they are refereed to as the brick of death.

The U1541 II is great, but there other options that work well too. It's still quite handy to have a disk drive on hand, something like the 1541 II.

There are loads of hardware options for the C-64, so there are many opinions on what to use. A lot depends on what you want to do with the system.

Check out www.lemon64.com too. Between these two sites you'll find everything you need.

Edited by motrucker
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I've done quite a bit of transfer from SD2IEC to real media on 1541. For the vast majority of transfers, games not functioning on card function fine when transferred to disk. Recommend Epyx Fastload--a must at the very least.

 

Or JiffyDOS. You will need a specific ROM chip for the C64 and each disk drive but it's plug and forget and don't need to remove it if the game used custom fastloader code that often causes problem with turbo loading carts.

 

 

 

Ah, looks like Ultimate 1541-II is what I'd be looking for.

From glancing at the product webpage, looks like it's fairly plentiful also.

 

Thanks for the tip on the power supplies, I wonder if it is just due to age, or did these power supplies go bad back in the day also?

 

Jim

 

Shit design is why they kill C64 when it fails. A decent power supply breaks circuit and prevents anything from going down the line when something fails. C64 power supply has no such protection so when something fails, 9v unregulated AC or worse, 115v AC gets pumped to the C64. Worse yet, most of the bricks are permanently sealed so you can't hack it to make modification like adding crowbar circuit or something.

 

CBM saved maybe 5 cents per PSU not including any safety design within the PSU but it's us that gets the shaft since CBM is no longer around and no new C64 system is made or new SID, CIA, and VIC chip is made. ROM chips can be replaced, PLA can be replaced, RAM can be replaced, and CPU as well. Other chips aren't cloned so no suitable replacement exists other than from donor C64s and 128s

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