Rare Commodore 64 (C-64, C64) pixel art unearthed!

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Bill Loguidice's picture

While not exactly as monumental or groundbreaking as my tongue-in-cheek title would imply, in my small world it's something fun that I wanted to share--original pixel art (much like AA staffer Mark Vasier's wonderful icons that we often use on blog posting headers, like the C-64 icon to the upper left) not seen since the mid-1980's. Without further ado, here's the public unveiling of original artwork done by myself and late friend, Ed Beck, done back in our youth on the Commodore 64, armed only with lots of time, a joystick and crude, but effective art programs.

[NOTE: All of this was captured directly from my Commodore 128D using a USB video capture device and my laptop.]

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The above was by Ed Beck in DOODLE with a joystick (apologies for my not remembering how to remove the cursor when viewing images). He had utilized a neat technique to get a more striking visual effect in things like the planetary continents by essentially skipping drawn lines. It's similar to color techniques (which we also used) to get more than the allowable sixteen colors on-screen by placing certain colors in proximity to each other and the display essentially blending them for free. Ah, the beauty that can come from needing to work around limitations...

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The above were inspired by the cover of the original 1950's version of one of my favorite books of all time, Half Magic. The colored one below, while to some maybe not as nice as the black and white one, was as close as I was able to get to the original coloring (which is pretty close considering the pallete options).

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This was supposed to be a futuristic front page newspaper. I was in seventh grade at the time and one of the very first kids to use a computer for this type of thing. I seem to recall a version where I added text (in fact, I definitely did and that's what I turned in as my report on the book), but don't see it at the moment. You Star Blazers fans should recognize the spaceship...

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Why would I create this you ask? Well, back in the "old days", there weren't necessarily computerized systems to keep score. There was also a version I did where I pasted some Print Shop clip art of a bowler on the bottom and photocopied the whole thing to make a seamless layout.

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If I recall correctly, I created this as a character sheet for some paper role-playing game whose name slips my mind at the moment.

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This is a color version of Big Pig. Again, I think I may prefer the black and white version.

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I drew this from a tiny toy I got in a gumball machine. The proportions are actually about right to what the toy looked like.

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Just like today, I was always hatching up schemes with my friends, which is probably what that was for.

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I loved the original art of this, so I decided to make my own version. Again, the non-color version may do it more justice...

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A marginal attempt at a disk title screen. I still occasionally do work under "Nu-Wave", though now it's "Nu-Wave Innovation, Inc.", officially.

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Just a design. I'm not sure if this was me or Ed, though since it's unsigned and mediocre, it was almost certainly me. (this also looks a bit different on the monitor than it does here in the direct screen capture, interestingly (there's more color bleed on the monitor))

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The above are shots of my drawing of Doctor Who's TARDIS, which I created in geoPaint, which was part of GEOS (by this time the 2.0 version). As with my lack of memory regarding how to get rid of the cursor when viewing pictures in DOODLE, I don't know how to get a full screen shot other than by doing a print preview, which isn't very helpful in this case. Still, you get the idea (and I don't recall if I used a mouse or stuck with a joystick, but the technique would have been the same). (By the way, I forgot how impressive looking the GeoPaint interface is - it's rather like a modern title)

Of course, there was plenty of other stuff I drew (more DOODLE stuff, Print Shop icons, etc.), but it's not handy at the moment. At the very least, though, you get the idea of what we did as kids/teenagers.

By the way, you might be wondering why we didn't use light pens or another alternative to a joystick. Well, these options (which we had available), simply weren't as accurate as doing the work pixel-by-pixel, click-by-click, zoomed in (and in 10 feet of snow).

We were obviously not professional artists by any means (though Ed's stuff was darn good!), but we sure had fun. I don't think you can have the same type of fun on a modern computer with modern art packages today since you really do need to be an artist to make decent use of the amazing tools available. Sadly, my computer art and drawing skills deteriorated after college due to lack of use (and more focus than ever on writing), much like my handwriting.

I eventually moved on to doing work on the Amiga with a mouse in the wonderful Deluxe Paint and have long since made available the following two images, here (1989) and here (1991). I did a few others that came out pretty good, like a muscular swordswoman and Tom Baker's Doctor Who, but again, neither is handy at the moment... After the Amiga, I really never found a pixel package or the time to do any work on the PC, though I'll surely have to out of necessity when I get a chance to make a few games.

Got any classic computer art you'd like to share? Let us see it!

Comments

Matt Barton
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Amiga art

This is fantastic stuff, Bill. I wish I still had some of my old art and mod files! It's easy to get so carried away talking about games for these old systems that we totally forget the awesome productivity stuff. Dpaint IV for the Amiga was a highpoint for me, as was Sonix and Deluxe Music Construction Set, Octamed, etc.

It looks like you were playing around with GEOS. I didn't get much exposure to that, though I thought it was quite cool. Too bad it didn't come out about 5 years earlier; then it really would have been revolutionary.

I am still impressed with some of the old artists like Sachs. I remember seeing an image Sachs had been working on for a planned time travel game that never made production. Just seeing the image made me want to play the game!

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Bill Loguidice
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Commodore stuff, EA stuff, GEOS stuff, word processing, etc.
Matt Barton wrote:

This is fantastic stuff, Bill. I wish I still had some of my old art and mod files! It's easy to get so carried away talking about games for these old systems that we totally forget the awesome productivity stuff. Dpaint IV for the Amiga was a highpoint for me, as was Sonix and Deluxe Music Construction Set, Octamed, etc.

It looks like you were playing around with GEOS. I didn't get much exposure to that, though I thought it was quite cool. Too bad it didn't come out about 5 years earlier; then it really would have been revolutionary.

I am still impressed with some of the old artists like Sachs. I remember seeing an image Sachs had been working on for a planned time travel game that never made production. Just seeing the image made me want to play the game!

That Sachs game you're referring to was the one with the Dinosaurs in the ad, right? I remember coveting that too. I never did get his first game, which supposedly was heavily pirated, hence no second game (the first game was the one in the ads with the UFOs around Washington, DC). Sachs did great Amiga artwork too.

I originally got GEOS with my Commodore 64c, which needed to replace my buggy C-64, which got hit by lightning (causing a graphical glitch; I still have both machines). I also eventually somehow got GEOS 2.0 (I have that boxed - I don't recall the C-64c coming with a boxed copy). In any case, GEOS was quite cool and quite capable, if a bit annoying with all the work disks you had to create. For a 64K budget machine, it was a marvel, creating a Mac-like environment. Once I got GEOS, I switched my word processing efforts over to it, since it could print text as graphics on my dot matrix printer, allowing for much better quality than what could be achieved with the built-in fonts. I also obviously dabbled in the built-in drawing program. It was quite powerful, but not quite as much fun as Doodle. I even got the C-64 mouse for it, which worked reasonably well. Of course today I have a boxed copy of GEOS 128, a JiffyDOS C-128DCR and a 512K RAM expansion, so I could really make good use of the environment (perhaps the ultimate 8-bit GUI?), but that will be a project for another day.

By the way, my first PC (used at the same time when the Amiga 500 was still my primary machine), a 386 SX-20 Magnavox computer with 1 or 2MB of RAM (soon expanded to 5MB), originally came with DOS and GEOS (on a 40MB or 85MB HD). I eventually switched over to Windows 3.1 out of necessity (that's where the GUI software was), but GEOS was quite neat on that relative clunker of a system.

I topped out at Deluxe Paint III myself, simply because I never went beyond the Amiga 500. Of course now I have a range of Amigas, including the AGA models, and Deluxe Paint IV. It's a shame the Deluxe Paint line never continued on the PC. Deluxe Paint II (DOS) was used for years on the PC for game creation, well beyond its retail lifespan (at least into 96/97), simply because it was such a good pixel program.

While my memories are fond, I don't have fond memories of word processing until getting into AmiPro on Windows, where things began to stabilize (and eventually shifting to Word). It was a bit too slow on GEOS on the C-64 and too buggy in Final Write on the Amiga. I even used the Adam and its horribly buggy word processor for a time just to make use of the daisy wheel printer...



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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Mark Vergeer
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Nice work. I might be able to dig up some of my c64 graphics too

Doodle, Koala paint, graph paper and keyboard were my choice of material. Some of my finest works are only visible on v2000 videotape.
:-(

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Mark Vergeer
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Trick for hires multicolor screens on C64

Squeezing more out of the c64 than was thought possible by the designers was something most demo-groups were proud of. To get more than 4 colours per 8x8 pixel square in multicolor in still pictures I often used sprites (single and multicolour ones) and raster interrupts to display pictures that used more than 4 colours per 8x8 pixel square.
A similar technique was used by later demos using raster interrupts and quickly alternating colours combined with a pixel scroll (1/2 pixel hires multicolour). Hard to explain but you'll know what I am talking about when you see it.
O wait - this is a good site describing the c64 graphics modes I described above.

I did have Deluxe Paint for the c64 in the end but didn't use it that much. I was busy adjusting to my 8088 based EGA equipped 14Mhz PC-XT using Turbo Pascal/GEM/Windows. Whoops I meant Koala Painter - Deluxe Paint was for the Amiga, although I remember owning a version for C64 that came with the drawing of a King Tut - probably wasn't deluxe paint, will have to try and find what that was.

Bill, you used Geos for PC? I used that too Geoworks Ensemble, but it was a very different beast on PC though.

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Bill Loguidice
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GEOS-stuff
Mark Vasier wrote:

I did have Deluxe Paint for the c64 in the end but didn't use it that much. I was busy adjusting to my 8088 based EGA equipped 14Mhz PC-XT using Turbo Pascal/GEM/Windows.

Bill, you used Geos for PC? I used that too Geoworks Ensemble, but it was a very different beast on PC though.

Wow, the European market never ceases to amaze me. I would have never thought EA would have released Deluxe Paint on the C-64!

And yes, I used Geoworks Ensemble on the PC. I still have it in fact. I used it into the Windows 95-era because I liked some its features even then, like the DOS program launching. I also used GEOS on my Tandy Zoomer handheld around 1994/5, my first ever PDA and one of the first PDAs (Casio was the original maker I believe and Tandy rebranded as they used to do).



Wii: 1345 2773 2048 1586 | PS3: ArmchairArcade
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Anonymous (not verified)
Deluxe Paint

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"Deluxe Paint was for the Amiga, although I remember owning a version for C64 that came with the drawing of a King Tut"
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Note: This was only a Hi-Res "Demo" display. While very good (I have it).. It was not a full blown Deluxe Paint 64... It merely displayed King Tut. Koala-Painter v1 is the "better" standard for Multi-color..IMHO.

For Hi-Res.. Nothing tops GEOPAINT (IMHO again)

JB

Matt Barton
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Amiga Word Processing

Yes, word processing is one area that never impressed me on the C-64 or Amiga. I can remember using a program called Scribble! extensively in school (this would have been in the early 1990s), and tinkered with one named "Final Copy," but neither were anywhere close to Microsoft Word. Then again, I was never impressed with the early versions of Word Perfect, simply because I found the need to learn function keys annoying. That kind of thing definitely benefited from WYSIWYG and WIMP interfaces.

I used Dpaint IV for a lot of things, such as making a mock-up newspaper like the one you had up here earlier. I enjoyed playing with the color cycling and primitive animation. The Sci-Fi channel (this was right after it first appeared) was running an Amiga-only animation contest, and I made a little movie or spaceships fighting and sent it off. Of course, I didn't win (never heard anything back from them), but it was still fun.

I also had a program called Fantavision that was fun to play with. Here's a little info about it. Didn't know it had been released for other platforms.

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Bill Loguidice
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Productivity Today
Matt Barton wrote:

Yes, word processing is one area that never impressed me on the C-64 or Amiga. I can remember using a program called Scribble! extensively in school (this would have been in the early 1990s), and tinkered with one named "Final Copy," but neither were anywhere close to Microsoft Word. Then again, I was never impressed with the early versions of Word Perfect, simply because I found the need to learn function keys annoying. That kind of thing definitely benefited from WYSIWYG and WIMP interfaces.

Yep, there were early versions of WordPerfect on the ST and Amiga, as well, but the company chose to stop supporting both with new versions fairly early on. C-64 word processing (I used "Quick Brown Fox" on cartridge for a while and a few others, then mostly stuck with GeoWrite) was primitive and limited for obvious reasons (40-column screen, slow disk drives, etc.), but the Amiga didn't have as much of an excuse. Over the years, even with the major publishers pulling their productivity stuff from the Amiga, word processing software did advance feature-wise, but never really stability-wise. Probably a good portion of that had to do again with eventual memory limitations and being restricted to using a disk drive, all while trying to maintain a high-level GUI/WYSIWYG environment, with multi-tasking.

My first project-based job out of college used Word under Windows 3.1. My first real job after that, I had to use the non-GUI version of WordPerfect 5.1 on Unix. Obviously that was a huge shock to the system. While WordPerfect (it was the same as the DOS version) was quick, you had to master the function key and other key combinations in order to survive. It got the job done and you could see how people could appreciate it since it was a bit like coding in HTML by hand is today, but once GUI's evolved in productivity applications and to a usable and stable state, particularly under Windows, there was no real need to go back unless you were on a clunker of a system where performance would have been an issue. And I NEVER got into DOS Lotus 1-2-3, even though I tried. Spreadsheets scream for GUI interfaces and to me, that's where Microsoft probably made its smartest move to get everyone onto their productivity applications - Excel.

Again, there are some things that vintage computers did and still do just fine, but when it comes to certain productivity applications, particularly word processing and spreadsheets, today's stuff is simply better (not perfect by any means, but definitely better).



Wii: 1345 2773 2048 1586 | PS3: ArmchairArcade
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Mark Vergeer
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Geoworks, Gem on Dosbox

I've got Geoworks, Gem and Windows 3.11 working perfect on Dosbox 0.72. With Windows 3.11 you need to search for special drivers that support the 'hardware' provided by Dosbox.

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Mark Vergeer
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Advanced art studio!

Bill, it was Advanced Art Studio, Deluxe Paint was only out on Amiga to my knowledge. Sorry for that.

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