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=== The Archaic Archives ===

The Archaic Archives
Archive: 1997

This page was updated: July 3, 2020

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August 1997

Life is Hard Part II


Brian Crosthwaite

This was originally supposed to have ended with a Hard Drive -- but that was more than 4 years ago. It now ends with a Lt. Kernal, a loose motherboard and a 300 Baud modem...

Snap Shot Your 64 Utilities.

If you use lots of ML utilities for programming and/or everyday use, you know it can take time to load all that stuff up, especially when you have to move BASIC around from direct mode. A custom routine here, a color set up there and maybe you'd rather press the [=] key to get an apostrophe (making it the same as your A-word or PC machine). So you may have a few routines you load into your 64. The servant for the 128 has given much to the 128 user along these lines, but if you don't have a 128 and/or the servant.... It's snap shot time. In fact, you may already be half way there.

If you have a Super Snap Shot, Final Cartridge, Action Replay, or other snap shot/utility cartridge, you may already be clearing the memory (for snap shot or zero fill) to clear things up for your custom operating system. Get every thing configured and loaded. Then insert a formatted blank disk and snap shot your system with all your utilities and custom settings set the way you want them to be, and save.

The next time you are ready to boot up, you will have only one file to load. Even if it takes two files, the second one will auto load and fast too. In fact, some of those carts will let you auto boot a file from power up! So quick and easy, why didn't you think of it before?


No, no, really it is just a rumor. Mmmmm....yummy words....felt....hat-like. Actually, it started long ago. I was an editor at a local magazine. I had said earlier that it was the "rumor mill" computer. And yet, Steve insisted it was real. It was a rumor. In fact, it was called the C65 for years before the company got the idea. Ok now, this is but speculation. CBM heard the rumors. CBM, one day, started developing what was to become known as the C64DX (follow up to 64C). They decided, being the wild and crazy types that most commodore engineers were, to code name it, project, what have you -- the C65. (Like I said, this is pure speculation.)

Several levels of the machine have manifested as they readied it to market. They made what some call the alpha machines on up to (as of late I wouldn't have said this) a machine to go to developers. Yes, developers.

Paxtron, recently had several C65s. They apparently had the latest ROMs. There were MANUALS! (And I don't do uppercase very often.) It would look to me as if the machine was ready to hit the beta test level. But do they really work? Joel at Grapevine had told me he had about 100 units. Fred at CBM had told me only 50 or so units had been made. Could there have been more?

Well, ok, no hard hitting reporting here. It was in June of 96. I saw the ads and wished, as I had when the Grapevine Group had them, that I had some expendable cash. I called to see if they still had them after seeing the ad for a month. They were gone..... But they had mother boards. They had keyboards. They had power supplies. No drives, but they had what I really wanted and I just happened to be able to swing it (B-Day money and all). I counted my pennies for a week more and then I sent off for what had grown into more in my mind, I'm sure, than it really was. And it is still as big today.

Several days later, I found a package sitting on the steps. I remember setting the box on the couch and carefully opening it, in fear of the billions of plastic peanuts. I managed to only spill a couple (years of practice), inside the box was a keyboard in a plastic sleeve, a power supply packed in those plastic sheets kids love to pop, a C65 mother board and a commodore SR 9190 Scientific Calculator.

The calculator is nice, it does everything the Radio Shack I bought for electronics at ISU does, except you can't program it. I like the keys on the commodore a little better than the Radio Shack. It has one of those red LED displays, definitely the late 70s. I'll write more on this elsewhere.

Now the keyboard had a broken part, the space bar. My heart sank, I waited so long to get my hands on this stuff only to have to wait more while I sent the keyboard back.... wait, hey, it just came off. I just put the two springs in place and she snapped right into place! I was set.

Even though, I was excited, I was busy and it was two more days before I could put these goodies together and make a computer out of them.

Paxtron was out of disk drives, and manuals, so I am without both. But I live in hope.

I unplugged my HD's power from the strip and plugged in the C65 power supply, ran a serial cable from the mother board to my 1581 (after unplugging it from the HD) and grabbed the video from the 1701. At first I tried the front. I fired up the computer and up came a black and white image with 80 columns of text.

I had already known what to expect from the several documents I had concerning the C65. I had forgotten the part about the composite signal being black and white (like the Amiga 500) while the RGB being color, so I used the 128D's cable. Same. I finally got the RGB hooked up -- no signal (or so I thought). I tried the RF out -- notta. After a couple of calls to Paxtron, the mother board went back. More waiting.

They got it back to me real quick. I like these guys. It turned out to be ok, and Dave put an NTSC RF modulator in at no cost! (Did I mention that I like these guys?)

Back online!

At first I thought that the BASIC was only tokenized, and not fully implemented. However, I was not sure since I didn't get an unimplemented command error for many of the ones I tried. Maybe I should have tried Amiga BASIC commands. I thought I could finish writing the BASIC myself or PEEK and POKE things around to make it work. I, of course, decided to do both. Neither is necessary as you will soon see.

I wrote a memory searching and display program to help with the above tasks and discovered the screen locations for text screen: start: 2047; end: 2086 (40 col) & 2126 (80 col).

To change between 80 and 40 columns press then release [ESC] then press [X]. Since all graphics modes display on both screens, you cannot readily have two different displays going to composite and RGB at one time like you can on the C128. But I'm sure some one will figure it out, if not me.

I ran across the 9 part commodore FAQ LOADSTAR published on the last issue. There I found a web site with C65 info.

I went to the site and got all the info I could read, run, so on and et cetera. After playing with and reading the many files I have concluded that the C65 was more of a pet name (no pun intended) and if it ever had been born, the C65 would have been the C64DX. It is constantly referred to through out as both.

Getting Started

The following is a program written by Fred Bowen and myself, sort of like the thing John Lennon did with the rest of the Beetles, only last I heard, Fred is alive and well.

Although I had a chance to chat with Fred back before Commodore went the way of the Dodo, I have never actually worked with him.

This program started out as a program that was found on one of the disks that can be found on Craig Bruce's web page at the University of Waterloo. To get right where I found them enter as your URL:


These disks came from Commodore and are fairly well documented by Craig. They are archived using CS-DOS on the 128, but you don't need that to unarc, Craig has a patch PRG that will run in 64 mode called LHX64. Go to URL:


and download lhx64-09.sfx (7165bytes). This patch has full docs and is very easy to use.

Most every C65 picture I have seen has been really bad, including mine. Random Mag's picture was all muddy as well as the one or two I have seen in newsletters. To see a good picture of the machine visit CMD's (old, if still there) News at URL:

For those who have a C65, but no info, here is a HIRES program that will give you a 640*400 size screen. While the whole program is not copyrighted by me, the snail code is. It should be enough to get you into the computer's graphics. Enjoy!

100 CLR:V=DEC("D000"):GOTO1000
1000 BANK128:CLR:XM=639:XC=XM/2:YM=399:YC=YM/2
1010 TRAP9999
1020 POKEDEC("D020"),0
1030 H=1:W=1
1050 SCREEN DEF  1,W,H,2
1070 PALETTE 1,0,0,0,0
1080 PALETTE 1,1,3,4,15
1090 PALETTE 1,2,5,15,6
1100 PALETTE 1,3,15,8,7
1110 SCREEN SET 1,1
1120 SCNCLR 0
1130 PEN 0,2
1150 C=0
1170 C=C+.05
1180 X=INT(XC+V*(XM/YM)*SIN(N/(C/2)**))
1190 Y=INT(YC-V*COS(N/(C/2)**))
1200 LINEX,Y,X,Y
1210 NEXTN,V
9999 TRAP:POKEDEC("D011"),DEC("1B"):POKEDEC("D016"),DEC("E9")


I have heard that the CDTV is an Amiga 500 with a CD-ROM drive in it. (Before any of you start screaming that I have jumped ship and abandoned the C64/128 scene, keep in mind that I have supported other platforms for as long as I have the C64!) I have compared the CDTV and Amiga 1000 mother boards and they are very, very similar. While I feel the CDTV is in the 1000/500/2000 family, I feel it is a creature all it's own (possibly built with 1000 style mother boards -- hence the term CD1000 stamped on the bottom of the machine). With built in S-VHS, MIDI port, clock and infrared controller, this puppy is faster than the A500s I have seen that seem to represent the norm for the form.

In the world of CP/M and MS-DOS, as well as the world of geoShell there are three major types of commands: resident, internal transient and external transient. When you boot up your 8088 with MS-DOS 5.0, the dir command becomes resident, that means it is in the computers memory. You type dir, and the computer knows you want to read the directory of a disk and it just does it. The Amiga has a drawer only visible from the CLI (or a file requester) called C or c. In this drawer are commands for the CLI. These commands are internal transient. That means the operating system knows these commands are available from SYS:C. SYS: is the boot disk, be it hard drive, CD, zip or floppy disk. The knowing is the internal part and the having to load from SYS:C is the transient part. (It really only appears that way, the OS actually looks there for anything you type in without a path.)

With this knowledge you can begin to see how you can customize your system. I have several boot disks that are specialized. I don't have a hard drive, so my c space is somewhat limited. There are files called libraries in the SYS:Libs drawer (also invisible from the WB). These libraries too, can fill up a disk's space. But they can be used (or not used) to cover a wide variety of customizing.

The boot disk you use to start the system is known to the system as SYS: and it will always refer back to the same disk. This is important to remember. When you go to install new programs, quite often, new libraries are added to the boot disk. If you don't have a hard drive, it is vital that you make copies of the WB disk and label them well. You may find yourself stripping stuff off a WB disk to make space for an installation. You don't want to change your original -- ever.

You may pull a disk out a drive at the wrong time and blow the disk. It will happen more times than you think it should. Remember to wait a second or two before you pop a disk out. Make a copy of your original disk and place the master in a safe, secure place. In fact, make several copies from your copy.

C and Libs.

Let's look at one instance of customizing. I quite often work cross-platform. I use Little Red Reader to read MS-DOS disks with the FD-4000 on the C128D. The Atari ST reads MS-DOS disks, and I use CrossDOS on the CDTV to read and write to that media. The PC, of course, reads and writes these. Well, there is only one double sided drive on the ST and I needed to make copies of some double sided disks. CrossDOS can read one of the ST formats as well as the MS-DOS format, and the CDTV has two drives. So I needed to make a system disk that had the CrossDOS copy program on it.

I had to strip out lots of stuff. From the CLI, I got rid of the empty icon and drawer (icons take up space), I dumped wait, why, type, and a whole bunch of stuff from the c drawer. But it still was not enough. I dumped all the utilities, went into the system drawer, lost say, clock, more -- pretty much everything -- sans preferences. I dumped the preferences and system drawer icons. Still not enough. I lost the IEEE math libraries since all I wanted to do was copy disks. I finally got it all to fit.

Now, I have a disk that will copy and format my Atari disks. I still have the CLI in case I need to handle things at that level for single file copying.

A little file extermination can give you the room you need to get custom files and commands to your WB disk.

Back to top.

September 1997

Archaic Computer


Brian L. Crosthwaite

Cartridge Mania!

I can recall the time when I had no permanent memory storage. Life was a bear. Rather, computer life. Now I have come to rely on my hard drive as much as my right arm (mouse). But I still need to use a commodore without an HD -- sometimes. After all, I did break my arm once. I can bear it. I have to.

Well, I love to scan. The only thing I have close to a scanner for my 128 is a Video Byte. I love this device. I have accepted the quality (or lack of quality under given circumstances) as being the medium, rather than limitations.

I use VB IV from geoPaint as well as VB III from 64 mode. I capture video on this machine with no HD. GEOS is blessed with a 2Meg REU, but not when I scan, as VB IV is on cart and -- bummer -- they don't work together.

So I find myself taking more time. Not, that much more time. But what about those datassettes? Ok, much time -- sometimes. But I need not take the more time more than once. One of the advantages with most of the old cassette based programs is that once you get the main program loaded everything is loaded. The backup becomes obvious -- snapshot time! (Super Snapshot, Final Cartridge III, Action Replay VI)

It is always a good idea to save the first copy to a floppy, that way you have something pre-backedup. You can then copy it to the HD and stash the floppy in your masters file. (You do remember the system: Original, Master and Working Copies don't you?) This is, of course, is for your own archival purposes.

Then there was the realization of why GEOS doesn't support the datassette. Back in the daze of yore, I used to use an FSD-1 as my primary drive -- my only drive. The FSD came from a company that manufactured drives for commodore (one of many). As a result it was a little more like a 1541 than a 1541 was.

Well, it was faster and it had more RAM. That is where the Turbo Load & Save came in. It strangely sped up GEOS 2.0 (64) drive access to the FSD. I don't know if it would work with a true 1541 drive. I never found any other fastload cart that did this. My only guess is that it hid away in the expanded RAM area of the drive or some unused place in the computer's RAM. This went away when I added the GEORAM, but that cart added the speed of an REU to GEOS, so it was an acceptable trade.

The GEORAM isn't as fast as an REU, but is faster than RAMLink (so subtle, many people don't even notice any difference). This is within GEOS.

I saw a listing from Q-Link that said there was a sort of RAMDOS that was for use with the GEORAM, but I have never seen the file(s). If anyone has this -- please, send me a copy!

Lets go back and examine that C128D with no HD. Plugged into the expansion port is an Aprotek Aprospand. That's a switchable 4 cart selector device. Carts from front to back: Videomate, Action Replay IV, 2 Meg BBGRAM, and Mach 128 fast load.

The Videomate is used primarily for the Video Byte IV with use in geoPaint. But the cart has other utilities inside accessible form the C128D's 64 mode's native mode (Say that six times real fast!). It has the ability to convert a Koala, VB's default file save, into a Printshop or Printmaster clip art. (You'll just have to read that again!) It works rather well, based upon the picture you start with. Another nice feature is the ability to put together one of those movies you see on a Mac or PC that is 1/9 the size of the full screen using pictures captured via the Byte.

The Action Replay.... well, ok I could right a book on the features alone without covering any possible uses for it. There are some really great things it has to offer. You can call up it's copier by typing [@][c] (you can also call up the backup menu by pressing [f6] or from a button on the cart itself. You can zero memory as well as deactivate the cart, hiding the cart from the system to load those fussy programs, then zip it into action when needed.

One thing I really like is when you snapshot a program for HD or other archive you can type text onto the screen for whatever reason you may need to add text (date, your name and address should you loose your disk -- I don't know). I use it for smart comments about how it was a pain to backup under conventional means....

The next cart is the BBGRAM. That stands for Battery Backed GEORAM. It is GEORAM compatible so it is not usable as a standard commodore REU, as well as not being as fast as the 17xx are under GEOS. It is configured as five 1571 virtual drives. I have fast access to five different protected areas. Well, ok, I can only count on 4 always being there, as sometimes, weather I exited with the REU as drive 8 or 10 or the computer lost power due to power outage, the first partition is sometimes lost. (dH's parent company used to be the north west exclusive distributor of these and I provided tech support. If anyone has questions, I would be more than happy to do more of a write up on this nice piece of hardware.)

The final piece of hardware in the expansion device is the Mach 128. I only use it in 128 mode to have faster disk access as I use the AR for fast load in 64 mode.

I Miss My Super Snapshot!

I no longer use my SS on my 128D. :( Why? I don't use it with the RAMLink any more, that is. I have not altered it and have no plans to do so. I used to have the REU slot open, so it didn't matter what the configuration was. I now have a 1700 REU in the RAM slot and the normal/direct switch is switched to direct. SS does not like that. I had to pull it out anyway to use the 128 mode. I used it mostly to reset the machine when playing games with Antony. Especially Atari games as a reset simply reboots the game. The SS allowed me to reconfigure the computer so the game was no longer in memory. Well, those days are gone. However, I have a better solution. Capture from Jason-Ranheim allows me to use the computer in any mode I like (it even remains hidden in CP/M mode) and when we do the arcade thing, reset is just a push of the blue button away. Option 2 zeros memory and boom -- back at the cold boot area -- complete with JiffyDOS!

Capture was designed to backup programs by making a snapshot of the computer's memory, much like Super Snapshot and other such carts. It also aids in making cartridges on EPROM.

I still use the Final Cartridge III on my C64. It has many features I like: mouse support; text editor; and a nice monitor (gotta have one to hack!).

Atari Shame.

No, it wasn't Atari's Shame. It was mine. I had found a cart labeled Microsoft BASIC. Now I come from the school that believes that Atari BASIC sucks. I still use it. I like most of it. But it still sucks none the less. I found the cart at a second hand store that I frequented. Their policy was you buy it, it's yours. But the owner knew me and said if it was the same as the BASIC build in my 800XL, I could get a refund. I didn't have time to do more than plug it in and it looked the same to me. So, I took it back. Then, hating the I/O part of Atari BASIC as I do, I came across an article written by someone like me. An Atari BASIC loader. He was delighted when he got his Microsoft BASIC for the Atari. This was an old article. My heart sunk. Maybe this is why I don't ask questions any more when I buy equipment. I get it. Figure it out later. That was the only non-game cart I have ever encountered on the Atari. (Needless to say, this portion will either be short or on games.)

I am still looking for a RIGHT PORT cartridge.

Favourite games? Ok. Zaxxon (3d angular assault where you fly into enemy territory (space station) in a Shuttle -- you know, the things NASA plays with!). PACMAN (the best maze game ever! Nothing changes, everything just gets faster!). And Joust (it looks like you're in a cavern or cave on giant, flying birds and you joust with enemies over the lava pits below).

And when the kids are not around: Star Raiders (heavy duty pseudo-simulator with complex tracking computer, hyperspace, space stations to save and tie fighters to blast.), Computer War (right out of war games! Norad-like screens, then you are out in flight as you blast the incoming missiles -- waycool!), and Star Trek Strategic Operations Simulator (keeping in the tradition of being non-Star Trek Star Trek) you blast the Klingons! (No using your words here!) These games all have striking 3-D realism and arcade play all rolled into each!

Cheats? None. Haven't tried the one where you leave the fly on the end going until Galaxian (or Galaga in some arcades) runs out of bullets. We used to do that and play until the game machine crashed. Sometimes we were kind enough to unplug the machine and plug it back in again to reset the game. You could always tell if we were there, you'd find a high score so incredibly high no one could touch it or a cleared bank with no high scores!

ST Cart.

I actually have seen ST carts! Ok, so they are not that rare. You got to remember there are no real ST dealers in Boise. (Ok, speak up-- prove me wrong!)

I have seen a clock cart a friend of mine has.

I have an IMG scan that plugs into that port on the left side. The IMG scan is a double fiber-optic line that you hook to a printer. You place a picture into your printer then hit scan and the print head moves the tips of the cables over the image. One cable sends an infrared light down to the page and the other sends back what reflects and the computer turns what comes back into a picture!

Amiga Carts?

Yes. I have heard of a cart that has software that loads into the Amiga via -- what else -- the parallel port. I don't recall what it was, but if I run across any more info it will be here.


I have the cartridge that came with the commodore 16 called the C16 Tutor. It is a demo/tutor type thing that introduces you to the C16. I have seen packages that said C16 cartridge, but have never seen the insides.


The 16k RAM Pack. They had an adapter that you could plug their carts into. (I think I'll do a Part II to this article where I'll cover carts more in depth. I do have more info, but this is a personal account here.)

PC Jr.

IBM PCjr ColorPaint is a fantastic little program much like MacPaint or geoPaint, but on cartridge. After booting DOS enter [g] and the program boots. What I really like about this program is the fill or paint bucket feature, it starts as far up the screen as it can from the mouse and fills clockwise around objects until the area being filled is, well, filled. Quality graphics on screen, mouse control, full page drawing with preview in color -- all in 1984!

Mine Shaft is a cool game with rather cruddy graphics. There has been a flood and all the mining robots that were in the mine have short out and gone bizerk! You have to go and destroy them with a drilling laser and rescue the remaining gems. It is a great shoot em up with a basic premise that the machines -- not people or bugs or aliens -- get to be blasted.

Odyssey II (and 2).

The most unusual carts I have seen to date are the Assembler (useless without a storage unit which I haven't seen yet) and the Speech Console. Carts for this will be covered in Part II.

Atari 2600.

BASIC (the one that uses the number control pad) more on this in the part II text!


Speech adapter.... Thousands of other carts for financial, educational and just plane fun! (Maybe in Part II as I have limited space.)

The VIC20.

My VIC20 has a four slot adapter. My standard setup is Super Expander, 16k RAM Expander, 8k (in the guest slot -- the slot reserved for other carts when I need them/want to play them), and PACMAN (what can I say, I love the game).

I switch between the 8 extra k and the Programmer's Aid cart in the guest slot. I used to use the redefinable f-keys using the Super Expander to write normal programs. Unfortunately, it messed up my compatibilities. Prime example: The first Mandelbrot program I ever wrote was for the VIC20. Well, it needs the extra 3k for the math, but I wrote it to run on an unexpanded machine. The only way to run it out of the box is to have an internally expanded VIC (where screen memory is not moved) or the Super Expander cart (which also does not move screen memory).

BTW, if anyone really want's a fixed version of that, let me know and I'll write it (time permitting). I should rewrite it any way just as a matter of principle.

January 31, 2002 update: I have the original code on datassette and it runs on an unexpanded VIC20.

.....end of line.

Back to top.

October 1997

Archaic Computer


Brian L. Crosthwaite

The Computer World According To Crosthwaite.

Book I
1966 -- LNTV (Local Network Television)

"Computer, initiate self destruct sequence." This, I believe, was the first concept of computer in my mind. Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock talked to it and it responded with very smart information. But was that the only exposure there was? I may have heard of computers from school or other media. Those things were large, but did I know it? Did I see mainframe computers in action or was I deluded by Mission Impossible or Wild Wild West and the computers of fiction?

Book II
1975 -- Strangers In The Night

January 1975, I was at South Jr High, in Boise Idaho. I was into photography, girls (too shy to talk to any of them) and drafting. The January issue of Radio Electronics featuring the mock-up Altair 8800 passed me by like a train in the night. I had seen the Sinclair ZX-81 or possibly the ZX-80 in both kit form and fully assembled. The assembled one was around $750, but kit was a mere $150 (at least, that is my recollection -- it may have been $150 and $40 -- which is probably what it really was -- who knows). The kit didn't seem that far out of reach. I don't know if my parents would have thought a computer was a good idea at the time. I never would know, for I never asked.

I can't be sure of the date. But the image of the ZX-8x (x is computerese for "x" the unknown, in this case it could be 80 or 81) was in my mind often. It must have been Popular Science that ran the ad, tucked away somewhere in the back.

A friend of my brother's was in Electronics at Borah High School, (as was my brother). He and some other fellow students came to my Jr. High to talk to us about computers. I saw the presentation three times, but the only part that stuck in my mind was his description of what computers used to be. "...large rooms with massive air conditioner systems where some poor slob had to replace the giant tubs with sweat running down his face," was how I remember him putting it.

Still, computers had not entered my life. Oh, sure the term computer error was prevalent with companies that sold power and telephone service. But did computers really make mistakes or was it just a catch all dodge to cover their own, human errors?

Book III
On up to 1982 -- TV Turnaround

I had seen the Timex/sinclair ad on TV, William Shatner was back -- this time talking about the User Friendly VIC20 Personal Computer, the TI 99/4A was there with Bill Cosby, and Alan Alda was talking about the Atari Home Computer. The three major commercials of the time were:

  1. The commodore 64 ad where the kid goes into a job interview talking about his high score on some astroblaster game.
  2. The one where the $600 computer was $900 and the $900 computer was $1200.
  3. The ad with the Charlie Chaplin clone walking around the ill-fated PCjr.

It was a major time of change in my life.

I had moved in and out with lots of major events happening so quickly that the years from 1980 to 1983 blurred together, and yet, were so full as to seem to take forever. Music was my first major, followed by the thought that I was going to take Chemistry, then I moved into Drawing which I took very seriously until I realized I was in love with Physics.

I collected quite a wide scope of music, mostly contemporary on what was called the LP, and started my own yet-to-be-published underground comic strip. I subscribed to several photographic magazines and Rolling Stone. But that was about to change.

Book III Volume ii
1982 Comes To An End -- Change

My brother, sent our Dad a Timex/sinclair 1000 personal computer for his B i r t h d a y. Ok, at the time I only saw the word computer. It spoke BASIC, which I was soon to learn stood for Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code (you know they had to sit down with a piece of paper and a pencil to write a bunch of possible meanings after they named that one).

I went through the manual and did the PRINT thing. That is where everyone starts. (Who started us there anyway?) I didn't play with it a lot, at least not at first. My brother came up to visit that C h r i s t m a s and he did some stuff with it -- using PRINT mostly. This was cool. We were using a computer. I knew right away that I wanted to program (what we now call code -- or coding).

In the summer of the next year I enrolled in Math 112 -- BASIC programming.

The drive from my parents house to BSU was not necessarily a long ten miles, at least not in my little red bug. I pulled into the parking lot and could usually get three or four rows back. The spot was in the stadium lot clear cross campus from the Math building. Opening the door, I'd turn and pull my Logun Earth Ski out from the back seat, while I flung my book bag onto my shoulder. My board was not like any other. I had replaced the trucks with a custom set made by me. Smaller bearings with an extra added to fill the space and extra wide tires to compensate for the narrow axles.

I zipped through the cars and onto the wide open walk. A couple of ramps to make it interesting and then a step down of the tail and the board is in my hand. Into the building, around a corner, at the center of the building I would dart into the lab and log on. It was an HP3000 mainframe.

(Ok, flashback over.) I had what it took, but I didn't get it. Whatever it was, it made me write a program that printed all the short programs I wrote to answer the questions in my assignments. Sort of word/data processing. Even today I don't know what to call it. But it is a calling.

I remember being in the business building on the second floor in the computer lab one day, when a voice from behind asked me if everything was going ok. "Yeah, fine," I replied. The person then told me he was going to get a computer called the commodore 64. Videon had them for $235. They were offering a $100 rebate. Commodore was also offering a $100 rebate, or so he said. He was going to get a state- of- the- art- color- graphics- three- voice- synthesizer- sound- 64k- Random- Access- Memory computer for $35!!! I had to check into it!

My Dad and I went in hot pursuit. Well, Videon did have C64s, but they were offering no rebate, and to the best their knowledge, neither was Commodore. Kmart had the C64 for $218 which was the best price in town, but we didn't get it. At least, not at that time.

About a month went by when we realized there was a communications break. My Dad thought I didn't want the C64 and I thought he had decided it was either too expensive or maybe computers had no future. When I asked, he said he thought I decided I didn't want it. What?!? Are you kidding -- moi, non computerdum? "Can we get it," I asked? "Oh, I suppose so," he replied. I then took possession of the machine that changed my life.

One day, I found myself at the lab with Professor Kerr, my BASIC teacher. The class had been assigned the task of writing a Fibonacci sequence generator. I had some good code, but it didn't get the right results. The Professor could see the gears turning in my head. Apparently they were going in the right direction, but not all were making contact. Then something went click. I fixed the program. I made it work. I got it. I knew how it worked! I knew why it worked!!

It had happened -- a hacker was born.

What happened next is hard to put into words. I wrote C h r i s t m a s and B i r t h d a y cards on my computer. I typed in every computer program listing I could get my hands on. It was a blast.

I did limit my program size after a while. You see, all I had was a commodore 64. No disk drive, no datassette. Any programs I wrote I had to transcribe to paper via pen. It was a hard life, but I got good at typing in numeric data with a high degree of accuracy.

Despite the lack of permanent storage, I pursued code with a passion. I borrowed a black and white TV from my brother. Walt and I watched the first-ever space shuttle launch on it long before the computer world had interrupted my flow. The TV found itself with me at my new off campus residency in a house I shared with Chris, a prior roommate. It had a strange quality to it -- rather a lack of quality. The screen was so bad that anyone watching would not, at first, believe that I was indeed doing anything on the computer. The picture was fuzzy and the image oscillated every one inch on the screen in the opposite direction. Circles on this thing looked more like eggs.

Book IV
1984 -- ISU

At ISU, I found myself in a huge dorm room -- alone. A double sized room with two of everything. Well, ok, one sink. I ditched the extra bed in the downstairs storage and arranged the desks in an L formation. In one drawer I placed the T/S 1000 with the C64 right above it. A smaller, clearer RCA b&w TV replaced the big, fuzzy screen TV. Still no permanent memory. Then it happened, my Dad had found the commodore datassette on sale at Kmart for $59 -- he got one and sent it. I had permanent storage!

I needed graphics. I could do stuff with graphics, but it was a real pain. Logo was on order at the ISU Bookstore. Finally, it arrived. I thought it was going to be a cartridge for some reason. It wasn't. It was on disk. This was the first of what turned into a string of incompatibilities.

Let me explain. I saw a cool comic strip program in a commodore magazine -- I couldn't wait to type it in. I got the magazine home and it turned out it was for the VIC20. Darn. Later when I finally got my hands on a VIC20, I went back to the program and found out it was for a VIC20 with the Super Expander Cartridge.

It seemed at the time that everything was either on disk or was for the VIC20. Then commodore came out with the C128. All the cool stuff I wanted to run was for it. There was no winning.

Back to the story at hand. I needed easy graphics. I set out to Armadillo Brothers in search of said graphics. I found two. Turtle Graphics II and Simons' BASIC. The guy in the store said he liked the Turtle Graphics II because you didn't need to have the cartridge in to run programs written with it (he was wrong), but Simons' BASIC impressed me and that is the one I bought.

A few years later, I wrote some tips on using it and sent them to LOADSTAR that were published anonymously. I sent more -- this time I included my name -- but, alas, they said they would no longer support anything that was not a standard commodore computer configuration because the majority would not have it. It being Simons' BASIC. They acknowledged me anonymously in the diskzine, and this time I went unknown and didn't even get my letter published so the information was hashed.

I was majoring in Electronics. It was a great time for computerists everywhere. What are computerists anyway? Today, lots of people own their own computer, and still more use them in the work place. But that alone does not constitute one as a computerist. Or does it? If you are driving a car you may be referred to as a motorist. But not an automotive enthusiast. So, maybe the word computerist no longer applies. That word back then was not as prevalent as the term hobbyist. The hobbyist was the guy, almost always a guy, who owned his own computer simply for the sake of owning his own computer.

Was I a hobbiest? I wanted to learn how to program, because we had a computer (T/S1000). I got the C64 because I had learned to use computers. I used mine for word processing (I wrote my own word processor). But, I mostly programmed graphics, maybe more so as an artist than a mathematician or science guy. I wrote programs that did simple things (at first), and slowly built a library. I may have chosen to get a commodore 64 for educational purposes and practicality. But I used it mainly to use it.

I used it for my Technical Writing class that year. I drew out a sine wave. I found that as I explained it to the class I had no clue as to how I came about this. Computers were strange new things back then and depending on who you talk to, they still are today. So the class had no clue either. They were so amazed at this machine I dragged all the way from the dorm to do this demonstration on that they didn't care if I had done any more than program it. That was enough. I could figure out the other stuff long after I graduated. And, that despite the fact I forgot the Simons' BASIC cartridge, I still managed to look like I really had it together. (Yes, I was almost ready to go when I found out I had no programming language to interpret my code!)

1997 -- LCTV (Local Cable Television)

So where am I today? Well, maintaining a couple of websites and Assistant Sysopping on a BBS on the Internet. I do lots of it from a Power Macintosh. With quite an arsenal of user-power behind it. My site is totally dedicated to the users of machines of the long ago. Or maybe, not so long ago. You see, I believe that these machines are as useful today as they were the day they were first introduced to the world. And yes, that is a loaded statement. Some may say the Timex/sinclair 1000 was useless when it arrived in the nineteen eighties (not I). Probably not for word processing, but it had and still has it's uses. Some of us just like to use our computers for the sake of using a computer.

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November 1997

One November Night:

Archaic Computer


Computer Genocide


Brian Crosthwaite

Well, it's 4am, I've been looking at curio-files (not to be confused with curiophiles -- people who frequent curio and second hand shops). These are files that I have forgotten what they were and are occupying wanted and needed space on my HD -- I need to decide if they are keepers or need to be passed to the computer- file- great- beyond. The hot espresso warms me from the inside, as I recall the disturbing news.

Did you realize that many second-hand stores will send computers that are not at least semi-new into the trash. A friend of mine was dropping off some computer equipment the other day. He told me how his wife used to work at the Salvation Army and they'd junk any non-clone stuff. He also said they'd like to have someone who knows what they are doing when it comes to computers.

The last part is good news, at least I'd thought. I didn't ask him how long ago she worked there. I have bought commodore equipment there and I wonder if that was before or after they made this decision. So why did I think that last part was good news? If they really, truly know what they are doing, they will at least save viable platforms (I think they are all viable). Boise has active Atari and commodore user groups and many of them scour the second-hand stores. But then he mentioned that he had seen a perfectly good ST go to the dump.

Yes, the dump! What did you think they did with them anyway? I heard a horror story, the school system in Boise had thrown out a bunch of stuff and hauled it off to the dump; Apples, commodores, Macs. A local computer merchant got wind of it and filled his van with what he could, but he could not rescue it all or even most.

Many people think it has to be made today to work. I took a sick computer (NEC PC 8201A) into Renaissance Computer thinking, "Hey, they can fix it, they do older stuff..." Anyone tech with half a brain could fix it. The salesperson that was of no help to me was a victim of the illusion that has become real! (I just want to note that everyone else I have talked to there is on top of things and are very smart and with-it people.)

This machine is a 4Mhz notebook, and he was telling me about how there are computers that run at 300 Mhz now. I should have said, "So what, my 12Mhz Amiga can spin cookies around all of them!!!" But, I didn't stoop to his level.

So how do we counter such idiocy? Should we counter it? That idiocy is what has made the computers we retrocomputerist love, so accessible. Both in locating them and price. But can we stand by knowing that a computer that could find a home and be wanted, won't?

I understand that a second hand store can't fill it's space with items that may not sell for a very long time -- and to them that is an item that will never sell.

I am hoping that the recent Vintage Computer Festival has gotten some new kids on the block, and has created an interest in some to want to own a computer from long ago. Maybe someone will read this and decide to volunteer their expertise at a local thriftshop and find homes for the ones that would go to the dump while sorting the ones that will sell quickly.

Perhaps if you know of someone who wants a computer, but doesn't have $1200 for a machine that only has a few apps installed, you might steer them the way of an older system. Many of the systems that are bought at garage sales are complete and have lots of softs. It is usually the case of the owner finally giving into the illusion that has become real.

The illusion that has become real is where you buy only the latest cos old machines no longer work. (Don't get me wrong, just because you want a new system, it doesn't discount any of your computing needs.) Because of the whole fiasco with IBM making a Personal Computer, the computing world as a whole has suffered gravely. IBM made their system with nothing sacred. They bought everything off the shelf. Then Ohio Data came in and it was on. Big Blue sold to businesses as they always had, but now they had a less expensive system versus a macrocomputer or a mainframe.

I think the long forgotten (by most computer historians) ball- dropper is CBM.

Commodore Business Machines had CBM models in businesses and they wanted to push the new B series. They did what was to became CBM's new marketing style. They just thought people would buy it. They dumped the most affordable machine they had, the B128-80, in favor of the bigger machines with built in monitors and larger memory -- the B256-80 and the B512-80.

But these systems had some major problems, they had huge hulking disk drives that were as large as the computers themselves. They were able to sell some, mostly to people who were upgrading the CBM 8000 (and other) series machines in the hope of being more compatible. You see, the B could have optional 8088 and/or Z-80 chip(s) installed to run MS-DOS and CP/M programs. But, the main drives they sold, the 4020 and the 4040, were GCR and not MFM. Basically what that means is they could only read one format type, and it was not an industry standard.

It was what has become common practice in the PC world today. You buy a system then you have to upgrade it to use it. The B series couldn't run CBM software, at least, not of the 8000 variety. So things got rather complex. The PC was the way to go, after all IBM did call, and we couldn't get CBM on the phone the other day....

Apple on the other hand was greedy. They could have taken the market by storm with their new platform, but there was a two fold plan: If the price was too low, no one would buy it, as it was obviously not any good. The other side was, they are going to get rich. But, in reality, people who had small businesses were buying the commodore 64 and getting the business series softs that CBM had produced (with a smaller drive and TV as a monitor option). The C64 was at Kmart and Sears and people just happened to be there anyway. I don't ever recall seeing the Macintosh at any department stores.

Still, the PC was priced so one could budget it in -- eventually -- even the small business. And for most purposes it worked. And in a small space at that.

The PCjr came too late. It is quite a machine, but it had a very large price tag on it, and as Commodore said, "It's not how much it costs, it's how much you get." The Jr's keyboard, later replaced, was a nightmare, but the machine itself was a credit to the Kludge Society. It was a very innovative machine, with an optical mouse, wireless keyboard, and BASIC built in (just a side here BASIC has been in every IBM ROM since the first PC up to at least the 486 machines and may still be there!).

But it's memory topped out at 128k. What was the point? You couldn't run most of the software out there. PCs came loaded with 640k memory, and unless you got disk BASIC, that ran under the smaller system you couldn't save your programs to disk -- you had to get the cassette storage unit.

So now, many program developers took on this attitude that only serious software runs on serious machines. (I have heard of a Word Perfect Suite for the Apple II, but I have never seen it on the commodore 64. Apparently the ST and the Amiga were at one time serious machines as there are versions for them as well.) Soon, game developers decided to move to the serious platforms as the illusion had begun -- people, not just businesses, were buying serious computers.

For the most part, these machines had neither sound nor graphics passed a beeper and Hercules.

Less and less was produced for the Atari and commodore. The Timex/sinclair 1000 died. The Texas Instruments 99/4A slipped out of existence. The Adam vanished, and CP/M faded away.

The illusion was not so much just an illusion any more. It didn't mater that the platform of choice had no sound. It didn't mater that the platform of choice didn't have color. It didn't matter that the platform of choice was way more expensive than the other systems we knew so well. If you wanted to get software from the store, you had to have a clone (Use the term IBM clone today and you will date yourself. It is now PC.) or a Mac or an Amiga.

They don't make anything for the Amiga. They make even less for the Mac, and what they do make for the PC needs Win95 and lots of memory, lots of hard drive space, and lots of color. Some softs will not run on a machine without a sound card.

The illusion that has become real has given us the Golden opportunity. I bought an Atari 800XL for $7 and a C64 for $5. These machines have no warranty, but you can get warrantied computers of the second hand nature and gobs of software if you know the right places. Check out many of the links here and the links those pages have and you will certainly run into a few.

The prices from most used computer dealers are usually reasonable. (They're not really called that, as Used Computer Dealers deal only in clones or PCs.) Most warranties are the simple 30 days and no one wants to sell you something that doesn't work, or they will loose you as a customer. (This excludes as is items, found on various sites, postings, second-hand stores and garage/yard sales.

This illusion that has become real or Golden Opportunity is a double edged sword. It gets a great value to the retrocomputing public, but it leads to computer genocide.

Well, I think I'll go have a cup of coffee now as my espresso is long gone and I need to get back to those files....

Back to top.

December 1997

If you have a tip for this new pseudo-series of computes on the read, why not type it up, and email it to me at
I would love to hear from writers and programmers and users from all walks of cyberlife.

Atari 8-bit Cyberlife.

Does it exist? I have yet to log onto the net via an Atari 8-bit. I should have taken advantage of the shell that Delphi provided. If you live such a life, let us know -- this is the place to share it.

The Incessant Ramblings of a Programmer Gone Mad


Archaic Computer


Brian L. Crosthwaite

H a p p y H o l i d a y s E v e r y o n e !

Simple Programmability.

While waiting for my flight to COMDEX I wrote a small word processor on the HP75D. Well, ok, I tried. I didn't have a manual to look up a couple of things I didn't know about HP BASIC.

The manual is in a loose-leaf notebook and is rather large. The computer itself is rather small. In fact it is the smallest computer I have. Much like the Laser 50, it has a one line display on an LCD screen. But the HP is smaller by about 75%. The HP also uses NiCads rather than normal batteries. I should say, normal household batteries.

Ok, Fairly Simple.

Any who, the wp I wrote had an input flaw -- I had to use INPUT rather than an INKEY$ or GET type of input, making it difficult to keep track of the number of characters.

I didn't work on it on the plane as I had far too many sites to set. Coffee, raisins, a granola bar, and a couple of orange juices later and I was landing in L a s V e g a s .

I had no idea what the name of the hotel was, but I had a number. So I called it and asked where I was to meet the shuttle. I told them I was in the baggage claim area, but they insisted I could see the Budget car rental place from where I was. I talked to two people and I am guessing that neither has ever been to the airport. I figured it out on my own, but I still hadn't gotten the name of the hotel.

I waited, then thought I should call and get the name. Hakinta? I could hardly understand the voice on the phone. La Quinta is what it was. But I figured it out when the second lone shuttle finally arrived.

"Cougar Mountain?" That's me!!

The previous shuttle driver I talked to said traffic was bad, but I'm thinking they had to build the van as it took only a few minutes to get to the hotel. I would describe it as more of a motel.

The year was 1 9 9 7. Three years after Commodore Business Machines had fallen apart. A year and a half after Atari turned into JTS and vanished.

While there were lots to see, there was no CBM, no Atari, no Timex-sinclair Cooperative, no TI99/4As showing the latest in the Educational Series. 8 inch floppies were nowhere in sight. There were few, if any 5.25 inch floppies. The only indicator of people coming from outside the USA was the language they spoke or a rich accent. Dress was pretty much the same -- black suite and tie or short black business skirt. Everything was for the PC.

Those were the days!

If you recall a time when the PC was called an IBM clone, then you can consider yourself an old timer of the microcomputer world. I am typing this on one of the long forgotten machines. It is a Personal Computer, it says so right there on the keyboard, but if I told people I had a PC that couldn't run Windows or MS-DOS software they would think there was something wrong with it, and if I told them it was fine, they would be confused. It is a commodore 128D Personal Computer.

It has a commodore 64 mode, it has a CP/M mode and it has the native commodore 128 mode. So it really isn't out moded is it?

Today, there are two computer platforms, the Mac and the PC. Macs are PowerMacs and PCs are Pentium IIs. But the Mac seems to be fading, much like the Amiga did. Don't believe me?

Don't take it personal (Mac people do), but go into JoeBizzCrap and they will have some Mac, but everything runs on Win95 and some on Win3.1. DOS? -- never heard of it. (Gotta cut the kid some slack, he grew up knowing nothing but Win3.1.) I recall a time when I could go into Software Etc and they had a commodore 64/128 section, an Amiga section and an ST section. Atari 8-bits and Timex/sinclair had vanished from the shelves of Fred Meyer and Sears long before Boise even got a Software Etc.

The ST section vanished, as has the Amiga -- the Mac seems to be following as there are less and less titles.

Maybe These Are The Days!

But now and then, at these office places and softhouses there is a bargain bin where a bunch of misc stuff that arrives from some abandoned warehouse somewhere and there is a C64, Atari, or Apple II title amongst them. They are priced right too -- usually in the $5 range.

There are places the specialize in used C64 and Atari equipment, and they know the worth of it. The prices are usually very reasonable. I get software that have all original boxes, docs, and disks for $10 to $15. These are games (usually) that cost $20 to $40 about ten years ago.

This is truly The Golden Age of 8-bit Computing! Now don't confuse this with the Golden Age of Computing. Back then, it was all 8-bit computing, but disk drives cost $500+, not the $35 as they are now.

I am finding things that my 1980s Part Time Employed/Student status kept out of my reach, suddenly becoming affordable, even with a serious lack of expendable cash. I bought a printer/plotter for $10 and it had everything, but the box!

To Whom Do We Owe The Honor?

The ones we have to thank are many. The people who moved on (may we hope that it was a happy decision and not a victim of the Illusion); the 8-bit believers who love to buy, sell, trade these wonderful machines in their stores. And certainly ourselves for supporting them; and possibly to the ones who deserted us (who needs them, we can buy second-hand!) in favour of the serious machines (see last month's AC).

Now what?

We were represented at COMDEX in a vague sort of way. I was looking at all kinds of stuff, seeing how I could use it on my commodore or my Ace 1000. I was too busy to notice a lack of the 8-bit computer itself (but remember I took a computer there in case I need a fix, not to try out a potential piece of stuffware for a chain of stores).

The hot potato.

Cassette drives. They are at the root of all 8-bits. Timex/sinclair, Tomy Tutor, TI99/4A, NEC 8201A, commodore PET, PCjr, HP75D, commodore VIC20, Coleco Adam, even the highly evolved commodore 128D has a cassette port built in.

The Datassette is what commodore called it. It is now being passed around like a hot potato. I get one for every computer I own. Why? Because of the programs that exist on Datassette. Sure, many programs came on both cassette and disk, but you can't always be picky about the medium those old programs are available on. If I run across something I have been looking for and find out it is on cassette, I have no qualms about getting it, as I know I can load it. I have the reader.

Having a cassette drive in the 90s is a must for every hardcore 8-bit user. It opens the door up to programs that may have otherwise been turned away for a simple lack of readability.

So if you are looking to expand your 8-bit experience, you just might keep your eyes open for a cassette drive or cable for your machine.


I recently ran across a Walt Disney game called The Chase on Tom Sawyer's Island. A maze game of the similar to PACMAN variety. It has the same layout on each level. Instead of dots you pick up berries and rather than power pills you have escape routes. There is a water wheel, a bear cave, a teeter totter, a raft and another cave to dodge and slip out of the reach of the Ghost's replacements Aunt Polly, Injun Joe and after the 3rd level the bear. The game is the same at all levels, only things get a little more hectic, just like in PACMAN. There are only ten levels, and the game does end -- if you can play through it.

The box says HI TECH EXPRESSIONS (584 Broadway, New York, NY, 10012) and has the picture at the end of the game if you win. Sorta takes any surprise out of it.

The game is copyright 1988 by Disney and was available for IBM, Tandy and Compatibles (256k); Apple IIe/c/GS; and commodore 64/128. On disk -- I wonder if it was ever at COMDEX.

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