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January 2004

Archaic Computer


Brian Crosthwaite

Happy New Year!

Aah, Respite

As last month's vacation approached, I spent some time setting up an Amiga 3000 computer with games. Games, games, and more games!

The plan was to set up a semi-portable station that had an Amiga, a PC, the C65 and a Tower 128.

It all began with a project sitting in the garage, and a VCR with a bad head.

Actually, I had several projects sitting around. A C65 I had gotten in the form of parts several years ago, a 128 Tower I had acquired in a major commodore purchase, a couple of VCRs needing repairs and some Atari Power Supplies.

I made some investigations into the VCRs and ordered some fuses for the Power Supplies, but mostly things just sat on a card table in the play room.

This card table is my setup and test solution -- it's a pop- up- flat surface used for testing and playing, that quickly disappears when the space is needed for other things.

These projects were starting to gather dust! So I moved the card table into the music room, next to my surf station (the A1200). Soon after, came an Amiga 3000. This thing is loaded. 25MHz 030, 2Megs Chip RAM, 18Megs of Other RAM. Unfortunately, artifacts appeared on the screen, and errors popped up in just about everything I tried to run on it. It was a very unstable system.

I then inherited a small, blue, computer table. This table was thinner. It's as wide, but not quite as deep as the card table, giving me more room to move around. I still had space to mess around and do some testing.

As time passed the table served as a place to store the VCRs and the Tower (I had finally brought it in) and all the boxes containing the guts to the tower, along with various boxes containing the PSs and other cool junk.

Several months later another 3000 made it's way in place of the sick 3000. Inside this one seemed to have full banks of RAM, however the screen and test programs only show 2 Megs of Chip. Artifacts appear, but not as bad, they vanish and the system is a bit more stable.

This one I loaded up with games, Battle Chess, Block Out, Shanghai, Solitaire, IFF2PCS, Mind Games, Amaze, to name a few. The monitor hooked up is a Samsung VGA. The Workbench at PAL Hires Laced is huge! No flicker and sharp as a tack.

The Tower of Terror.

The 128 is a work in progress. In fact, the project has had much done on it before I acquired it. There are many things I'd of done different (and may still). Many jacks on the mother board have been removed and re-soldered in at different angles. The cart port was removed and individual wires were soldered on with no ends on them. The solder jobs leave lots to be desired. I'm thinking of pulling it and putting in another board and simply adapt it to the case by making extension cables.

It appears that some cables are extensions, but I'll have to pull the board to see for sure. None of the ports needed to be moved, as the board could easily be mounted 3 inches higher. Perhaps a 128D mother board would be the way to go. The Cassette port is blocked -- this makes the best argument for a 128D mother board as the datassette port is blocked on the 128 in this case, where as a 128D board would put it on the bottom. It would be 2cool to have a monster commodore tower and have a datassette mounted in front!

I need a short 25pin D-sub extension cable for the kb. The system is usable. One of the wires soldered to the joystick port (I believe port 1) isn't connected, most likely a cruddy solder job. Much of the solder is full of flux and has bubbles. I'm surprised it works at all.

The maker had taken a 128 PS and opened it up and made short wires for it, the idea being you plug it into the strip that was mounted in the lower, inside, back of the tower. The PS does not work (something that should have been check prior to altering) however, that might be due to poor soldering.

The case is an old metal one, that is not very versatile. It was made for a tight fit for the board and the drive bays are made for your standard size drives, with nothing but side mounts. It supports 3 and 5 inch widths.

It is a big tower, so one would think there would be lots of possibilities. The plan for now, however is to use it unaltered (if I can get away with not using the lead that's not hooked up on the joystick port). I have a 1581 w/JiffyDOS and 8/9 switch on the front for quick changing I plan to use with it, but the JiffyDOS for use with this system comes from the RAMLink and I have no plans to solder all those wires.

What the machine needs is a 1541 as Octavia wants to play the Barbie Game on it. There is a 2002 that works well with both the Amiga, the 128's 80 column and the 128's 40 column display modes set up on the lower part of the table now. Perhaps I may move it up to the top and use it with the 3000, the 128 and the 65.

The 2002 was the monitor I planned to set up on the C65. Is it next? Maybe so.

.....end of line.
Back to top.

February 2004

Archaic Computer

Happy Valentine's Day

palm to commodore 64


Brian Crosthwaite

In The Name Of Portability

Having an SX-64 is an amazing thing. Color screen, 1541 drive, nice keyboard -- totally portable solution. Except you need AC power. Now, the SX is nice when you have a place to put it and an AC outlet. But running converted from DC would put quite the draw on the batteries. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

For many years, I wanted to setup the SX out on our deck, running Sky Travel, with the telescope trained on some planet, comet, or star we found using the software, tracking it with both SX and telescope. But life just seemed to get busier and busier and the dream never came manifest.

My family and I have been going camping for years. I hadn't taken a computer with me before, but then one time I needed to get an article written and camping stood between me and the deadline. I had been coding and writing recently on my PX-8, so I took it along. I didn't find much time to write. Then it rained. I grabbed my PX and headed into Grandpa's pop-up tent. 45 minutes later I had hashed out an edited draft. On another trip, I coded some plot tests and a program that rendered a mountain scene complete with lake and sunshine while en route. The TRS-80 Model 100 came along about the time the PX batteries gave out.

These portables left me with basically transcribing the code to the 64 by hand. I reached the point where I wanted a machine that could run an emulator that worked well.

A64 on the Amiga was nice, but portable Amigas were hard to come by (the PAWS1200 was real pricey and hard to find). PC64 didn't quite cut it, it was cumbersome outside the C64 environment, the 386 had a messed up display, then the whole notebook fiasco I went through when we moved left me where I was before it all started.

I finally got my hands on a ThinkPad 760ED. I DLed, and installed VICE. I now had a portable 64. I still needed to have time and space to use it.

For a while I used the Atari Portfolio to program (I still do). I can move code over via a serial cable and the PT program on the ThinkPad. I'd then retype the math into the Vice window.

Then I got a Kyocera smartphone. It has the palm OS in it. One of the first things I did was find a BASIC programming package for it. HotPaws BASIC is what I found.

HotPaws is based on, or at least aimed at being compliant with, Chipmunk BASIC on the Mac. It has some nice features that allow you to concentrate on the nitty gritty of programming (or what I consider that to be). For instance, INPUT and PRINT both will print your message in a dialog or requester box with an ok button. If I want stuff printed on the screen, I can do that too, it's just a matter of using the DRAW command. DRAW is also used for plotting dots. All in all, it is a very versatile language.

I have DLed Frodo for the palm, however it will only run on palm OS5+. I even installed it on my smartphone to see if I could get it running even if it was in ultra slo mo ;) It won't even boot, it just informs me that I need OS5 then I'm back to my menu screen.

There are a couple of ways my code could make it to the C64 via the palm. One way is to transfer the files via the palm's hot sync, then scrap it into a txt file (HotPaws saves source as a note pad file). A text editor would be needed to put line numbers in the code, if line numbers were not in the initial code, as HotPaws does not need to have line numbers. Then files could be converted to PETASCII with a tool such as Wrong is Write. The next step would be to run the utility that comes with the 1571 or 81 drive utilities disk for the 128 that converts sequential files to BASIC code (this program searches out line numbers and prints the text to the screen then enters a RETURN into the keyboard's buffer thus entering the BASIC code into memory).

From there the PRG would be loaded into BASIC and then the code that does not jive need be converted to something the 64 (or 128) could understand. Although, this could be done in the text editor as well. I'd prefer to do it once in 64 mode since I'd make all kinds of mistakes and the computer'd tell me -- why bother doing it twice!?!

What I do is write math on the palm. I have written various skeletons in AMOS (Amiga), STOS (Atari ST), geoBASIC (64/128) -- and more recently, marking my return home -- BASIC. I have skeletons on the Epson PX-8, Atari 8-bit and other machines as well. All I have to do is plug in the new maths and off I go! Well, ok, I am always refining the code for the skeletons too, but I don't have to start from scratch.

"Why bother with the palm?" or "Hold the Phone!"

I am a Franklin planner user. I have tried many planners over the years and there are some fair ones out there. One day I came across the Franklin. Anyone who uses the Franklin, will let you know how great it is -- we do that ;) It is a planning system. It is a system that works. It allows you to live your life doing what matters to you to help you succeed at what you want and need. Ok, I could really get into it here, but this is not about the Franklin.

The system is such that it is really hard for things to fall through the cracks. The problem is you need to look at it. You need to have a place to set it.

I homeschool my four daughters. The two oldest are enrolled in the Idaho Virtual Academy, where their lessons are online. We do most of our work offline, but we find ourselves working at the computer. Desk space leaves little room for my planner. But I had it near. I eventually set a timer so I could remember to look at it over the course of the day to make sure I got certain tasks done by, or at a given time. The problem with this was, if I was in the middle of a lesson, I'd usually forget the timer had gone off and would miss something. Enter a Kyocera smartphone.

Actually it was a birthday conspiracy between my wife and my brother. She got me the software and he got me the phone. What software? The palm edition of the Franklin software. I could now eliminate the bulky planner and timer and have a device that was small with alarms that would repeat until I had the chance to get to them.

I'm looking at this thinking, hummmm, games? Why not BASIC!? I got on the net and found a couple of flavors and settled on the HotPaws.

When an idea hits -- my smartphone is right there to implement it. I can turn an idea into reality right where I am and not have to remember the idea later when I can get to the ThinkPad or the 64. With features like cut and paste, I can quickly customize things, plus the note pad is just a button away for taking additional notes (the first half of this article was written on the palm). I can code virtually anywhere!

.....end of line.

noesis0 is a writer for and a LOADSTAR programmer.

Copyright 2004 Brian Crosthwaite All Rights Reserved.
Back to top.

March 2004

Archaic Computer


Brian Crosthwaite

Things Are Moving

About three years ago I had a bunch of stuff I called the eBay pile. I had scanned items and piled them up in the room we call the Music Room (it's really not more than a room with a big stereo in it). Then came twins. Then dust.

Our lives didn't just have one change, but many. One major one was I started schooling my kids. Time outside life seemed to standstill while the real world sped by at an astonishing rate. 2001 was the Year of Science Fiction and it's now long gone. 2002, that balanced date -- also gone. Here we are still in the dawn of a new Millennium, slipping quietly, quickly into the Century.

Well, the last couple of summers, (or maybe just this last one, things seem a blur) I went through the scans on the ThinkPad and wrote up basic eBay-postings for them. Well, some how, in the last couple of months I've managed to finish up and post several items on eBay.

What I've found is that C64 stuff tends to sell and other stuff does not do what I think it should. All in all, things are moving out the door. Part of what helps is that there is a post office with some wonderful people who work there near by.

I chose to eBay these small items as I thought I can scan them, detail them and pack them in a relatively small space inside. I started this long drawn out phase of my eBaying i n the cold of the winter. This was a cozy solution. In fact, it was down right snuggly. There were babies in snugglies!

The Question Remains.

The question that still remains is, what's out in the garage and when will it become posted? Well, there are some Heathkit things, an AT&T terminal and some other waycool items I'd like to find homes for in a huge pile. But I need to do some planning and juggling.

One of the first things I need to do is clear the pile spot out.


One big problem is that there is an Atari Mega STe where once there was nothing, a space I could use for eBayables. The space needs to be cleared so I can bring the Apples in to clean, photograph, and write up the descriptions. There are other obstacles as well, like digging the stuff out, as my previous plans were foiled by the walk way that was filling up with club equipment.

Time may still be the big enemy here, as digging the stuff out will have to wait until I get a place to put the machines. Once that has happened, it's just a matter of cleaning the machines one at a time, write them up, pack them, weigh and measure them, calculate shipping charges, and finally post them.

Quick Buy.

Weighing and measuring is the key. This allows me to post a fix shipping weight allowing buyers to make payment at their leisure. Rather than have to wait for me to figure out the cost then get back to them. As an eBay buyer, I prefer a fixed rate as the actual cost is usually about what most sellers say it'll be. With internet tools for the USPS and UPS, it is easy to get a real accurate guess.

When I buy off of eBay, I really like the Buy it Now feature as watching an auction play out is not always possible for me. Knowing the total at the end of the auction is nice as I can pay right away, weather it is via Money Order or online payment, such as PayPal.

The Long and the Short.

I have a system that works for me. Using Scan Center on the Amiga 2000, I scan the items at 300dpi @ 35%. This gives me great resolution and file size is small (1.5Megs -- IFF), Scan Center auto launches ImageFX and loads the picture. From there I resize the image with the lock on aspect. I elected to have the X value be 600. I save it as a progressive JPEG at 85% This gives me an image that will load fairly quickly on a computer using a modem, with lots of detail. If the item is unscannable, I use the HP Photosmart digital camera and DL the images to the 1200 via it's PCMCIA card slot and a CF to PCMCIA card adapter, cf.device (Aminet) and PhotogenicsSE as it reads the format well and I can easily crop, save to HD and finally re-save from ImageFX in my standard format. After that, the image will load in ImageFX, but not PhotogenicsSE or ImageStudio, but it is a nice small file, and that's what I'm going for.

After the ImageFX session, I need to exit ImageFX, otherwise, Scan Center (or maybe it's ImageFX) doesn't let me do any more scanning. However, upon the next resizing (after the auto launch), my settings will be remembered.

My scanner can be used from inside ImageFX, unfortunately, ImageFX has no driver for the Great Valley Products SCSI. There is a GVP SCSI driver, but it is not for Great Valley Products. The Scanner does work from the A1200, and I may yet juggle things around in the future.

The scans are now small enough to fit on an Amiga floppy. They usually come in at around 65k, sometimes more. I either Zip them when I have lots and simply email them to myself (real lazy), or I'll move them via floppy. I do all the real iNet stuff on the 1200. I use my web space for holding the images and eBay has an option for showing the little photo icon, when a seller hosts their own photos.

I have a basic template that I setup long ago that I load into iBrowse and customize for each posting. I use iBrowse's view source/editor to do my editing. I use the HTML and BODY tags with background color information, as some browsers will display grey on the eBay item description area if a color is not re-tagged (mostly older or obscure browsers), I use white to match the eBay page. When I work on picture placement, I get online so that the photos load and I can test the links, as I have anchors set for most scans. I always tell the browser what size the picture will be, so the HTML can load first (goodness knows, with all the crud that loads on an eBay page, every delay adds up). I also display the scans smaller, so they will not need to be scrolled and the ImageFX progressive JPEGs look good at the down-sized size.

When it comes time to post, I first open up Gold Ed and open up the posting template I've pre-edited, and select all, copy to clipboard (Gold Ed lets you copy to three different cut & paste clipboards), ensuring my body tag gets grabbed to keep my white background color. I am also using Power Snap. A program that gives you global cut & paste on the Amiga (I belief it's on Aminet). I go to my "My eBay" page. I can check any auctions I have running. At the bottom of this page is a link to start posting. I do not use Turbo lister or any of the other services for listing. I use the old fashioned (albeit, highly revamped) eBay posting procedures. When I get to the window that has the enter item description box, I put the cursor there and h it [Right Amiga][V] to past the clip board info right into the box. I do this first, then I can go to the top of the text and make a copy of the title to past into the title line that will be what appears in the eBay listings.

I also make sure my shipping costs are entered into eBay's posting pages and that it matches what is in the actual description. This allows for instant payment at the close of the auction After the auction, I can go to my My eBay page and send an in voice at the click of a button, well, two clicks really, it's that easy!

The Portable Internet.

I'm in Anaheim right now, 5:49am, I'm on eBay relisting an item. I'm using a wireless connection via the web on an iBook, in a trailer located near the outermost spots. I've never done iNet in the trailer (except when it was in the driveway). I am relisting an item and scheduling it to start at 5:45am on March 1st.

Last night I relisted two items and set their auctions to end the day after we get home by selecting a ten day auction. With the relisting functions on eBay, editing is easy. I don't have any of the original descriptions or scans with me. Since they are all on the web, I can easily remold my listings to better sell (hopefully ;) the item while on the road.

All in all it seems that I've found a way to slip eBaying into my busy life. Selling items is as fun as buying them.... ....well, almost.

.....end of line.

Back to top.

April 2004

Archaic Computer


Luwig Wolfgang Hiden

noesis0 has gone to Europa to settle a mining colony to search for the precious oar bullulium. The ship he took was, of course, the SS. Pegasus, or as the crew so loving calls it -- Horse Feathers. There is not much demand for Bullolioum, in fact, no one knows what it is, or even how to spell Bullolihm. But, should a need arrive, you can rest assured that the sinclair powered navigation system will set a course for Terran and the Horse Feathers will fly!

The crew chose to use a Timex sinclair 1000 to keep the programming humble and at a minimum. When something goes wrong, the program will be a breeze to troubleshoot. Plus, the TS1000 can run along time on a car battery. What the crew hadn't anticipated, was the 27 inch television set taking up so much room in the cockpit and drawing so much power.

They might have looked into the use of solar panels, but it seems the local Radio Shack was out of them and the battery was just sitting in on of the quazminaughts garage foaming.

The Cock and Bull (also another affectionate for the Pegasus) did manage, eventually, to lift off after the 3rd try by asking NASA if they could take the TV set up for them and hand it to them via the fancismantcy arm the shuttles now come equipped with.

What they hadn't anticipated was the whole opening up the space craft where there is no air thing. Remember 2001? Even with a fully pressurized cabin, turns out you don't want to open the door!

They forgot the TV switch box, but they can watch stimulating TV, as they get a great satellite feed from the cartoon network's repeater. Needless to say, the crew is traveling blind.

April fools!

Warmer weather has made, portable computing an attractive option once again. Upon returning from Disneyland, I found my eBaying had slowed way down. Maybe it's because of Lent, maybe the recession has hit people harder in the last few months. Maybe I'm just selling dud items. So my efforts have come back to my writing.

I still use the ThinkPad for just about everything portable. I am now at Bruneau Dunes, for instance, tracking Mercury rising in the east using SkyTravel. It's actually the earlier version that Commodore released without the fast loader titled Planetarium.

This is fine for those early morning programming and writing exploits, but have you ever sat outside in the sun with a notebook computer? The screen is really hard to see! I have to open up the word processor to full screen and that helps a bit, but it is not easy to see.

That's were the older laptops with the old yellow, grey and green screens come in. The ones that you can't use unless there is plenty of light. The very same machines that people would complain about not being able to see anything on screen. The one you may have used by aiming a lamp straight at it.

These computers were awesome in their day. An amazing thing, a portable workstation, that was long abandoned, not for a faster processor, or newer user interface. They were replaced so you could see! The business computer was traditionally used at a desk in an office, a hotel room, an airport. All fairly low light situations and the fantastic color screens dazzled!

Now, these older machines have come full circle and are your outdoor-computing-treasure! You can program them (usually with the likes of GWBASIC, and you can write with them. If you can get the software, you can do just about anything.

Now don't expect to watch movies and play your favorite MP3 files, although it may be possible on some, most of the older machines like this were not outfitted for such -- but you never know.

Their Names?

to name only a few. These machines with their dark LCD screens, hard to see at times inside under the conditions they were made for, shine bright and clear as the leaders of outdoor, summer computing. Well, should the need arise ;)

Happy Easter!

Well, the latest configuration to join the ranks of old computing in the new world, is an IBM 770. A 14inch monitor doesn't sound very big until you realize it's a notebook computer. Perhaps it should be called a binder computer as it is more the size of a binder than a notebook.

The OSs are Winders 98SE and Linux 2.1. But does it do emulator? Well, as it has the Trident family hardware for display, VICE works but only as large on the other ThinkPad (relatively speaking). Full screen isn't full, but centered DOS-window-size. Oh well. The cool news is, I happened across an adapter to put a second drive in it and it has an insert to let you plop a 760 drive in it. So I have a possible backup utility here, just copy everything to the other HD.

I can also move all my present files over from the HD I use with the IBM64.

A LAN of Opportunity

The Airport died during a FLASH update, and so the big iMac has been routing the wireless here for sometime. It works well, but should the iMac crash, the Home School Machine drags to a grinding halt. Enter a UNIDEN Wireless Router.

Here is where the world of true plug and play comes into existence. The Cable modem was unplugged the night before, then I just plugged it into the router and viola! I was on! All I had to do was a two step in a browser window to setup the cable company's connection to work with the UNIDEN and off it went. Too simple and yet there is no catch.

Enter a wireless PCMCIA card. I configured the 770 with the card and it too was a breeze. I go to thinking, I wonder if the 56K modem was the problem and not the 760's PCMCIA card slot. After all pictures DL from the CF card via that port. I popped it in and was off!

Using the 760 as a second HS computer is nice. Natasha now has access to the big computer while Octavia can do online stuff on the ThinkPad. With two batteries installed, we get several hours of computing totally wire free.

The card does use a bit of battery power though, but two and a half hours of power will give us some great flexibility to go outside to work if we like.

.....end of line.
Back to top.

May 2004

The following article was written entirely in geoWrite, running in GEOS64, on an emulated commodore 64 (VICE's x64 v1.14), on an IBM 770 ThinkPad then moved to an Amiga 1200 where it was run through GOLDed for finalizing and clip board placement, and finally pasted on this page via IBrowse:

Archaic Computer


Brian Crosthwaite

Happy Mother's Day!

Well, ok, maybe that was a little late. Or will be. You see I'm at Bruneau Dunes writing this from within geoWrite, running in GEOS64, running within WinVICE1.14 (that's one point fourteen, not one point one four, making it newer than 1.9), running on an IBM 770 ThinkPad. The iNet is a couple of days away.

"But where is the 760ED," you ask? Sitting back on the workbench. It wasn't brought only because I wouldn't have time to use it. But this is not the beginning of the story.

Mia had been talking about getting one of those portable DVD players. You know the ones, DC powered, built in 5 inch screen.

Now, I love movies. Our family has a dedicated movie night. I make my world famous, home made pizza, we clean the living room and kitchen and I get our morning coffee made all before show time -- all to have a time slot in our busy lives when we can just sit, enjoy a great movie, great food and great company.

I usually buy online. My schedule is so busy I can't go anywhere to shop and certainly not with 5 highly spirited kids, two of which are 3 and still have that no-fear thing going. So, I'm on eBay quite often and I see the ThinkPads going for less than these portable DVD players and some of them have DVD drives. So my plan is to save money and get a bigger screen. Those of you who know me will chuckle, as that save-money thing is in my genetic makeup.

So I bid on a 770. The specs looked great. When it arrived and I pulled it out of the box, I was surprised at it's size. I have always thought of ThinkPads as being notebook computers. This one is more the size of a binder -- it's a laptop! Vintage, putting- your- legs- to- sleep style!

I plug it in, and open it up to turn it on. This thing has a huge screen! In fact it is a 14.1 inch diagonal. Much nicer than the small 5 inch offered by the portable DVD players! Plus I got a little bit faster ThinkPad out of the deal -- with a USB port.

I installed Linux 2.1 on one partition and Winders 98 w/DVDExpress on another.

This thing has a three button mouse (something I was emulating on the other TP with Linux). It's a little like a luxury liner. Set up went well, it passed all my testing, I watched a couple of VCDs on it while working on other things -- it looked and sounded great! I tested it with a Disney Cartoon DVD. It too, seemed to play well.

The Big Crash of '04

We like to break all the rules camping (not park and safety rules). We cook lasagna, and pizza, watch movies, stay warm and dry during rain storms. You see, it was the big chill of '98 that did this to us. We went to Stanley Lake and camped in the tent as usual, Mia and the girls slept in the Vanagon (new idea). Every few minutes the wind would pick up, the ground would start to get real cold and all the heat got sucked out of the bottom of the sleeping bags. The only reason we lived, was the chatter of our bones created enough friction to keep us from totally freezing solid. No really. It was the deciding factor in getting a trailer. Having both grown up in Idaho camping, we really can appreciative the whole cheating concept. The kids just have no clue of what roughing it is like. But I tell people, "Hey, we have 5 kids and no dishwasher, the heck we're not roughing it!"

Perhaps this should be subtitled The Big Crap Out. We were at Bruneau Dunes State Park when the big moment had arrived. Mia hadn't seen The Haunted Mansion yet and we were all ready for a break. I set up the computer and loaded the DVD. I hit play and was immediately hit by, "hook it up to the stereo" (ok, I should of done that). I stopped the movie, hooked up the stereo out and the computer crashed. Ah, Windows.

Next was the reboot followed by another crash and then the realization that you really shouldn't run SpySweeper on Win98.

Removal and reboot. Somewhere along the line I managed to turn on the subtitles! Arh! Player crapped out, restart. The movie now sounded great, but it was major choppy. Too choppy. Now it was time to see what was going on.

Well, after poking around and removing an extra (or so I thought) driver, I reset, then lost the DVD icon.


Let's pull out the DVD and see if ... it's not opening. No, it's really not opening. Ok, no biggie, all I need is a paper clip. Ah, a paper clip.... Well, ok, then something I can poke into the eject hole. Moments pass, turning into large chunks of time. I found a safety pin I use on my coat to secure my Atari Portfolio in my coat pocket -- it's a geek thing.

Popped the drive open, re-closed, reboot, no DVD drive. Brain is not yet turned on at this point. Let's go into Linux and see if I can find the DVD.

It won't let me log in. What in the world?!?!?! I try everything else the password might be. After a couple of hours of totally wasted time. I give up.

Brain Reboot

Dah! I was using the correct password and the wrong user name. It's only configured to /root. So later that day, I boot Linux run the system mounting utility. I open the DVD and there are the files, but I don't have a DVD player installed here, but at least I know the drive works.

Then it hits me -- BIG DAH!!!! The driver I removed from that profile was the IDE driver that was for the DVD! I reboot in safety mode and turn it back on and the drive is there.


So, what about the choppies? After all, IBM's literature didn't boast crappy, choppy graphics. Well, a look in the performance tab in the system control panel reveals that the graphics were set at 75%.

Well, there you go.

Speaking of Graphics.

GEOS64 runs at about 109% from REU on VICE. 2cool!

Back to the Dunes

The morning session with the new machine was fun, but by the time we were heading home, I was missing my other machine. I like the smaller kb, and the fact that everything works on it the way it's supposed to.

Still, this machine has some definite benefits. For one, GEOS64 running on a 166Mhz machine is nice. In fact, this whole article was cranked out on it (did I mention that?). When the browser is running the K12 flash files, the C64 runs at 92% or so.

The screen has the same limitations as the other notebook, VICE only fills 75% of the screen in full screen mode. This is a different version of VICE. It has some different features, like scale2x, which seems to smooth the screen shapes. I have yet to get sound to work on this version of x64 on this machine. Maybe I'll try the older version that works well on the other machine and see if it makes a difference. More on this as I shift this into the Stay Tuned category ;)

Authors Note:

geoWrite has a rather nasty bug. When inserting text, if you hit the bottom of the page and the page turns you will inevitably face a nasty lockup.

I was cranken' away at the text, adding to this article this morning, when I had such a crash. As this happened before I didn't panic (as I did when this first happened back on the IBM 64 machine -- my hair has since grown back ;) I simply did a soft reset of the x64 emulator, ran RBOOT and even though I couldn't see drive 8 from which it was booted, A: and B: were present -- A: was the REU and B: was the data disk. I simply renamed my file and resaved. I renamed in case there were some nasty bugs following it from the crash so I wouldn't destroy the work I had done prior to this session. And it worked! I finished the article.

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June 2004

Archaic Computer


Brian Crosthwaite

Happy Fathers Day!

Well, I didn't get into the commodore business to do "old computer stuff." I still don't really consider the C64 to be a vintage machine. Nor the ST, nor the Amiga. What's wrong with me!?!?

As time moves along, my vintage line moves up. That is, the line where I consider something to be an old computer. I have a ThinkPad 770. It was made circa 1997. Now, when I started NC's web presence, it would have been a new computer. But, It only has a P1 233MHz in it (albeit MMX). I took it to the PC user group meeting and people were oogling over it. I guess that black keyboard with that huge color screen really makes for an ominous presence kind of a thing.

So what makes an old computer? Let's look at The oldest machine shown there belongs to a friend, it's an Altair, we're talking circa 1975. That's well over 25 years old, hell that's about 30 years old! Now that's vintage! And few will argue it was one of the first, truly vintage machines.

Enter the next fold. Many vintage computer enthusiasts are now acquiring even older machines. Mainframes. I even admit to have dabbled in that realm, somewhat. I'd love to have an old IBM or a PDP in my garage (where else ;) So the scope of the concept of old computers is changing almost as fast as the configurations are on new machines.

What I call a laptop is not what many (at least computer catalogs and eBay) call laptops. A laptop used to be so big it could hardly sit (comfortably) on your lap. Then came along the notebook computer. They were small, sleek machines that were the size of a business planner or a text book, and I'm guessing if computers were used mostly for school back then it might of had a different name (The IBM 760ED Textbook Computer).

I talk a lot about IBM. Do I like IBM's? Are they not the king of the kludge? Is not the basic architecture just an uneven host of rubble that had to be pieced together so that parts are simply ignored in order for the thing to run? Maybe so. Microsoft proved that it was. At least they set the standard that has to be dealt with on most PC platforms today. But that is changing. Turns out the basic architecture isn't so bad after all.

Enter Linux. Windows crashes so much (at least 98), configuring it is a nightmare, especially when you need to install a new piece of hardware. Ok, well, now, most, or should I just leave it at much, of the time installs go well, and the searching and updating the OS does seem to make it look good. Here is an eye-opener. I have never had a system crash within Linux. Now, granted, I haven't done as much with it, I have yet to get onto the web with it, but then, I don't get online much with anything other than a computer for school or the 1200. The Amiga 1200 does most of my surfing. Even the commodore has crashed (that nasty insert text/page turn bug in geoWrite).

Not ever crashing is something almost unheard of. But, I will not say it isn't possible. I went for a long time before the Amiga 2000 crashed, and John warned me not to get too cocky, and sure enough it eventually did.

But is Linux vintage enough to use yet? Sure why not? I use Wheels on a circa 1987 C128D. So there you go.

Let's see....

GEOS, while still commercial software, is available for free DL, LOADSTAR makes statement that issue 140 is last, but decides if they can pull readership up, they'll go another year, empty boxes invade basement....

Wait a minute, what was that last one? Oh, the empty box situation is out of hand, and I need to fill the boxes and ship the contents. Before I can fill them I need to clean the items and write up descriptions for posting. I have many, many dot matrix printers. Many color and many commodore ready. I have 1541s, commodore compatible monitors, and piles of other items. Vintage items that all need good homes. School has kept me busy and I haven't been able to get to them and the situation is way out of hand.

Another distraction was the refinishing of our hard wood floors. We camped out in our trailer while doing this. I had installed something that completely screwed up the 770s accessing the CD. I worked hard to get it back, but finally gave up (the blue screen of death messages kept changing). I formatted the drive and started again. Now the player couldn't play DVDs anymore. I struggled with that for a long time. Fortunately, at the time I was able to bring the TV I use for the Atari 800 and the camcorder out to the trailer so we could watch Muzzy (learning Spanish videos) while I hacked at the machine. Going through IBM's docs on the PRGs and drivers and codecs, I put this together concerning DVDExpress:

When the player is first used with a DVD, it asks you to enter region, then it can't open the screen. It would tell you to use a lower res with few colors, that sort of thing. There is a fix for the 770X and 770Z for Win98. And a fix for all models for 2000. I'm not sure when 98SE came out (and I my be totally wrong about this, but the solution works none the less), but it appears that the bug pops up on at least the 770 model when using 98SE as it does with 2000, but in a way that the patch does not fix it.

So what to do? Simply install the original DVDEpress player, then the upgrade. Get a VCD or use one of the videos on the Windows98 CD and play the file/CD. There will be no request for region settings and the movie render window will open up and the movie will play. Now, eject the CD (with the render window still open), pop in a DVD and wait. It will start to auto play and the region setting box will open and you select the appropriate setting. Then the quality box might open if it didn't before, just hit closed then the movies menu should load. Hit play. You should be home free. Don't panic if the movie itself does not play as it might not be compatible (IBM has an update, that also requires the audio and video features to be installed. If you install those, you need to go to where the audio installed (C:\drivers\W9x\audio) and run the setup EXE).

The final step, that should finish all this installing and patching, is to make sure you've got an iNet connection, DL and install DirectX9b for Win 98. It's semi automatic, but you'll have to restart before all is done. Now, the 770 has a P II 233 MMX and some of the DVD's with more FPS may seem a bit choppy, and if you don't want to watch anything that choppy, then perhaps an install is not needed, however it's more than just not getting to see those movies, the player may freeze the system. Be sure to get into the DxDiag EXE and you can turn everything to full blast.

Oh, and don't forget the 770 has 3D surround sound, so make sure to turn that on inside the Multimedia settings from the control panel. Now, perhaps the final patch fixes the region bug, but it didn't seem to be happening on this machine with this OS. So that's that.

The above was quite painful to figure out which leads me to believe that Win98 and Win98SE are truly two different creatures. I'm not entirely sure the program can be updated for all modern standards. The D9 and D5's out of the far east play just fine and IBM may have deserted the PRG before some standards changed -- not sure.

Well, now, all I need to do is get motivated and clean off that first printer....

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July 2004

Archaic Computer


Brian Crosthwaite

Happy Independence Day!

Ok, a little late, as I ignored the AC item in my PDTL (Prioritized Daily Task List) so long that it really did come due....

The Adventures of Frankenstein's Computer

Strider is an IBM ThinkPad 770Z that I got for a song. Well, ok, maybe it was more of a Choral. It had some problems. The right arrow key didn't work, the space bar had to be pressed a certain way or it would not produce a space (I usually didn't get a space, even then). It got a couple of boot errors that made it a real pain to boot from the powered down state. Plus it's battery was long dead.

After much adieu, I got the computer up and running. Most of the adieu was in the getting passed the BIOS configuration for setting the clock. The errors were 000173 and 000163. The time set screen would appear. After setting the correct date and time, I was told by a strange screen to power off then power up again (actually, if it weren't for the info the seller gave me I might not have figured it out). This is what appeared on the screen:

0 > 1

It just flashed, well more flickered really. While I didn't have to change the time after I reset, I still had to go through the process several times. Later I just powered up and let it sit for a while. Soon after, I was able to reboot and it would get me to the prompt.

I did my usual install of DOS first, then putting IBM's CD-ROM driver on it.

Now this computer was definitely a fixer-upper. The first thing I tried was to pull the arrow key off and inadvertently straightened it out. It was bent and now it's straight. I popped the space bar off and all it needed was the wire placed in the slot (there's a wire that holds the space bar even when pressed from anywhere on the key). That fixed the keyboard. Re-seating the RAM chips solved the stability problems.

A new CMOS battery took care of the time/date thing. Strider was well on it's way to being a fully functioning computer.

There are some easy fixes out there for what seem like overwhelming repairs or system failures.

Some things to consider before the big gamble (of buying a fixer upper computer):

1) Can you afford to loose the investment? If you feel a $20 gamble is something you can take, then do it. There is a big difference between spending $200 on a working computer, and spending the same amount on a fixer upper. Some things, may sound simple and yet turn out to be a costly repair at a shop should you pursue help.

2) Are you willing to piece things together? I see many parts and part computers for sale on eBay. A little time and patients may pan out to be an almost new machine.

3) If you do go the parts route, what do the parts cost add up to? If you wind up spending $500 on your new machine, you may of done a noble thing in bringing new life to old computer junk, but lost the savings of going the fixer-upper route.

4) Shipping. If you go the parts route, shipping from more than one source will add up. If you can get a good deal, but the shipping costs take the end price past that good deal feeling, then perhaps not purchasing is the way to go. I usually only bid/buy from sellers that post or otherwise provide shipping info and costs before hand, so there are no surprises. Costs vary greatly based on seller, location, shipping method, etc.

5) What you know, or can guess what the problem is. If you already know of some problems certain computers may have pop up, and know the fix, your goal may be more easily obtained. This is probably the most important.

For instance, I know the 1541 drive makes a hellatious rattle. A seller make think there is something wrong with the drive, when there isn't (of course, this may feel a bit like taking advantage of the seller). Or perhaps the drive seems to work, but it generates errors. This may be a drive alignment problem, but more often than not, it turns out to be the rails just need greasing.

There are a lot of fixes you may already know that you may apply, but keep in mind, if you are buying online, since you can't handle the equipment, you can never really be sure of what is going on. Even the best of intending sellers, may not know what is wrong for sure. So while this is a major point, it is also the most pivotal and often the most convoluted.

6) Be prepared for surprises. A seller may not be aware of a problem as another covers it up. You be able to easily fix one problem only to discover a bigger one. Once again it is a gamble.

7) The last thing to consider is how much time and effort you are willing to put into what it is you are buying. You may not mind spending a year getting on old IMSAI working, but may not have patients to work on a notebook that is only a few years old for that period of time. Of course, if it is the challenge of the project you seek, then this point is moot.

If you feel confident, you are ready to proceed. You can often rescue a computer from a landfill and save some money on your purchase at the same time.

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August 2004

Archaic Computer


Brian Crosthwaite

Early Morning Ramblings.

The commodore 64 has PI on the keyboard. It actually has PI stored somewhere in ROM. It displays 3.141569 when asked to print PI. You see it here as PI, but on the 64, 128 and VIC20, as well as other commodore 8-bits there is an actual Greek letter representing PI on the keyboard.

Being somewhat of a Trig Freak (see last 20 years of programming by me), I use PI a lot. You see, I think in degrees, well, ok, if you've ever investigated my maths, you see I don't really, but most of us, at lest here in the US tend to use degrees to measure angles and such. Computers and calculators get along better with Radians. At least that's what used to be the standard default setting -- it usually refers to math functions like sine, cosine, etc (remember looking those up to calculate tangents and stuff back in high school?). Well, the commodore 64 is no exception.

Radians is a base 10 system and it's fits in with nice base ten systems such as the metric system. The 64 spoiled me when it came to doing sine waves and the like for my electronics classes at ISU. Conversion into the world of degrees is simple, the 64 has the math functions as well as PI to do the table look up.

Enter other computing platforms.

I program many other machines, besides the 64. Such as the TRS-80 Model 100, the Epson PX-8 to name a couple. I use 3.14 on these machines as they don't have a readily accessible PI. Some other machines you can get PI by typing in the letters P and I. And that's nice, but the others you have to wing it.

3.14 has served me well. In fact it has never let me down. Oh sure, it's not quite as accurate as PI, but when you use trigonometric functions like sin and cos, it's just a decimal number -- a fraction, and the difference is in the 10,000ths anyway. The snailSkin and sinMore, both with PI and both with 3.14 on various platforms, work. The plots look the same. In fact, they look identical. You really can't see any difference.

Now, my plots, I'll admit are hardly standard Euclidean Geometry. While, I use the Cartesian Plotting system to plot X and Y, my conversion from Radians to Degrees is where my real maths take place. I plot a twisted version of reality, or maybe more of a twisted version of non-reality.

Anywho. The maths seem to work well with both PI and 3.14.

Until one day....

Well, I decided to do a 3 in 1 Nexus that combined critical elements from the snailSkin, sinMore, and Moriphic. I was writing it on the Kyocera in HotPaw BASIC. The results were astounding. I was pleased as the new plot appeared on the smartphone's screen. The plot used 3.14.

Time to code it on the 64! After all, I promised Dave a couple of PRGs and this one was hot! I got the code entered into my skeleton and ran it.

Now, I entered it in almost record time, so I'm sure there was some error or errors, as the plot I was now looking at looked like a Lotus Blossom (a plot I've done before -- many times before) and not the spiral- galaxy- wind- mill- flower- thing I had created. I checked the code.

I had entered it flawlessly. Hmm, there has to be a mistake here somewhere. I looked, in hopes of finding the plot hidden amongst the dots on my screen, but found it no where. I toiled over this for a long time. The math was the same, the plots should be the same. I thought, "well, maybe the wider screen, with more dots...." I limited my plot numbers to those of the Kyocera's resolution. All I got was the same Lotus on the lower corner of my screen.

I decided to code the mainloop with YC rather than 75 as that appeared to be the only real difference.


I was stumped. Then it hit me. "I wonder...." I replaced PI with 3.14. I ran the PRG and there was my plot! I verified my assumption (as things can be deceiving) on the Kyocera with 3.141569 and there was the Lotus!

Well, now the 64 version had both the PI and 3.14 versions and a seemingly unrelated plot Square Circ. It's a fun plot I wrote long ago using the power of The Tool. Converted, it behaves a little differently, but it's a fun plot non the less.

This release should be an eye opener for those like myself who didn't think minute differences meant much on the commodore 64 and would certainly not be visible. With that --

Happy Hacking!


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September 2004

The following was written on an IBM ThinkPad 760ED, running OS/2 Warp Version3, using the IBM Works word processor:

Archaic Computer


Brian Crosthwaite

Well, I have been playing, a lot really, with OS/2 Warp Version3. I had installed it on my ThinkPad 760ED a long time ago. I had not been able to get the CD working outside of the installation process. I faked an install to get the system to to bring up the default CD-ROM driver, in order to get the IBM Works installed. Somewhere along the line I found a driver that works.

I still had a small screen. That was a major bummer.

Well, I got my hands on an 8gig drive for the 770Z and went to town installing stuff. Stuff as in OSes. I put Red Hat Linux 6.1, OS/2, and attempted to get GEOS going (I have to do a sneak drive D: and C: switch, just haven't had the time). I found that the RH6.1 had drivers for the video card (Trident Cyber 9397DVD) and the over all installation was smoother than the RH6 I put on the other computer. But back to OS/2.

Having a 14 inch screen with OS/2 centered filling up a whole 7inches of it was silly, to say the least. I wanted to see it full screen. What I had was a fence with all the good stuff on the other side and I could only look through a hole and see part. At least, that's what it seemed like. I would never really appreciate the OS at this small of an area.

OS/2 mistakenly loaded the SoundBlaster16 driver -- and it works! So I was more intrigued by this install than I was on the install on the old 760.

Then Came the Dawn.

Then the profound revelation hit. IBM has drivers for all their products on line. I had spent much time there configuring the 770 and 770Z for the DVD video. That was Windows. How about OS/2? I looked and found the disk images for the sound and the video. I installed the video -- real nice you just run the installer from the disk, rather than use OS/2's selective install (which always wants you to remove the floppy from drive a: weather drive a: is connected or not) -- and now have full resolution and sound!

The CD driver is "Unlisted IDE." The sound is the "SoundBlaster16." The IBM site says the install incorrectly chooses that driver and you need to install the right one from online. I found the computer no longer booted once the driver was installed. So, needless to say I reverted to the one OS/2 choose at install. It is nice to have full screen on that big screen.

Looking around the iNet, I found that OS/2 is alive and kicking. I do like the idea that I have an OS for the IBM, that is from IBM.

And now, a bunch of ironies....

I had a problem that I could not figure out (I don't recall what it was). I opened the DOS folder on the OS/2 desktop and there was a program written by Microsoft (it must have been the DOS editor) and I used it to solve the problem. I don't know why, as I don't recall the problem, but the OS/2 Editor would not do what I needed it to do. Microsoft helped fix the problem. This is indeed disturbing.

Both OS/2 and Linux -- networking is part of them at the core -- on my IBMs cannot link to any networks. At least not with any of the drivers I have. I installed Linux Format's Crystal Audio (Mwave) modem driver, but there were three Things missing (libs or somesuch), and I got the big fat notta.

OS/2's files for the Mwave on the 760 are two big for a floppy. The instructions say to download the drivers for the Mwave modem to activate the Mwave modem. Anyone remember the 80s!??!?!?

IBM's own install disks didn't readily support IBM computers like the ThinkPad 760 and 770.

IBM's drivers for the 770Z messed up the system, while the text said the system mistakenly chooses the wrong driver, and yet that wrong driver works well. On a note on this the Mwave modem and audio are both integrated and that may prevent the Crystal Audio Modem to work -- I haven't even gotten that far. I see drivers on the OS/2 CD for IBM's PCMCIA card modem....

Well, then what next in this mad, mad world of pseudo-retro computing? Who knows, who cares! Why would I even care about this old OS? Well, there is an OS/2 version of VICE. That's why. I have installed it and removed it as it didn't work. But there may be some tweaking I may yet do, and it may yet work. More on this, should anything develop.

On the commodore front.

I have been working on the conversion of a program called Party Pictures. It was something I had put together using Simons' BASIC.

It had the original SnailSkin I had written in Simons' BASIC, some illusions, some quiet scenes and some kaleidoscopic pictures. There were many pictures that literally drew themselves out on screen, one after another, sometimes overlapping each other. I incorporated some special effects that I could only achieve with Simons' BASIC. I ended the program by printing in large letters on the screen "Turn on your sound now." Or words to that effect. After a pause it loaded LOADSTAR's Laser Show.

The program is rather captivating. I recall the kids at a party all gathering around the TV to watch as the 64 went to town drawing picture after picture. And even though some renderings took a while, they never lost interest. Soon the adults were captivated as well.

Unfortunately, the conversion is slow and it looks like it will not be completed. At least not entirely. There are far too many quirks in Simons' BASIC that I exploited to make the images even more dazzling. I'm now on the lookout for a file version, or ROM image of Simons' BASIC. If not, I fear the only way for others to see it, is to use a Simons' BASIC cartridge to run the PRG. It's a shame not everyone will get to see this. More on this later.

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October 2004

Archaic Computer


Brian Crosthwaite

The House on Lonely Lane.

The old house down Taclonely Lane stood out from all the rest. 375 Taclonely Lane. And yet it was hardly noticeable. I had walked down that street hundreds of times and hardly ever saw it. Until one day.

I was walking, half in a daze from the autumn heat. I was heading over to Megan's place, over on Myrtle. For whatever reason, I stopped. It's nothing out of the ordinary for a ten year old boy to dawdle.

I found my dazed stare turn to the old house, a place I had never given any thought to. I somehow knew it was abandoned. Maybe a grown up told me, maybe I just stipulated it from what the other kids had said. But when my eyes fell upon the window of the old attic, they met eyes glaring back at me. I saw an old woman, a mean, old woman, I thought. She looked old and grey and her clothes were grey. I felt a shiver run down my spine. I shook my head, then realized there was no one there.

That was a relief.

Later, at Megan's, I asked her if she had ever seen anyone there.

"Oh, sure," was her as a matter of fact reply. Then upon seeing the shock on my face, she added, "there was a real estate lady who was trying to see if she could sell it, but she stopped bothering after she went in. She must have found lots of dust."

While we were laughing it off, I felt uneasy. Before, I had dismissed it as a day dream. But after hearing Megan say "Oh, sure," gears in my head set off at high speed. How could I have imagined something so... real?

The whole thing slipped from my mind as Mr. Thompson brought in a batch of his world famous double chocolate brownies. Food does that to a kid.


It grew dark early as is the standard for that time of year. October. It must have only been 5 or 6 in the evening, but it felt like the middle of the night (you, know -- the whole mellow dramatic ten minutes before midnight thing). I was scooting along, trying not to think of the old lady, or the house.

Myrtle is perpendicular to Taclonely. Taclonely dead ends to a field, which, with it's path, provides a perfect short cut to Megan's house.

Curiously, there was a street sign past the end of the road, as if they had planned to continue the street, adding an intersection to some future, yet to be placed road. There was mud on the sign, it covered part of the word "Taclonely."

Rather than Taclonely, that night, it said "lonely Lane."

With that, a feeling of not taking the shortcut came over me. But then, I was feeling lazy. It had been hot that day. I was always amazed that 90 degrees in the summer felt nice, and 70 in the fall was too hot. A short cut was definitely in order.

I walked on.

I slowed my pace as I got near the old house. Why had I stopped and looked at the thing today? I wish I had trudged along at my normal pace and hadn't even thought about it. I was walking slow enough to have been accused of loitering, trying all the while not to look at the cursed thing. Then, like a bolt out of no where, someone grabbed my arm!

I turned around, and there before, me stood the old woman I thought I had imagined! Oh, how I wish I had only imagined her! "You're thinking too much," she hissed at me. "You have been looking where your eyes shouldn't be."

I broke free from her and ran! My intention was to get to the end of the street and keep running! There was an old man walking toward me from down the street. His pace was brisk, yet he had a very pronounced limp. His eyes seemed to have a grey fire to them. There was something dark and sinister about him. I could tell he was in pursuit of me. Her husband! I thought. I turned to the only opening I could see, as she was coming up the street and he was coming down. I turned right. The only logical place I could go to get away from them. I ran up a walk that leads to a house. I turned and they were right on my heals coming up the walk after me! I bolted for the steps, then looked up in horror.

I was standing on the porch of the old house!

Heart attack!

Needless to say, panic had struck at my very core. I seemed to be trapped. There was no time to think. The door wasn't closed all the way, I could open it and run through the house and out the back door!

I tried just that and was greeted with a surprise that has haunted me all of my life. For there on the floor, writhing in the shadows, was the old lady in a pool of blood and above her was the old man hacking at her with a kitchen knife! I stopped dead in my tracks. Fear froze me to the spot.

This carnation of the old man had not apparently seen me. I had to escape, but before I could plot my route through the otherwise dark house, he turned the knife upon himself. I cannot describe the horror that fell before me, nor shall I attempt. For right as I had almost reached the point of fainting, they were both gone!

There was no sign that anyone had been there before me. What had just happened? Was I dreaming? I then was pulled back into the present -- I turned expecting to see the two coming through the door.

Three seconds must have been all that passed for what seemed like an eternity. Every moment that passed was ticked off by the pounding of my heart. There was no one on the walk. Nor was anyone entering the doorway. I walked toward the entrance. There was nothing.

I quickly made my way to the street and made for home.

I asked my parents about the events I had seen, without really telling them what I had seen. They told me that along ago, there had been an elderly couple that had been murdered and that the killer had taken nothing. It was quite a mystery as to why they were killed. Rumor had it, that the old man took both their lives. My folks, both however, said this couldn't be so, as the old man was far too kind. Later, I had heard my Mom suggest to my Dad, that if either of them did it, it was the old woman.


While, I initially avoided that route to Megan's house, it was just too inconvenient to go the long way.

When I was in high school I found myself, once again, on that road. I saw the street sign, and although it wasn't covered with anything, it still said Lonely Lane to me. I seemed to be drawn to the house. I didn't even ponder as to what I was doing. The sign that was in the field now stood on the corner of a street called Hazel. I was supposed to meet Megan to go to the library. I stopped in front of the open gate. The house looked much like it did back on the night I had first entered it.

I looked up to the window and saw the old lady. My heart leapt! I felt I was in a dream. I walked through the gate and heard a voice behind me, "You're thinking too much," it hissed. "You have been looking where your eyes shouldn't be."

I turned and saw the old woman in the street! She was walking up the street like she had on that fate filled night. I automatically turned and saw the old man coming down the street form the other direction. I turned and quickly walked up the steps! I recall the shock I felt as I did the same thing before, it was like I was 10 again. I entered, not to be seen by the two outside, and hoping against all hope of see nothing inside.

There in the shadows lay the old woman in a pool of blood. I could feel the blood drain from my face, I felt nauseous, and dizzy. When the old man took the knife to himself, I turned and ran out of the house and down the empty walk. There was no one anywhere on the road. I turned to the left and headed to the corner.

Upon reaching the corner, Megan spoke to me, "Are you all right? You look kinda sick."

"Would you believe I think I saw...." my voice trailed off as my strength came back to me.

"What?" She had barely heard my words. I let it go and regaining my composure, said, "We'd better get going, it's late."

We were doing research for History, we split up to find what we needed faster. After finding many books on our subject, we did what anyone doing a research project would do -- we went for coffee.

There was a place not too far from the library. We ordered our fare and had sat down to await the coming of said beverages.

Megan just looked at me, as I fumbled with my napkin. Megan broke the silence first, "Ok, don't tell me. I don't need to know. My closest friend, who can really chatter you to death, has now been stricken by a severe case of quiet."

I looked up from my napkin, surprised, then realizing I hadn't said a word for most of the night, when the flood gates flew wide opened.

Upon finishing the story of that evening's events, all Megan had to say was, "you do live a more exciting life than most of us."

"You don't believe me?"

"No, it's not that. I really didn't believe you when you told me this story years ago. Now, I don't know what to think. Before I thought you were just trying to scare me, but then why would you tell me the same story?"

"I didn't just make this up. You've heard the stories --"

"Yeah, but I didn't think the place it happened was anywhere near here." There was a silent pause, and I knew what was coming, next. I just stood up. "You read my mind," she smiled.

I, however, wasn't smiling, "Are you sure you want to go there?"

"Look, I know this is hard for you, but if you don't come with me I won't have the guts to do this. Surely you want to be off the hook of being insane," she added in her half-crazed, yet seemingly logical way.

The house.

The street was empty. We stood in front of the house, right outside the open gate. Finally Megan said in a soft low voice, "well, lead the way."

We walked quietly up the walk, then up the old wooden steps. They broke the cold air with creeks and groans under our weight. I stopped short of the door and turned to Megan, "they were outside first. I had adrenaline running through me when I went in before."

"Don't worry, I think I have enough to cover for both of us."

I reached for the door, Megan was close behind me, I pushed and the door opened effortlessly. The moon was bright on this October night, lighting the inside of the house.

We entered. Three steps in and we stopped. There was nothing. No old woman. No old man. I started to feel a little silly. Then my eyes started to get used to the dark. I think Megan's did too, as she gasped about the same time I saw it.

The Floor.

There, on the floor, was a large, dark spot. It could only be one thing -- we ran out into the street before we even comprehended what we saw.

Outside, we stopped just short of the gate. "Perhaps we should wait until day," I suggested.

"No, if you saw... well, tonight -- we have to go back in there and see tonight."

"But it's too dark."

"Let's go to my house and get my Dad's big flashlight."

It probably took us 15 or 20 minutes to get the light and get back, but it seemed like only 2 or 3 minutes had passed. Yes, I think I was frightened. I could say, curious, now that we were on a quest for truth. We moved from historians to paranormal investigators. Little did we know, the roll of historian would fall back on us sooner than we thought.

We left the light off as to not attract attention form neighboring houses, although they seemed so far way when we got to that house. We stood there, in the dark, starring at the floor. "Well, turn it on," Megan insisted, handing me the flashlight.

I fumbled with the switch until it finally popped on. Light flooded the eerie scene as we took in the new view. The dark spot on the floor seemed worse to look at in the light. I almost turned the light off. But I held fast, and we both walked closer for a better look. It had a decidedly red tinge to it, although it probably didn't really, but when you expect to find a big blood stain in a dark, possibly haunted house, you tend to see it as red.

We both knelt down for a closer look. Was this what we had come for? A spot on the floor? Was this all there was? Megan took the light from me to aim it more directly where she was looking. Then she aimed it at the stairs just beyond the stain and stood up.

I too stood up and took a deep breath; we were going up the stairs weather I really wanted to or not. I got the feeling Megan had the same sentiments.

Each step creaked it's own unique signature, making for a chorus of ghastly echoes in the old house. The size of the house became apparent as we ascended the stairs. I hadn't really noticed before. This was one large house. Then came the doubts. Would we get lost in there? How many rooms would we explore? What were we looking for?

I stopped, "Megan?"

"Yes?" she stopped.

"What are we looking for?"

"I don't know." Then it came to her, "some fragment of the past to explain why they're here." She turned to me in the dark, "Why they are haunting this place."

That was enough for me, I was ready to head back out. She must have sensed it, as she grabbed my arm and said, "Come on."

She turned back to the upper stairs and we proceeded with our choral of creeks and groans. Despite the creaky floor boards, the house really did feel stable.

We crossed the landing that lead to a long hall. It was something out of a dream. We were walking along aiming the light from door to door, when something appeared toward the far end of the hall. Megan quickly aimed the flashlight at it -- the light went out!

While, I'm sure both of us had it in us, neither of us let out a peep. There seemed to be footfalls coming from whatever, or whoever was in the house! Was this house abandoned? Was it occupied? Had we entered someone's house, a house someone was still living in?! While these thoughts raced through my head, Megan ended them with, "sorry, I hit the switch."

After turning on the light again, Megan regained her grasp on my arm and pulled me on as she sped up our pace. The light fell on something that seemed dark. Not a dark object, but a figure that seemed to not reflect the light back.

The figure went into a room off to the left. We followed. Seeing that the door had not been left opened by the figure, we opened the door. It was hard to do. It felt like it didn't want to open. It took both of us pushing to open it. It scraped on the floor boards and the hinges gave out a shrieking sound. At one point, I thought one of the hinges would pull out of the wall.

We entered the room, but it was empty, at least there was no one in it. It was a bedroom with a veiled four post bed. There was a writing desk. The room seemed to take us back in time to a by gone era.

Suddenly the desk jumped! With hearts pounding, we stood, waiting, but nothing more happened.

The room felt decompressed as if somehow, the air pressure had been greater before and was now normal.

"It's gone," Megan looked at me, she seamed to know what she was talking about. The same idea had entered my mind as well. The top drawer of the desk was slightly ajar. Megan pulled it open more, there was mostly dust, a few papers, an old quill. The bottom of the drawer looked like it was broken as it was sticking up. Megan pulled on the bottom, it came up part way, then stopped.

It was a secret panel, and under it was a book.

Megan picked up the book. Looking at me, she opened it, letting it fall open to the last entry.

'My Dearest Diary,' Megan began, 'what I have feared would happen, has happened. Mr. Grumwald has fallen in love and not with me. I shall not go on this way. And neither shall he. When he comes home tonight, I shall take the kitchen cleaver to his unfaithful heart, then turn it to my own. If I shall not have Mr. Grumwald, no one shall.'

"She killed him!" There was a pause. "Not what you saw!"

I must have had one of those dopey looks on my face that says, "what?"

"Don't you get it? They haunt this house because of the rumors that people take as the truth! He didn't kill her -- she killed him! She must have been really jealous or something...."

That started to make sense. Suddenly, the fear that had been lying in wait, subsided. Now that we knew the truth -- it was time to tell the truth.

The Truth be Known.

I started with our school paper. I thought Glen, the Hale High Gazette's Editor would be hard to convince, but with Halloween approaching, it was an easy sell.

Shortly after the paper came out, it seemed like everybody was talking about it. They either thought they'd read a tail of ghostly fiction, were flat out fascinated by it, or thought I'd blown a gasket.

I decided it didn't really matter if everyone knew it as the truth, that it would only take a few understanding souls. But I wanted to really set the record straight. That's when I got the idea to go to the museum and see the town historian Mrs. Ferguson.

"Well, I do remember everyone thought he had killed her. There was some talk of robbery, though it was dismissed when there was no sign of breaking and entering. Rumors abounded that he was caught with, well, another woman," Mrs. Ferguson looked over her bifocals at me. Then added, "You know how rumors are."

She pulled a large book from the shelf and took it to a table between the rows shelves. It was a huge scrapbook, full of old newspaper clippings and photos. She flipped through the pages at the front of the book. "Here it is," she began, "'Mr. and Mrs. Grumwald found dead after brutal attack.'"

She stopped, reading quietly to herself, turning a page, and then another. Finally she said, "Humm, the police never closed the case. It seems like it wasn't quite the cut and dry case as most of us think." Reading, "Captain Senate told reporters today that, 'Based on on all the evidence, I cannot draw a clear conclusion, there are simply too many contradictions in what we have found.'" She turned more pages, scanning silently. She looked up, "That's the last bit of info...." She turned more pages. Looking up, "there is nothing more."

That's when I handed her the diary. I handed it to her opened to the last entry. As she read quietly, her expression changed to one of shock. "Where did you get this?"

"I found it in a secret panel in her writing desk."

"Oh, my, this changes a lot of things...."

On the Morrow.

Mrs. Ferguson had written an article for the local paper. When Megan saw it, she and I were at our favorite coffee dive. She set down the paper. "What are you doing tonight?"

"Going to Grumwald Manor with you to see if there are any more manifestations.

That evening seemed to take forever. If I had had to go there before I knew what had really happened, it would of come all too fast. But that night, the evening came as a slow calm event. We finally got up to go. I'll never forget how much our tab was -- it was three dollars and seventy-five cents.

We saw nothing in the street that night. I felt strange stepping over the threshold of that old house, it felt like Megan and I were alone. We stood in the spot I had stood that first time.

The moonlight flooded the room much like it had back on that night so long ago. We waited. Nothing happened. Rather than a feeling of dreaded fear, the house seemed, safe. It was cosy there in the warm dark. I felt a kind of closure.

"They must be at peace now," Megan commented.

"They are, I can feel it."

The End.

Copyright 2004 Brian Crosthwaite All Rights Reserved.

.....end of line.

Back to top.

November 2004

Happy Thanksgiving!

Archaic Computer


Brian Crosthwaite

I've been very busy. Last year (and possibly the years before) I wrote the Halloween Story in September. This year I found myself at the keys in Mid-October. I Started with a mystery that started getting so complex, that it would take more time that I had to devote to it and it was a bit much for Halloween.

So I dropped it in favor of a kid story, albeit, a bit on the gory side (sorry about that, but it did meet the nine-year-old-expert-appreciation test). It too turned out to be more than I planned -- sometimes writing happens.

Maybe there will be a retro-fitted AC for October, since all my time was spent on the Story. Time will tell.

In the mean time we have November. Gearing up to the up-coming Holiday Season, and the hopeful days off. Students at least will certainly find they may have time at the keys. I am looking forward to school coming to a pause.



To the keys! To the keys!

I love to code on the 128D. Many reasons. The detached keyboard, the waycool keyboard, the 80 column screen that you can put loads of characters in to (we all know the bad side of this -- writing a C64 PRG from the 128's 80 columns with way more characters than you can enter in on the 64, making it rather hard to edit later), having two screens. Did I mention the waycool keyboard?

I also love writing on the 128. Why? All the above, plus geoWrite! There are little niceties, like when you hit crsr down twice on the last line, the cursor hops to the last character on the line.

So what of that whole portability thing?

I love VICE. It's on just about all the portables around here that have an OS that can run it. But, it's not a real C64 or C128, or what ever I happen to be running. What's that? Oh! VICE is a package, not a program. It has many emulators. x64.exe is the C64 emulator. xvic.exe is the VIC20 emulator. There is a 128 emulator, a CBM and PET emulators as well. It is really an eight-bit commodore emulation suite.

It happens to be a very heavily supported entity. OS/2, BeOS, and other OSes are supported.

Which is better?

The SX-64 or a modern notebook running VICE. That is the question. Ok, I placed it as a statement here, but you get the idea.

There are many advantages, to the modern PC. The 770 has a wireless card. There are many hot-spots available a local iNet Cafes and Campgrounds. Many require a subscription, others are standard accommodations.

When we were in Anaheim, we stayed in a trailer park that had wireless. I was able to do email and repost some of my eBays (unfortunately I didn't have a card for my PC, so I used my wife's iBook). But what has this to do with emulation? There are many things for the commodore computers that one can DL from the net.

Files found on the net, can be DLed via just about any iNet accessing machine, but if that machine happens to be your commodore that makes for a really nice setup. To be able to DL the file then almost immediately execute it is nice.

I know that a Windows machine equipped with UlimateZip can execute files from an archive without even unarchiving the files onto a disk, surely this is possible with other OSes. VICE lets you load and run images and files from many standard archive types. It is a real bonus.

What speed have you?

Well, the old IBM 760ED ThinkPad is a P1 running at 133MHz. It plays many of the SIDs with the Stereo SID Player without problems, but when the sound formation gets complicated, the processor just can't keep up.

With the faster machine, I was tempted to try a newer version of VICE. 1.9 (this is the WinVersion) emulates a 64 with a second SID. But it proved to be a bit much for the P1 233MHz machine. 1.4 performs admirably on the the 233.

The 366MHz does the best and Warp mode with version 1.14 is awesome. But, alas, the portability issue arises as to what I really use VICE for. Playing SIDs is nice, there is no doubt, but it is something I usually don't do.

Most of my emulation takes place at 5am, before family and sun rise, in the trailer. I do have headphones, but I am usually writing or coding. The headphones get used when I need the computer to read the text back to me, and this is not an emulated task, it is 602text -- a PC program.


Power is an issue when going portable. The trailer finds itself at national parks where there is an electrical hookup. It also finds itself in remote locations where power, and water come from inside the trailer. We often watch VCDs, and now, DVDs on these machines. Playing them doesn't really take much in the way of power consumption, but VICE really pulls the power from the batteries.

The 770 zips along at 233MHz, while the 770Z warps along at 366MHz. The 770 is a bit slower, but the battery lasts up to 6 hours, whereas the Z's battery lasts up to 3 hours. VICE changes all that (as does FLASH). Under VICE I get 4 and 2 hours respectfully.

Charging the ThinkPad takes power from the trailer's batteries. While this is not usually a problem, it is something to consider. I have a 12 volt charger for the 770 series computers, and unless I have electrical hookup, I take the 770. On a normal 2.5 day campout I may only charge once. Sometimes not at all. If I were to take the 770Z, I'd have to do more charging, as I simply don't get the time I do on the 770.

Just a side note here, on the 770Z I get 5 hours of battery using an 8Gig HD with OS/2 (VICE is on a 14Gig w/WIn98SE).

True 64.

But these are not really C64s or VIC20s. They are PCs. There is just no substitute for a real commodore 8-bit machine.

I recall the cold winter nights at my folks house. I sat on my cousin's antique, love seat with the C64 sitting on a tv tray, it's long black cable crossing the room to the back of the giant 29inch screen TV. My Dad sitting on the hearth, tending to the fire. I coded, either of my own accord, or entering some infamously long type-in program from PowerPlay.

I had no permanent memory storage back then, no disk drive, no datassette. When I created something new, I'd transcribe it by hand into a notebook. It was the notebook I used in my Math 221 class -- BASIC Programming. I still have that notebook today.

This was a wonderful time in my life, at least in memory. There were many things happening in the world outside, but in that moment in time, I was in commodore nirvana.

.....end of line.

Back to top.

December 2004

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Archaic Computer


The Incessant Ramblings of a Programmer Gone Mad


Brian Crosthwaite

It is the wee early hour of the morning. Last night a set of VCDs took the battery down to 20%. They're at 15 as I type. I have a PS, but the socket up front here does not work, for what ever reason. My computer tells me the power via LCD. Windows is totally oblivious to this as it thinks we're on AC and there are no batteries installed. As long as I don't use the reader (603Text reading the text to me) or VICE, I may have quite a while....


Early Mornings at the keys.

I have fond memories of waking before the cock's crow. Nestled in my chair, next to the space heater, with a cup of hot espresso to warm my insides. The warm glow of the 128D's screens lighting the keys.

We have seasonal PRGs we run yearly on the C64 around here. Amongst the favorites are a presentation demo made on the Fireworks Construction Kit, The Q-Link Halloween SID collection, and Twisted Christmas.


I've hooked up to the power in the back.

One favorite, is the commodore storefront demo. There are a couple versions of this. One was for the C64, it just plays music and shows pictures drawn using the keyboard character set. The other is the SX64 version. It starts out with a snowstorm brewing and breaking. The commodore logo soon pops in and gets snowed on. It then goes on to show the same show mentioned here, followed by text stating what a perfect gift the SX-64 is. It is still the perfect gift for any commodore fan, as who could possibly resist the SX-64?

In the 80s, the computer world was very different. CP/M still had a strong hold in the world, while there really was no strong holds to be had. It set the early stage for the tides of change. The public was buying computers, not just geeks, who wanted a computer, for the sake of owning a computer. When people got computers they didn't always know what to do with it. You bought a computer brand and model based on what you planned to do with it.

The things you saw on your screen were amazing. Digitized photos of people and places, amazing color works of art. There were sound files that totally filled your computer's memory and sounded rough, but similar to their real world counter parts. These things amazed us. Was there no limit to what these computers could do?

Then we, the public at large, were led to believe we needed to move to 16 bit from eight then 32 bit from 16, and this would give us better multimedia. And in a way it did, but there was a cost. The death of the CLI was only part of it. But then innovative programmers brought us those same sights and sound on our 8 bits with players that could spool off a disk and play clearly and vibrantly.

But, I digress.


The graphics on the commodore demo are not photo real, but they are wonderful, none the less. When someone makes a comment about how cheesy the graphics are, you can bet they don't like van Gogh, or Paul CÚzanne. These graphics are a rare treat in this day's illustrious illusion of what makes good pictures on the computer. Low Res art seems to be rarer now, but there are still those who paint with light on the C64, (just take a look at any issue of LOADSTAR.

Back at home.

Portable computing is an answer. What then, is the question?

Well, long ago I pondered just buying old portables, as they were often just as fun as their desktop counter parts, and took up less space. But there is a new side. It seems like my life has been busy for the last 15 years or so, with no hope of slowing down.

I used to get up early in the morning, to write, and program, and do other vintage computer related things. I found I was doing less and less, as my days kept me seated -- let's face it, it's hard to function on low sleep and low exercise.

I do schooling during the days, so my time at the computer for the sake of computing has been limited severely. Having vintage time just doesn't happen. Rather than throw in the towel, I've migrated many tasks to the PC via emulators. I emulate the ST and C64 quite often. Granted I haven't written much on the ST emulation I do, but that is about to change. Well, at least a little.

I use PaCifiST simply be cause it was free and easy to set up. Like most ST emulators it requires a ROM image file to run. It has some flukes that need to be addressed in getting it up and running.

First of all, unarchive PaCifiST into it's own folder. The archive can be DLed from the owners site at:

Check the site out for more info as well as the DL. The web site was created and hosted by Fatal Design, and I'd like to thank them for making it so. You see, us owners of slower, older hardware are lost when it comes to the newer emulators as they needed more headroom and more horsepower. Something that comes at a premium for some of us. Or doesn't come at all.

Before you do anything, open up the "STfiles" folder. Grab a DD disk (preferable formatted on your ST. Copy the "TOSDUMP.PRG" over to the floppy and run it on your ST. It should generate a TOS image file. I just placed the file in the PaCifiST folder.

Click on the Green and Red Atari Logo icon labeled Atari. It will open up the Windows setup. You can page through the settings as a standard tab system. Under the Directories Tab, select a place to have ST files as "Hard Drive 1". You can copy CDs and Floppies straight to a folder within the PaCifiST folder. Use the browse button to find your way to that directory then click on a file, this will select the last folder you browsed into as the folder that will act like an HD later.

Next select your TOS image. Click on the version you have. I have 2.05 and I set it up as 2.06 (I think it doesn't care, those choices are there for the benefit of the user to have multiple TOS versions at their disposal

I couldn't get .49 beta to work, so select the 48 version of the emulator: pacifist.exe.

Go cautiously on the Options Tab. I selected:

STE (my image came from a Mega STe w/4 Megs)

4 MB Ram
1 Refresh (default)
255 Volume (also default)

I left Mouse and Keyboard at defaults (5 and 3, respectively).

PC-drive and/or Laptop locked the system, so I don't use them -- skip them for now.

The VBE settings didn't seem to do anything, but you may have some luck as your machine will most likely differ from mine.

Leave the last 3 Tabs for now. Let's get the emulator running.

Click Start. The ST's looking- for- drive- grey- screen will appear. Hit return as you would on an ST. You should see the desktop if all went well. Your C drive may be missing. Simply move the pointer up to the Options menu select install device.

Two C: drives should appear. One, lower case: c and one, uppercase: C

The one with the capital C should be your folder of ST PRGs. I believe the little c drive is for a cartridge.

Anywho, that's how I got started. I now have an STe w/4 Megs RAM. It is a blast. There are differences, of course, namely the keyboard as this is a Laptop it's running on, there is no 10key and the help key is emulated, rather than labeled. The Kb is closer to an ST's than say, a commodore 64's so there is less confusion associated with the layout.

It is nice, but it can't totally replace the experience of using a real ST. Although, I love having an STe with a TrackPoint mouse ;)

.....end of line.
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