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CommVEx 2011 Part 1     CommVEx 2011 Part 2     The Rise and Fall of FRD Software

Nine Lives of Commodore (2012 update)     Review: Computer Wimp     Commodore MaiLink 2013 Update

FCUG & Commodore Update     A Commodore Emergency     Proverbs 13:11 and Commodore 6:4

 

CommVEx 2011 Part 1

By Lenard Roach

July 21: We had everything we needed packed and sitting in the living room of the Roach Hotel ready for transport to sunny Las Vegas , but we needed to pick up the car for the trip. Gabe and I drove to Overland Park where the rental company had our car ready for us, but we ran into our first snag. It would appear that the rental place only took credit cards for their down payment and all we bad was a debit card. In order for them to take the debit card we had to have proof of residency by showing a recent paycheck stub and a utility bill, along with proof of insurance for our cars. We had to go back to Kansas City and get the necessary papers so we could get the ·rental. This put us about an hour behind schedule, but it was well worth it since we were given a 2009 Dodge Charger for the trip and we are fans of Dodge back at the Hotel.

I took the Charger while Gabe drove the Mini to my job where Gabe was groovy enough to place his brother, who works there with me, in charge of taking care of the Mini until we get back into town. RJ gladly accepted the Mini and after a quick lunch with the team at work, we headed back to the Hotel to pack up the Charger for the long haul to Las Vegas .

Packing was a breeze since we had everything like luggage and Commodore computers in square containers, and it was a simple game of Tetris to put everything in the trunk at the car. Some equipment was placed in the back seat like software and my medicines. That is one thing I hate about getting older – taking a pharmacy full of drugs everyday just to make it through a day. I know that if I miss a month of prescription pick up my pharmacist sends me a get well card in the mail. At least I am missed.

We drove over to 78th and Riverview where Gabe’s mom was living and let her drive the Dodge since she had always wanted to test drive a Charger. She took it onto the highway and opened it up to 90 MPH on the on ramp from 1-435 south to I-70 east, which the car did in a very short amount of time, like five seconds. We took her home and said our goodbyes, then hit I-70 west for the long haul down the highway to Las Vegas .

We set up a rule that when the tank got to half empty we would shop around for the best deal at the next stop. Out of the twelve stops we made for gas the highest we spent for gas was $3.89 a gallon, but that was only one stop. The cheapest we found was in Utah were it was $3.39 a gallon. There was nothing really exciting that happened on the way here. We went through the Rockies and the Utah desert at night so we didn’t get to see anything and western Kansas was nothing but flatland.

 

July 22: We were still on the road when the calendar flipped to July 22nd. We listened on Sirius Radio to mostly dance mix while Gabe drove but when it came my turn to drive we listened to the comedy channels. The road into Colorado and Utah was twisted as I tried my best at night to stay on the road through the mountains. I was a little irked that we missed the Rockies during the day shift because these mountains are so breathtakingly beautiful that a driver really needs to take a few photos of them as a souvenir. We never saw sunlight again until about 7:00 a.m. when we were going south on I-5 heading. into Las Vegas .

We hit the Las Vegas city limits about 9:30 a.m. on Friday and went right to the convention hall at the Vegas Club Hotel in hopes that someone would be there to let us set up, but alas, we were a day early to the convention and nobody was there for us to get in. We opted then to go to the El Cortez and get settled in but the maids did not have our room ready so we went into the Cortez Lounge and had some breakfast. After this we went back to the hotel desk and found our room was ready so we hauled our luggage up to the second floor to room 2247. When we unlocked the door I was shocked. I ordered two beds and a decently sized room but we got a single bed in what appeared to be a closet with a toilet. Gabe was cool enough to go downstairs and find out what happened and it appears that I made an error on our reservations on the Internet and got this room instead. This means that one of us will be sleeping on the floor while one got the bed. This didn’t bother either of us since we slept on the floor at the house anyway. At the Roach Hotel the temperatures have been so hot that the only room getting cooled by our little 5,000 BTU air conditioner was the living room. So we piled ourselves in there for a comfortable sleep.

Gabe was rested enough in the car during the night hours that he went ahead on to California to pick up Hatchi, one of our team that was going to help me during the convention, while I slept in. Gabe went on while I set up the CPAP machine and quickly settled in and passed out for the rest ot the day and the night.

 

July 23: I woke up to my cell phone chirping its familiar ring as I laid there, not believing that I had slept the whole day and night in Las Vegas. The hotel believes in keeping the rooms extra cold so sleeping was great and since I am built like a polar bear I enjoyed the coolness. I grabbed my cell phone to shut off the ringer and saw I had one voice message. I tried to wipe the sleep from my eyes and listen to the message.

“I’ve been arrested in California ,” I thought it said but I couldn’t be sure. I fumbled the best that I could to replay the message but instead I erased it. I got up and paced the floor wondering what to do. The first thing would be to locate which jail Gabe was in but when I called the California Highway Patrol their offices were closed until 9:00 a.m. I paced the floor some more, then called the local 911 and asked if they could patch me into the 911 line for California like they can in Kansas, but no such luck. I paced the floor again. One of my kids in Kansas texted me and asked how I was doing so I told them about Gabe. She thought I was joking. I called her and told her what I thought I had heard and she listened.

I got off the phone so she could call my son, her husband, in Kansas City, and tell him. He told Gabe’s mom, and everything went nuts in Kansas City while I paced the floor in Las Vegas. All I could do till 9:00 was pray, so I did. I shot a few unnecessary swear words to heaven asking God what is happening. Not too long after this Gabe and Hatchi walked into the room. I screamed and cried asking him what happened. He told me he was never arrested but instead had said that he was going to take his time in California so he would not get arrested. I sent texts telling everyone that I made a serious boo boo and panicked the whole family for nothing. I got some hateful texts back but I didn’t care. I was happy to have Gabriel back with me.

I left the El Cortez at 10: 30 am to look around for the car in the parking garage. Before Gabe went to sleep I forgot to ask him where he parked the car. I walked around the parking garage twice before I found the Charger. The good news is that the El Cortez was on the west end of the Fremont Street Experience while the Las Vegas Club Hotel where the convention was on the east end. With all the Commodore equipment I had to haul, I decided to drive around the block to the Las Vegas Club and get into the garage ($5 parking fee) and unload from there. But before I unloaded all of the Commodore equipment I wanted to make sure the convention was open, so I got onto the parking garage elevator and went to the Left Field room on the third floor and sure enough, the convention was just getting under way.

I stopped in and introduced myself and Robert Bernardo president of the Fresno Commodore Users Group greeted me. Dick Estel was also on hand and he took my $10 entrance fee. But he also was interested in what I had done for Commodore over the last several years, and also he wanted to see my book. My table was next to the far wall from the door. I went back downstairs with a rolling cart and unloaded the car, then went back upstairs to the convention and began to set up. I was seated next to a gentleman on the left who was working with a new Amiga that has great Internet capabilities, and to my right was a gentleman who made an accelerator for the Amiga that allowed it to store information on a small 4GB flash card instead of its bulky hard drive.

Robert introduced CommVEx to its attendees and we milled around at the other stations looking at what people brought for demonstration. At 1:30 the first demo went on as a young man showed how to use BASIC programming for the Commodore on a Windows based computer that also got rid of the annoying line numbering deal so a user could go right through and program great things. This program would be handy when the time the C64x comes out and a user would like to put new programs on it. Users are starting to think ahead.

Next was me at 2:30 . Since nobody was scheduled to speak at 3:30 I got to speak all I wanted to for the next two hours, so I covered everything I was showing from my book to all the programs I wanted to show, five in all. I loaded and talked about each program as to what they did and how they matter to the Commodore universe. People asked the most questions about the book and how it came about. The big point of my lecture was, “If you’re not having fun doing what you do, then stop it. Enjoy. Do something you like.” To check out my lecture, please contact the Fresno Commodore Users Group and ask for the DVD of my talk. Rumor has it that the entire convention will be available on YouTube or similar Internet sites.

Gabe and Hatchi walked in about the time my lecture was done and told me about their oversleeping. Gabe really wanted to see my talk and missed it entirely, but he has promised to watch it once it came to the house on DVD . They looked around for a minute. Instead of allowing them to leave and since there was a break in the activity at CommVEx, we went down to the lounge and had something to eat. We all settled on cheeseburgers since they were the cheapest thing on the menu at $9.99 each. As we ate, Hatchi shared some videos he downloaded off the internet that Gabe and I have seen before, but they were the videos that you don’t mind watching again and again due to their humor.

After lunch the boys and I went separate ways. They checked out the Fremont Street Experience and I went back to the convention where another attendee was demonstrating on the big screen a program that allowed the Commodore to get onto the Internet. He was working on a new game to upload to the server that played like Stratego, This proved to be interesting since everything is headed for the Internet these days and the Commodore might as well follow the trend. This may increase Commodore usage throughout the world if the Commodore truly can do Internet things.

By the time this was over, the day’s demonstrations were complete and the convention was breaking up for dinner. After this a person could either come back and play with the machines and talk or go to the hotel. I opted to go to the hotel. By now it was a little past 5:30 pm , so I texted Gabe and told him I was going back to hotel. The boys had already walked back to the hotel so all I had to do was meet them there. After this we stayed in the room and played Xbox and I sat down on the laptop to begin another segment of .our adventure in Las Vegas . After dinner we all went to bed and slept till Sunday.

More about CommVEx 2011
  

CommVEx 2011 Part 2

by Lenard Roach

July 24th: Sleep was rough. We got up at 2:00 am and I watched the boys play games on the Xbox until 4:00 a.m. when we fell asleep again and didn’t wake till 8:00 am . We cleaned up and then went down for breakfast. The boys had cheeseburgers while I had two helpings of biscuits and gravy. We drove over to the CommVEx location and I got back onto my C64 that I set up while Gabe and Hatchi ·went to look for souvenirs down the Strip and Fremont Street .

The first speaker at 11:30 a.m. was my left neighbor and his station looked like he was ready to launch the space shuttle and he had some improvements to Amiga 4.1 OS that went way over my head. Someone was nice enough to go to Little Caesar’s Pizza and buy five pizzas that we all enjoyed. Next speaker was Robert Bernardo who demoed a radio plane flight simulator, which lacked serious graphics but the control was pretty good. The biggest fun was crashing the plane into the ground and letting the computer assess the damage.

Two kids about 16 walked in that everyone mistook for Gabe and Hatchi. They were recent runaways, I gathered, and were trolling the hotels for food. When everybody asked me if these were my boys, I told them no but nobody had the heart to kick them out, so we let them stay. They ate some pizza, looked around, then left.

The next demo I missed because not too long after the urchins left Gabe and Hatchi walked in. I told them about the kids and how the pizza was eaten up, so as the next demo on Easy Flash was starting, I left the convention and took the boys down to the Ticono’s Lounge for some lunch. I had nothing to eat since I already ate pizza but Gabe and Hatchi ate cheeseburgers with red peppers. I would hate to be their colons later on.

I got back in time for Robert’s demo on the SUX 6400 sound interface device. This handy little gizmo allowed you to record music or sound and allows you to replay the samples over the Commodore 64’s SID chip. The sample they used sounded just like the real thing but as they noted it does play a little quiet. I was wondering myself how something like the wedding march would sound played on the device, but with it only recording about five seconds of sound, it would not do well.

Next was a demo on a device that had several Commodore, Amiga, and Atari 2600 games loaded into it and it acted very much like a Commodore 1541 drive but with the software already installed. It was groovy to me to see that the demonstrator had a couple of games he wrote loaded into the device by the device creators so he demoed his games coming from the device. I think that it is really neat, albeit illegal, to have your work so recognized by others that they decide to hack it and install it into something they are working on. I know that the things I do are more of a practical nature so they won’t find themselves loaded into another device. My hat is off to Larry Anderson and his work on the Tron Light Cycles and Light Cycles 11 games. Good job.

I got a message ·that the boys were going to prowl the Fremont Street Experience, then go get the car. This was my cue to dismantle my Commodore station and get it ready for departure. I did forget to mention that we won several raffle prizes like tape measures, a screwdriver set, a couple of bottles of wine, a stack of  DVDs, and a Commodore T-shirt.

While I was waiting for the car I got to sit in on a more detailed work on Easy Flash as the programmers got into more detail on how it worked. I’m sorry to say that the gentlemen who made the presentation may have been talking way over the heads of many of the attendees, me included. I tried to follow but it was just too much tech for me. This is when I found out that I was a novice amongst a set of advanced gamers and programmers and therefore my stuff did stink, a little.

Before departure Robert went around to several people and asked them to say “this sucks” into the camera as he went about making a commercial for his new SUX6400 to be placed on YouTube. He asked me to do something so I turned my hat backwards and put on my best gravely redneck voice and told him his device sucked. It was fun and it would be great to see if I made the cut and if I find myself on YouTube.

Gabe and Hatchi came upstairs and helped me wheel my entire Commodore setup down the elevator and into the awaiting Dodge Charger. We had checked out of the El Cortez earlier that morning and left the room a wreck that said “men were here.” Despite all the efforts of Gabe, he could not find a theatre in the vicinity so we could see Captain America , so we decided to head for California and drop off Hatchi and start the long trek back to Kansas City .

The GPS told us to take I-15 to California but the moment we reached the Nevada/California border, we ran into a traffic jam. As we went further into California it would break up for about a mile or two then jam up again. 64 miles into California we discovered that there was an agricultural checkpoint that needed to be passed through by all, but it was late at night and traffic was backed up like a Kansas City rush hour on I-435 in the morning. Once through, we started on towards our destination at a faster rate of speed.

JULY 26th: I slept most of the way so I didn’t see much, and besides, it was night and there was nothing to see. We made it to Hatchi’s home at 3: 15 in the morning, where we said our goodbyes, and headed off back the way we came I was stubborn when it came to making the I-15/I-40 split and decided to disobey the GPS , which GPS wanted us to take I-15 back through the earlier mess and go home through Las Vegas. I wasn’t in the mood for that so I decided to take I-40 home through the southern United States. This little boo boo cost us about six hours extra traveling time since it would have been quicker to go home the way we came. There was nothing to report on the way home since most of the time I was driving was at night. We did go down a spooky, lonely piece of highway in New Mexico that twisted and turned unexpectedly for about two miles before dumping us off onto US 54 heading for Texas. I learned quickly to listen to the GPS and decided that, after Gabe programmed her for the shortest route with no toll booths to cross, we traveled US 54 all the way through Texas, Oklahoma,  and finally into Liberal, Kansas where we hopped onto K-61 and went to Salina. It was sun up by then and Gabe took over and drove us the rest of the way into Kansas City and finally home to the Roach Hotel on Corona Avenue .

Gabe had slept most of the way through the night so he was ready to go for the day. He called mom and went to spend the day with her while I took a nap. I woke up about 3: 00 in the afternoon, unpacked the Charger, and got it ready for return to the rental shop on Wednesday. I took a shower, ate a couple of sandwiches, and started working again on the report of the trip.

Much thanks to the people who without their help this trip would not have been possible; to my son Robert and his wife Erica for checking on the cats and cleaning my yard and gutter while we were gone. My thanks also to Alana and her beau Pat for picking up any missing elements at the house due to my inability to think of what could be done. Thanks also to work for letting me have the time off during a busy time of the season so I could go to CommVEx and try to make something of myself. My thanks to FCUG and the 5Cs for sponsoring CommVEx so I could see what was new and fun for Commodore. Finally, thanks to Gabe who really would have wanted to do something better with this time than be stuck in a car for a week with his dad and go to Vegas. Without all of you this trip would not have been possible.

Will I be there next year? As Charlie Chan says in most of his movies, “Is possible.” But 1f I do go I won’t take so much Commodore gear. Also the attendees did express interest in seeing other works I have done in writing so I might take them along and show what I have been doing outside of the Commodore genre. My next attempt will be to go to the World of Commodore Expo in Toronto during December. Whether this happens or not, I don’t know. We’ll see.

    More about CommVEx 2011
   

The Rise and Fall of FRD Software  

A cautionary tale of how a company name can come out of nowhere (where it should have stayed)

 And a report on how I won fame and made back my expenses in the Commodore industry

By Dick Estel

It all started when I realized there were too many GEOS fonts to keep track of (for those coming late to the Commodore world, GEOS was a disk-based, graphic operating system for the Commodore, which included word processing, desktop publishing and other applications).

The original GEOS program came with six fonts, and later you could buy a disk with another 20 or so. Then someone developed a font editor which allowed people to create their own fonts. These were distributed in various ways – free downloads on Quantum-Link (predecessor to AOL ), and often via disk from the creator.  

I decided to make a sample printout of all the GEOS fonts I had, so that it would be easier to select fonts for my various writing and publishing projects. For each font, I showed all letters, upper and lower case, and all additional characters. The finished product was about 15 pages, and I quickly realized it could be of help to others.  

I posted a message on the GEOS boards on Q-Link, offering copies of the printout for a nominal fee (enough to cover paper and postage), and had a good response – maybe five to ten requests.  

I continued to buy disks and download all new fonts from Q-Link, and it was not long till I needed to print a supplement to the original document. Somewhere around this time I bestowed the name “Font Resource Directory” ( FRD ) on the project, later adding an introduction and table of contents, which listed fonts both alphabetically and numerically (each GEOS font is assigned an ID number which the program uses when the font is designated).

The first section of this project got up to 68 pages, but it was a long way from done. From time to time I would offer another batch of pages as a supplement, eventually promoting them with a direct mail notice to past customers. In addition to the “supplements,” I added some articles on fonts by myself and others, including technical information on font numbers and how GEOS uses fonts.  

When I finally stopped compiling the Directory, it consisted of 568 pages of fonts, alphabetical and numeric indices that ran to 22 pages each, and over 20 pages of miscellaneous font-related information.  

You may have noticed that I did NOT say “fame and fortune” at the start of this article. I kept the prices low enough that it would not be a great burden for someone to buy the entire directory, yet still cover my expenses of copying and shipping. Over the several years the directory was available, I probably sold sections to over 200 people, and complete or nearly complete packages to somewhere between 75 and 100.  

Yes, I wrote and sold a book that consisted of nothing but the alphabet over and over for more than 500 pages.

Somewhere along the way I became aware that people were offering disks of public domain programs, art and other Commodore related software. You are not supposed to sell PD material, but it is legitimate to charge a fee for copying and materials (disks, sleeves and labels). I started putting together some disks of fonts and offered them for sale.

Since the FRD name was known in the GEOS community, I called my business FRD Software, although if I had it to do over, it would be Estel Enterprises (a generic name that lets you carry on any kind of business you want). FRD Software eventually offered disks of GEOS and other Commodore graphics, including hundreds of scanned images that I made using the Commodore HandyScanner.

A catalog I created included thumbnail graphics of my own scans, with text listings for the various fonts and other graphics. I didn’t keep track of sales, but I shipped several hundred disks to the US and a half dozen other countries. 

Eventually, as Commodore use declined, so did interest in my products. At the same time I started doing more and more on a Windows machine, and further work on this project seemed pointless.

But even though FRD Software has joined many other Commodore companies in the dustbins of history, much of the software is still available somewhere. A lot of the fonts and graphics, especially Doodle and Koala, came from Q-Link, and that material is around somewhere.

I gave permission to Bruce Thomas in Canada to include all my disks on a CD-ROM that he produced, The geoSpecific Collection. Check out what else Bruce is up to here.

      

Computer Wimp--an Oldie But Goodie

 by Dick Estel

(NOTE: I am not sure when this review was originally written and/or published. It first appeared in The Interface, newsletter of the Fresno Commodore User Group, and I believe it appeared in the January 1999 Commodore MaiLink (newsletter of Meeting C64/128 Users Through The Mail). This version was an update, and it was probably first written in the very early 1990s.) 

The best computer book I ever read is obsolete. But then, most folks think our Commodores are obsolete, along with many of us who use them! In fact, we and our machines have a lot of life left, and so does Computer Wimp (166 Things I Wish I Had Known Before I Bought My First Computer) by John Bear. 

Being a backward sort of guy, I bought my computer before I bought this book, so it contained some things I wished I had known before I bought the computer. But the value of this book lies not in its technical advice, which is still 40% valid, but in the style of writing, which is humorous and entertaining. Recently I was clearing out some old Commodore equipment and other things, and I planned to put this book in the "yard sale" box. Then I started glancing through it, and finally re-read it completely, and put it back on the shelf to keep. 

The book has a 1983 copyright, so much of the advice is contemporary with the earliest days of the Commodore 64. Re-reading it in the late 90's, one sees some parts of it as "quaint." But it still offers solid advice, as well as more entertainment than ten years of RUN, Compute Gazette and Commodore World combined. And some comments make John look like a visionary. As entertaining as the text itself is a collection of humorous or pithy quotes, and apparently antique drawings with appropriate captions which appear in the margins throughout the book. Some of these are quoted at the end of this article. 

I made several attempts to contact the author, without success. The quotes below are used without permission, but probably fit under the "fair use" concept for a review.   


THE PRESCIENT JOHN BEAR : 

"Many...prognosticators in the technical fields have been predicting that small computers will follow the same marketing pattern seen with calculators, digital watches, CB radios and other 'high tech' small items: a tremendous proliferation of manufacturers, continuing decline in prices, and ultimately a relatively small number of manufacturers surviving and prospering...Computers...are likely to appear in our lives in more and more ways, if not necessarily in the free-standing units now accounting for most small computer sales." 

"Making your printer decision...wait: Low-cost ink jet printers that combine the best features of both [dot matrix and letter quality printers] are said to be just around the corner." 

"Prices are changing in the electronics world at a rate unprecedented in history. Sixty years ago, it cost about 200 days salary to buy a Model T Ford--and today it costs about 200 days salary to buy a new Ford...but less than ten years after the first electronic four-function calculator went on sale for $800, you can walk into any drugstore or supermarket and buy, for under $20, a pocket device that can do more than the huge million-dollar 'automatic brains' of the 1940's."


THE QUAINT JOHN BEAR : 

“Virtually all small computer programs require 64,000 or fewer [bytes]...The 2,000 bytes of the Timex-Sinclair is almost certainly too small for all but the simplest uses. The 1 million bytes (1 megabyte) of the Apple Lisa is almost certainly more than small computer users will ever require.”

“Major brands [of disks] at this writing have a retail price of around $5 for a 5.25” floppy disk. In quantity, the price can come down to $3.50 to $4 each. But it is not uncommon to find these disks at $2 to $2.50 at discount houses, and often under $2 at computer shows.”  

“Hard disks are sealed units that...can hold from one million to ten million bytes...the price range is from $2,000 to $5,000 depending on capacity.”  

Mr. Bear spends a few pages lamenting the proliferation of various kinds of operating systems, disk sizes, disk speeds, etc. “It's as if long playing phonograph records were made in 100 different sizes and 100 different speeds...a 42 5/8 RPM 9 ¾ inch disk might play on a 43 1/4 RPM 9 1/4 inch turntable, or it might not, and even if it did, it might sound funny...will there ever be industry-wide standards? Don't hold your breath. It's on the list right after 27 1/2 RPM 11 inch records.”  

“The original title of this book was going to have been, 'How I went from a $35,000 Digital computer to a $15,000 Micromation computer to a $10,000 Northstar computer to a $3,000 Apple computer to a $600 Radio Shack computer to a 10 cent Eberhard Faber pencil.'"  

(Editor's comment: He shoulda got a Commodore!)     

 

JOHN BEAR QUOTES OTHER PEOPLE: 

“It is said that one machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine, however, can do the work of one extraordinary man.” --Elbert Hubbard  

“The presence of humans in a system containing high-speed electronic computers and high speed, accurate communications, is quite inhibiting. Every means possible should be employed to eliminate humans in the data-processing chain.” --Stuart Seaton, 1958  

“Shopping at home with your television and home computer is just as much fun as shopping at a Russian department store. The available merchandise is limited, and you can neither touch it nor examine it until after you have bought and paid for it.” --Arthur Elmont  

“The computer can, in a fraction of a second, work out the shortest of 10,000 alternate routes between Windsor Castle and St. Paul's, but it can never say that if a detour is made through a garden in the spring, this is one of the things that make a journey seem shorter.” --John Hargreaves  

(Editor's comment: However, today's mapping programs can determine the shortest route, the fastest route, or the scenic route between two points; of course, there is no attempt to quantify the added benefits of the scenic route, nor to guarantee that any one individual will enjoy that scenery.)

The book is surely out of print – but if you see Computer Wimp... at a yard sale, snap it up. You won't be disappointed. (Note: Both new and used copies are available on Amazon from 3rd party sellers as of April 2012. Many of them are priced at a few cents plus shipping.)

     

The Nine Lives of Commodore
(a 2012 update)

by Dick Estel

(Introduction: Going through some old copies of The Interface, I ran across this article, which first appeared in 2000. Since it stopped at five lives, it seemed like time to bring the information up to date.)  

You'll find this does not cover all nine of the lives mentioned in the title--because Commodore has not yet reached its final life.

First Commodore was a "low cost" home computer, priced around $600, well below the thousand or more required for a Radio Shack or Apple product about the same time.

Next the price dropped substantially, with the bottom retail store price in the neighborhood of $150 to $200 for the C-64. During this incarnation, over ten million C-64's were sold worldwide. At the same time the disrespect that Commodore has suffered ever since began, with the epithet of the day being "game machine." Part of this was due to the fact that Commodore was in fact the best game machine around. IBM had crude graphics and no sound other than a pitiful "beep."

Then came the decline of Commodore the company, which stayed away from the pattern of innovation, advancement, and obsolescence marking the rest of the PC world. In its final years the company gave birth to another excellent, non-compatible machine, the Amiga. With the demise of the company, Commodore entered the "orphan" phase.

But there were plenty of "foster parents" willing to continue to care for their machines. User groups became the primary method of support.

Soon Windows arose as the primary force in the PC world (borrowing liberally from Apple who had borrowed from Xerox). At this time Commodore became "obsolete."

This seems to have been the status for the last five or six years, even as unsung heroes labored to drag the Commodore into the 21st century with RAM expansion, hard drives and processor speed-up hardware like the Super CPU.

Around 2000 the Commodore seemed to have entered a new life era. Possible names for this period include "venerated classic," "historic curio," and "tool of unrepentant Neanderthals." This phase was marked by a strange interest in these "archaic" machines by the popular mass media. In the summer of 1999 a positive and respectful article appeared in the New York Times. At the 1999 Vintage Computer Show in Santa Clara , our club president, Robert Bernardo , made contact with people from several publications. Out of this came an article in Wired magazine, which usually has its compass pointed unwaveringly to the future. Wired interviewed Robert, programmer Maurice Randall and others, and conducted a photo session with Robert in January, 2000. (Read Robert’s report on this event at http://www.dickestel.com/articles/wired_visit.txt; my comments on the situation at http://www.dickestel.com/articles/wired.txt; and the original Wired article at http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/8.03/diehards.html?pg=1&topic=&topic_set=.)   

The magazine, Shift, which is kind of a Wireless for the Great White North, published an article on the Vintage Computer Show and featured Robert's photo in the table of contents as well as the article, along with a half dozen other pictures from the show.

I myself received a call from The Fresno Bee (our local newspaper) to ask about "people who use old computers." This culminated in an article in The Bee's "Neighbors" section, which was sort of an attempt to print a folksy small town newspaper for various regions of our metropolis. The article featured a photo of an Amiga (Commodore's "other" brand) and its proud owner, along with comments from Amiga users, a brief nod to Atari, and my own comments on the state of Commodore.

Now, looking back from 2012, we can see at least two more “lives.” The first is what I call “the era of reluctant parting.” Users found they needed something more modern than the Commodore to accomplish what they wanted to do. But they still had high regard for the old C64 or 128 sitting in the closet. What better way to move on than to sell it to someone else so it would continue to serve? Many of these people got in touch with our organization, and their usual question was, “how much can I get for my C64?” or “Are you interested in buying my equipment.”

Having invested up to a thousand dollars or more in a computer, two or three drives, a monitor, and a printer, they were a bit sad but not too surprised when we told them that Commodores were selling for $30 to $40, drives around the same, and monitors for up to $100 or so. We also had to tell them that we were not interested in buying their equipment, but we were able to offer suggestions such as listing on EBay or a Commodore discussion group.

This was a fairly short era and led immediately to the situation we’re still in today – “the era of getting rid of Commodore stuff no matter how.” The people we hear from now have not touched their equipment for several years, and their expectations are low. We explain that you can buy a C64 or drive for $5; dot matrix printers are door stops, and only a monitor has any real value. These conversations usually conclude with the caller asking, “well, if I give you my stuff, can you pick it up?” Of course, we can and do; and we have even had people drive some distance to get the stuff to us. This is the main reason our president, Robert Bernardo, has a house in Stockton full of Commodore equipment, a couple of rooms full of stuff in his home in Visalia, and a fair size storage unit stacked floor to ceiling with everything from early Pets to the various Amiga models that were Commodore’s last successful products.

Overlapping this divestment era is the time period I call “the eternal final life.” During this indefinite period of time, diehard Commodore enthusiasts have and will continue to find ways to keep their machines going, while software and hardware developers keep coming up with ideas to bring the 8-bit world into the 21st century (Hey, that would make a clever slogan!)

It’s been observed before that the Commodore will survive as long as some one wants to use it and there is someone who can fix it. And there are still enough units out there (not just in Robert’s storage) that even without repairs, you can usually find a working model for a few dollars. I used to assume that I would outlive the Fresno Commodore User Group, as I have already outlived many other groups. This may still happen, but I’m not sure I will outlive the Commodore.

  

Commodore MaiLink - 2013 Update

by Rob Snyder

I'm sorry to report that Meeting Commodore Users through the Mail closed down after 2012. I asked for a new president and editor and as nobody stepped up I told the members the club was closing as of the end of 2012. The leftover funds were sent to several Commodore organizations such as CommodoreFree, CCCC, and the Fresno Commodore User Group (for CommVEx). (The January 2001 issue is on line here as a PDF File.)

   

A Commodore and FCUG Update - 2012

By Robert Bernardo & Dick EsteI

In 2005, The Interface reappeared after a two-year break (thanks Lenard Roach!). In an article celebrating the return of one of the last Commodore publications in existence, Robert Bernardo summarized some things that had happened during the two-year "period of darkness." We decided it was time to bring you another update on changes that have taken place since then.

Back in 2005 local attendance had dropped, but out-of-town membership had increased. This trend continued for a while; then we got some new members who started attending regularly. It's still a very small group, but an improvement over some meetings when only Robert and Dick were in attendance.

Robert saluted members who had passed away during that time. Since 2005 we have also lost Ben Briscoe (along with his wife Wilma, who attended club picnics), and one of the real pillars of the group, Lloyd Warren. As well, Commodore company founder Jack Tramiel left us in 2012.

In 2005 club finances were reported to be in good shape, and they still are. We don't take in much money, but we don't spend much, so our bank balance has been fairly stable for several years. For a modest fee we'll be glad to lecture on how to survive on $80 a year.

At the time of Robert's report, the rights to the Commodore name and logo had been sold to a company called Yeahronimo. Then Yeahronimo changed its name to Commodore, Inc. An off-shoot of Commodore, Inc. was Commodore Gaming. Commodore, Inc. lived off of profits from the C64 DTV 30-games-in-joystick and rebranded MP3 players. Commodore Gaming tried to sell high-priced Windows PC computers and sold converted C64 games for use on the Nintendo Wii. However, both companies died quietly, having lost much money. The Commodore name still lives on with the new company, CommodoreUSA. This company uses both the Commodore and Amiga names for its PC machines. In fact, the company supposedly sells a PC which looks like a brown C64. However, CommodoreUSA has made it clear that the company will not appeal to the wants of traditional Commodore and Amiga users.

Seven years ago the Gazette disk magazine had just seen its final issue, but Loadstar was still going strong. Since then, the longest running computer disk magazine in the Commodore world has quietly disappeared, and its last editor, Dave Moorman, attends to his ministry in Wyoming.

When Robert completed his report near the end of 2005, the first Las Vegas Commodore Expo (CommVEx) had been held the previous July. It was successful enough that we did it again in 2006, and we're now busy planning for the eighth consecutive presentation of this grassroots event.

Some things never change. Maurice Randall was backlogged in filling orders, and they still have not been filled. Maybe it's time to abandon hope in this one area. Maurice is selling Commodore goods on eBay , though, and by some accounts, he is doing a good job in filling those sales orders. Just look for the seller, "mauricerandall".

So, not a bad record or whatever you'd call it - this ancient, "obsolete," "game machine," clubs that support it, and newsletters that report its continuing development are all still around.

   
A Commodore Emergency

by Dick Estel with valuable assistance from Lenard Roach

It was a frantic, late-night email, with the subject, Commodore Emergency! After my own late night, non-emergency trip to the “facility,” I had gone in the office and glanced at my email. Who could resist immediately checking a message like that?

It was from Lenard Roach , our editor, who wrote:

“I was up early and thought I would start converting the text for the newsletter from PC to Commodore. My copy of Big Blue Reader has gone corrupt and I need another one sent to me ASAP. All production of the newsletter has been halted until this disk is acquired.”

We had had our club meeting the previous day, and I had used the last of my blank disks making copies of our library disk. However, I accepted the fact that in the morning I would set up the club equipment, and copy BBR over one of those disks. I returned to bed, thinking about the task ahead. Would I be able to copy the program from my CMD hard drive?

Between falling asleep and struggling out of bed the next morning it occurred to me that maybe Lenard could download and use Little Red Reader, a BBR clone, or maybe even BBR. Then I realized that he would need BBR to convert the downloads…a street with dead ends in both directions.

Then a vague memory stirred. Several years ago I had demonstrated BBR at CommVEx. The author had abandoned Commodore and had responded rudely to requests from users for assistance. So I had no qualms about distributing copies of the program, and I made some to hand out at the show. Did I still have some of those disks around?

I keep a text file called “Where Is” on my PC, to help me locate things that I put “somewhere,” when I forget where “somewhere” is. Sure enough, the list included the envelope that contained three BBR disks plus instructions. It was not necessarily in the LAST place I would have looked without the reminder, but it was certainly not in the first or second place.

So this sudden “lemon” ends up being a refreshing drink – the disks are on the way to Lenard via our somewhat dysfunctional but still usable mail system, and an issue that was a bit short of material has another article.

  
Proverbs 13:11 & Commodore 6:4

By Lenard Roach

As many of you have surmised, Solomon, son of King David, was supposed to be the wisest man on earth. It wouldn't surprise me that, if given the right timeline, Solomon would have invented the Commodore computer long before Jack Trammiel laid eyes on his first machine, but what do I know? I'm just a comedian out of work writing gists in various Commodore publications about this time changing machine we all treasure so highly.

Back to reality: I was cruising through some of Solomon's sayings in a book called Proverbs and came across this interesting one around 13:11. It basically said that fast gain is fast lost, but accumulation little by little makes it grow. I know he was referring to money in this case, but this little ditty struck a nerve with me and all this Commodore stock I had to move out of the garage and to the curb. How did I get so much Commodore books, magazines, software, and hardware? All I did was buy a piece of this and a part of that. Some things were given to me to try and use, while most if the time someone was just looking for a place to dump their stuff and was too environmentally conscientious to drop it in a landfill. In either cases, I had a garage full of Commodore equipment that I couldn't handle anymore.

Solomon said that would happen. 2500 years before the invention of the Commodore, he knew that a little hovel on the east end of the Coronado Hills subdivision in beautiful Kansas City, Kansas, would accumulate so much Commodore stuff over a long period of time that he would eventually have to thin the herd and put some stuff out for the garbage man.

"Oh my gosh, pops! You're trashing Commodore equipment! That's a heresy!"

Yes, to some this might be a Commodore crime, but all of it was busted cables I meant to fix and didn't; broken printers that nobody uses anymore; and magazines that you can find copies of online. But don't think only Commodore hit the curb; some PC monitors, modems, and keyboards went right out with them. Usually, as I'm sure it is in your neighborhood, some scrap gatherers will be by during the week and find a way to take this equipment apart and scrap what copper and other metals they can. I suspect that a Commodore machine is mostly recyclable.

But the point I'm trying to make is this: despite all the controversy surrounding the Bible these days, there are some truths that may apply, and it is funny how they apply somewhat to the Commodore computer. I read that and instantly thought of all the Commodore in my garage.

Oh, what about the part before the comma? Fast gain is fast lost? Let's turn back to the Commodore again. Isn't it funny that those geeks who have moved onto PCs or Macs come to your front door with a 54 foot trailer full of old Commodore and want you to take it off their hands? My lands! You've hit the mother load of Commodore and you can't wait to dive into the entire collection. You take the equipment, and first shove everything into every spare nook and cranny of your dwelling. Later, with your fast gain of everything Commodore, you go through it and find out, much to your chagrin, that over 70% of the hardware won't work, 75% of the peripherals are bad or missing an element, like a cord, and 80% of the software won't run on your machine. In short, you may have a bookcase of Commodore material that works properly. What a waste! All that Commodore goodness, kaput! You end up, over the next several months, putting little by little of that Commodore "trash" out on the curb. You got hosed, bro! But don't worry, you learned to be leery of rigs pulling up to your house bearing what seem to be "gifts". That is, until the next truck shows up with Commodore goodies and you get all elated again.

I don't know of anyone who is a serious collector turning away anyone wishing to dispose of their collections in lieu of some new prospect. I have taken and sold (and trashed) Commodore equipment for the last 22 years. However, with the invention of such websites like eBay and Craig's List, we should be finding less and less at our curbsides and more in our wallets. Like it has been shown in the past, all it takes is a determination to do it and a will to stick it out.

      
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Updated September 9, 2016