How I learned to love fuzzy displays and chunky pixels...
Greetings Armchair Arcade readers, time for Part #2 of The Retro Repair Adventures. Back in Part #1 I gave you a rose-colored introduction to my own VIC-20 machine, and showed a smattering of the various bits and bobs of VIC gaming history which I've managed to hold onto for 30+ years now.
This time, keep your propeller-beanies and geek-goggles screwed on tight, and warm up your soldering irons, because we're diving in for a close encounter with the VIC-20 hardware. For those of you who've ever wondered what electronic magic powered the first computer model to sell more than one million units, read on for a peek inside the machine, it's design, and the nitty-gritty details of repairing a 30+ year-old computer.
Hot on the heels of Amiga Forever Essentials for Android, Cloanto has just released the latest "2013" versions of their popular and easy-to-use Amiga Forever and C64 Forever emulators. This is great news for old and new fans of the greatest Commodore platforms, including all versions of the Amiga series (inclusive of the CDTV and CD32), and most of the 8-bit line, including PET, VIC 20, C-64/128, and C-16/Plus4. Around here, it's among our absolute favorite emulation packages and used as pack-ins with various devices, including the MCC, so you know it has to be great.
The full press release details are below, along with all the links to the various packages available:
How to do "The Shatner Rub"...
Hello my fellow Armchair Arcadians! It's good to be back. Didn't mean to be gone so long again, but hey, Life happens. This time, I'm putting on my "Engineer Hat" (with the mandatory pocket-protector), and taking you on a Retro-Repair Adventure. In this first installment, we'll be delving into my own computing, programming, and gaming past. I'll take it easy to begin with, by giving you a close look at my very own, very beloved, and very much malfunctioning Commodore VIC-20. (We'll get to the nitty-gritty details of the electronics repair in my next posting.)
Our friends over at Cloanto have just released Amiga Forever Essentials for Android. It's a tremendous package on the PC and we'll definitely be checking out this interesting new Android version. The press release:
I admit I've been out of touch on the Commodore scene for a while... basically because my system finally smoked. :( Still, I figured I would throw this link out to interested parties..
Shadowgate designer Dave Marsh returns to the show this week to talk about ICOM Simulations' Macventure series. We also chat about Kickstarter and why his earlier effort, Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective, failed to reach an audience.
You can download the show here.
This week features a retrospective of Lucasfilm Games' The Eidolon, a 1985 game that builds on the fractal routines introduced in Koronis Rift and Rescue on Fractalus!. Unfortunately, this game requires a manual to understand, so many of us pirates back in the day couldn't make head nor tails of it. The story, detailed only in the manual, has us strapping into a sphere called The Eidolon and zapping off into the unconscious, mystical realm of the mind (it just gets weirder from there). The fairly complex gameplay has us shooting and collecting four different colors of balls, each with different effects on creatures (if shot) and ourselves (if hit or collected). It also boasts some of the best artwork at the time, especially animation.
Download the mp4 here.
As mentioned previously, I've been going great guns in an attempt to make my overly large collection of 400+ videogame and computer systems more accessible and immediately usable. In other words, figuring out how to waste less of my precious time setting up this stuff and use more of that time actually using what I want to use. Part of that initiative is to take the most "important" computer and videogame systems and put them front and center - and ready to go - in various rooms. I'll discuss the classic videogame consoles in more detail in another post, but basically I've set up a 32" Sony Trinitron CRT to supplement the other basement TV and can now plug in various consoles in that area quickly and easily, though I've changed up where (and how) I'll be making the actual systems themselves accessible. Anyway, where last we left off, I couldn't get my Amiga 600 or 1200 to work, which left me to choose between my Amiga 500, 1000, or 2500HD (with 8088 Bridgeboard). I chose the latter.
With the above in mind, it was of course bugging me that neither the 600 or 1200 were working, so I resolved to address the issue within my limited skillset, and of course when time permitted. Long story short, the 600 is dead, but the culprit in the 1200 was a deceased 40MB hard drive, which was easy enough to remove and replace with a Compact Flash adapter and card with the OS and additional software. In the mean-time, I also got a PAL Amiga 1200, stock, with its own Compact Flash adapter and card with the OS and additional software.
As mentioned previously, I've been re-thinking my collecting activities, including selling off the non-working and duplicate portions of my collection, which presently consists of over 430 videogame and computer systems and countless thousands of related software, accessories, and literature. Naturally, part of that reasoning was "thinning the herd" after all these years, because - even though I am thankful to have a relatively generous amount of space for these types of activities - it has long since reached the point where I well and truly have too much to handle. Why has this become an issue? There's simply too much stuff, there's no time to use it (that would need to be my full-time job), and, when I do want to use it, it takes up most of my available time just setting something up, only to have to break it down and put it back on the shelf again. It's innefficient, and frankly, no fun anymore.
With that in mind, in addition to the thinning - which will take a very, very long time of course in a collection I've been cultivating for over 30 years now - I've been plotting how I can make better use of what I have. Like I said, I am thankful to have a relatively generous amount of space. I have a large basement area, with about half unfinished, which is used for storage, and the other, finished half, consisting of an office room, hallway, workout area, and den area. The main floors of our house contain our active systems, including the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, Co-Star, various computers and handhelds, etc., but they are not an option for me to make use of for classic items, other than on an occasional basis. That just leaves the basement, which is, of course, fine, but also limits my flexibility.
Anyway, even though each area of the basement is brimming with stuff and each section serves a specific purpose, either on a permanent or temporary basis, I decided that my best course of action is to pull out the truly must-have-accessible systems from the hundreds available and make them accessible at a moment's notice. This was not easy to do, as I have a genuine passion for each and every system I own, but the bottom line is is that some systems are more interesting, more "useful," or I simply have a critical mass of items for them that they can't be ignored. I decided I'd tackle that task with my classic computers first, followed by my classic videogame systems at a later date. I cleared space on my big L-shaped computer desk in the office area and proceeded to select the systems that met my criteria and would fit on the desk (I'll have some flexibility when I set up the classic videogame consoles to make a little use of the den area as well).
While I have many different models in most of the specific computer series I selected, I tried to choose the one model in my collection that would give me the most bang-for-the-buck. This in and of itself was not easy, as there's rarely a "most perfect" choice when it comes to choosing the ideal model in a series, which in this case also involved being a good fit for the available space. The systems I chose were as follows: TI-99/4a, Apple IIgs, Atari 600XL, Atari Falcon, Commodore Amiga 2000HD, and Commodore 128DCR, with a special appearance by the Radio Shack Color Computer series, which I'll explain at the end. So yeah, as hard as it was, no Sinclair Spectrum, BBC, IBM PCjr, Coleco Adam, Imagination Machine, MSX, Interact, Exidy, etc., etc., items, even though I'd love to have those out and ready to go as much as the others.
My initial goal - which I was able to accomplish - was to set up a basic system configuration for each and make sure it was working properly. I actually had a slightly different mix of specific systems, but, after testing, found some things didn't function as expected or didn't work at all. Over time, I'll add to each system I've set up (and address the other stuff that's not working) until each and every one is set up properly with their respective disk drives, flash cards, transfer cables, etc., to be fully usable with all of the stuff I have available. At the very least, with these minimum configurations, they're ready to go for most quick usage scenarios. I also decided it was important not to have any of them plugged in full-time, so everything gets hooked up and powered up on demand. This is actually simple and will not delay my usage in any way. In fact, the way I have the various monitors and TV's set up, I can hook up other systems as needed without too much fuss, which is another bonus. Anyway, here are the photos and additional explanation: