Commodore 128 as Nature Intended It

Fellow Milwaukeean (and the only current Milwaukeean between the two of us) Triticale knows I collect old computers, and when he recently changed abodes, he told me I could have his old Commodore 128 that had been in his garage forever. Well, I talked to my brother in Milwaukee about picking it up for me, and he did, and on my most recent trip to Wisconsin I retrieved said machine.

When I first tried to boot it, it failed. So I planned to make it a teach-yourself-electronics project to resuscitate it, but all it took was a new fuse in the power supply. So I didn’t really learn much at all, but it works beautifully.

And darn the luck, the only television with an RF switch attached to it was in the living room. So behold:

Commodore 128 startup
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Oh, my. I was so excited, I hooked the Commodore 1571 disk drive up and I’ll be durned if it didn’t work right out of the box. So I dug through my archives of my old disks and found some of the programs I had written in the first Bush presidency. As you might know, the Commodore 128 was my first computer, so Basic 7.0 was my first language. And I wrote a number of programs.

Including Adventurers’ Guild, a program designed to keep track of my D&D group’s equipment and character list. It wasn’t truly data-driven, but it did use the Commodore 128’s graphics to their ability. I mean, high res graphics, brother:

Adventurers' Guild startup
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The main program was just a routing piece that called a subprogram allowing the user to look at the various and sundry keeps, characters, or stockpiled equipment:

Adventurers' Guild main menu
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For example, if you wanted to see the roster, it would go into a subprogram for the roster and you could see all characters past and present that played in the campaign:

Adventurers' Guild roster menu
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For example, here’s my brother’s favorite character as seen when the user has chosen to view all:

Adventurers' Guild Kahan the elf
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And even when I was a junior in high school, I was building help into my applications. Here’s one of my first help files:

Adventurers' Guild Help
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When the user logged out, the Commodore went into hi-res graphics for a moment, painting an exit door:

Adventurers' Guild Help
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Then it ended turning the screen to default colors and with a final message from the dungeonmaster:

Adventurers' Guild Help
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Hmm, lightning is misspelled. I’ll log a defect on that right away.

I wrote a couple of other things, too, including a DMV quiz program after watching the movie License to Drive over and over as only a kid in the boondocks with only Showtime could.

DMV quiz
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The instructions included my address back in the day and welcomed correspondence. Back in those days, that’s how you did it without the Internet and e-mail addresses that worked wherever you connected:

DMV quiz instructions
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And the Weird Al Wannabe Quiz:

Weird Al Wannabe quiz instructions
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Of course, after I released them to the wild of the Commodore CG BBSes, I’d expect they were never downloaded. I know no one ever came across with a shareware donation. I did, however, make some money programming, as the high school baseball team’s manager wanted a program to keep track of stats. At Stellar Soft, we were happy to gather his requirements, deliver a quality program, and support it with new features as requested for the princely sum of like $50:

Baseball Stats Manager splash
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I see that in the instructions, I listed it as a division of Triple N Enterprises:

Baseball Stats Manager instructions
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Considering that Noggle, Noggle, and Neiderriter was our lawnmowing business, I guess I did that for taxing purposes.

Well, that’s my walk down memory lane. What’s my point? I don’t know; I have 20 years of software development experience? Or perhaps to boast once again that I have more Commodores than Michele?

Aw, who cares, I got to post some pictures of an old computer.

7 thoughts on “Commodore 128 as Nature Intended It

  1. That exit door looks surprising like an iPod…

    Maybe you should look into rights infringement, seek some due royalty payments, or even unapproved use of intellectual property.

  2. Ah, Commodore. I learned my first programming on the VIC-20, but the 64 was the one that had the great Omega Race game.

    I’ve been looking online, but no one seems to have made a flash version of the game.

    Any thoughts? Or an old disk? Or perhaps you can, ahem, program it? It’s just some circles and squiggly circles and a triangle.

    I’ll pay you the value of the old cartridge, back when it was new. That sounds like a fair bargain.

  3. Jim, there are emulators out there which allow running C64 games on your PC. Somewhere online you should be able to find one and a copy of that game to run on it.

  4. When I try to load a program, you can hear the thing searching for something, but it never finds it.

    Is the latch supposed to be tight? I can’t remember. This one is really loose and I don’t know if that has a bearing on the drive running properly.

  5. Loose how? Like it move left and right when shut or forward and back?

    Seems to me these things have a pin that drops down when you close the drive, so if you cannot move the disk forward and backward when the latch is in place, the latch shouldn’t be a problem.

    I know the read/write heads on the 1571 (and maybe the 1541) could work out of alignment over the course of time or rough handling; our first 1571 in the 80s had to go into the shop twice for realignment.

    However, if you’ve got the cardboard thing used to transport the disk drives, I’ve heard that popping that in and closing the latch could reset the heads.

    However, as my teach-yourself-electronics version of a 1571 described in this post worked without my learning about them, I’m afraid I have only a cursory understanding of them.

    If it didn’t power up at all, I was going to suggest checking the fuse.

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