back to article Commodore 64 makes a half-sized comeback

The Commodore 64 is coming back, in a form that owes a debt to both Nintendo's shrunken Mini SNES and thee Vega+ Sinclair ZX Spectrum reboot. The due-in-early 2018 “C64 Mini” matches Nintendo's plan to shrink an old machine, in this case by 50 per cent. Like the Mini and the Vega+ the revived Commodore will pack in pre-loaded …

Seems....

...rather pointless if you can't use the keyboard on the device. Looks like they are releasing a full size, fully working version in 2018. Maybe wait till then to see if the keyboard actually works on the full size version.

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LDS
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Re: Seems....

I don't mind about the keyboard, but until I can plug my 1541 that's a no-go - I don't want to retype all those BASIC code....

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Re: Seems.... @LDS

Then whatever you do, don't try to look at the catalogue after you've started writing your program. Though retyping it might be faster than saving on a 1541 anyway.

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Far better keyboard than the crap modern one I have to put up with at work these days

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Yeah can't say I am a fan of most modern keyboards either. Picked myself up a nice mechanical one off the interwebs. Feels much nicer to use and is a LOT more satisfying if you're having a typed out rant-o-gram :)

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During the trend of moving to 'soft' type keyboards in the early 2000s, I kept my old style IBM clicky one as it was much nicer to type on.

The downside was that whenever the office was quiet, everyone could tell when I was typing. Not so great for the Friday afternoon skive!

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FIA
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Yeah can't say I am a fan of most modern keyboards either. Picked myself up a nice mechanical one off the interwebs. Feels much nicer to use and is a LOT more satisfying if you're having a typed out rant-o-gram :)

I picked up a post modern keyboard a few years ago, it was crap. Every key just typed 'Y' and after 6 months it gave up with a disenfranchised sigh.

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Anonymous Coward

+1 for the old IBM keyboards. I wrote my undergraduate project on an ancient IBM AT using Word Perfect. It was, erm.... military surplus shall we say. 25,000 words, all done over the easter holidays. No diagrams. When you got up a head of steam on those keyboards, you really felt like you were getting somewhere. A keyboard that gave you the "I'm king of the world!" from Titanic feeling, when you got up to a decent WPM. Modern keyboards? Utter bollocks unless you are prepared to pay a fortune.

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Anonymous Coward

I still use an IBM model M, manufactured in Greenock on 29-04-1997 according to the label. PN 1391406, SN 1234565. Unfortunately it has a UK keymap and I am now in Oz so could do with a US one.

I keep looking at Unicomp to get a modern version with a USB interface and a Windows key, but they don't seem to have an Aussie disty and shipping from the US to Oz costs more then the keyboard.

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Anonymous Coward

Australian keyboard

Interesting, are US keyboards the standard/default in Australia?

Even though I’m in the UK, I prefer the US keyboard layout myself. All of the symbol keys are in much more logical locations, and it’s really not all that much of a hardship to type option+3 (or compose l-=) for when I do need a £ sign.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Australian keyboard

Yes. We have the Aussie $ as currency, so makes sense to use US layout.

Not sure why we are getting downvotes. I can only assume my post was downvoted for use of the word "Windows". Not sure about yours.

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Re: Australian keyboard

The first keyboards I used were American-layout ones from DEC. This formed strong brain connections so that I now always configure the layout US style, no matter what the symbols on the key caps say.

In fact, I have a DEC LK250 keyboard sitting in the corner. (From their "PC-compatible" box.) I have a large-DIN to small-DIN adapter, and an AT-to-USB converter, but it doesn't work reliably. I think it might be a power issue. Maybe a powered USB hub would help.

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This is utterly pointless

And yet I simply must have this!

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Look in the loft

Or trawl the eBazaars, the original machines are still working and widely available. Thanks the tin solder they still work as well as they ever did.

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Go

Re: Look in the loft

Agreed. I even saw NEW games for C64 at Gamescom this year!

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Re: Look in the loft

I got my Amstrad CPC down from the loft last year. It was great fun - for 10 minutes. Then the nostalgia wore off and it dawned on me how truly rubbish 80s machines are compared to now. Their saving grace is the ease of learning to program and getting to understand computers with BASIC (something thats sorely lacking today despite all the hype about python and scratch), but other than that I'm afraid I don't get this rush to buy clones of old machines especially given you can buy the real things on ebay relatively cheaply.

Still, I suppose its no different to people buying replicas of old cars and like replica cars there'll be a modern engine and running gear underneath. Wouldn't surprise me if its just a raspberry pi tucked into a corner running a C64 emulator with a nice price mark up for the gullible.

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Pint

Re: Look in the loft

There you go - that's CPC's for you :P

Seriously though, if you learned to bash the C64 metal in 6510 assembly, that taught a lot of the underlying principles for playing with Arduinos and the like.

And the games were frankly more fun. And the SID chip..And $D011 raster effects that needed the exact amount of NOP's to work..

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Childcatcher

Re: Look in the loft

CPC was crap when it came out, believe me, I had to teach my mum how to use it one weekend - so she could teach some lecturers on Monday morning how to teach their students on Monday afternoon.

(Typical training centre balls-up).

I did at least get free photo copier privileges for my Star Fleet Battles addiction.

The nearest we have to a Nostalgia" icon.

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Re: Look in the loft

"There you go - that's CPC's for you :P"

Well, each to their own :P

One thing I will say about the CPC range is that AFAIK Locomotive BASIC was the only 1980s BASIC that could do a kind of limited co-operative multithreading using the AFTER/EVERY <msec> GOSUB <line> interrupt commands.

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Re: Look in the loft

"CPC was crap when it came out, believe me, I had to teach my mum how to use it one weekend - so she could teach some lecturers on Monday morning how to teach their students on Monday afternoon."

How do you teach someone BASIC to a level to be able to teach others in a weekend? Or was it more "Here's how you switch it on, he's how you put a tape/disk in and load a game"?

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Re: Look in the loft

"CPC was crap when it came out"

My CPC with its two ROM boxes was a brilliant wee Word processor and development environment. OK, the games suffered a bit what with being mostly direct ports from the Spectrum, but Elite played fine (what else did you need...)

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Re: Look in the loft

I have a real C64 in mint condition, boxed, that I'm going to put on eBay or somewhere. Guess it's just gone up in price :)

Offers on a postcard please...

I personally never used a C64, though my little brother did; my first was a Vic-20, because at college we had Commodore Pets. The Vic-20 was awful to use, mainly because its display was about 20 characters wide, which made it very difficult to do anything useful that was text-based. The Pet and C64 were somewhat more useful.

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Re: Look in the loft

"CPC was crap when it came out"

I will have you know that I wrote a program to control the Seawolf missile system on a CPC 6128 in assembler, tested it off the Welsh coast on HMS Broadsword.

Oh what fun we had. Seawolf trial worked. But an Exocet trial failed due to the missile deciding at the last second that it didn't want to come out and play and just sat there even though its little hutch had opened. It sulked for 1/2 an hour before it was decided it had calmed down.

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Re: Look in the loft

"I will have you know that I wrote a program to control the Seawolf missile system on a CPC 6128 in assembler, tested it off the Welsh coast on HMS Broadsword."

You should have got Alan Amstrad Sugar to come along and say "You're fired!"

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Stop

Re: Look in the loft

The CPC can manage (given its age) a pretty decent GUI-driven OS - SymbOS:

http://www.cpcwiki.eu/index.php/SymbOS

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Re: Look in the loft

The CPC is a well-designed machine — it's trivial to set yourself up with a full address range of RAM, pick any portion of that to be the size you want of video output, you've got the equal-highest resolution graphics of the era, one of the faster CPUs, a better-than-usual palette, great support for the disk drive machine (even if the disks are weird), and the BASIC is well-structured and provides good hardware support.

They don't all support interlacing, as Amstrad switched CRTC supplier a few times, but if you get one that does then you can output 1bpp graphics at a resolution slightly higher than DVD. If you bought the model that comes with a monitor, you can probably even see them all. Though you'll probably want the 128kb machine for that, as I count almost a full 64kb spent on such a frame buffer.

You only suffer because developers tended to treat it as that thing you hastily port your Spectrum game to in a couple of weeks somewhere near to the end of development ― as long as it sort of works, that'll do. So there's a vast library, but you need to be a little selective.

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Re: Look in the loft

"I personally never used a C64, though my little brother did; my first was a Vic-20, because at college we had Commodore Pets. The Vic-20 was awful to use, mainly because its display was about 20 characters wide, which made it very difficult to do anything useful that was text-based. The Pet and C64 were somewhat more useful."

I was given a Vic 20 and discovered that the only difference between a Vic 20 and CBM 64 is the system board (and the case colour) and that a free Vic 20 plus an aftermarket replacement C64 system board was a LOT cheaper than a new C64,

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Re: Look in the loft

"But an Exocet trial failed due to the missile deciding at the last second that it didn't want to come out and play and just sat there even though its little hutch had opened. It sulked for 1/2 an hour before it was decided it had calmed down."

Did you also have a beach-ball alien on board?

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Flame

Re: Look in the loft

I'm sorry but a CPC is in my opinion possibly the worse of the 8 bit machines.

I can have lots of fun with the speccy, the C64 and MSX machines (running japanese software), but the CPC has to be the dullest machine ever made.

The basic on the MSX is great, and the full screen editor on the C64 is incredibly well designed for the time (although the basic is not very good as it lacks sound and graphics commands)

For assembler programs the C64 is ace with a cartridge running an ASM monitor.

But the CPC...

If you want to know which 8 bit computer is cool and funny, check the demoscene for it.

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Re: Look in the loft @John Sanders

Batman Forever is both (i) the obligatory CPC demo of modern times; and (ii) the only good thing called 'Batman Forever'.

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MJI
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If a USB keyboard require no sale

Commodore keyboards were good.

WIll it support the short cut commands to save RAM?

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Better alternatives..

Just pick up Vice and find yourself some rompacks on the Internet (there are plenty freely available thanks to retrogame websites) and after you did that you can soon play dozens of retro games free of charge.

Heck, I even managed to copy my Final Cartridge using a small basic program, send that to my PC and right now I'm using that image in Vice as well. The whole setup can really take me back to those good times :)

Seriously though: the graphics maybe far less than what we're currently used to, but some of the gameplay we had back then was really way ahead.

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Commodore already did this with the Commodre 64GS.

It bombed. Why?

The games it came with needed a keyboard to operate. This is a pointless money making scheme. For £70 you could buy a C64 and play whatever games you want on it without a problem.

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the games it came with did NOT need a keyboard to operate! You're misremembering.

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Quite right, but the system was sold as being compatible with C64 games which were available in cartidge form. Those wouldn't work though.

Linky.

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For £70 you could buy a RaspberryPi, an SD card, a keyboard, a joystick, and have some cash left over to put towards a screen. Then you could emulate not only a C64, but a C128, an Amiga, a speccy, a NES, SNES and Gameboy and plenty else as well.

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I find such projects a bit sad

Essentially they are reducing home computers to games machines. Home computers were excellent toys to learn how computers worked. They had programming languages simple enough to fully learn in 2 weeks, they had hardware and "operating systems" easy enough so they could be fully understood by the determined hobbyist.

Compare that to the Raspberry Pi, which runs a highly complex operating system, on highly complex and only partially documented hardware. No single person can understand it and learn from it.

Maybe we should instead make a Commodore PET clone, with a small microcontroller running a 6052 emulator as the CPU and perhaps video output. That way we could have a machine again which would be understandable by everyone, yet powerful enough to do things.

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Re: I find such projects a bit sad

"excellent toys to learn how computers worked"

I thought that was the whole idea behind the Raspberry Pi? Although I agree Linux and Python are a bit of a mouthful to swallow at once compared to switching an 8bit on and typing "10 print 'hello world'

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Re: I find such projects a bit sad

Maybe we should instead make a Commodore PET clone, with a small microcontroller running a 6052 emulator as the CPU and perhaps video output. That way we could have a machine again which would be understandable by everyone, yet powerful enough to do things.

...or even a 6502. Ah, the days of zero page addressing...

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TRT
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Re: I find such projects a bit sad

I used to enjoy things like working out how to alter the wiring of a Maplin Speech Synthesiser kit so that it would work connected to the user port instead of the memex port.

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LDS
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"Essentially they are reducing home computers to games machines."

I guess that for many who are commented here they were "excellent toys to learn how computers worked" - but for many, many others they were just games machines.

They replaced consoles for some time probably because games were much easier to pirate - and maybe even because owning a personal computer had some "cool" factor, and parents saw them less as a pure game machine only.

It's no surprise later pure game consoles became a big market again.

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Re: I find such projects a bit sad

"Although I agree Linux and Python are a bit of a mouthful to swallow at once compared to switching an 8bit on and typing "10 print 'hello world'"

That's why I'll be setting one up for my lad with RiscOS. BBC BASIC FTW!! And it's got enough poke to do big-boy stuff. And if he ever decides that's what takes his interest, there's an ARM assembler in the box too.

By the time he gets to that stage, a bit of Python and C shouldn't be beyond his grasp.

I'll even encourage my daughter to give it a bash. She has a very different mindset, though, so I'm not convinced it'll be her thing.

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Re: I find such projects a bit sad

@lnfnords The PET came with GPIB (General Purpose Interface Bus). This was pretty handy if you happened to work in a research labs with lots of expensive hp instruments to control. Comodore also brought out a disk drive that connected to the PET over GPIB. Ammusingly the disk drive CPU was twice as powerful (well double the clock speed) as the one used by the PET.

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Re: I find such projects a bit sad

"running a 6502 emulator..."

An emulator? Unless things have changed recently, the real thing (or at least the slightly enhanced CMOS version) can still be had from the Western Design Centre.

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Re: I find such projects a bit sad

"Maplin Speech Synthesiser kit"

The one with the SP0256-AL2?

I remember seeing the circuit in the Maplin Magazine and buying the chip on its own (mine came from Tandy rather than Maplin) and connecting it to a parallel printer port. It was supposed to run from a 3.12MHz crystal - I made a VCO for mine and had a pot that I could adjust from super-low baritone to mickey-mouse soprano.

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Trollface

Re: I find such projects a bit sad

I wait to see your face the day you try to teach your kids some python.

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Re: "Essentially they are reducing home computers to games machines."

"They replaced consoles for some time probably because games were much easier to pirate - and maybe even because owning a personal computer had some "cool" factor, and parents saw them less as a pure game machine only."

Main selling point. Parents wouldn't buy you a console (like, say an ATARI), but you could talk them into buying you a home computer for school work... Not that this was entirely untrue.

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Devil

Re: "Essentially they are reducing home computers to games machines."

They were also remarkably better game machines. They were much better equipped. The games were simply much better. The games were also much more interesting. Didn't matter if they could be pirated or not.

Hell, that's true even now.

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