Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Why the Commodore 64 Was Better Than the PC-XT

When I was a teenager, I had two main computers - a Commodore 64, and a PC-XT. They were both color, they both had sound, they both used 5 1/4" floppies, but the PC-XT was pretty much only used for word processing and compatibility with the computers at school. In fact, I was working on making the word processor on the PC useless as I was writing my own in BASIC on the C-64 called "Peachword"

Yup, I wrote my own software. The one that I focussed a lot of my time on was my Address Filer. I wrote 4 versions of it, and was eventually going to integrate Peachword into it. I wrote my own disk catalogging software and wanted to integrate everything. I just wasn't happy with any of the pre-bundled stuff that I found.

But the fact that I knew how to program in BASIC isn't what really made the C-64 stand out, since I had GW-BASIC for the PC-XT. The C-64 had much better color, better graphics, and better sound than the PC. It also didn't need a boot disk to start up. This is what made it the most fun computer I've ever used!

I got introduced to some unbelievable stuff when I made contact with others who also had a C-64. One of the programs from them was called "drive music". It plays music using the stepper motor in the floppy drive!

I just recently aquired (another) Commodore 64, but this one is in perfect working condition. I blew up the last three C-64s I owned because I was using a defective fastload cartridge made by Alienware. I've finally trashed the cartridge because I decided fast load times weren't worth the price of finding another working C-64.

Since I now have another working computer, I was able to make the following videos. Here's one of the floppy drive playing music (don't worry, I have an extra drive if by some chance I fuck this one up playing music on it):

Apparently, there is also a piece of software that lets you compose your own drive music! I don't have the time to work on this, so I will probably never try it.

The great thing about having another C-64 is that I have access to all kinds of cool software from the internet! I made myself a cable that will connect the C-64 to a parallel port on a PC. The software I needed to copy software to the 1541 floppy drive runs in DOS, so I needed a computer that supported real DOS because Windows 2000 and beyond don't like letting you play with the parellel port. So I used my laptop running Windows 98. But first, I needed some floppies.

I used some old Wordperfect floppies, since Wordperfect sucks balls anyway. But the C-64 drive is only single-sided, so I had to make "flippy disks" by putting another notch in them. For those who have never had to do this, here's a tutorial:

First, line up the floppies back to back. Then take a sharpie and mark where the notch is on the un-notched floppy.

Then, take a GOOD single hole-puncher (not those shitty dollar store ones, you'll destroy it - yeah I already tried) and punch a half-moon where your marking is.

Voila! You now have a flippy disk! They used to sell actual punches for this very purpose, but hole punchers were cheaper and more universal.

*NOTE: You can only use double-sided double density floppies in the C-64 drive. You can usually identify them by an enforcement ring glued around the middle hole on the disk. High Density floppies don't have this ring, and they won't format in the C-64 drive (yeah, I tried that too).

Then, I was able to transfer the software I found on the net to the floppy drive.

Here's a couple of pics of one thing that I downloaded. The first is a slideshow of Britney Spears. It's just odd seeing this on a C-64.

You can also get porn for the C-64, but I'll leave that up to you to check out. You can see what C-64 porn looks like at http://girls.c64.org/ (I love the pic on the enter page!)

One thing that was cool about the C-64 was the demo scene. Anyone who cracked a copyrighted game usually put their own little demo or title page as the loader. However, a lot of these people also made entire disks of demos and had competitions to show off their programming abilities.

I used to have one that played a sample of "Holiday Rap" by MC Miker G & DJ Sven. After searching the net for a copy, I came across other demos that were far more spectacular. Here's one that has quickly become my favorite:

BTW, I had to use my DVD recorder to capture the video and then encode it to put it on Youtube. Take my advice, don't buy ATI video capture cards. They're pieces of junk. I've had nothing but problems trying to hook the C-64 up to it (and digitize some movies), but that's for another blog. Just take my advice and you won't be disappointed.

Anyway back on topic. All these reasons plus more that I haven't listed are why I enjoyed the C-64. For those of you wondering if there's anything else being done for the C-64, I can tell you there is. You can connect the C-64 to an IDE hard drive or CD-ROM, and others have even made it possible to hook it up to a network via ethernet, and someone even developed an internet web browser for it! I'm REALLY tempted to hook my baby up to the information superhighway just to say I did it. If I do, you can be guaranteed I'll be writing about it here!


Ene said...

I feel like an idiot doing this but you said you had some Mini-Pops stuff? Nah, I'm not after entire albums but my copies of Let's Dance and We're the Mini-Pops have one scratch each ruining one track on each album. I'm going to blame cheap vinyl because I hardly played the Let's Dance album. Any chance I could get your copy of the two ruined tracks? I have an insanely huge music list if you're into that..

I've got to say, you also brought back a LOT of memories of old computing! I haven't seen a floppy in forever and Word Perfect? Wow..

Anonymous said...

C-64 was better than PC-XT because... it was FASTER: https://trixter.oldskool.org/2011/06/04/at-a-disadvantage/