These are the informal
reports on meetings of the Fresno Commodore User Group. Not really
minutes, and not exactly news, we started this just to have a record
of decisions made, attendance, etc. Notes are co-written by
President Robert Bernardo and Treasurer Dick Estel, unless an
individual byline appears.
The latest report will
always be at the top of Page
2, after that they appear in order with the oldest
years at the top. Don't know what year or month
you want? Start with the newest and read a few recent reports; then
go back to the oldest and see what was different.
regular members were in attendance except Greg Dodd, but to help
make up for his absence, we had an unexpected guest and possible
future member. Bruce Nieman started with a MS-DOS machine but became
an Amiga user in 1987. He hadn't used it lately but had an A2000
that he'd like to get back in service. He planned to join us again
naturally triggered lengthy discussion of all things Amiga,
including the need to replace the battery in his machine, since old
Ni-Cad batteries have had a 100% failure rate over the years,
leaking all over the computer's innards and pretty much destroying
laptop, Robert brought up the page for a new game, Unknown Realm. In
2012, game programmer Bruce Gottlieb showed this then top-secret
game to the attendees at the Commodore Vegas Expo. Available for the
Commodore 64 (NTSC and PAL), Windows, and Mac, Unknown Realm is a
new, 8-bit, role-playing game in the style of Ultima RPG's. It was
so secret that no one from outside his team was allowed to
photograph or videotape his session. The CommVEx attendees saw a
potential game full of fun, and they were excited that it was to be
version of Unknown Realm is now graduating to the release version,
"Unknown Realm: The Siege Perilous," and Bruce is putting
it up on Kickstarter. There you can see all the details of the game
release, including video shots, screenshots, and screen animation.
Also at the page, you'll be able to see the many and various pledge
amounts to get this game released.
business, we voted to make our annual donation to St. Jude
Children's Hospital, in the amount of $50. We also voted to re-elect
by acclaim all present club officers. We also agreed to change the
January meeting date to January 22, since Robert will be arriving in
Florida from the Star Trek cruise on the regular meeting date.
in several binders of old newsletters for the members to look at,
including the very first issue from February, 1983. He also showed
us a binder containing printouts of hundreds of Print Shop Graphics,
available in the club library for both Print Shop and Printmaster.
concluded lunch, general conversation, and business, we moved to the
equipment tables for our demonstrations. Robert had brought a large
collection of Loadstar disks and hoped to run some Christmas
programs. Unfortunately, the index disk would not work, and we were
forced to try and find December disks by guesswork, since they are
only numbered, not dated. From the 1986 Loadstar disks, we ended up
settling on a Koala image of Halley's Comet, looking at an
astronomical program which plotted the course of Halley's Comet with
respect to the horizon, and listening to 15 minutes of Mozart music.
Not Christmasy but more fun was Aces, in which the player has 255
bullets and must target as many enemy planes as possible. Louis
proved to be our best fighter pilot.
expanded VIC-20, we looked at Minisketch, a drawing program with
which we used a Flexidraw light pen. The results were mixed
artistically, although Vincent eventually managed to create a
respectable "FCUG." The Flexidraw light pen may have been
too sensitive; Roger said he will take the program and test it with
his VIC-20 and less sensitive McPen light pen.
plugged the Moses Assembler cartridge into the VIC, and we were able
to look at the menu; we didn't really have anything to assemble
except for the sample programs in the manual nor was anyone familiar
with machine language programming.
tried VIC-20 educational games. First up was the business and
marketing game, In the
Chips. What we first thought was a failure to
read the instructions proved instead to be keyboard problems. One of
the bad keys was the space bar, which was used to trigger various
steps in the game, so we may be watching Louis replace the keyboard
at the next meeting.
tried Spills & Fills, a game which taught proportion and
coordination. This one did not need any keyboard commands,
everything being controlled by joystick. The user had to fill
various-sized beakers, move the beakers by using the game's “winch”,
and pour their contents into various-sized containers. Fill the
container correctly, and points would be recorded. Overfill the
container, and the user would be greeted by a nasty beep and points
would be subtracted. Louis really got the hang of the game and was
using it smoothly and expertly.
AmigaOne G4, we played around with the OS 4.1 game, Deathchase3d,
described as a “very fast, 3d, Star Wars game based on Star Wars
VI”. It was more of a simple-looking, 3-D driving game in which
the user shoots the speeder bike ahead. With its stark landscape and
the look of the trees flying by, Robert was reminded of the C64
At the end
of the meeting, Robert passed out the gifts that were originally
supposed to be distributed at the October picnic dinner. Dick got an
audio Y-adapter cable, Roger received a LED puck light in the shape
of a blue pig, Louis got a USB charger, and Vincent received the
best one, a selfie stick, which he immediately made use of by
attaching his cellphone to it and taking our photos.
Older Meeting Reports
Below this point, reports are in chronological order, oldest
with this issue, we are going to attempt to provide a brief report
on each meeting, for the benefit of our majority of members who are
unable to attend in person.
Before getting down to business, I’d like to mention that we have
a lot of fun, with conversations going off on all kinds of tangents
in between actual business, and those who don’t attend are really
missing out. I can’t really remember everything we talked about
– for that part of the meeting, you have to be there.
At the February 21 meeting we had the usual suspects, President
Robert Bernardo, Treasurer Dick Estel, Brad Strait (who joined last
September), and special guest Roger Van Pelt.
As far as formal business,
Robert reported on plans for the Las
Vegas Expo July 24 and 25. That Saturday will be the 25th
anniversary of the release of the Amiga A1000, and we talked about
doing something at CommVEx to acknowledge the event. Dick announced
that Guaranty Bank, where we keep our checking account, has been
absorbed by a larger company, BBVA Compass. Although this bank is
unfamiliar to those of us in the west, it has a large presence in
the south, and now a small presence in
told about his visit to the Macworld Expo, where he taped the
performance of Warp 11, a musical group with a Star Trek theme. The
female lead, Kiki Stockhammer, was an Amiga Video Toaster
personality in the late 1980's to early 1990's. Robert said he
wished he could have walked around with a C64 under his arm, as a
reminder of who was really first and biggest in the “computer
wars” of the 1980s.
has obtained some disks containing scans of many Commodore
magazines and newsletters, includingRUN
, Ahoy, Info and lots more, and has gone to a lot of work to make
for each member at the meeting. He passed out the second batch of
what will eventually be 20 disks.
The demonstration and much of the rest of the conversation focused
on the transmission of Morse code via short wave radio, and how
Commodore computers fit into the process, a long ago and newly
revived interest of Roger and his father. From my ancient
perspective, Roger looks like he could crash a high school prom
unchallenged, but he is actually old enough to have been using
Commodore computers for many years, and his technical knowledge is
He brought an extensive collection of equipment to make his VIC20
part of a ham radio setup, including the Hamtext cartridge, one of
those little laptop shapedDVD
players (to serve as a monitor for the C64, which was used in lieu
of a shortwave transceiver), a Kantronics Interface (in essence, a
radio modem), and the necessary software. Roger describes the
software as “halfway between a terminal program and an instant
messaging system.” However, my favorite item was a World War II
era telegraph key that Roger’s uncle used inEurope
during the 1950s.
To summarize briefly, Roger used the C64 as a stand-in for a short
wave radio transceiver. But instead of receiving the Morse code
signal from another transceiver, it generated the signal itself (via
software and telegraph key) and sent it to the Kantronics interface.
The interface then converted the signal to a TTL signal which the
Hamtext software on the VIC displayed as text on its screen. The
Hamtext software is also able to translate text from the VIC to
Morse code and send it to the transceiver via the interface. The
telegraph key was plugged into the joystick port. As Roger operated
the telegraph key, we watched the text appear on the monitor of the
VIC. (By the way, the Hamtext system was available for the C64 and
several other computer platforms.)
My knowledge of the subject is limited and my explanation may be a
bit ham-handed (sorry!), but Roger has promised (we have it on tape,
Roger) to write an article that will explain it far better and in
much greater detail.
In addition to business and talk, we ate pizza and sandwiches and
drank sodas, and just had a good time in general.
We had a special guest at our March 21 meeting, Leif Bloomquist
Toronto. He is a member of the Toronto Pet Users Group (TPUG), which has
been in existence for over 30 years, and worked with three other
members of the group to put the club’s entire library on a CD –
over ten thousand programs, in D64 format. He gave a brief
demonstration of the disk, which is available for $20 (see www.tpug.ca).
Leif is involved in many other activities, Commodore and otherwise,
and you can check them out on his
Attending from FCUG were the “regulars,”
Robert, Brad, Dick, and
Roger, who is now our newest member. Robert passed around a flyer
for a new Commodore brand Windows PC – looks like a laptop with no
screen. He also showed us a game he picked up at the recent TOGA
meeting, “The Settler,” which is entirely in French. Our
bilingual guest from
Canadahelped out with a translation of the minimum requirements. The game
will be used as a door prize at CommVEx.
We looked at a cassette of games that was labeled “compliments of
Canadian Tire,” which we learned is a department store chain
similar to Target or K-Mart. Leif told us he got his VIC20 at
Canadian Tire “back in the day.”
We took a look at Super Student, an educational series that
Robert had bought from the late Dave Mohr. It has a package for each grade,
K through 5, and was published by Micrograms Publishing of Rockford
IL, a company that specialized in education computer programs. Tests
proved that we are all as smart as a 5th grader.
Robert loaded up Wolfman, a text adventure game. Leif was
able to get out of the room it starts in, but we didn’t have much
luck proceeding further.
This was probably the largest member attendance we have had in a
couple of years, and our thanks to Leif for including us on his
month's meeting was like some in the past; instead of a meeting it
could be called "Dick and Robert have lunch." We had to
change our meeting date to a Saturday due to some conflicts, which
kept two of our members from attending.
reported on the memorial dinner that was held in
Astoria,OR, in honor of the late Dave (Lord Ronin) Mohr. While in the
northwest Robert visited with Jim Scabery, the last Commodore dealer
Portland,OR. Jim had always operated out of his home, but did a significant
business providing Commodore equipment and software to schools in
the 1980s. Robert filmed an interview with Jim which will be on line
We discussed the dwindling number of Commodore clubs - the list as
far as we knew was down to clubs in Fresno, southern California,
Chicago, Fort Collins, Kansas City, Cincinnati, and the Las Vegas
area. There continue to be a few gatherings related to vintage
computers, games, etc., including two that Robert was planning to
attend, the SC3 Arcade Party in southern
California, and Notacon/Blockparty in
opened up a box of stuff he had bought from Jim Scabery,
including Rescue at Rigel, Quizmaster, VIC Music Composer, and an
Amiga Powerstick mini-joystick. Robert also had with him another
Hamtext cartridge with accessories (discussed in our last report)
that came from Dan Olson in the
Portlandarea. We noticed some differences between the two Kantronics
interfaces but could not test the "new" one due to a
We also looked at the Computer Patch interface for the C64 - a box
the size of a miniDVD
player which performs the same function as the interface for Hamtext.
It was made by Advance Electronics Applications of Lynwood, WA, and
the complete instructions were there, as well as several C64 ham
radio applications that came on disk.
had what we consider full attendance for May: Robert, Dick,
Brad Strait and Roger Van Pelt. With our resident ham radio expert there, we
took another look at Robert's new Hamtext cartridge, as well as the
Computer Patch (both mentioned in the April report). Roger took them
home for further analysis.
We discussed CommVEx, coming July 24 and 25.
Robert is working on
getting speakers and special guests, either in person or via
recorded interviews. There is a possibility we will be able to
include Amiga engineers R.J. Mical and Dale Luck, to help observe
the 25th anniversary of the release of the A1000. Michael Battilana
Italyand the Amiga Forever/Commodore Forever project will be in the
USthen and may attend for the 3rd consecutive year.
Dick reported on the passing of Walt Harned, who did the cover art
and many high quality slide shows for Loadstar Magazine. Former
Loadstar editor Fender Tucker emailed Dick that Walt's equipment was
available, and it was agreed to pay shipping costs for items other
than basic computers and disk drives.
to schedule conflicts, the June meeting was moved to June 6.
the June meeting we had the usual complement of Robert Bernardo,
BradStrait, and Roger Van Pelt.
Roger gave a brief report on the differences and similarities
between the two Kantronics Hamtext cartridges for the VIC-20 and the
AEA Computer Patch for the C64, which he had taken home after the
May meeting. He
tentatively agreed to do a video presentation of Hamtext for the
July 24-25 CommVEx.
announced two special guests for CommVEx, Amiga engineers
Dale Luck and RJ Mical. Their appearance will coincide with the 25th
anniversary of the A1000.
As an honorary member of the now defunct
AstoriaORclub, Robert received a membership in Meeting Commodore Users
Through the Mail, and brought several of their recent newsletters.
This organization has been in existence since 1986, and continues to
publish a newsletter of ten or more pages.
showed the uIEC/CF with IDE, a serial card drive from Jim
Brain which uses Compact Flash memory cards and also had an IDE
connection. This uIEC
also came with a Compact Flash-to-SD adapter and an empty 512 meg SD
card.It was compared to
an early version of the uIEC/SD card drive and the NKCElectronics
SD2IEC card drive.It
was briefly tested; Robert wrote a Basic program, saved it to the
uIEC/CF, and then loaded it from it.
At the end of the meeting,
Robert showed the C64C video he obtained
from Syd Bolton of the Personal Computer Museum in
Brantford,Ontario,Canada. We surmised that back in the 1980's this informational video ran
in a kiosk to tell people of the C64C's features.
In a non-Commodore related development, we took a look at
"new" 1970s-era Bronica 6 x 7SLR
camera, which uses 120 roll film. This camera was a popular tool for
professional news and sport photographers, and weighs in at a hefty
seven pounds - a bit of a shock for those of us used to lightweight
(No meeting notes found)
addition to most of our regulars (Robert, Dick and Brad), the August
meeting featured a rare appearance by Keith Sohm. Keith has been in
the club for over 20 years, and was the operator of our BBS system
for a long time. Other duties and interests usually prevent him from
attending our meetings.
reported that several issues of Loadstar, taking it through
#250, have been published on-line by a group of people who have been
contributing to the magazine. "Official" editor Dave
Moorman has produced neither Loadstars nor an explanation for about
We voted to simplify bookkeeping and save paper by leaving our 2010
contribution to CommVEx in the show account, so that next year's
donation is in effect already made.
The meeting concluded with
Robert's demonstration of the 1998
program Wheels. This program, written and sold by Maurice Randall,
is an upgrade to the GEOS operating system and requires GEOS to
install. However, it makes GEOS more like Windows (or perhaps we
should say more like Xerox Alto), allowing multiple windows that can
be moved around the screen.
The program has many other features that make GEOS more convenient
for many users. Lots of information on GEOS and Wheels can be found here
meeting also included a report on CommVEx -- with a few minutes of
video shown -- which is covered extensively in a separate article in
the previous and current issues of The Interface.
out for the September meeting and lunch were three of FCUG’s
stalwart regulars, Robert Bernardo, BradStrait,
Estel. Since we start out by ordering lunch, we’d like to send a
shout-out and a big thank you to Stan at the Pizza Pit for allowing
us to take over three or four tables for our meeting every month.
We’d also like to mention that the menu includes some really
excellent sandwiches, and the pizza is very good also.
reported on some significant changes affecting CommVEx for next
year. The Plaza Hotel (except for the casino) is closing for
refurbishing, and the job will last well past our next expo date. Robert
had been in touch with the catering representative there, and
she can accommodate us in the Vegas Club Hotel, which is right
across Main Street.
problem is parking. The Vegas Club Hotel parking garage has no
direct connection to the hotel; we'll have to go down the parking
lot elevator to the ground floor and then go up to the hotel
conference room via another elevator in order to get our stuff
(several hundred pounds total) into the room.
time ago Robert acquired a Lt. Kernal, the original hard drive for
the Commodore, and at the meeting he showed us a set of hardware
that upgrades it to the Rear Admiral configuration. The items
include a DOS disk, a set of chips that go in Lt. Kernal interface
cartridge, and a MMU adapter to be placed in a flat C128.With the upgrades, the Lt. Kernal becomes more bug-free and
has access to more drive commands.
Robert tried to run.d64s of file-organizing program,
the unofficial Loadstar 250 from his SD2IEC card drive, but he
couldn't get them to be recognized.He then tried the uIEC card drive with same results. He
promised that next time he'll run them off of real floppy disks.
Robert set up his Amiga CDTV, Commodore’s interactive multi-media
machine from 1992, which is powered by an A500. It allows video
input to a TV, Commodore or similar monitor, and with the addition
of an optional keyboard and mouse, becomes a working A500 computer. Robert
ran the Lemmings game, and Brad showed that his skills at
this game had not seriously deteriorated, even though it’s been
about 15 years since he last played.
we made plans for our annual club dinner (which we sometimes still
call the picnic because that’s how it started). We will go to the
original DiCicco’s, a well-known Italian restaurant near downtown Fresno,
October 15, 16, or 17.
(No report found)
attendance was back up to our normal high of four, with a surprise
visit from Alfredo Mijango, our member in Manteca (about two hours
away). Also on hand were Robert Bernardo, Roger Van Pelt, and Dick
It seems like we spent a lot of the meeting having a meeting (or
just talking, depending on how picky you are about definitions),
before we actually touched the equipment.
announced that all but the last two videos from CommVEx are
on-line, including Roger's HamText presentation, which was scheduled
but never shown in Las Vegas. Robert
brought photos from the October Amiwest Show in Sacramento, and
these will be on-line as soon as the lazy bum (me) who has this duty
gets them scanned and put into a web page (and as soon as Robert captions those photos).
is working on a couple of hardware projects, and his comments
on what he's ready to reveal follow:
Work progresses on the SUX 6400 (the Sound Ultimate Expander 6400
audio digitizer board for the C64).The first prototypes were to be ready at Thanksgiving.The SUX 6400 uses the Autumn Technologies program, Digimaster
64, which is the best audio-digitizing program ever created for the
Another project, a RF adapter for the C64 joystick ports which uses
the Amiga CDTV remote control, is moving along slowly in its
We got into the intricacies of D64 files and chatted a bit about
long-distance member and newsletter editor Lenard Roach's book,
"Run, Stop, Restore." Because Lenard is running into cost
and technical problems getting the new version published, we thought
maybe he should consider an audio book or podcast version.
The demonstration of the musical program, PetSynth, which uses the
PET 4032 computer, was put on the back burner, because #1. the PET
4032 had something screwy with its screen display, and #2. the MSD
SD-1 drive which we were using didn't respond to any disk insertion
or commands.There was
far more success in looking at the latest Commodore Mailink
newsletter and running its accompanying disk-of-the-month.On one side of the flippy DOM, there was an old issue of
Loadstar disk magazine but only side one. Anytime the disk asked for
side two or other disks, there were no others to use.
hand for the final FCUG meeting of 2010 were president Robert Bernardo, treasurer Dick Estel, and newly-elected board member Roger
Van Pelt. Roger replaces Meredyth Dixon, who has left the Fresno area and has
been unable to participate for some time.
We also elected BradStrait as
vice-president to replace Bill Terry, who has also been unable to
attend for many months. Since Brad was absent, his election is
subject to his approval, but we agreed to give him all the honors
and few if any of the duties that go with the office (actually,
honors are about as scarce as duties).
We took a look at a package of items that had been sent to us by
Fender Tucker, former editor of the Loadstar disk magazine. Fender
had needed some 5.25 floppy disks, and we were able to provide him
with some. In addition to his payment, Fender sent the latest copy
of Loadstar Compleat, a CD-ROM containing D64 images of virtually
everything ever published on Loadstar "and more!" The CD
also contains the VICE Commodore emulator program which will run the
One of the cool things about Loadstar Compleat is that the CD comes
inside the shell of a 5.25 inch disk (with the original media
removed). Our copy even arrived in one of the last existing Loadstar
paper sleeves, complete with the no longer valid Shreveport address.
Also in the package were a number of full cover magazine-style
covers that were used with Loadstar disks that were sold on
newsstands. A few of these may show up as door prizes at the next
passed around the latest copy of Commodore Free, a monthly
Commodore magazine published in England. Robert
announced that he is negotiating to buy a CommodoreOne, Jeri
Ellsworth's C64 on an ATX board which fits in a PC case. You can
check out Jeri's story here;
and read about the C-1 here.
site with some cool stuff about Jeri.
is becoming quite the hardware guru (he would probably decline this
designation). He showed a photo of the first prototype of the SUX
6400 (the Sound Ultimate Expander 6400 audio digitizer board for the
discussed in the November report, and dropped a couple of very
obscure hints on his next project, codenamed Mr. T. Actually, there
were no hints of any type; everything about this project is
confidential for the time being, but we're expecting an announcement
of great interest to the Commodore community one of these days.
brought along three recently-acquired cartridges, two of
which were related to ham radio work and which displayed a menu but
performed no observable function; it appeared the AEA Pak Ratt and
the AEA Com Fax cartridges were expecting an additional device to be
connected to the Commodore. The other cart was a terminal program,
Touchterm 3.9, which presented a fairly typical Commodore terminal
menu, but of course, with no dial-up connection, we could not test
We did discover when
Robert turned on his Apple Powerbook to show a
Commodore-related e-mail, that the Pizza Pit now has a wireless
connection, so we can read our email while munching Stan's
Finally, we looked at and took some photos of
Robert's Amiga CDTV
and the matching black keyboard he had acquired at the October
Amiwest Show. The only things now needed to turn this game machine
into a real computer are the matching mouse and disk drive.
year kicked off with what we consider full attendance of our local
members, Robert Bernardo, BradStrait,
and Roger Van Pelt.
Although we love the Pizza Pit for our meetings, the February
meeting date falls on the day of the Daytona 500 auto race, which
the Pit, having a racing theme, celebrates to the fullest. This is
fine but makes for an atmosphere in which we can't conduct a
meeting, so we find an alternate place. Our "normal"
backup location has closed down, so we discussed various options and
have chosen Panera Bread in Clovis.
brought us up to date on his hardware projects. He's still
trying to find an engineer who can and will build the needed items
for the still secret Mr. T Project, though progress continues on
prototype 2 for the SUX 6400.
He showed off the various classic Commodore and Amiga pinback
buttons which he bought from a person in Toronto, Canada.
Roger brought his VIC-20 set-up plus cartridge expander and memory
system, Robert was able to run his newly-bought Outworld game
cartridge -- a colorful, shoot-em up game in which you defend the
bases on a planet.It
needed at least 16K of extra memory expansion on the VIC-20 in order
for it to run.
For the C64/128,
Robert showed off the 64K Quick Brown Box, a
utility cartridge which holds programs in non-volatile memory.Amazingly, after all these years, the QBB's lithium battery
still was good and held the original contents of the cart.Accompanying the QBB was a very thick instruction manual that
Robert had printed from the Net.
Though not connected to an Amiga 1000 at the meeting,
around Tom Thul's A1000 IDE adapter, a device which gives the A1000
the ability to use SD cards as a hard drive.Interestingly enough, the adapter had two SD slots, one with
a SD card for Amiga Workbench and the other with a SD card formatted
for Windows 95, the latter was to be the one used for cross-platform
also gave us some information on a bunch of Commodore
discussion websites that he visits regularly. For those who want to
check out the Commodore talk, here are a few places to go:
February 20 meeting was held at a different locale. Because our usual Pizza Pit restaurant was stuffed with
Daytona 500 fans that Sunday, we moved to Panera Bread restaurant in
the adjoining town of
Clovis.I got to the
restaurant about 7 minutes late, because I had to deal with a
no-start situation due to dirty car battery connections. No members had arrived
yet. I was still unloading C= equipment from the car when member
Roger showed up. He and
I were the only ones present for the meeting. Nonetheless, the
meeting ran overtime until3 p.m..
Under old business, we discussed the C= club troubles coming out of
Portland,Oregonarea and upcoming payments to the host hotel for this year's
CommVEx. Under new business, we talked about the March 5 SC3 Arcade
Party where I will have a table of Commodore and Amiga, and the
April 15-17 Notacon 8/PixelJam Demo party where I will run the
Commodore and Amiga games area.
We looked through the hundreds of disks from the Fort Ord Commodore
UserS, picking a few to run.Well,
both Star Treks wouldn't run for us, but Super Kong, a Donkey Kong
clone worked perfectly. We
then viewed the 3-minute "I Adore My Commodore" commercial
from Commodore Italy, the 7-minute video of CBM
engineer Dave Haynie playing the guitar at CommVEx 2009, and the
14-minute video of Payton Byrd demonstrating the multi-C= platform
file manager, CBM
-Command v2.0.We also
played Super Pogo Stick, the rare C64 game to be re-released at this
Using the restaurant's Wi-Fi and my laptop computer, we quickly
glanced at a few Amiga-related websites -- www.amiga.org,
www.amigaworld.net, and www.amibay.comEach site has a forum, including an area for 8-bit computers.
Amibay specifically is for buying and selling, and we looked
through the Commodore hardware and software there.
We then plugged in my repaired Colecovision game console to see if
its replacement motherboard was working. Unfortunately, the LCD flatscreen t.v./monitor I brought
would not scan down to channel 3, which is where the Colecovision
was sending its RF signal. We
did not see any picture on-screen at all.Oh, well, next time a real
t.v. with RF connections.
Food-wise, it was typical Panera Bread fare -- tasty, fresh, if a
lunchtime crowd brought the restaurant to capacity, and we were
lucky we had staked out a small area with shelf for our equipment.
The manager who had given us permission to meet was not
there, he being a former C= user who dabbled in some programming.
After the meeting adjourned, we went next door to Play & Trade
videogame shop and looked for C= items. The most we found were Atari 2600, Nintendo, and Super
Nintendo cartridges. We
had nearly the same results at the Antiques Mall. However, we found an Atari 2600 game console there, too.
a question that every retiree dreads - what have you been doing
lately? Most of the time I am busy all day long, but I'd have a hard
time accounting for what exactly I did.
The March meeting of the Fresno Commodore User Group was somewhat
like that. We did almost nothing that was on the agenda, but we were
busy the entire time. One of the two scheduled things we did was
look at a cartridge that allows you to use the Comal 2.0 programming
language on the Commodore. The Comal command to list the directory
worked, but it would not load a Commodore basic program, rightly
telling us "not a Comal program." The other scheduled item
was to look at few minutes of the 8-Bit Weapon concert from the
March 5 SC3 Arcade Party 2011 held in Alhambra, California.Musicians Seth Sternberger and wife Michelle played the C64
and C128 live in front of the party attendees.
Much of the time was spent chatting with our special guests, father
and son Geoff and Robert Eade from Haywards
Heath, WestSussex, England.
owned a Commodore years ago, they are not currently 8-bit
enthusiasts. Their major interest is classic American cars, and
president Robert Bernardo catered to this interest in two ways -
first by inviting them to our meeting at the Pizza Pit, which is
decorated with an auto racing theme (owner Stan has won a number of
trophies in San JoaquinValley races). In
addition, we dug up a couple of racing programs out of the Fort Ord
Commodore USers library, and Robert Eades gave them a try, with
varying results. Robert E. also appreciated Comal, having been
trained in Visual Basic for the PC.
After the meeting, president
Robert tried to take the Eades to the
annual Blackie Gejeian Fresno Autorama but found that it was not
being held. The Eades had another chance to attend a classic
American car show the next weekend - the Goodguys 29th All-American
Get-Together Car Show/Swap Meet at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in
FCUG members in
attendance besides our president included BradStraitand
meeting has three parts: the meeting before the meeting, the meeting
itself, and the meeting after the meeting.
For the Fresno Commodore User Group, the transition from
"before" to "meeting" is gradual. We arrive at
the Pizza Hut around and haul in
the equipment. We usually order our lunch, then finish setting up
while it's being fixed.
This time the official meeting was delayed even more, as we found
out that Robert's Amiga mouse for the demo Amiga 1200 was not
working correctly; it kept the mouse pointer to the far upper left
of the screen.A lot of
time was spent pounding the mouse on table, opening the mouse,
cleaning the fluff out of the mouse, and more.Eventually, we determined that the mechanical mouse needed a
real mousepad for it to work correctly.We got it to partially work with a piece of paper as the pad,
enough for the mouse pointer to move over the Amiga Workbench menus.
When the food is delivered, we start eating and talking. Not
surprisingly, much of the talk relates to computers, Commodore and
others.At some point
during this conversation, Robert says "I guess it's time to
start the meeting," and we go right on talking about computers
and related matters, although we are now in the "official"
meeting, with formal requests for old and new business.
Old business included an update on CommVEx, with
several equipment sales to help fund the event.The website at http://www.portcommodore.com/commvex
has been updated.The
following people/companies will be or were contacted for CommVEx:
Aeon Technologies for the Amiga X1000
Commodore USA's Commodore
PC in a C64 brown breadbox (no response)
The Multiple Classic Computer (MCC-215)
Multi-game box (will provide a demo machine)
Update on the SUX 6400 (pre-production photos shown)
The April 14-17 Notacon/PixelJam Demoparty in
After old business,
Robert showed off the A1200 with its variety of
games and demo programs, ready to be exhibited for Notacon.
broke out his guitar (Guitar Hero game controller) and
demonstrated the newest version of the Shredz64 for the C64; we
discovered that the Tracker Hero program for the A1200 would not
work correctly with the Guitar Hero guitar.
Robert showed off the CommodoreOne motherboard that he
recently bought from Mike Paull of Australia.That board will be installed into a PC case that Jeri
Ellsworth of Portland, Oregon has held
onto since 2005.
Once again, time ran out to show the unofficial Loadstar #250 disks
and the DotBasic+ program for the C64.Robert promised those would be at the top of the agenda for
the next meeting.
left the meeting after that, but Robert and member Roger V.
continued for another hour with the meeting after the meeting.During that time, they viewed the G-rated version of the
amateur short film, "Perspective", in which a Commodore 64
figures prominently in the story.
add excitement to this month's meeting, Dick ordered a side of hot
wings for all to share. After eating his sandwich, BradStraitwas too full
to have any. Robert
Bernardo found them a
bit hotter than he prefers but managed to eat a couple anyway. Dick
ate one and took home the leftovers.
Under leftover business,
Robert provided an update on CommVex
prizes, which will include an Amiga A2000 Video Toaster system. All
prizes currently planned, as well as lots of other information, can
be seen here.
had been given the opportunity to share in a bonanza of
Commodore equipment; the owners of a large storage warehouse in the
San Francisco Bay Area were clearing out the building, and
everything was free. Robert brought home a couple of Pet 2001's, a
2031 drive and other odds and ends. He also took pictures inside the
building, and we hope to have a couple on the club website in the
Once lunch was over,
Robert passed around the EasyFlash cartridge,
which allows the capture of programs from the Internet. They can
then be run directly from the cartridge, which was developed in
2010.The cartridge came
pre-loaded with several games, but some of them would not run,
possibly due their being PAL European
games instead of NTSC North
We also opened up the two Pet's, finding a few interesting and
unexpected things inside. One of the machines was outfitted with a
Skyles 32K ram expansion board but also had a number of loose wires
inside, and it did not run; the other blue-labeled one worked
stubbornly, i.e., it took several power off and on's for it to show
a screen and even when it did that, the return key did not respond
well to any keypress. It
also showed less than 4K of memory rather than the usual 8K of a Pet
2001.Inside there were
strange, white, half-height chips in four of the sockets.
Murphy was also present, causing the club's C128 to lose its C64
section halfway through the meeting, and causing the umpteenth
postponement of the unofficial Loadstar #250 and the DotBasic+
documentation came on a CD-ROM, and we used Robert's Mac Powerbook
to read that CD. The
C128 will be replaced for the next meeting, and the broken C128 will
eventually go to Ray Carlsen for repair.
June meeting was attended by a very select few, namely Robert and
reported that he has started ordering parts for the SUX 6400
audio digitizer. This involves very careful attention to exact parts
numbers, since an error in one digit would result in the wrong parts
being delivered. Robert expects to show a production model at
CommVEx in July. You can learn more about this event here..
of this device is further complicated by rules in Europe that
require such hardware to be "RoHS-compliant", meaning it
can contain no lead or other poisonous metals.
We looked at a package donated by former Loadstar editor Fender Tucker, which
includes the Loadstar Compleat CD-ROM, a Loadstar catalog, and 24
covers from the days when the disk was distributed on newsstands in
a shrink-wrapped package including a cardboard backing, the disk,
and the cover. Four sets of six covers each will be included as door
prizes at CommVEx, as will the CD and catalog. Robert went on-line
with his school Windows laptop to instantly add these to the list of
For the demonstration part of the program, we looked at
Turbomaster CPU, a 4 MHz. accelerator for the C64, developed in the
early 1990s by Schnedler Systems. We also reviewed an issue of the
Loadstar 128 disk magazine, which included a database of information
on the Star Trek series and several of its later spin-offs. Those
who know Robert are aware that he is a true, classic Star Trek
fanatic, while Dick prefers the Next Generation series (but
appreciates many of the original series episodes also).
also entertained us during lunch with the challenge of
meeting the requests of a Commodore user who wanted to buy a C64. We
have lots of these, and it's usually a simple matter to pull one
from one of Robert's storage facilities. However, this person wanted
a complete C64 package, with every item present including manuals,
in the original box, with the serial number on the box matching the
number on the machine.
Although we both agreed that Commodore did not display the serial
number on the cartons, Robert was able to meet the rest of this
request, as well as providing two additional C64s and a 1541 drive
with the same requirements.
Dick's brand new C64 purchased at Sears in 1987 included the GEOS
program. Fortunately, in the case of the above-mentioned user, Robert
is not selling later C64s which include that GEOS 1.5 disk;
finding those disks would be more difficult to do. Please don't ask
us to repeat this service again - it's pretty close to impossible to
provide every single item that you would have received buying a C64
new for $300 or more in 1984, and far too much work for the amount
we are charging.
meeting Robert reported on his acquisition of a number of items that
were being given away at a Bay Area warehouse. Robert's full report
on this event is on
line here. If you create a free account, you can also view his
photos. There are also a couple of photos here.
meeting saw full attendance as far as our nearby members are
concerned - Robert Bernardo, Roger Van Pelt,
Brad Strait, and Dick Estel.
We had a brief discussion of
CommVEx; Robert will be heading to
Las VegasTuesday, and
everything is as ready as possible.
gave a report on his recent trip to
continent, including visits to the Lincoln Amiga Group and the Amiga
North Thames club in England, the offices
of AmigaKit.com in Wales, the
Dienstagstreff Commodore Club meeting in Germany, and the
Netherlands Commodore Show.
Strictly as a tourist, he also went to Spain (where he
was accosted by criminals!). [Editor’s Note: Surely Robert will
provide us the juicy details in a Travels with Bernardo article in
the near future!]
England, Robert brought home a PET 8296-D, a rare model with a sleek, rounded look.
It still needs some work to get the monitor going. The monitor and
keyboard can be easily removed from the main unit for easier
again we had the full complement of four local members for August: Robert
Bernardo, Roger Van Pelt, BradStrait, and Dick Estel.
gave a short report on CommVEx, which was a success
financially and in all other ways. We made enough to pay more than
half of next year's room rent. Robert tried to get CommVEx back to
the Plaza Hotel, but other organizations have already reserved those
conference rooms, so we will again be at the Las Vegas Club Hotel.
Mark your calendars now: July 28 & 29, 2012.
We also looked at some stuff that
Robert shipped home from Europe, not having
room to carry them in his luggage. This included a set of dental
business programs for the PET and a PAL-version
We took a look at the Multiple Classic Computer (MCC-216), which
provides emulation for Atari, Amiga and C64 games. The device uses
an ordinary PC monitor and keyboard (the latter required for
Commodore and Amiga games that use keyboard input).
also showed the CommodoreOne (brainchild of Jeri Ellsworth)
installed in a PC case. We didn't have all the hardware needed to
make it work, so we did not get to try it out. Robert also gave a
partial demonstration on digital sound for the Commodore. Robert's
new product, the SUX 6400 sound digitizer, sold out the first
assembly run, so we could only look at the Digimaster 64 software.
The Commodore elves are busy assembling another batch of the SUX
reported on the Citadel Bulletin Board System (BBS) in the Turlock area, about
90 minutes north of Fresno.
This may be
the only dial-up BBS in California.An on-line listing here
has 18 active boards; only one of them is dial-up, which is the
Citadel BBS at 209 845-2641.
BradStraitand his kids
were sharing a cold, but Robert
Bernardo, Roger Van Pelt, and Dick Estel were present
and stayed for an extra-long meeting (about two hours past the
normal time). But everything needed for demos was on hand and
everything worked, and we looked at a lot of Commodore stuff.
Early this month both
Robert and Dick received an e-mail from Judith
Ranheim, the widow of John Ranheim. They operated Jason Ranheim
Company in Auburn, California,
well-known computer products company of the 1980's and 1990's, and
she was offering to give us the remaining stock and equipment. As
she put it, "There are hundreds of computer items; computers,
other hardware, software, manuals, games, books and assorted cords,
power supplies, etc. Most all of the items are Commodore or Atari or
related items." Robert has made arrangements to pick the items
and also showed us some photos she had sent of the equipment
reported that Commodore engineer Bil Herd would like to make
a virtual visit by Skype to our November meeting. We will research
Internet speeds at various possible meeting locations (the usual
meeting place is probably too noisy for a project of this type).
Also in November developer Michael Hill hopes to attend and demo
PetDisk. This product plugs into the cassette port of a PET
computer, with a second piece of hardware plugged into the IEEE
port. This replaces the cassette drive and disk drive and allows
saving files to a SD card.
We also learned that the Citadel Bulletin Board System (BBS) in the Turlock area,
probably the only dial-up BBS in California,
The annual club dinner (successor of the former club picnic) will be
held at the regular meeting time, Sunday, October 16, , at a
restaurant to be determined. Dick will coordinate the planning via
Upcoming Commodore and/or computer-related shows include SC3 Arcade
Party in southern California and the
Vintage Computer Festival Midwest/Emergency Chicagoland Commodore
Expo. No one in the club is able to attend either of these events.
However, the Amiwest Show 2011 is coming to Sacramento on October
22-23, and Robert will be able to attend that one.
demonstrated several Amiga CD32 games that were part of a
huge box of mostly software that he brought back from England,
paid for as
"extra luggage" on the plane. Equipment demos included an
upgraded Amiga A2000 with added memory and demos and games. This
free upgrade was done by Duncan MacDougall of The Other Group of
Amigoids in San Jose.
Next were a couple of commercial C128 games, new within the last few
years, Space Pirates and Starship Battles, from MicroDesigns of
Dick forgot to mention but will now write that we have created a
webpage to display a number of Loadstar
magazine covers that were given to us by former editor Fender Tucker.
in the day when the club had 30 or more members attending meetings,
we had an annual picnic at the home of one of our members. As
membership declined, this event became a dinner at a restaurant,
paid for by the club.
Although we've usually held these events in the evening, our regular
meeting time worked out best for everyone, so on October 16 we
gathered at Tahoe Joe's, an excellent steak house. In addition to
our four regulars (Robert Bernardo, Roger Van Pelt, BradStrait and Dick
Estel), we were joined by Doug Cunningham, who was a long-time
member and one of the club's technical experts for many years.
Although this gathering is supposed to be "more socializing,
less Commodore," the day started with everyone gathered around Robert's gigantic Crown Vic (as always, stuffed full of Commodore
and Amiga stuff) to look over and put in a claim for some of the
equipment, software and other items donated to the club by Judith
Ranheim, widow of John Ranheim and co-owner of Jason Ranheim
Brad and Roger each went away with an armload of stuff, including a
rare but interesting acoustic modem. Dick, after vowing to own no
more Commodore computers, snuck off with an SX-64.
Inside the restaurant, while waiting for our food, we looked over
several bags of chips, boards, and equipment for burning and erasing
chips. There are numerous chips that might have something on them or
might just be available for burning.
Since Doug's technical expertise extends to PCs, Dick picked his
brain for a little help with some work he's been doing on the PC he
won in Las Vegas during this year's CommVEx, and Doug shared some of
his Commodore knowledge also.
had a great lunch, good conversation, and enjoyed getting together
with one of our "alumni," and we'll do it all again next
(No November meeting notes found)
Stan Hankins, owner of the Pizza Pit Restaurant, greeted me as he
walked by me sitting in my car.I had gotten to the restaurant about 10 minutes before it was
to open on Sunday, December 18.He unlocked the door of the restaurant, and I followed
in. It had been a couple of months since our last meeting there,
but all was well. Stan
was all smiles.
I warned Stan that the meeting was going to be a small one, with
members having to bow out due to other commitments. However, I was prepared to spend the full time there, waiting
to see if anybody would come. After
20 minutes on the laptop computer, I went to the counter to order
food. In through the
door walked Roger
V., and with surprised relief, I enthusiastically welcomed him.
I ordered some food
for Roger, and then both of us went to the task of unloading equipment out of
my car. For the next 5
hours (yes, the meeting ran overtime, even though there were just
two of us), we talked Commodore – discussing next year's July
28-29 Commodore Vegas Expo, examining the website of the new Rear
Admiral ThunderDrive, a modern-day replica of the CMD hard drive;
watching the November Bil Herd chat video filmed by me (of which I
gave a disc of video files to Roger
), playing with Arcade Retro Gaming.com’s Multiple Classic Computer
-216) with the latest cores and more games, copying a Bombjack.org
disc which was full of Commodore magazine scans (
got that one, too), and finally examining the modded PET 2001
computer which came from the Jason Ranheim Company and had a rare
Expand-O-Mem board that gave another 32K of memory. Not on the agenda but good for discussion was the FB-512
Multicart, a proposed C64 cartridge that long-distance FCUG
member Charles Gutman was planning to produce. uring our time at the Pizza Pit, one customer came to us to
talk about our Commodore computers, and I gave him our club business
Finally, at 4:30
the meeting came to an end, Roger
to go home and me to pick up a sweater from a men’s clothing store
Fresno before heading off to
Stockton for the Christmas holidays.
started the year with full attendance by our regulars - Brad, Roger,
Robert and Dick.
Dick presented the annual financial report. Our income is limited,
but so are our expenses. We took in $116 during the year in sales,
dues, and a donation, and spent a little under $140, for a slight
decrease in total assets. Major expenses were a $50 donation to St.
Jude's Hospital and the annual club dinner.
and Dick reported on an e-mail they had received from a lady
who wanted to sell a bunch of equipment. Her asking prices dampened
our interest considerably -- $500 for disk drives, $100 per
software/peripherals, and $1000 or $2000 for the CPUs and monitors.
These were still sealed in boxes -- never used... but still. Robert politely informed her that we are selling C64s for $5 to $10.
A new CMD hard drive clone, the Rear Admiral ThunderDrive (called a
"replica" by the seller, Mytec Electronics) is available
on Ebay for $600.Back
in the day, a CMD hard drive was $539 for 1 gig of storage. The
ThunderDrive is sold with 4 gigs of storage space, the maximum that
HD-DOS can recognize. CMD HD-DOS is still used in the ThunderDrive.
The Vintage Computer Festival East will be held in May in
New Jersey, and Robert will attend for the first time in several years. He
will also attend the SC3 gaming party in
Los Angelesthis spring.
Some time ago Robert made a video of Roger demonstrating the HamText
cartridge. This video was on Blip.TV and has now also been posted on
YouTube (search for VIC 20 HamText demo).
showed us a bunch of recently-acquired Commodore instruction
manuals, including such rarities as the manuals for the MPP-1361
bi-directional printer and aCBM
expansion memory board.
brought in William Shatner's new book, "Shatner
Rules", and pointed out that Shatner wrote a brief mention of
his 1981 work endorsing the VIC-20.
The film crew that has been following Robert from time to time over
the past three years is ready to finish up their project. They want
to do some filming soon at home and at the school where Robert teaches.
A man and his young son, waiting for their pizza, stopped to look at
our equipment, so Robert fired up the Multiple Classic Computer 216
gaming machine, and the youngster played antique Commodore and Amiga
games for a while. The father had owned a C64 long ago (and might
still have it put away somewhere). Always recruiting, Robert invited
them to our next meeting and gave them copies of the newsletter.
We finished up with some hardware activities, including opening up
and running a newly-acquired CMD RAMLink and opening up a 1541
clone, the FSD-1 disk drive.
19 I arrived at the FCUG meeting 15 minutes late. I was coming from
Stockton, two hours away, but I had not compensated for the extra time
Fresno and get to the Panera Bread Restaurant in
our usual meeting place
at the Pizza Pit Restaurant was filled with a racing crowd, we had
to divert to Panera Bread for this month.
Though I was late, nobody from the club was
there. The restaurant was crowded, even at that time in the morning.
I staked out a spot in the
corner, a spot that had electrical connections and a shelf for the
computer monitor. Then I
waited 15 minutes. Still
nobody showed up. I made
a phone call to Roger; he had things to do with his brother. With no phone number for Brad, I e-mailed
him. Dick was occupied in another part of the state. It looked as if the President's Day weekend was not going to
be a good one for the meeting.
restaurant became really packed now. There were no extra tables to be had, except for outside
seating. Just in case
any visitor were to visit, I stayed for the entire meeting time. I ordered my usual chicken noodle soup and baguette, and
because it was my birthday, Panera gave me a free pastry; I got the
pecan sticky bun.
I kept myself occupied by using the laptop computer, answering
e-mail and cruising through the Commodore and Amiga forums on the
Internet. At 1:45, I decided it was time to go.
that I had planned on the meetingagenda
would have to wait until the March meeting.
The restaurant was a bit less crowded now. As I jumped into the car, I thought for a brief second about
visiting the gaming stores and antique shops in the area, just in
case they had any vintage Commodore goods.
I decided against that, thinking that I should return back home in
Visalia early and take a nap.
skies greeted the members of the Fresno Commodore User Group when we
left our homes to go to the March meeting, but it was warm and
pleasant inside the Pizza Pit. Attendees were Robert Bernardo, Roger
Van Pelt, and Dick Estel.
Roger reported on what he called a "homemade, prototype
geoCable," which he made from copper wire, cardboard, and other
odds and ends that he had on hand. It worked well in a test with a
Hewlett-Packard inkjet printer.
Our bank has recently imposed a $12 per month charge on our checking
account, which probably exceeds our income, so we voted to close
that account and open one at Educational Employees Credit Union.
Everything is on schedule for CommVEx, despite the fact that once
again Robert is having to deal with a new person in the contact
position at the hotel. The hotel lost but finally found the signed
contract and proof of deposit.
Robert had two large boxes of "stuff," Amiga-related,
which he picked up from a user from Tehachapi. An Amiga 1000 and
monitor were among the hardware items. Robert also had a bunch of
hardware that came from a Commodore computer repair shop that closed
San Rafael. This treasure included an EPROM burner and various diagnostic
equipment. We tried out one item that checks the status of all chips
and internal circuits, and has a expansion port cartridge, a user
port interface cartridge, and an octopus of cables that plug into
all the ports in the C64/128 except the keyboard connector (which
used a separate item).
A while back
Robert had acquired a device that connects the
port to a VGA monitor and displays the signal in full 80-column
color. Although the manufacturer sold 30 of them from a posting on a
single Internet forum, he is no longer making them, so Robert is
looking into manufacturing another batch. Ideally, they will be
ready in time for CommVEx.
Roger took home a box of ham radio-related disks that
acquired, along with a manual that teaches the basics of ham radio.
We looked or tried to look at several programs. Laser Dreams, which
controls a laser being fired within a room, was beyond our
capability or did not work (what was needed was another
commercially-sold interface and a laser, this equipment last priced
at $900 to $1,000), but we had better luck with the Einstein Memory
Trainer, a program none of us had heard of before. It purports to
teach you how to remember names, faces, phone and other numbers,
etc.. Like a lot of programs from the early days of home computing,
the information presented could have been put into a book which a
user could probably work through faster than using the program, but
it was still an interesting concept. The first lesson teaches you
how to associate names with faces, the C64 showing a name with a
hi-res drawn face and then later asking you that name when the face
As we began to load up the equipment, the storm blew up again, and
we were dodging raindrops during the loading process. This storm
eventually brought snow down to the 1,000 foot level in some areas
and left about four feet at a nearby ski resort at 7,000 feet. No
one complains, because it's been a very dry winter and the moisture
is badly needed.
contrast to the weather during last month's meeting (cool and
rainy), we had temperatures close to 90 for our April meeting. We
had full attendance of our four local regulars, Robert Bernardo,
Roger Van Pelt,
Brad Strait, and Dick Estel. And we were happy to welcome a brand new member
from Farmersville, Louie Mazzei, who joined during the meeting.
Dick brought in the library print-out, which has been sitting unused
in the bottom of a drawer, as well as two volumes of early
newsletters for members to look through. He also showed the members
a book called, "Computer Wimp - 166 Things I Wish I Had Known
Before I Bought My First Computer", by John Bear. Despite its
1983 publishing date, the book still has great entertainment value,
although much of the advice is out of date. There's a full review of
this book here.
Robert reported that Commodore pioneer Jack Tramiel died April 8 at
age 83. Jack was the driving force behind Commodore's policy of
building computers "for the masses, not the classes," and
was one of those most responsible for computers becoming a common
home device. His empire began as a simple typewriter repair shop,
Commodore Portable Typewriter, in 1953. The 2012 Commodore Vegas
Expo will be dedicated to Jack Tramiel.
Dick reported that our checking account has been transferred to the
Educational Employees Credit Union, with Dick's and Robert's names
on the account.
Robert had previously taken Dick's sticky SX-64 keyboard, plus two
incomplete, non-working SX-64s, to repairman Ray Carlsen in
Washington. Today he brought back one complete, working SX-64, Dick's
keyboard, and an extra keyboard, which we might be willing to sell
if someone needs it.
Last month Roger had told us about creating a "homemade,
prototype geoCable," which he made from copper wire, cardboard,
and other odds and ends that he had on hand. It worked well in a
test with a Hewlett-Packard 940C inkjet printer. We got to see the
device, as well as a much more sophisticated, cardboard-free version
Roger put together. Photos are on the FCUG web site. http://www.dickestel.com/fcug.htm
Roger had looked through a box of ham radio-related disks that
Robert gave him last month, so we took a look at a few of the
programs. Without a radio set-up, we could not do very much with
them, though we did hear Morse code tones coming out of one program
when we entered alphabetic characters into it.
Robert brought in his PET 8296-D, which we opened up to check on the
replacement chip that Mike Naberezny had installed. The chip,
actually an EPROM, replaced one of two PLAs that was in the PET.
Mike had done other repairs to the PET, too, in order to get it in
working condition - the internal 8250LP drive did not work, and so,
the inverter was desoldered andreplaced; the power supply came back to life after exercising
the switch a few times; and the keyboard was taken apart and all
contacts cleaned. Now Robert is looking for good programs to run on
Robert showed how he does.D64 conversions with the use of a SD2IEC
card drive, the D64it program, and the club's C128 and 1571 drive.
Because he was using the C64 version of D64it, he had to first make
sure the 1571 drive was in C64 mode first. Also the target 5
1/4" disk had to be formatted first. Then he ran D64it from the
SD2IEC, and using a.D64 of Digimaster 128 as an example, he
de-archived the program onto the floppy disk. Afterwards, he ran
Digimaster 128 from the floppy disk.
When we arrived, we found a change of ownership notice in the front
window, so at the end of the meeting we introduced ourselves to
Joey, the new owner, to make sure we could continue having our
meetings at the Pizza Pit. He was very friendly and accommodating,
and looks like he will make a good owner for this long-time pizza
stop. After the meeting, as Robert drove through city streets to get
back on the freeway, he noticed a familiar man on a large motorcycle
following behind his car. It was Stan, the former owner of the Pizza
Pit, and on the back of his motorcycle was an attractive brunette.
As Stan zoomed away, Robert waved to him. Enjoy your
full attendance of our now five local regulars, Robert Bernardo,
Strait, Louie Mazzei, and
Dick Estel. And thanks to Louie, we welcomed a new member, his father
who lives in
Santa Cruz. He expects to attend meetings two or three times a year.
From deep inside his huge pile of Commodore "stuff," Robert
brought the leftover die-cut Commodore logos that were handed
out at CommVEx 2010 and gave them to members who did not attend that
showed a sketch he had found that he had done at age 12 of his
brother using a VIC-20. We all agreed that Roger's artistic abilities far exceeded any of the rest of us.
Robert reported on Vintage Computer Festival East and showed some
video from the event, which took place May 5-6 in Wall, New Jersey. Some of
Robert's video is already on-line here
and here. The rest of Robert's video is being sent to CBM
engineer Bil Herd, who will edit it and post it separately.VCF East 8.0 photos
are on line here.
For the equipment segment of our meeting, Robert showed a diagnostic
test cart with loopback attachments for the Plus/4, based on the
same design as the one we looked at previously for the C128. And
Brad brought in his new Micro-Kim, a KIM-1 clone which he built from a kit. The only display is a numeric
read-out. After about 20 minutes of entering codes, Brad made the
unit function as a clock. The company, Briel
Computers, also makes other kits.
Robert brought a PET 8296 keyboard without a PET - turning it over
to reveal an autograph by William Shatner. The actor was a spokesman
on TV for Commodore products for a brief time and also appeared in
Book time brought "The Commodore 64 Book - 1982 to 199x"
by Andrew Fisher and Andrew Rollings, containing reviews of many,
many games. The information is presented in colorful, easy-to-read
charts. Also, there was
the new book, "The Future Was Here: The Commodore Amiga
(Platform Studies)" by Jimmy Maher, the book not being a
history book but more of why the Amiga was the multimedia computer
of its day. Then there was the return of "Computer Wimp"
by John Bear, a humorous (1983) look at the 166 things you should
know before buying your first computer.
Then it was time to Relax - that is, to look at a program by that
name. The Relax Stress Reduction System was developed by Synapse,
and back in 1985, it sold for $139.95. You can read an archived
Compute! magazine review of it here.
With you as the user wearing a headband with sensors, it claims to
read various aspects of your mental state and has modules intended
to help you learn to relax. The on-screen graphing results looked
suspiciously similar whether Robert was wearing the headband
transmitter or not. However, when Robert took off the headband
during the balloon game (control a balloon with your mind), the
balloon fell to the bottom of the screen. For most of the
presentation, Robert was fiddling with the fine-tuning slider
switches on the control box in order for the program to register not
too high and not too low. Hopefully, someone can test the program
under quiet conditions with no distractions.
Finally, we moved to our music lesson, with
Robert revealing the
Notable Phantom. In addition to the computer program, this musical
item has a flexible plastic keyboard that fits over the Commodore
keyboard. Pressing the notes produced typical, computer-style, SID
beeps, with three voices available. None of us were capable of
actually playing anything on a keyboard, but we looked at various
parts of the program and loaded and played songs from the disk.
There’s a photo of the keyboard here
and more information about it here.
For a few minutes, it
looked as if the June meeting was not going to happen on time. On
the door of the Pizza Pit Restaurant was a piece of paper saying
that on Sundays, the restaurant would open at noon. Fortunately,
owner Joey showed up a few minutes later and said that if warned
beforehand, he would open at 11.
Because the FCUG meeting
was on Father’s Day, there were members who were MIA; only Robert and Louis were present. However, the meeting still went overtime. In
old business, Robert gave an update on the July 28-29 Commodore
Vegas Expo. The conference room was all paid. This time the
restaurant’s Internet was working without a hitch, and they were
able to log on and check out the CommVEx website.
As they ate chicken
garlic pizza, they watched “Amiga the Movie”, an 18-minute
production filmed back in 1987 that emphasized the various
advantages and the available software for the Amiga 500. A well-done
movie with that 1980’s vibe. Because Louis needed a solution to
easily format disks on his 1541 disk drive, Robert loaned him a Warp
Speed cartridge which has a fast loader/saver and a set of
utilities, including an easy formatter. Then when logged into
Blip.tv, Robert showed the Commodore video he filmed while attending
the May 5-6 Vintage Computer Festival East in New Jersey. Finally,
an Amiga CD32 game console was examined, Louis having never before
The meeting wrapped up
with Robert explaining that he had to pick up an Amiga 600 from his
repair person in Santa Clara and that he had to also get back the
Atari 520ST he had loaned to that same person. Louis would then get
the Atari, since Robert expressed no interest in it. Louis also gave
a run-down on the various Atari 8-bit computers, something of which Robert
had little knowledge. Still with a bit of time, they both
watched the Star Trek-themed video, “Bring Back Kirk”, an
8-minute production which cleverly resurrects William Shatner’s
Captain Kirk character for a big space battle!
had a good turnout for the July meeting, with Robert,
Roger, Louie and Dick in attendance, while Brad was out-of-town.
handed out newsletters for January-February, March-April, and
May-June, bringing us up-to-date for the first time in quite a
while. Although our editor has bemoaned falling behind, we have
nothing but the greatest appreciation for his efforts, especially
having to do everything "long-distance."
With CommVEx v8.0 just weeks away, the hotel has been pitching
knuckleballs and nasty sliders to Robert. First, they asked him to
approve a move to the Plaza Hotel, but in a different room, one
whose features are completely unknown to us. Then they said they
would have to charge extra because we were setting up a large number
stood tall at the plate and fought off both pitches, and
CommVEx remains at the Las Vegas Club. He also explained the low
power requirement of our machines, so they withdrew their threat to
charge extra for "excessive" electrical use.
Goodies and prizes at the event will include T-shirts or posters
with the Jackbusters
graphic that was worn by Commodore engineers back in the day.
(Unfortunately, those t-shirts/posters weren't ready by CommVEx
time.) We'll also have the annual specially-label wine - this year a
Jack Daniels-style label will honor the late Jack Tramiel.
Also at CommVEx a brand new C64 game and three hardware prototypes
will be introduced. And a special guest will be Jim Drew, creator of
one of the first copy programs that could back up protected disks.
Our demos included Drew's program, Gemini 2.0, a copying program
from 1984, and CCI Submarine Warfare from 1981. The program, by
Clockwork Computers, had a version which ran on the PET and a
version for the C64; we had the C64 version.
brought in a pair of Haitex 3D glasses for the Amiga,
originally released in 1988, which he bought on
for a large sum (over $100). Although the Space Spuds game and
various still pictures we had to look at was fairly simple, the 3-D
effect was reasonably good as long as you sat directly in front of
the middle of the screen.
Finally we looked at an old-school graphic demo, complete with
scrolling greetings, and Media Player 128. Regrettably this program,
downloaded from the Internet, did not include the actual media files
that were supposed to come with it - they have to be downloaded
separately. Look for this one again at a future meeting.
also discussed finding a new meeting place. Although the food and
service are as great as ever, the new owner did some remodeling that
covered up the electrical outlet that we normally use. This required us to
string an extension cord across the floor, creating a serious safety
issue. We have also grown weary of the loud jukebox, loud TV, and
loud patrons at the liquor store next door.
Before the meeting Dick had scouted three possible locations – a
pizza parlor in Clovis (the best tables to use were right next to
the game machines); El Bajio, a place we’ve met before, but which
closed down over a year ago (still closed), and Bobby Salazar’s
Mexican restaurant, which seemed ideal.
the meeting we all headed to Salazar’s, just up the street from
our present location, to look it over. We were immediately impressed
with the fact that the air conditioning works. The room that is
available is larger than we need, but is almost never in use Sunday
mornings, so they were happy to schedule it for us. There are
speakers from the restaurant’s “muzak” system, but they can be
turned off, and curtains partially cover the door. In short, it’s
a major step up, and we will give it a try in August, and make it
our regular meeting place if it works out.
As we moved to a new location, we
had almost 100% local attendance, plus a guest. The Valley regulars
Van Pelt, Robert Bernardo,
Dick Estel, Louis Mazzei, and his son Vincent, our newest member. Joining us from the
Daniel is a former U.S.
citizen who now lives and works in the Netherlands, where he teaches music. He brought an SX-64 and a Windows laptop,
and showed us some of the programs he has written or uses in his
work. Daniel discussed a project he's been working on for some time,
a musical keyboard, which includes eight
chips in an old organ keyboard. Eventually he plans to write
software for it so that it can become a synthesizer. The keyboard is
run by a Commodore 64 from the cartridge port.
He also showed a program that he wrote to display altered character
sets which are used by music programs. These sets are altered so
that they can depict musical notes. Each note consists of several of
the altered characters. Daniel’s program can find these sets in
the program code and display them so that you can see the actual
notes. They can also be edited and resaved.
Finally, he displayed a program that composes music according to the
rules of three part harmony, and which is used by students in music
conservatories to prepare their assignments. While a graduate
student in Colorado, Daniel started to write a program which demonstrates the process.
It displays the results as it searches for solutions according to
the rules but using the random function so that each song is
Meanwhile, Vincent played with drawing programs on the Amiga 3000
which was borrowed from Richard Hough of Tulare.
reported on plans for next year's CommVEx. We have reserved
the same location, the Left Field Room at the Las Vegas Club Hotel,
July 27 and 28, 2013. The cost has gone up about $200.
will attend the AmiWest show in Sacramento
in October. This event will be at a new location due to scheduling
Our new meeting location proved to be everything we had hoped -
cool, quiet and roomy. It looked a bit like a mini-CommVEx, with six
systems set up and plenty of tables available. One of the systems
was Robert's CommodoreOne in a tower. On bootup, this version allows
you a choice of several different platforms. The tower has a nice
hole where there should be a disk drive, and Robert swears a 1541-II
will go in there soon.
Treasurer Dick Estel was
absent as was member Brad Strait, Dick traveling to a bluegrass
festival and Brad Strait caring for a new family member. I myself
barely made it to the meeting, having to contend with my car’s
left front tire which had lost air pressure overnight. With my
Coleman air compressor, I pumped the tire back up, saw that it was
holding air, left for the meeting, and only arrived 10 minutes late.
Member Louis and son Vincent Mazzei were waiting for me when I
arrived at Bobby Salazar’s Mexican Restaurant. I apologized for my
tardiness, but they didn’t mind.
Piece by piece, I
unloaded the Commodore hardware out of my car and into the
restaurant, Louis and Vincent helping and member Roger van Pelt
helping also when he showed up a few minutes later. I took an air
pressure reading off the leaking car tire, and it seemed to be
holding air. With my mind more at ease, I went back into the
restaurant to get down to business.
As usual, it took awhile
to set up all of the equipment, but once done, we were able to sit
down and order lunch. While waiting for the food to arrive, we
started with old business – talk about the Commodore Vegas Expo
for next year – and new business – our October “picnic”
The meeting went along
fairly efficiently. Though we ran out of time to try out SuperCPU
games and utilities at http://members.optusnet.com.au/spacetaxi64/index2.htm
and the new C128 slideshow, VDC Mode Mania, found at http://csdb.dk/release/?id=110966, we did have plenty of time to look over the rare, German-built
VC1020 expander for the VIC-20, a PAL C64C shipped from the Czech
Republic, and a Drean C64C from Argentina. Everyone at the meeting
was amazed at the heavy-duty metal construction of the VC1020. Louis
and son Vincent had brought one of their VIC-20’s to the meeting,
and we tried it out with the VC1020. Well, when some game cartridges
were inserted in the first or second ports of the expander, there
was no response from the VIC-20; otherwise, the VIC-20 seemed to be
working normally through the pass-through in expander. Another
device for hardware tech Ray Carlsen to repair!
The VC1020 was almost in
perfect condition, except for a missing front label. Louis said that
with the help of a friend, he could duplicate the label right down
to the font, color, and material used. Later, I sent him photos
taken from the Internet that showed what the label appeared to be.
Now all I had to do was
to get the measurements of the label to him.
The PAL C64C came in a
different box to what we knew was usually provided in the U.S.A.;
the different languages provided on the box and the West German
bottom label on the C64C were a treat to see.
The Drean C64C was the
most unusual item. I had to explain to the members how this machine
was created, how Drean received permission from Commodore Business
Machines to make its own version of the C64. Though we did not power
it up (it would have just shown a black-and-white image on our NTSC
monitor, due to its PAL-N 6572 video chip), we examined the casing,
a crudely molded plastic case manufactured by Drean, and we laughed
at how unfinished its looks seemed.
Finally, with the meeting
coming to a close, I showed two Commodore-related videos posted at
YouTube.com. The first was “They’re Taking the Hobbits to
Isengard (C64)”. With scenes taken from the Lord of the Rings
trilogy of movies, a SID-composed music background was played while
the characters spoke with digitized voices. Louis and I were
skeptical that the voices had been digitized and played back through
SID; they were too clear to be from an 8-bit Commodore (but anything
Then we saw the video,
“Datarock – Computer Camp Love”. This video was about teenage
computer nerds at computer camp, and one of the computers at the
camp was… a C64. In fact, the C64 appeared a few times in the
Though I didn’t
understand everything about the video, Roger was kind enough to
explain some of the esoteric parts of it.
When the meeting ended,
we were only a mere hour overtime, give or take half an hour. All
was not well, though. The left front car tire had lost air, and I
had to fill it up again. The next day after work, I went to Sears
and had it replaced under warranty.
The annual Fresno Commodore User Group picnic started in the 1990s,
and for a number of years was held at the beautiful country home of
the late Sandy and Ingrid Dippolett. As active, local membership
declined, the event eventually became a dinner, and then a lunch,
usually at the regular monthly meeting time, but at a different
location, with the club providing the dinner.
This year we gathered at the Seven Bar and Grill in
Clovis, highly recommended by Dick and various friends he’s taken there
in the past few months. Our attendance was pretty much like our
typical meetings – Brad
Van Pelt, Robert Bernardo, Louis Mazzei, Vincent Mazzei and
We hadn’t seen Brad for a while; he and his wife recently welcomed
a new baby, making three kids under four to keep them busy.
had good news – a new job, after months of searching. Robert recently attended the AmiWest Show, as well as the Southern
California Commodore & Amiga Network (SCCAN) meeting in
Louis has been buying up low price JiffyDOS chips to install in his
VIC20s, while son Vincent has been getting a lot of use out of the
VIC he won at the Las Vegas
expo in July.
Dick mostly keeps busy “being retired,” a task that takes all
his time, without producing any measurable results.
We got caught up on everyone’s activities, discussed the state of
Commodore, and enjoyed a great lunch that lived up to Dick’s
claims for it.
At the conclusion of the event,
Robert handed out gift bags with a
small, non-computer item to everyone; this has become a tradition
This was not the
longest-ever FCUG meeting, but it certainly came close. Dick arrived
at Bobby Salazar’s Restaurant about 10:45, 15 minutes before the
official start time, with Robert arriving a few minutes later. Dick
had brought his cart, since we now have to transport equipment about
50 yards from parking spot to meeting room, and we made at least
Eventually, we had the
C128, an Apple IIGS, an iMac, an Amiga, and a VIC-20, plus all kinds
of peripherals. When we had first checked this room as a
possibility, it seemed bigger than we needed, but we have found a
way to expand into all the available space. In addition to
equipment, we had four boxes of hardware, software, manuals, and
odds and ends that had been donated, all of which was made available
free to whoever wanted it.
On hand were Louis and
Vince Mazzei, Roger Van Pelt, Robert Bernardo, and Dick Estel.
Before ordering, Robert spent a long time trying to set up a Skype chat with Berry de Jager,
a Commodore fan in the Netherlands, using the iMac. It took a while
to get the account set up, so we took a few minutes out to order our
Then Berry called Robert by cell phone, and they got connected via Skype. At first
we could see Berry, but he could not see us, but we got that
straightened out with the help of Louis, just about when our food
arrived. Robert went back and forth between the talking to Berry on
the computer and eating his giant burrito, while the rest of us
tried to act normal while someone halfway around the world watched
The chat was actually a
test for a SX-64 international event that is coming up at our
January meeting, so we wrapped up that part of it and began the part
of our meeting where Robert tries to keep us on task, and we all get
into all kinds of discussions, computer and otherwise, while we
finished eating. During this time, we reminisced about Robert’s
first Amiga. It was also Dick’s first and only Amiga, and he owned
it for all of five minutes. Dick was trying to buy a 1084 monitor,
but the seller would only sell as a package, which included an A500.
Dick bought the package and immediately sold the Amiga to Robert.
Robert announced that the
C4 Expo (Cincinnati Commodore Computer Club), which was last held
about three years ago, will return in May or June of 2013. Robert also spoke briefly about the SC3 Arcade Party in Claremont, CA last
week. Photos will be on-line some time in the future.
Louis reported that he
bought a box of disks from a defunct user group’s library
collection, about 50 disks for $8 on eBay. He will go through them
and see if there is anything of interest to our members.
Included in some of the
odds and ends we had acquired were manuals (no software) for
programs used with ham radio. No one had heard of these programs,
including our ham radio expert Roger, but he took the manuals home
to look at.
Each year FCUG makes a
donation to a charity around the holiday; for the last several years
ago it has been St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis. We voted
to donate $50 this year.
In southern California Robert
had met with Charles Gutman, our member in Fontana. Charles
had received permission from the developer to make a new run of a
cartridge that contains 30 games and had given Robert a prototype.
It had been some time since Charles contacted the developer, and he
was not able to identify two chips and two diodes on the board. The
developer had moved and could not be found, so Charles had asked for
help in identifying the parts. When he was in San Jose, Robert talked to an engineer who was able to identify one chip, but the
number on the other had been scratched off and was nearly
Then we handed it to
11-year old Vince, whose hawk-like eyesight put the rest of us to
shame. After a brief study, holding the chip under different lights
to get the best letter-to-light contrast, Vince read off the part
number and part of the serial number.
Finally it was time for
demonstrations to begin, about an hour after the “official” end
time for our meeting (both the club and the restaurant are very
flexible). Attempted demos on the C64 and VIC failed, but moving on
to the Amiga we were able to get a good look at a new platform game
called SQRXZ. As usual, after the “old folks” tried it and died
quickly, Vince took over and ran up a respectable score.
Finally, the agenda
called for a quick look at an old 5.25” Apple disk that Roger had
brought in. From his vast collection of computer equipment, Robert had unearthed an Apple IIGS, along with third-party dual 3.5 disk
drives. The Apple monitor was in hiding, but this machine could be
used with a Commodore monitor, so we put in Roger’s disk and tried
to view it. This set off a half-hour or longer project to try and
get the Apple working. Louie had used this machine in the past, but
it was over 20 years ago. Still, his knowledge allowed us to get
close to our goal. First, he explained that the Apple would not
function with three drives attached, so he managed to disconnect one
of the drives in the dual unit. After much effort and some on-line
research, we brought up the graphic interface, only to be stopped
dead by the fact that nothing could be done without the mouse, also
in hiding. In a happy post script, back home after the meeting Roger
got some help in an on-line forum and was able to use Copy II to
view the file. It turned out to be a text file that was probably
written by Roger’s brother in his high school days. Now the search
is on for a printer cable that will allow Roger to make a printout.
When we started hauling
equipment out to our cars, we were surprised to realize it was
nearly 4 p.m. This did not stop us from the usual “meeting after
the meeting,” during which anything and everything gets discussed.
Key topics this time included auto accidents and the resulting
hassles with insurance companies (Louie and Dick) and buying a
Despite the length of the
meeting, it was fun and interesting throughout, and we will be back
to do it again in December.
a small attendance this month, with just Brad, Robert
and Dick. However, Brad has not been with us for a while, so
Robert started the day by catching him up on some of the things we've
been doing or trying to do.
Speaking of trying, although we tried many things including tons of
research on the Internet, the demo gremlin attacked every one of
today's demos. For the most part, it was something very small, like
the need for
cable, which kept things from going as planned.
Although we couldn't get programs running on them, we got a look at
two PET's, a 4032 and 8032, and a 2031 PET floppy drive.
Nevertheless, we had good time, a great lunch, and discussed a lot
of things. In addition, Robert brought various magazines and other books, many from the
collection of former C= user, Charles Vreeland of
Los Angeles. We especially enjoyed Family Computing, which was published by
Scholastic Inc. Although it was a multi-platform publication, it was
interesting to see the ads for various computers. The main article
was about a family's search for just the right computer in 1983,
ending happily with them buying a Commodore 64.
Next month will be a special event, an international "SX-64
Day" celebrating 30 years of this special Commodore, during
which we will video chat with Berry de Jager and others in the Netherlands. They will have several SX-64s set up, and we will bring at least
Our January meeting was no ordinary one. Sunday, January 20 was
SX-64 Day around the world, celebrating the release 30 years ago of
Commodore’s iconic “executive” computer. We were part of the
Global SX-64 Party, an international celebration of the world’s
first color transportable computer.
Robert arrived about 45 minutes early to start setting up the SX’s
and the video and still camera equipment. Dick arrived with a third
unit but had trouble with the keyboard not registering all key
presses. Somehow that cleared up later (maybe just inserting the
keyboard cable better?). We were missing member
, another SX owner, as well as Robert's modded SX, which was still with Ray Carlsen for keyboard
Also present were
and Louis and Vincent Mazzei, who brought Vincent’s rare,
To start off the meeting, we viewed a Commodore SX-64 commercial
from 1984, the commercial with the catchy Commodore tune. We took a
few photos with Dick’s Canon digital SLR, and then a little bit after , we connected via Skype with Berry de Jager, organizer of the day,
who was in the
Netherlands. To our surprise, he was back at his house and not at the Starbucks
He explained that he and the Dutch users had met during the
afternoon from about 1
(with about 8 SX’s) and that he had to get back through the snow
before it got dark. No matter... we had a good time Skyping away as
we ate our lunch and as Robert showed him little bits and pieces that we had brought to the
meeting (Jason Ranheim PC-8 board,
Robtek Turbo 50 cart, Capture II cart, Koala Pad with Dancing Bear disk,
the game Worms!, Green Valley Publishing Business Software,
Vincent’s VIC-20, and of course, the SX’s). After over a half
hour of Skyping, the lag with the Net connection was getting to be
too great, and Berry
We finished our lunch and headed to the SX’s so we could try out
the programs and hardware items. During that time Robert
took photos with his Nikon film SLR, and to top off the day, took video of the members next to the
SX’s with each person giving the SX “salute.” The videos are
available on line here
Photos of the event are on line here.
In addition, there is more information at Berry’s site, including a list of the places and people
participating in the international event.
In non-SX64 business, we selected
Gilbert on the board of directors. Vincent Mazzei was appointed
Grand Exalted Poobah of the VIC-20 (GEP of VIC).
reported on a phone conversation with Del Contreras, former
is 91 but still going strong. He does a little PC repair work,
mainly for family, and continues his genealogy research (Del
has traced his ancestry to Spanish conquistadores who came into New Mexico
in the 1500s). Dick will be visiting Del
in the near future to pick up some equipment that Del
no longer wants.
Robert showed us a couple of early cartridges, Capture II, which
enables freezing and backing up protected programs, and Turbo 50, a
disk speed-up device. He also reported that Jim Brain can now
distribute JiffyDOS for the Plus/4 and VIC-20.
Louis reported that Jim Drew, whom we met at CommVEx in July, is
starting a web site, www.cbmstuff.com,
to sell some of his old Commodore stuff, as well as equipment he has
developed. The site address is reserved but not yet operational.
Louis also said he has an extra Servant 128 chip if anyone in the
club needs one.
The meeting ended just before 3, but it took
Robert until nearly 4 to get all his gear repacked into the car. During
that time, member
visited to pick up a C128D keyboard that Robert sold him. He spoke at length with
and briefly with Louis. During his brief visit, he discussed GEOS
and RAM expansion, tweaking
’s curiosity about Wheels, the newer operating system which can
use GEOS applications.
had never seen Wheels in operation. Perhaps a Wheels presentation is
by Robert Bernardo
For the February meeting,
I arrived on time, followed by Louis and his son Vincent a few
minutes later. Dick Estel was absent for this meeting, but Roger and
Brad did come in. I set up the tables with the SX-64 on one and my
display of C64 video digitizers on the other. The digitizers
included ComputerEyes from 1984, the Print Technik Video-Digitizer
from 1985, Video Byte II (including Super Explode V5.0) from 1989,
and the Scanntronik Video Digitizer from 1990. I also brought my
broken VIC-20 for Louis to look over.
As usual, while I set up
everything Roger, Brad, and Louis engaged in technology-related
small talk. Finally, everything was set up, and we sat down to order
As we waited for our
food, I showed the SX-64 amateur commercial v1 and v2 that was
posted to Blip.tv and to YouTube. In January we filmed parts of it
at the user group meeting, at member Alfredo’s house, and at my
parents’ house. I edited it all together, over 27 minutes of
footage reduced to 59 seconds, a process which took over 8 hours of
work. That was just for version 1 of the commercial. Some on-line
users wanted a babe in the commercial (in the original, it was a
bikini-clad woman diving into a pool). After 3 more hours of
editing, I finished version 2 of the commercial with Amiga
personality Kiki Stockhammer gyrating during one of her band’s
concerts, the band being Warp 11, a Star Trek rock-and-roll band.
For lunch I ordered the
shrimp burrito and soda, but because it was my birthday, Brad picked
up the tab! Also for dessert, Louis had brought a C= decorated
chocolate cake in honor of my birthday. Yum! Thanks to everybody for
making the meeting a special occasion.
After the lunch, we got
down to business, old and new business, that is.
I reported that only one
more payment was due for the July 27-28 CommVEx and that
surprisingly the venue, the Las Vegas Club Hotel, was not accepting
any room reservations for the date. We surmised that the LVC Hotel
was going through remodeling, and that was why no one could book any
accommodations. I had to advise the members to look at other nearby
hotels near the LVC.
Louis showed the many
6502 CPU chips that he got from Bulgaria and the many 6560 VIC-I
chips he got from China. We talked about how there was so much
interest in these chips from those on the Denial VIC-20 forum and
how that interest just petered away. So, now we have lots of chips
for any VIC-20/PET repairs for the club.
We opened up my broken
VIC-20 and found that the 6502 and 6560 chips were soldered to the
board. Darn! O.K., I’ll have to give the VIC to Ray Carlsen so he
could install sockets for both chips. Then we could replace one or
both chips, one or both of which are the probable cause of the
Then we started two
concurrent presentations. Louis demonstrated the method of
rebuilding an Atari joystick with new parts from a supplier. I
demonstrated, or should I say tried to demonstrate, the use of the
various video digitizers listed above. Louis’ presentation went
without a hitch, showing the method of how to make an Atari joystick
as good as new. My presentation did not go as well.
First, I tried the
ComputerEyes digitizer. I hooked in my Canon video camera to the
digitizer. No response, even though I turned the two knobs on the
ComputerEyes unit. Then I tried the Print Technik. I was able to
digitize one image of Vincent, but then it would not respond to
further scanning. Very strange! What was happening?
To my chagrin, I did not
bring a gender changer for the RCA cable coming out of the Video
Byte, and so, I was not able to demonstrate that one. I went to the
Scanntronik Video Digitizer, the most sophisticated of the bunch
because it used three separate scans -- one red, one green, and one
blue -- in order to form one complete color image. I held the green
transparency in front of the video camera lens and tried to do a
scan of Vincent. Nothing! Just some dashed lines on the screen.
Heck! I tried the process again with the red transparency. Again the
same result! What was happening?
The digitizers wouldn’t
work or would work slightly but unreliably. Three different
digitizers… They couldn’t all be bad. Oh-oh, wait… I
remembered. The SX-64 user port is different than a C64/128 user
It had different voltages
(as Ray Carlsen explained to me later on, the SX-64 carried 9 volts
AC grounded on one of the user port pins, which is an undocumented
CBM error. To make it compatible, you’d have to cut a trace on the
board, disconnecting the 9 volts to that pin.) So, that’s why the
digitizers were responding in such a flaky manner.
I explained to the
members why the digitizers weren’t working, and I gave my
apologies. I should have brought a regular C64 or C128. They
understood that not all goes as planned in a meeting. I just hoped
that the SX-64 did not damage the digitizers by feeding them the
The meeting ended way
past our official end time, but that was as usual.
Before I started
disassembling all the gear and packing it away, I reminded the
members about the date of our March meeting. I also took home the
rest of the chocolate birthday cake; it was too much for the club
members to finish at the meeting, and it was too much for me to
finish alone at home. However, my middle school students loved it
the next day.
by Robert Bernardo
I arrived at our meeting
spot on time. Member Louis and son Vincent came in a few minutes
later. As usual, my car was packed to the gills (if cars have gills)
with plenty of computer equipment, more so this time because the
previous weekend I had been at the Southern California Commodore
& Amiga Network meeting in Northridge and the day before I had
been at The Other Group of Amigoids meeting in San Jose. Going to
three meetings in one month is not very common for me, but this time
all the stars aligned.
(Actually, the following
Friday I went to Amiga engineer R.J. Mical’s dinner party, so that
could be considered a fourth meeting!)
Louis, Vincent, and I
unpacked the computer goodies out of my car. Roger showed up in a
little bit and helped unpack the car, too. As I set up the C64C,
1541, LCD monitor, VIC-20, Amiga 1200 tower, and Sony VGA monitor,
Brad snuck into the meeting room, this time with two little guests,
his children, Caitlin and William. Only Dick Estel was absent, gone
on another journey.
When everything was set
up, we sat down to our usual routine, which was to order food and
make small talk. Louis and Vincent had their usual appetizer tray, I
had the seafood burrito, Roger had a combination lunch, and Brad
ordered quesadillas for the kids. While we waited, on the Mac laptop
computer I showed the two versions of the SX-64 commercial we had
filmed back in January. However, with Brad’s kids being there, I
knew that we’d have to make version 3 of the commercial. (Read
With the laptop computer,
we were to Google video-chat with out-of-town member, Charles Gutman.
Earlier that month, after going to a concert in Riverside, I
rendezvoused with him, selling him a couple of C64s (he wanted the
SID chips), and clearing out the garbage on his Windows laptop which
prepped that laptop for Google video-chatting. Unfortunately, though
I “rang” him at least 4 times during the FCUG meeting, he did
not “pick up”. I later found out that he had forgotten to
“show up” for our FCUG meeting.
We talked so much during
our lunch that soon it was time for Brad, Caitlin, and William to
leave...and we hadn’t even gotten to the hardware presentations!
Before Brad left, I tried to convince him to do a CommVEx video
presentation on his Micro-KIM board. Before Caitlin and William
left, I filmed them doing the Commodore “salute” which I
incorporated into version 3 of the SX-64 commercial. To see the
commercial, click here..
Finally, we got to the
presentations. Though I had thought I brought everything, I realized
that I had forgotten some of the C64 programs that I was going to
show off with the SuperCPU. Nonetheless, we tried out 3D Pool with
the SuperCPU, discovering that we needed more instructions on how to
move the pool cue and hit the balls. However, moving around the pool
table was very fluid and fast with the SuperCPU.
More enjoyable was the
Asteroids emulator used with the SuperCPU. The Asteroids emulator
was an exact reproduction of the arcade Asteroids game. For fun, we
switched back and forth from 1 MHz...well, not so much fun...to 20
MHz. SuperCPU speed...ah, much better. We discovered that the
original arcade game used only about 8K of code, small enough to be
modified to work within the C64’s memory.
Giving video digitizers
another chance to work this month, I hooked up the Video Byte II
including Super Explode V5.0 to the C64 and my camcorder.
Unfortunately, repeating the bad luck of last month’s meeting, the
digitizer did nothing. Could it be that the user port in the C64C
was dirty or was different enough in design to affect the Video
Byte? Or perhaps the digitizer did not like the composite signal
coming out of my hi-def camcorder?
Moving forward, we ended
the meeting by playing with the newly-released VIC-20 games,
VICroLeague Wrestling and VICroLeague Wrestling 2. The digitized
photos of wrestlers that showed up during game play was good, but
the dots that represented the wrestlers during the actual wrestling
were harder to understand. After reporting my findings to the
creator of the games, he gave full instructions on how to control
Perhaps at the next
meeting, we should give those games another go now that we have
We actually didn’t
devote any time to Amiga 1200 tower, though it was powered up and
running. It was nearly 3 p.m., and I decided that was enough for the
Everybody helped me pack
up the car, Louis and Vincent left, and Roger and I hung around
another hour just to decompress.
Although he is sometimes
late because he thinks the meeting starts at , Dick arrived 15 minutes early this month, and had the computer set
up before anyone else arrived.
We had full attendance of our local regulars –
Strait, Roger Van Pelt, Louis and Vincent Mazzei, and Dick Estel. Local
actually covers a wide area of the central
Valley. Roger is the only one with a
address. Robert lives in
and the Mazzei’s in Farmersville, both in neighboring
County, while Dick and Brad are residents of
Fresno’s closest neighbor.
With everyone present, we made sure our hair was combed, put on our
Commodore shirts and buttons, and took a new group picture for the
front page of the FCUG web site..
Last month Louis reported that he had ordered a batch of heat sinks
which can be placed on chips. He brought them and gave them to
whoever needed some.
The club discussed who should be honored on the commemorative
bottles of wine to be given as door prizes at CommVEx, and selected
Jim Drew, who had a major presence at the event last year. Jim has
promised to bring some new and interesting goodies again this year.
Vincent told us that he is interested in learning programming, and
is looking for help. Several suggestions were provided, particularly
on books to use as a starting point. We also suggested studying the
type-in programs that appeared in Commodore magazines to see how
certain tasks are handled.
Louis told of problems with his internet provider. They made changes
without notice, causing his connection to nearly come to a halt.
Eventually he installed a new router, which automatically
recommended the correct settings. Still unanswered is the question
of why Verizon didn’t let their customers know about the change.
we began a video chat with Charles Gutman, our member in Fontana CA.
He displayed a board he is working on, and talked about some items
he may bring to CommVEx. He remained on line as an observer for most
of the meeting.
At last month’s meeting
Robert had filmed Brad’s two older
children giving the “Commodore Salute.” He added this footage to
the SX64 commercial that he first created after the January meeting,
and showed it at the meeting. Later Brad’s wife Jennifer, son
William, and baby
stopped by, and they got to see the commercial also. It’s on line
There will be a version 3.1 to correct a spelling error in the
Robert reported on a visit to Thomas Langham, an amateur astronomer
who lives in (TOWN). Thomas previously used a VIC20 and then a C64
to record data from observations through his telescope. Robert showed video of his equipment, which includes a rotating observatory
dome and a high end telescope, as well as many accessories. Robert passed around copies of some of his printouts, including data that
showed when one of Jupiter’s moons went through an eclipse caused
by another moon.
We set up the VIC that Thomas had donated, but it would not work;
fortunately, Vincent, as Poobah of the VIC20, had brought his.
also had a C128 donated by former member Del Contreras which worked
fine, and was found to have the Servant chip installed. Del
had also given us a box of miscellaneous computer items. Like kids
on Christmas morning, we dug through the box, with most of us
finding a “present” to take home.
equipment part of the meeting, we looked at the VIC-20 hardware, a
small Cardco Cardboard/3 Expansion Interface and the bigger HesWare
HesCard-20 s- Port Cartridge Expander for the VIC-20. Dick took
photos of the inside of a MSD 24K
In the software part of our meeting, we looked at a few of the
early, simple VIC-20 programs from the
Daniels' disk, the Denial Archive, and we glanced at the VIC-20
folders on the Toronto PET User Group Library CD. The folders were
not labeled well, and so, at a later meeting, more investigation
will have to be done on them.
Finally, to wrap up the meeting, Robert brought out the Commodore 64's distant cousin, a newly-acquired
Atari 800XL system, for all to see and use. Louis, an expert in
Atari 8-bit and 16-bit computers, had to instruct Robert
on how to use the system.
meeting once again brought full attendance -
Robert, Louis, Vincent,
Roger, Dick, and Brad, plus Brad's daughter Katelyn. While we were
eating, Katelyn entertained with a dance she would be performing
later at a recital.
Louis reported that he has been in touch with a friend who has a
storage facility full of Commodore stuff, some of which will be
donated to the club.
Robert reported that his engineer is still working on the C128 VGA
adapter, which Robert hopes to show at CommVEx. Currently he is waiting for the
engineer to return to work on the project in early July.
Everything is on schedule for CommVEx, coming up July 27 and 28.
Vincent announced that he will bring his near-mint VIC 20 (which he
won at last year's event). Dick's attendance is uncertain, but
is expected to attend. Louis will be prepared to man the
registration desk if Larry and Dick are not able to do so.
brought a TPUG disk, and we explored it using VICE for the Mac.
Vincent served as chief gamer as we checked out a number of games on
the disk. It took a while to figure out which keys to use to emulate
a Commodore keyboard, but once this issue was resolved, game play
went well for most games.
PETdisk for the Robert's
PET 4032 was uncooperative, but Brad enjoyed keying some BASIC lines
into the computer.
June, our meeting place was graced by the presence of all local
members except Brad; in other words, Robert Bernardo, Louis and
Vincent Mazzei, Roger Van Pelt, and Dick Estel.
Dick announced that he will not be attending CommVEx this year, and
after the meeting it was learned that Larry Anderson will also be
absent. Louis agreed to be the registrar, seller of raffle tickets,
keeper of the attendance list, and other duties as needed. Dick and
Louis got together later to look at the spreadsheet program we've
been using to keep track of CommVEx finances, and Louis will either
borrow Dick's laptop, or see if the file will work on his wife's
In other CommVEx news,
Robert had announced earlier that the show
has been moved back to the Plaza Hotel, across the street from our
location the last two years. Robert has been unable to get to
Las Vegasto check out the room, so he will see it for the first time when he
arrives there in late July.
The latest guest scheduled for CommVEx is Kent Sullivan, who will
discuss how he helped build the Stereo
Robert reported on his trip to the
Pacific Northwest, where he visited several Commodore users. First was Jim Scaberry,
who operates one of the last Commodore software businesses out of
his home. Since Jim is in his 80s, he has decided to close out all
his merchandise, mostly at 40% off. Robert brought back a number of
items which will be sold on Jim's behalf at CommVEx. After the
meeting, Robert and Roger went over that merchandise as it sat in Robert's car.
Next was Ray
Carlsen, one of the last Commodore repairmen. Robert picked up
items he had left on his last visit and dropped off more.
Robert met with Greg Alekel of the Portland
Commodore Users Group. Greg discussed the latest progress on the
Comet BBS and other ongoing projects that the club is involved with.
Greg advised Robert about a classic computer show that will
be held August 18 at Microsoft headquarters (!) in Redmond, WA,
involving some C= enthusiasts who work for the 800-pound gorilla of
the PC world. On the spot Greg and Robert came up with a name for
the show, MACCS (Most Awesome Classic Computer Show).
Robert also filled us in on his attendance at Maker Faire 2013 in
Santa Clara. As spokesman for a classic vintage computer,
Robert was given a
table at no cost, where he displayed a C64 and Amiga A2000. During
the two days, over 100 thousand people visited this show that
focuses on creativity in arts and electronics, where Robert shared
space with such big name players as Industrial
Light and Magic. He received many comments on his display,
mostly along the lines of “Oh, I remember the Commodore,” “Oh,
I have one of those in my closet,” and “Oh, I learned to program
on one of those.” To all such comments Robert briefly responded
that people can and do still do those things and more on those
“obsolete” machines. He has photos from the event here.
After the show
Robert spoke briefly with Jeri Ellsworth, hacker
extraordinaire, whose latest project is “augmented reality
glasses,” intended for gaming.
And a final note on shows,
Robert will have a display at Atari
Party 2013 in
Davis,CA, July 6.
Moving on to hardware and software demos,
Robert showed us a pile of
cool-looking devices that developers have recently released. They
1. Two rebuilt, upgraded C64
power supplies from
Duncan, the repair tech for The Other Group of Amigoids (TOGA),
San Jose. These have better quality, modern components, and are very light
in weight compared to the original
2. Two SD2IEC card drives from
England. One of them is designed so that the front edge looks like a tiny
1541 drive (see photo here),
and another looks like a tiny 1551 drive. These devices are barely a
quarter inch high. Because of problems with
the transaction of these items, Robert does not want to promote the
3. The Computer Saver from Ray
Carlsen, a protective device that
goes between the computer and the power supply to prevent damage if
the PS goes bad, i.e., goes high on the 5
line and/or drops out the 9VAC line.
4. The production model of the Multicart 64 from 8-Bit Designs
(operated by our member in
Fontana, Charles Gutman). The first prototype was shown at CommVEx in 2007,
and the final product includes 63 Commodore games, utilities, and
productivity programs. Robert has done some promotion for the
device, including a video that he showed us. Vincent served ably as
official game tester with the device.
It was a hot, Hot,
Fresno, with a low of 80 the night before and a high of 105 expected. But
after the initial work of carrying stuff in and setting up, it was
nice and cool inside Bobby Salazar's Cantina, where
Roge, Louis, Vincent and Dick gathered for the July meeting of the
Fresno Commodore Users Group.
Recalling an earlier meeting when he had brought in some heatsinks
he had bought on-line, Louis demonstrated how a chip easily slides
into the device, a feature we had not noticed previously. He opened
up Vincent's VIC-20 to show how he had installed several heatsinks
Next we discussed final plans for CommVEx. The location has changed
once again; the event will be back in Jockey Room 1 (which became
Jockey Room 2 the day before the show) of the Plaza Hotel, the same
room we had for several years. Although somewhat smaller, this room
is more convenient for moving equipment in and out.
Shane Monroe of RetroGaming Radio will be present, interviewing
attendees and broadcasting via the Internet. It will be the first
time there has been a media presence at the event.
Robert will be heading to
on Tuesday. One of his pre-show duties there is to get the monitors,
computers and other equipment that are provided by Al Jackson of the
local club. Louis and Vincent will arrive Friday afternoon, in time
to help with room setup starting around
Robert talked about the recent William Shatner Weekend and showed video
that included the actor signing a 1541 disk drive for
Robert, as well as his performance in a horse show. Shatner is well
known as a horseman and does many equine-related charity
Robert reported on his attendance at Atari Party 2013, held July 6 at
the Yolo County Public Library in
California. A total of 140 people came through the doors, many of them parents
and kids who were visiting the library, and of course, the kids
immediately began trying out various video games. A number of
visitors were interested in the Multiple-Classic Computer device (
-216), which has Commodore, Amiga, and Atari games. Also shown was
the Multicart 64. Robert referred them to our member in
Fontana, Charles Gutman, if they were interested in making a purchase.
Robert brought in a
VIC-VODER, a new speech synthesis product that
provides a more natural voice for games that have speech features,
such some of the Scott Adams adventure games. A simple program can
also be written with PRINT statements, and members had a good time
putting it through his paces, especially Vincent, who got it to talk
about his dog and cat.
went home and brought back two Scott Adams games which we tested to
The next demonstration was of two VIC-20 cassette games that
Robert purchased from a programmer in
Canada. One would not load, but the other, somewhat of a PacMan clone,
worked well with simple graphics and solid sound.
Finally Robert loaded up the Vorpal Utility Disk, a product that dates back to
the 1980s. It has programs to test drive speed and alignment, and
purports to realign the drive (technicians have always been
skeptical about this claim). It also has other utilities, such as
disk copying and formatting.
After the meeting, in the hot shade at the Bobby Salazar's parking
transferred the many Commodore and Amiga goods headed for CommVEx
Robert's car and into Dick's truck. Dick had kindly lent the truck for
Robert's trip to
for CommVEx.After the
show, when Robert was to return to
Fresno, they would trade vehicles and goods again.
more information about products and services mentioned above, visit
the following websites:
predicted to be ANOTHER hot, Hot day in Fresno, around 105, but some cloud cover came in, keeping it fairly nice
in the morning when we carried stuff into Bobby Salazar’s but
clearing off and allowing it to rise to 100 by the time we were
done. In attendance were Robert, Roger, Louis, Vincent, and Dick,
and we had a guest who came for part of the meeting.
We briefly discussed the need at some future point for someone else
to take over the equipment manager job, since Dick was experiencing
some pain in his hand, making it difficult to lift the monitor.
Roger volunteered for this job; Dick will continue for the time
Robert reported that CommVEx was very successful, with sufficient
funds received to fully pay for the room next year. Robert investigated the possibility of getting a larger room. We all agreed
that such a financial commitment, while possible for 2014, might not
be sustainable beyond that.
As we finished up our lunch, a visitor arrived, Raymond
had been in touch with Robert and was donating some Amiga equipment.
He brought in an A500, an A1010 disk drive, a Commodore 1084-S
stereo monitor, some software (DeluxePaint), and several joysticks,
including a Winner 770 analog-to-digital one that worked with Commodore or
Atari. Raymond had worked for Software Etc. for about five years in
the 1990s, and his background led to an extensive discussion of
various Amiga and other games that were popular in those years.
Next we viewed a sample of a video
Robert made at
showed Louis demonstrating how to repair a bad Atari joystick by
using currently available new parts. Eventually, this presentation
will be on-line.
We also looked at the Google Plus site where people attending
CommVEx had posted many still photos and videos.These can be seen here.
Robert's photos are on the FCUG web site here.
Dick was a bit appalled at seeing a
photo of what Robert had done to his Ford F150, jamming it full
of equipment. While in
Fresno, the truck had been fairly filled with equipment destined for
CommVEx. Robert brought the vehicle to
and put even more equipment into it. When Robert brought the vehicle to
Las Vegas, he got even more hardware from Al Jackson, president of the Clark
County Commodore Computer Club. Al remarked that it was the “Law of Commodore
Conservation” – whatever free space is available, Commodore will
fill it!The link for
the photo is too long for sensible people to type, but will be found
in the on-line version of this report and can be found on the photo
site mentioned above.
Robert reported that two long-time sellers of Commodore equipment
were going out of business. Jim Scabury, who gave Robert some
hardware and software to sell at CommVEx for him, was in very poor
health and had been hospitalized for several weeks.
One of the rare storefronts still operating, Computer
Station in Long Beach, California announced the close-out of all
stock and will be ending eBay sales as well. The Station had been in
operation for 30 years, featuring Commodore, Amiga, Apple II, and
PC-DOS items.We looked
at their current eBay prices and were amazed that their items still
had high 1980’s prices or higher.
The balance of the meeting was spent discussing everything
Commodore, and checking out various computer programs. Robert showed
off the refurbished VIC-20 he picked up when he visited Commodore
technician Ray Carlsen on August 1; the VIC was all cleaned up and
had JiffyDOS and reset switches installed.
in his flat C128 and ran a test provided by repair technician Ray
Carlsen to determine whether his computer had been installed with
64K video RAM. Robert had brought a complete Koalapad package for member Brad
and also a complete SuperSketch tablet package; he demonstrated the
SuperSketch and its “Etch-a-Sketch” abilities for the C64.
At the end of the meeting, Louis took the A500, external disk drive,
and some joysticks; Roger grabbed the 1084-S monitor, and Robert the
It was Amiga Day at the Fresno Commodore User Group's September
meeting. Whether it was this fact or just good fortune, we had full
attendance of the local members: Robert Bernardo, Roger
Van Pelt, Louis Mazzei, Vincent
Dick Estel, and Brad
Strait, plus Brad's two kids, Katelyn and William.
As soon as Katelyn and William had eaten, Brad set up some
games for them. They came for the quesadillas, but stayed for the
Since the last meeting
Robert's CommVEx photos have been added to the FCUG
(How far behind the times is the Windows spell check program when it
wants us to change CommVEx to Comdex?)
Louis started the Amiga discussion by explaining how he got a modern
PC to format 3.5" disk for Commodore/Amiga. The format program
on 21st century PCs will only create a 1.44 Mb disk, while Amiga
needs 880K. Louis simply opened the DOS emulator (there's no real
MS-DOS anymore) and issued the standard format command with the
right number, and the computer complied, just as if it had Windows
had acquired a Magic
Voice cartridge complete with instructions. It has only a 250
word vocabulary, and he is still experimenting with it and will
bring it to a meeting when it is ready for prime time.
Robert mentioned that Computer Station in
Long Beach, which is going out of business, has reduced their prices by 75%,
although the starting point is still at 1980 levels, so careful
shopping is needed to find any real bargains.
Louis reported that he found a supplier in
offering lots of "shiny, new"
chips at $6 to $15. He negotiated the price down to $2.80 each, and
bought all of the 47 chips they said they had. When the package
arrived they had thrown in three extra chips because he was such a
good customer. He will be testing the chips over the next few weeks,
but reported that some look fake, and some look like the real thing.
After testing, he will make some available on
and offer others to club members.
He also discussed an e-mail conversation with repairman Ray
Carlsen. Ray has some non-working Blue Chip drives and is pretty
sure which chip is bad but has no source for them. The company Louis
dealt with has them, but Ray felt price they wanted was
told the story of a friend who experienced a small fire that did
very little damage but apparently put a great deal of soot into his
electronics. He had to have them professionally cleaned, and this
experience can serve as a warning to others who run into a problem
Robert brought in a
Christmas card he obtained from the collection of a
former user. On the outside of this 1986 American Greetings card,
the cartoon character Ziggy touts it as being "the world's most
advanced Christmas card. It needs no batteries, is completely
cordless, never needs winding or recharging, and contains no messy
tubes, wires or transmitters." Inside is a 5.25" computer
disk which Ziggy instructs you to put "in your little
computer." We had only Amigas set up, so we are looking forward
some day to see what this Commodore 64 ghost of Christmas past has
in store for us.
Once discussion and lunch were over, we got busy looking at a pile
of "in the box" Amiga gamesRobert
had brought in, using the Amiga A500 while Brad and the kids
kept busy with the A3000. As usually happens with this group, the
interactive adventure games -- Keef the Thief, Dragon Force, Dalek
Attack, and the Kristal -- left us baffled, but the true arcade game
-- NY Warriors -- proved fun and challenging.
in the 1990s the Fresno Commodore User Group held an annual picnic,
usually at the beautiful country home of the late Sandy and Ingrid
Dippolett. A few years ago the event became a dinner, and then a
lunch, usually at the regular monthly meeting time, but at a
different location, with the club providing the dinner.
This year we chose Famous
Dave’s Barbecue, meeting the second Sunday due to schedule
conflicts. Our attendance
was less than we had hoped – Robert Bernardo, Louis Mazzei,
Vincent Mazzei and Dick Estel. Some members who said they would
attend did not show up and shame on them... they missed out on a
Vincent was a little sore, having just completed the test for his
green belt in karate the day before. He did 400 pushups, 400
sit-ups, a 3.5 mile run, 4 minutes of punchout/kickout, an hour of
floor exercises and 8 katas (floor maneuvers, 4 of them, once slow
and once fast). We all congratulate him on his success.
told about his plans for a trip to England next summer, as
well as his marathon activities of the weekend – he drove to San
Jose for a 7-hour video-editing class, then to Davis for a Warp
11 concert, and then to the lunch in Fresno. And once back home,
he had to get to a café with high-speed internet and enter grades
for his classes, which were due that night – a fact he only
learned late Friday afternoon.He
spent an "all-nighter" - 17 hours getting those grades in
and no sleep.
Dick was feeling the lingering effects of a cold, which as he
pointed out, lingers a lot longer as you got older.
All of us enjoyed our food, got barbecue sauce on our hands, faces
and clothing, and left with full, happy stomachs.
tradition that has gone on for many years, Robert handed out gift
bags with a small, non-computer item to everyone.
had the largest attendance in a long time, with all the local
regulars and several guests. This included Robert Bernardo, Dick
Estel, Louis Mazzei and son Vincent,
and his kids, Katelyn and William; and Roger Van Pelt. From
Patterson, 90 miles away up the valley, came Greg Dodd and son
Gregory. Late in the day, Raymond Ciula, who had visited in August,
stopped in briefly to donate some more Commodore and Amiga software
to the club. Before the day was over, Greg became our newest member.
My notes may be a bit hard to figure out, because I had some
secretarial “help.” Katelyn received crayons from the waitress
and quickly used up a lot of the white space on the paper that came
with them. She then proceeded to “borrow” my notebook to write
on. Being in kindergarten, she printed very well (better than me),
but few of the words she wrote pertained to Commodore.
Greg was interested in all types of vintage computers, but his big
love was arcade games, and he had several in his garage. He was an
Atari user, as was Louis, so they spent a good part of the meeting
discussing that subject. In fact, with the number of people present,
there was a lot of discussion about all kinds of things, and it was
hard to actually conduct business (not that we do much of that
Early in the meeting, there was a tragedy. When Vincent’s beloved
VIC-20 was plugged into power and into a monitor, the blue smoke
escaped. When that happened, we knew well that a machine can no
longer function. Ray Carlsen had repaired two VIC-20 motherboards
for Louis, one of which hopefully can replace the smoked one.Later when Louis opened the machine, he found out that a
component (resistor, capacitor?) had melted.
Looking ahead to the Commodore Vegas Expo 2014,
Robert reported that
an Amiga 1000 will be among the major raffle prizes, and all the
planning seemed to be on schedule. You can keep up with what’s in
or log on to the FCUG home page
and click on “CommVEx 2014” near the top.
will be seeing Commodore repair tech Ray Carlsen at
Thanksgiving time and offered to take any equipment that needs
service, including the damaged VIC-20 mentioned above.Also Robert reported that the Brian Bagnall’s book about
the Amiga years of Commodore Business Machines had been cancelled.
Several years ago Bagnall produced the book, “On the Edge: the
Rise and Fall of Commodore,” which covered the entire history of
Commodore Business Machines. Then he wrote an expanded version,
“Commodore: A Company on the Edge,” covering the
from 1978-1984. The new book was to be the completion of this
from 1985-1994. There’s a website
for the original book, and both books
are available at Amazon.
With help from Louis and others,
Robert will slowly and surely be
transferring his Commodore and Amiga videos from Blip.tv to YouTube.
Blip changed its terms of service (now only entertainment videos and
no videos about meetings/presentations), making it impossible to
continue to use that site.
at the AmiWest Show in
Sacramento, Robert obtained a Commodore B128, along with software, a monitor,
and a CBM
8050 dual-disk drive, which was slightly smaller than a golf cart
and required two men and a boy to lift -- all for the bargain price
of $50. The B128 will be demonstrated at a later date.
During the show,
Robert was honored with the John Zacharias Award
from AmiWest and the Sacramento Amiga Computer Club, in recognition
of outstanding support and technical assistance to the club and the
show. Since the early 2000’s, his filming and subsequent Internet
posting of the videos of the AmiWest speeches and presentations have
provided historical perspective on the development of the Amiga
brought a table of
stuff he acquired at the Computer Station
California, which is slowly and not very surely going out of business. The
haul included software for the VIC-20, Plus/4, Amiga CDTV, and of
course various C64 and C128 items. There was a pile of GEOS graphic
disks from “Those Designers,” which Dick would have tried to
sneak out with ten years ago, but now he enjoyed them from a
historical perspective only. Also from Computer Station came four
used joysticks for sale. All joysticks were in different states of
condition. Louis bought the Atari joystick to repair, and Roger
bought the Wico joystick.
is working with a group of
vintage computer enthusiasts to re-establish a West Coast exhibition
to replace the late, lamented Vintage Computer Festival. The working
title is BART Con – Bay Area Retro Technology Convention – and
is planned for summer, 2014, at Hacker Dojo in
California. It will feature not just computers but other older technology,
although Robert rejects Dick’s suggestion of the hand-cranked ice
cream maker as an excellent example of old tech.
and family obligations kept half our members away from the December
meeting, so it was just Greg and Gregory Dodd,
We still had plenty to talk about and hardware and software to look
at. Dick brought a device that will convert a PC signal to VGA for
connection to a TV. He had won this at CommVEx several years ago but
had no need for it, so Greg happily took it off his hands.
Roberthad been to
and brought back
's VIC-20 motherboards that Ray Carlsen had repaired.
Roberttold of Ray's latest prototype, a power supply that uses modern
components and will connect to either a C64 or C128. Ray is also
developing version 2 of his Computer Saver, which goes between the
power supply and computer to protect the latter from over-voltages.
We had a wide-ranging discussion of the SX-64, which Greg knew about
but had never owned.
Robertmentioned that only 10,000 were produced, accounting for its
rarity and continuing relative high value.
Robertsaid he would bring a SX-64 to the next meeting, and Greg could
There was also an Amiga discussion, with
Robertexplaining that the newest model, the AmigaOne, was developed in
the early 2000s, as rights to the name passed from one owner to
another. On a related note,
Roberthad been entrusted with an Amiga 4000 built into a tower, which
had belonged to the late Lord Ronin (Dave Mohr) and which had not
been claimed by his relatives or members of his club. We opened it
up and took a look inside. This "Power
Tower" ran on Amiga OS 3.9 through a Blizzard '040 board with 64
megs of Fast
The software part of the meeting included a look at the disk library
from FUNHUG (Fremont, Union City, Newark, Hayward User Group) which
disbanded a number of years ago. We ran several of the programs from
a few of their many disks. Their disks-of-the-month were "flippy"
disks with a C64 side and a C128 side. The C128 side of one examined
disk had utilities and a demo which ran in 80-column mode.
not present, Roger
had sent his Commodore Magic Voice speech module and two of the
games that take advantage of its sound capabilities, Wizard of Wor
and Gorf. We got it operating and the voice used seemed to fit very
well with the games. Robert
remarked that after playing Gorf awhile, the voice seemed to be
making fun of him!
were back to "full" attendance this month with
Strait, Roger Van Pelt, Robert Bernardo, Louis and Vincent Mazzei, Greg
and Gregory Dodd, and Dick Estel. We also had another visit from
Raymond Ciula, who brought in a large box of 3.5" disks
containing all kinds of Amiga software. Robert reached in blindly
and plucked out a Star Trek game which he tried at the end of the
meeting (but it did not work on Greg's expanded Amiga 2000 -- see
The meeting started with one of our occasional discussions of old
technology, in this case, reel-to-reel recorders. Roger recently
acquired a reel-to-reel machine at a yard sale, a big, high-quality
unit with dual tube amplifiers. Dick mentioned that he has a
Tandberg which still works, although the motor is noisy.
The day before this month's meeting
Robert had visited the Computer
Long Beach, returning with some items that the owner donated, some other items
for sale on consignment, and a few that he purchased.
(Click on the Computer Station links here
to see what's still available.)
The planned demo of
GEOS/Wheels did not take place, because the
program was not on Robert's CMD hard drive, one of two, and sadly,
the one that he did not bring. Instead we looked at a bunch of the
programs from Computer Station.
These included several with a musical theme: Party Songs, which
played a selection of 20 or so songs and displayed the lyrics (Dick
and Robert tried singing along with that program); On Stage, which
did the same with the added bonus of graphics, some of them
animated; and Guitar Pak, which includes two different guitar tuners
and some other programs.
Greg brought his Amiga 2000, and eventually convinced Gregory, who
was engrossed in a hand-held game machine, to give it a try. Gregory
found and played with the three different Star Wars games that were
on the A2000's hard drive. Describing it as the worst-looking from Robert's storage unit, Louis displayed a VIC-20 which he had painted
a bright red, making it one of the best looking VICs around. Louis
also received from Robert the two VIC-20 boards that C= repair
Carlsen had repaired.
Robert will be attending the Vintage
East Computer Festival in Wall,
the first weekend in April, and Notacon
on the second weekend. Due to Easter falling on the third Sunday,
the meeting that month will be April 27.
the Feb. 16 FCUG meeting, I came in from Stockton, about 2 hours away. I
was still 15-20 minutes early, and I immediately started unpacking
the Commodore and Amiga items. About half an hour later, Roger arrived and started bringing in his
gear. Finally, Greg, Louis, and Vincent arrived to round out the
took an extra long time to set up the gear, because not only was I
putting up a VIC-20 (and later on, an A600 and C128) set-up, but
also Greg had brought his A2000 and Louis had brought his A500. When
all hardware was arranged, we finally sat down for lunch.
old business, Louis admitted that he did not have the time nor the
facilities to check out the fifty 6581 SID chips he bought from China.He called for somebody else to take up the chip testing.After a pause, I volunteered,
and Louis will bring the chips to the next meeting.
new business, I reminded everybody that because Easter was set for
the third weekend in April, our usual FCUG meeting for that Sunday would have
to be moved. For the first weekend in April, I would be at the
Vintage Computer Festival East in New Jersey, for the second weekend I’d be at
Notacon in Ohio, and for the fourth weekend I’d
be at the William Shatner Weekend
in southern California.If we were to move the meeting to the fourth weekend, someone
would have to take over in my absence (my last absence being in 2005
or 2006).Hence, I
looked to Roger and said, “You’re the
have to take over.”After
telling him that I’d advise him how to run a meeting, he agreed.
the laptop tied into the room’s Wi-fi, we looked at Reset #02, the
freely-downloadable Commodore magazine which had just been released.I showed them my article that was published in the magazine
and enhanced with photos that the editor had chosen.The members commented that it was a very colorful magazine
with all the photos and screenshots of C64 games.
Somehow, conversation moved to the game, Airwolf.Yes, it was a C64 game, and it was also an arcade game.Greg had never seen the show; Louis explained its premise,
and I showed the show’s opening credits captured on YouTube.I also showed eBay listing for the arcade version that
sale in Westminster, followed by a YouTube video of the
arcade game in action.
got going into the software and hardware part of the meeting late,
but we left extra late by meeting’s end. My presentation was to
show the VIC-20 cassette game, Dodge Cars, and the VIC-20 word
processor, Speedscript, printing through a Blue Chip 020/10
Randy Abel, president of The Other Group of Amigoids in San Jose, I also had a couple of 3 1/2 inch
floppies with one of the best Amiga disk copiers, X-Copy.
Cars had an overhead view of your car running vertically down a
playfield of opposing cars running up at you.In other words, you were going against one-way traffic, and
you had to dodge the other cars by moving into different lanes.It would start slow, but then the action would speed up.We broke out of the program and were surprised that it was
written in BASIC.
Dodge Cars was running, I went over to Greg’s A2000 and tried to
boot up X-Copy.It
didn’t want to boot up; in fact, when we tried to eject it, it got
stuck in his drive mechanism.What
was wrong?We found out
that a sticky metal flap over the disk opening was catching in the
drive mechanism.When we
tried to reboot the A2000 with CONTROL – Amiga – Amiga, the
computer would not get to the desktop.We tried to power cycle the computer… still nothing.After a few tries with both methods, it would boot… but
only sometimes.And when
it did boot up, the color on the screen was green with a horizontal
stripe of normal color at the top of the screen.We opened up the casing and looked at the cables.I pushed down on the SCSI card, I tapped and pushed on the
SCSI hard drive casing, I wiggled the cables and looked for any
loose fittings – all to no avail. Diagnosis – for the booting
problem, the surplus drive mech was shot; for the color problem, we
handed the X-Copy disks to Louis, and he got them going on his A500.Meanwhile, I had other problems.With the VIC-20 set-up I had, I needed 2 serial ports – one
for the uIEC card drive and one for the Blue Chip printer.However, the uIEC had no serial pass-through for the printer.
After wrestling through various scenarios on how to get everything
to work, Roger hit upon the idea about
disconnecting and connecting the peripherals while “hot”, i.e.,
load the program through the uIEC, disconnect the uIEC from the
serial bus while the computer was on, and connect to the printer to
the serial bus while the computer was on… and hope that the magic
blue smoke would not appear from any of the devices.His idea worked.Another
problem was that the carriage for the Blue Chip was locked in
wouldn't budge, no matter how hard I tried to slide the printhead to
the right or to the left.Roger freed it by playing around with the
on-line buttons on the front of the machine.
Speedscript 3.2 loaded into the VIC, we tried to run it but were
treated with gibberish on the screen.A few more tries... the same results.We found out from the Speedscript instructions (which
weren’t clear in the first place) that the VIC-20 needed at least
8K RAM expansion.Without it, the machine would just lock-up with that
gibberish on the screen.I
hadn’t brought a RAM expander with me.
I got the C64 version of Speedscript 3.2 to work with the club’s
C128, and we were able to print with the Blue Chip printer,
notwithstanding the wrong replacement ribbon I got from Office Depot
(we used the original, old ribbon). After I printed a few test
lines, Vincent did some printing with a few choice words. Louis
smiled, remarking that he hadn’t heard the sound of daisywheel
printing in years.I
discovered that the printer was more sophisticated than I originally
thought; it did bi-directional printing.
the Compute! magazine's VIC Emulator for the C64 seemed to work.It gave various options for memory, e.g., push a button for
standard memory, push a different button for 24K memory, push other
buttons for different memory amounts in-between.It displayed everything in 40 columns, but according to the
instructions, it would switch to a 22-column screen after the
software was loaded into it.Due
to my oversight, Dodge Cars could have been loaded into it to see if
it could run, but we didn't do that.
Greg observing, Louis carried on with X-Copy.Louis had bought brand-new, blank disks, and the game disks
he was going to archive were the ones donated to the club by Raymond
C. at the January meeting.The
Doscopy+ option in X-Copy provided mediocre results in the copy
process, so we switched to the Nibbler option.That worked better and faster on the disks that Louis was
trying to copy.By the
meeting’s end, Louis had archived 14 disks.
had to be done with Greg’s A2000.During the meeting, after his A2000 wouldn’t work, Greg had
played around with my A600. I
offered Greg the use of my A600 while I brought his A2000 in for
hear of it, saying that the A600 would sit anyways until he finished
building up his game room.Greg
didn't leave the meeting empty-handed; he bought a C128 and 1571
that I had gotten out of storage earlier.
was nearly when we got out of the meeting.I finished packing the car, including the unexpected load of
Greg's A2000.I said
good-bye to everyone as Greg, Louis, Vincent, and Roger continued their conversation in the
arrived at Bobby Salazar's Restaurant about , and I started setting out the
equipment. Member Greg was already there, and he was soon followed
and much later, members Louis M. and son Vincent.
Brad had already e-mailed his apologies that he wasn't going to make
the meeting, and treasurer Dick was absent, too.
usual, we ordered lunch first, and while we ate, I started the
meeting with old business and new business. Under old business, I
told the members that another payment was going out to the Plaza
Hotel for the July 26-27 Commodore Vegas Expo. Under new business,
we agreed that the April
meeting should be moved to the last Sunday of the month, due to Easter
falling on the third Sunday. I told the members that I would be
unfortunately absent for that meeting, because I would be at the
William Shatner Weekend, the annual event in which we members of his
fan club hang around with him and attend his Hollywood Charity
Horseshow. It is also the time when I ask him to autograph a piece
of Commodore memorabilia – this year the top casing of a Commodore
8050 disk drive (bringing the entire drive would be impossible,
because it weighs a ton!).
we neared the end of lunch, we had a special guest visit us –
Scott Lurndal. He had come all the way from Sunnyvale
to visit his lady friend and also
to visit our club, ostensibly to give away some Amiga items.
what items they were! A boxed Amiga 1000 with everything except for
the Kickstart and OS disks, a boxed Amiga 1080 monitor which needed
repair, a boxed 1010 disk drive, and some programming books and
hardware bits. When I asked him why he was getting rid of his items,
he said that he had not used them in years and thought that somebody
else could get enjoyment from them... but that was not the end of
the story. I gently elicited him to tell us more, and after gauging
our group for several minutes, he opened up. Boy, did he open up!
spoke at length of how he's been into computers since the 1960s. Not
personal computers, not mini-computers, but mainframe computers! He
spoke about how he used to work with Burroughs (among others), one
of the mainframe computer manufacturers of that era. He spoke about
how the processor for one mainframe was spread over 9 cards! He
spoke of how Burroughs was vertically-oriented company. He spoke of
paper tape, huge hard disk platters, punch cards, removable drives,
9-track computer tape on reels, the V-500, booting a PDP-8 in 10
minutes, and 5 horsepower squirrel cage fans to cool mainframe
computers. He spoke of the book, “The Adolescence of P1” and the
first worm (a “self-aware” program), the Morris worm. He spoke
of Plato and the massively parallel game, Empire.
spoke of Dungeon and Dragon games on mainframes. Whew! I should have
had an audio recorder or videocamera going to record all the history
he was telling. Much of it went over my head (because I didn't know
much about mainframes).
These days Scott has his own company in
and consults/advises others on how
to keep their mainframe computers going, like the Living
in Seattle. In fact, he will travel if he is
called to help repair a mainframe. His expertise is in the
programming for mainframes.
On his Linux laptop computer, he showed us a few minutes of one of
the videos he posted to YouTube. The topic – mainframe computers
(of course). In fact, he wanted to post more about mainframes. You
can find his YouTube channel by doing a search for his YouTube
handle – slurn 45.
After Scott finished with his oral presentation, we carried on. I
had a brief presentation on the new VIC-20 Multicart/Development
cart with game set 2 from Kent Rittenhouse. (A few years ago we
played with the VIC-20 Multicart/Development cart with game set 1.)
Greg had brought in two C64's and two 1541's for us to test out, the
former to be tested with the Commodore Diagnostic cartridge. For one
reason or another, we did not use that cartridge. Instead, we used
the Ray Carlsen Computer Saver for testing the two C64 power
supplies. One p.s. was good; the LED indicators on the Computer
Saver reported no problem after having the p.s. running for many
minutes. However, it was a different story for the other p.s.; after
a few minutes, the Computer Saver reported that the 5V line was not
working right. Whew! If Greg were to have connected that bad p.s. to
his C64, it would have ruined the computer. Greg decided to toss the
p.s., not even saving the power connector cable. I warned him that
even the good C64 p.s. could go bad at any time and urged him to get
a better one. In more testing, we found that one C64 didn't seem to
have sound, but the other was all right. The same for the disk
drives - one o.k., one with loading difficulty.
I had brought my Amiga 600 in order to show off the Jim Drew
Amiga-from/to-Mac disk utility, SYBIL with cartridge; and the
Coast-to-Coast Technologies' disk copier, Synchro Express II with
cartridge. Unfortunately, it was the A600's turn to stop working
correctly. The computer screen showed a sickly green color over much
of the screen. At first, I thought it was just color impurity from
monitor. Nope. I reluctantly
cancelled the presentation of the cartridges and admitted that
repair tech Duncan MacDougall would have to look at the A600 again.
We discovered Boray's SD2IEC music player V2.1 for the VIC-20 would
not play any music at all (it was touted to play about an hour worth
of music). I figured that the music player was
-only and thus would not work on our
Working much better were the Flappy Bird game for the C64 (Vincent
beat all of us oldsters in scoring the most points), Reset #02
magazine's C64 cover disk (well, some programs were
-only), and prototype 2 of the custom-made C64/128/VIC-20CR/Plus4 power
supply from Ray Carlsen. I opened up the p.s. for everybody to look
inside its casing, and I took photos of its well-laid out interior.
I had been testing it for quite awhile with a C64, and it did not
fail when connected to my VIC-20CR. As always, it barely generated
any heat; the computer to which it was connected ran warmer.
Finally, the meeting was adjourned around
, but I couldn't hang around
afterwards, because I had errands to run.
the first time since 2006, Robert Bernardo was unable to attend the
meeting, but everyone else was there - Brad
Strait, Roger Van Pelt, Louis and Vincent Mazzei, Greg Dodd, and Dick
Estel. Vice-president Roger stepped in and ably conducted the
The "meeting before the meeting" consisted of a discussion
of arcade games, of which Greg is a serious collector (more about
that later). Louis reported on a hardware developer in
who is working on a board that will run the 8-bit Atari at up to 25
Mhz; when it's completed he will adapt it for the C64. He has a web
Louis also offered some equipment to anyone interested, since he is
trying to reduce the amount of "stuff" in his possession.
Dick is in the same position and offered some new VHS tape. To his
surprise, all available tapes were claimed by Roger and Greg.
After a delicious lunch, we got busy with our demos. First up was an
FM radio hardware/software package that runs through the C64. The
radio itself was a very tiny
device, with a simple wire antenna. Operating required an
external speaker, and we set up a pair of PC speakers which plug
into the radio via a 1/8 inch mini-plug. Selected keys on the
Commodore are used to seek stations, or to go through the dial step
by step. Roger had prepared for the demo by creating pre-sets for a
number of local stations, entering the call letters and station
names into fields provided for this in the software.
The sound quality and reception were very clear, despite being
inside a large, old building.
Greg brought his Vectrex,
a mini-arcade machine with a pull-out control panel. The device had
a vertical display, about six by ten inches. It took awhile for the
video to come up, a condition other users have reported on-line, but
once active it had a very sharp monochrome display. It used vector
graphics and many games came with a plastic overlay which added some
color. There is one built-in game, Minecraft (an Asteroids clone),
and Greg brought two cartridges for us to look at, Scramble and
Blitz, a football game. There are many web sites with Vectrex info, including a Google
discussion group here
and a Wiki here.
We also looked at a new C64 multicart, whose name cannot yet be
revealed. It included a number of games converted from the Max
Machine, a Japanese Commodore computer that was produced after the
VIC-20 and before the C64.
Continuing the game theme, Roger showed us a couple of games that he
and his brother had typed in from a book of games a number of years
ago. Several of us had done that, and we recalled the challenge of
accurately typing lengthy strings of characters, with few actual
As usual, the meeting ran overtime. Two different Amiga Kickstart
ROM switchers were shown - a manually-switched one and a switcher
activated with a Control-Amiga-Amiga keypress. Because of the high
degree of interest by the club members and because the switchers are
not available anywhere, Robert is considering a small production run
of a clone. The members preferred the cheaper, easier-to-produce,
manual switcher. Robert will get together with Greg Alekel of the
Portland Commodore User Group and look into building the switchers.
Greg Dodd showed off his Amiga 2000, a replacement for the other one
that failed two meetings ago. Robert provided the replacement, but
the machine itself was rebuilt by Duncan MacDougall of The Other
Group of Amigoids. In fact, Greg's failed machine was quickly
repaired by Duncan
and now sits back in storage.
DE & RB
case those of you following our club from a distance think our
meetings are examples of organized, structured magnificence, let me
set you straight. They are informal, chaotic, almost anarchic, and
most of all fun and interesting.
As people arrive and bring in equipment, conversations take place on
a variety of subjects, often having to do with computers but not
necessarily. In May the participants in this organized mayhem were Robert
Bernardo, Roger Van Pelt, Greg Dodd, Louis and Vincent Mazzei,
and Dick Estel.
After we have set up anywhere from one to four computers and
whatever other equipment is needed, we usually get around to
ordering lunch, and a semblance of order is seen. Robert formally
calls the meeting to order and makes any announcements he may have.
Of course, comments, observations, and irrelevant side conversations
may take place simultaneously.
Club members brought goodies to give away – new, never-opened VHS
tapes from Dick were claimed by Roger and Greg; and Roger brought a
large box of tractor-feed paper. When new, it cost around $10; now a
rarity, you’ll pay $30 if you can find it.
presented a film on the Internet that was produced by his
students at John
in Corcoran. Each year there is a student film festival in the Los Angeles
area, and Robert’s class entered for the fourth time. The subject
this year was “preventing gang violence.” Robert gave his 8th
grade students the basic idea, and they wrote the script, acted the
parts, and participated in filming.
was able to attend the festival held at Fox Studios, and came
home with certificates of appreciation from the California State
Senate for the students.
then reported and showed video on his visit to the William
Shatner Weekend in southern
California, where participants could pose for photos with “Bill” and have
him autograph items. Shatner recognized Robert immediately, since he
has been the only person who every year brings in Commodore items to
be autographed. This year it was a gigantic Commodore PET 8050 disk
drive, weighing perhaps 20 pounds.
presented the Commodore
Vegas Expo 2014 website. This will be the 10th annual event, and
there will be an emphasis on the Commodore Plus/4 in recognition of
the 30th anniversary of that machine. It appeared that Louis will
take on the role of Robert’s “right-hand man” at the show,
taking on such duties as collecting money from ticket and raffle
sales. Even Roger and Greg expressed interest that they might be
able to make it to CommVEx.
Some official business was conducted at this time. We voted to
establish a policy to divide any payments received for file
conversion service equally between the club and the technician
who does the work. The duties of equipment manager were transferred
from Dick Estel to Roger Van Pelt (Dick will be available as a
Greg informed the club that he met up with Duncan MacDougall, repair
technician for The Other Group of Amigoids (TOGA) in San Jose. In the past,
had repaired and upgraded virtually all of Robert’s various Amiga
computers and had also upgraded C64 power supplies. Greg met Duncan
at the TOGA meeting (held the day before the FCUG meeting), and
Duncan, being a good repairman of many classic game consoles and
computers, gave Greg a beautifully-working Atari 520ST computer
system and did an on-the-spot repair for another system Greg had
brought. With Duncan
advising him, Greg felt more positive that he could now load classic
Amiga OS 1.3 games into his Amiga 2000 with OS 3.1.
reported that the June FCUG meeting would be moved to the
second Sunday, instead of the third Sunday of the month. This was
due to his traveling to
on June 11. If any club member wanted a Commodore or Amiga item from
Europe, Robert was willing to bring it to the U.S., provided that the item fit in his suitcase.
One of his European stops would be in
Venice, and he was still trying to choose a hotel. Mike Battilana of
Cloanto, the company which produced Amiga Forever and C64 Forever
CD/DVDs, had invited him to that part of Italy; he would meet with
Robert and show him the area. Mike had attended
the Commodore Vegas Expo three times and the Amiwest Show several
The first software demonstration was the Family Roots program by
Quinsept, one of the top genealogy programs of its time, which was
donated by Justin Jernigan of Mid-Atlantic Retro-Computing
Hobbyists. It required a data disk, and we didn't have one set up,
so we couldn't do much, but we were able to load the program and
take a look at the menus, as well as browse through the extensive
Moving to hardware,
Robert brought in a Quickshot SV-2000
arm which he had purchased for only $10 from an engineer in
Camarillo. It was similar in shape to the arms you see in commercials that
show auto manufacturing, but small and plastic. It could be
controlled via the Commodore 64, but Robert’s package did not
include the necessary cartridge. Robert was hoping to buy a replica
cartridge from Tim Harris at Sharewareplus.co.uk. However, the arm
could also be controlled with two joysticks, and we all enjoyed
playing with this new toy. (See
Dick had to leave relatively early, but the members carried on.Though Robert did not actually load anything from it, he
attached the new uCassette (microCassette, also from Tim Harris)
device to the club’s C128. With an audio player transmitting WAV
files through it into the computer, the user could load in programs
just as if he were using a datasette drive.
On the Amiga front,
Robert disassembled his Amiga 3000 in order to
install the ZorRAM 256 meg memory card bought from AmigaKit.com. It
was a snug fit to install that board into one of the computer’s
slots, and so, Robert held down the machine to keep it from sliding
on the tabletop while Roger pushed the board into the slot. The
computer was reassembled and powered up. Success! Instead of the
maximum 18 million bytes of Fast
that the computer formerly had, now it showed a whopping 284 million
we had no program that would tax the Fast
capacity of the Amiga, Robert booted up the naughty Leisure Suit
Larry 3, and Roger tried to maneuver around the landscape of this
the 100 degree heat outside, it was cool in Bobby Salazar’s
Mexican Restaurant on June 8, and FCUG members gathered for good
food, good conversation, and the latest in Commodore news.
Enjoying the day were
Robert Bernardo, Roger Van Pelt, Greg Dodd,
Louis Mazzei, Vincent Mazzei and Dick Estel.
Not computer-related but demonstrating the value of preventive
maintenance, the first thing we noticed as we each drove up to the
restaurant was that half the roof of a building across the street
was caved in, with a large air-conditioning system hanging at a
precarious angle. This was a somewhat historic building, having been
the site of Gospel Music and Supply Co. at least as far back as the
1950s, but more recently a furniture store. (See a photo here.)
Our waitress told us that the owner had been warned ten years ago to
make repairs, and we observed the cost of ignoring this advice. The
three people in the building at the time of the cave-in got out
safely, but there were gas and water leaks, and
Blackstone Avenue, the major street in front of the area, was closed for a day or
two, harming all local businesses and inconveniencing drivers.
brought some unexpected goodies. Long ago, probably in the
1990s, he had loaned some Commodore books to Betty Vasquez of
Visalia. She returned them, along with a jar of chocolate-covered raisins.
Even if we had no interest in the books, most of us enjoyed a
handful of raisins for dessert.
Notacon on April
12-13 in Cleveland, Ohio, Robert learned that the event had lost money and might not
continue. He is in discussion with the event organizers about making
a significant donation to help the event continue but is still
waiting for complete information. There’s more information here,
and you can see Robert’s photos from the 2011 show here.
Greg reported that his Amiga 2000 is taking an unreasonable amount
of time to boot up. Various causes were discussed, and it was noted
that some A2000s have displayed this behavior as a regular, if not
normal, feature. Greg may have to have the A2000 repaired again by
Duncan MacDougall of The Other Group of Amigoids in San Jose.
Next up we watched part of
Robert’s video from the Vintage
Computer Festival East, which took place in
in April. The subject was a talk by Zach Weddington, the filmmaker
who is doing a movie about the wonders of the Amiga. He showed
samples of the film, which should be completed this fall and which
is drawing interest from some cable channels. (There’s an earlier
Vintage East photo page here.)
Moving to vintage computers,
Robert brought in a PET 2001, a
computer which will be exhibited with cassette programs at the July
26-27 CommVEx. The PET 2001 came with a keyboard about the size of
that found on an iPad but with real keys and a cassette drive which
outwardly looked like an ordinary cassette deck complete with
microphone (photos here
and here). Roger
opened up the hood of the PET and examined the drive (it had a
volume control!) and the chips. Greg took photos of the interior,
remarking that he had never seen one before.There was a SYS number taped to the front of the machine, and
when Roger typed that in, the screen said, “c. PAICS 1979”.We did a Google search for that and found that it stood for
Palo Alto ICs. By typing in that SYS number, we engaged a BASIC
extension called the BASIC Programmer’s Toolkit, a 2K ROM which
contained an additional 10 commands useful for BASIC programming.
We also looked through a couple of boxes of very dusty 3.5” Amiga
disks which Robert had received as part of someone’s hardware and
software donation a while back. At first we could not get any of the
disks to work, but finally after going through 50 of them, we found
one that worked flawlessly – the game, Kickstart II. The other 49
were possibly damaged by dirt and old age over the years and were
discarded. With the computer as the opponent, Vincent tried it out
and became more proficient as he went through track after track of
Combining the ancient and modern,
Robert demonstrated two new games
for the VIC-20, FIFA World Cup (Soccer) 2014 and Ice Hockey 2014,
both programmed in BASIC by Jeff Daniels. Both games seemed
identical except for the playing field/surface. The players, five on
each side, were static and merely fired shots at the goalie. There
did not seem to be a way to control the angle of the shot, but we
agreed it was a good effort considering the computer’s limit of
Sunday, July 20, I arrived at Bobby Salazar's Restaurant at 10:25
a.m.—very early because I had come three hours from Castaic where I
had spent the night after Saturday's meeting of the Southern
California Commodore & Amiga Network. I immediately started
setting the equipment up. Vice-president Roger was the first to show
up, and I asked him whether or not my CD of photos had been given to
Dick Estel for posting on-line.
No, the CD was not delivered to Dick, and Dick would not be present
for this meeting.
and Greg showed up, and Greg reported that he had been having hard
drive problems with the Amiga 2000 that had been refurbished. I told
him that I would trade a working A2000 for his broken A2000 (how
many times had we already done that?!) Louis showed me an
road sign in Colorado which Dick had sent.
talked more about my recent Commodore/Amiga European travels to the
United Kingdom (AmigaKit, Psytronik/Binary Zone Interactive,
Lincolnshire Amiga Group, Tim Harris, Peter Hanson), Switzerland (Rob Clarke), the
Netherlands (Netherlands C= Show), Germany (Dienstagstreff C=
Meeting), and Italy/Austria (Mike Battilana of Cloanto).
Before I could get to show any photos or video of my travels, we had
a surprise visit from Richard Ciula, former worker at Software,
Etc.. Several months ago, he had brought a load of Amiga hardware
and disks to give to everyone. This time he brought more Amiga
disks, many of them software copies of demos, games, and copiers. We
were very grateful and talked some time with him.
of his surprise visit, we had no time to try out the updates to Jeff Jones' FIFA World Cup 2014
and Ice Hockey 2014 for the VIC-20, nor did we have time to try out
some programs to control the Quickshot SVI 2000 robot arm via the
special C64 user port interface cartridge.
we did have time to play around with several of the C64 games I had
obtained from Psytronik -- Souless, Darkness, Wooley Jumper, Guns 'N
Ghosts, Flubble & Squij, and Wanted: the Wild Bunch. They all
worked with the club's NTSC
C64, though there were a few PAL
video artifacts and Wanted was only partially JiffyDOS-compatible.
These games and more were going to be run at the Commodore Vegas
Expo the next weekend. Roger and Louis would not be able to go to
CommVEx, due to money issues, and Greg would not be able to come,
due to his schedule. Previously, I had known that Dick would not be
able to attend CommVEx. So, it seemed that I would be the only one
to go to CommVEx out of our local group.
August meeting had a lot of lively discussion of all kinds of
things, some of them even related to Commodore computers.
Participating were Robert Bernardo, Louis and Vincent Mazzei,
Roger Van Pelt,
Greg Dodd, and
There was considerable interest in the offer of an Atari Falcon from
1992, Atari's final computer product and a machine that is highly
admired by our two fans of that line of products, Louis and Greg. It
was agreed that Greg will be the lucky beneficiary of this gift. At
a future meeting, the rest of the membership looks forward to
getting a look at it and comparing its features to Amiga computers
of that time. See more about this machine here.
reported on this year's CommVEx in
There were 38 people in attendance, and we took in a little over
$900 in admission and raffle sales. With previous receipts during
the year, this gives us enough to pay for next year's event. There
had been a suggestion from some attendees to rent an additional room
or a bigger room, but after discussion it was felt that we could not
support this past one year, and it would be best to keep expenses to
the level that we have been able to easily cover the last few years.
had made a trip to Maple Falls, Washington,
just a few miles from the Canadian border, to pick up a bunch of
Commodore equipment. This included Waveform
Colortone keyboards, which work with the C64, Commodore and
Amiga mice, a 1750
expansion unit, 3 1581 drives, 3 Amiga 500's, 2 C128D's, a flat
C128, a 1541-II drive, and other items. There was also a CMD RAMLink
expansion device which will be a major raffle prize at the 2015
CommVEx. The larger, more complicated hardware was left to Ray
Carlsen for him to check out their functions.As for the rest of the hardware and software, the members at
the meeting helped themselves to the items which interested them.
There was also the Kinney Image-izer, C64 software for video
digitizer you had to build; we could not fully test since we didn't
have the necessary hardware on hand. However, we did show the demo
pictures that were on the disk.
Having recently visited Ray Carlsen in the Pacific Northwest, Robert
brought in a complete collection of the products Ray is selling.
These included the heavy-duty C64 power supply, the C128 adapter for
it, a Plus/4 adapter, and a power supply that works with both 1581
and 1541-II disk drives, and 3 different versions of the Computer
Saver. See more about these products at Ray's
web page and a photo of the items here.
his recent trip to Europe,
bought a large number of new commercial games from Psytronik/Binary
Zone in England.
We tested four of these last month and another four this time. Some
of them were based on arcade games with which various members were
meeting brought a rare visit by
Strait, along with four-year old William. In fact, all the “regulars”
were in attendance – Robert Bernardo, Dick Estel,
Roger Van Pelt, Louis and Vincent Mazzei, and
Before we did anything else, we all admired a piece of Commodore
equipment we had heard of but never had seen -- a Commodore
typewriter that Robert bought via Craig’s List in Las Vegas. It is a very sleek-looking machine, made in
Spain, and is in excellent working condition. There are photos on-line,
including one of William trying to figure out where the touch screen
In a final note from
CommVEx, Robert showed us a souvenir poker chip that was printed on a 3-D
printer, and given to everyone attending the show. There’s a photo
on line here.
Roger had claimed a Mach 128 cartridge from the material
Robert brought down from Washington (see the August report), and
reported that it is very fast – one of the best carts he has used,
providing “instant on” performance from the C64.
Next month we will skip our regular meeting and enjoy our annual
club dinner, open to spouses and children. The location chosen is Logan’s Roadhouse in the
area, at the regular meeting time.
and Greg both attended the
Classic Gaming Expo in
Las Vegas, along with hundreds of others.
Robert's photos are on-line at here
The next computer event of interest is the AmiWest Show, October 24
– 26 in Sacramento. Robert will attend the show and videotape the presentations.
Roger reported that he is having problems with his Commodore mouse.
Dick recalled that we had published an article on one possible fix a
number of years ago. We were able to find it on the club’s
Newsletter Articles Archive page, and email the
link to Roger. Although it may not be the answer, it gives him
something to try before paying for repairs or a new mouse.
After lunch and discussion, we tried out a C64 educational program
which consisted of the player trying to match jigsaw puzzle pieces
tested the three Amiga 500’s he had picked up in Washington,
including two power supplies. Opening the units up first revealed an
amazing collection of dirt, crud, and spider webs, which we cleaned
up a little. As it turned out, only one power supply and one
computer worked, the one with the sun-yellowed keys. Robert
hopes to create one really nice unit, by installing the clean
keyboard from one of the non-working machines.
October meeting was actually our annual club lunch, which evolved
from a picnic that was held for several years at the home of a
The rules for this event are different, and are as follows:
1. No official business is discussed.
2. There are no hardware or software demonstrations (I was about to
say there are no computers allowed, but let's face it, everyone has
their smart phone with them).
3. Families are invited.
4. The club pays for lunch.
5. We go to a different restaurant from the one at which we
This year we chose
's Roadhouse, a good barbecue place in the far northern reaches of
the city. We had a good turn-out, including Robert Bernardo, Roger
Van Pelt and his brother Aaron, Louis and Vincent Mazzei, and the
entire Dodd clan -- Greg, wife Krysta, and sons Gregory and
had a wide ranging discussion on many topics (computer stuff
included) and an excellent meal -- preceded by appetizer bags of
peanuts, whose shells we threw on the floor -- ending with the
traditional distribution of gift bags provided by President
Bernardo. Everyone is looking forward to doing the picnic lunch
again in 2015.
November, 2014 meeting of the Fresno Commodore User Group marked the
33rd anniversary of the club, founded in 1981. On hand were Robert Bernardo,
and daughter Katelyn, Louis and Vincent Mazzei,
Roger Van Pelt, and Dick Estel. None were present at the founding, but Dick has
been in the club since about 1988, and Robert joined soon after.
We had a slight delay getting started - Roger, keeper of the
equipment, is without his car for a while and was unable to use his
brother's as usual. Dick made the quick trip to Roger's and brought
him and the equipment back, and all was well.
Before the official start of the meeting,
Robert showed an on-line video preview of a documentary about Commodore
founder Jack Tramiel, which is in production and seeking financial
backing. It can be found here.
We also saw another short
video in which Jeri Ellsworth documented the packing and
shipping of the first production unit of the CastAR 3-D gaming
glasses she has been working on.
Vincent and Louis reported that they are working on a blue VIC-20
with white keyboard for Vincent, to complement Louis' red and white
Robert informed us he will be traveling to the
area during Thanksgiving vacation, to see the Trail
Band (featuring Rindy and
Marv Ross of Quarterflash).
He will also visit Ray Carlsen and will take any equipment that we
may have that needs repairs.
Speaking of Ray C,
he is now offering a power supply for the Amiga 500/600/1200 to go
along with his Commodore line.
In formal business, the club voted to make our annual donation to St.
Jude's Children's Hospital and to move the December meeting date
to December 14.
Hardware and software activities included a lot of games, including
the C64 DTV joystick which has 30 games built in and which Katelyn
enjoyed playing with. The club was celebrating the 10th anniversary
of the C64 DTV.
Robert had brought in a new, sleek, modern, joystick from
designed with arcade-type buttons, which we tested with the C64 and
VIC-20. It also worked with Amiga and Atari. There's a photo on-line
For the VIC-20, we tried out new 2014 games, Panicman - a
nicely-done PacMan game, Bounce - a slow-moving Pong-type game, and
Pulse - a snappy, sideways-scrolling shooter and the best of the
bunch. For the C64, we shot a few World War II targets in the game,
Silent Service (but we couldn't look at Silent Service II on the
Amiga 500, because we had the wrong video cable).
Robert had a Plus/4 diagnostic cartridge
built by his friend
Clarke, a British transplant living in
Unfortunately, it did not work with the
VIC we had on hand, so testing it was
delayed until we bring a
Plus/4 to a future meeting.
I was 32 minutes late to the meeting, due to my emergency pick-up of
v.p. Roger and the club equipment. When we arrived at the
restaurant, member Greg was already there, having waited about 20
minutes. After my many profuse apologies, we hauled the equipment
out of the car and started setting it up. Eventually, members Louis
and Vincent appeared, and we got down to ordering our food.
Under old business, I told of my Thanksgiving trip to the
which included a visit to Commodore repair tech, Ray Carlsen. I
picked up various repaired equipment from him and dropped other
items – an Amiga 1080 monitor for repair and many Chinese
chips for him to test. Those chips had been bought by Louis but had
lain for months without testing. He tested them and mailed them
back. Most of them were perfect!
The A1080 monitor was a different case. Ray informed me by e-mail
that he needed a schematic to repair the beast, and none were
available on-line. Louis said that he would try to find that
In new business, Greg talked about having an arcade party at his
house during the Christmas holidays and that we were invited – the
date to be announced. Then he gave a $10 Walmart gift card to
everyone at the meeting! We also talked about the May Maker Faire in
and hoped that there would be another Nostalgic Computers table in
which we could show off our Commodores and Amigas.
After lunch, we got down to hardware and software. First up, we
examined the new Amiga 500/600/1200 power supply from Ray Carlsen.
It is more powerful than the original p.s. and runs much cooler due
to its modern components. Then we tried out various programs on the
new Kerberos MIDI C64/128 cartridge from Frank Buss of
Though we did not have a
music keyboard to connect to the Kerberos, we were able to play
around with the
composing programs stored on the cart.
However, without more instructions on how to use them, we could only
go so far in running the programs. Because the Kerberos cartridge
also implements the EasyFlash cartridge, there was also a game or
two stored in its memory.
Before we carried on with more demonstrations, we had to do a bit of
customary December business (which I almost forgot to do!). We had
to elect the club officers. Through a simple motion and majority
acclamation, we re-elected myself as president, Roger as
vice-president, Dick Estel (in absentia) as treasurer, and Vincent
as the grand poobah of the VIC-20.
we were unable to carry on with any further demonstrations (VIC-20
and Amiga) that afternoon. The club's monitor failed in its display,
either due to bad video cables but more likely due to loose RCA
input jacks in the back of the monitor (not again!). The bad monitor
was left with Roger, and it will eventually be brought back to Ray
Carlsen for repair. In the meantime, we will use another Carlsen-repaired
monitor for future meetings. Even with the difficulties, we
adjourned the meeting at about
– our usual late adjournment.
The first meeting of the New Year started on a good note, with Robert, Dick and Roger arriving simultaneously, Dick having picked
up Roger and the equipment. Robert came in from
Stockton, and was worried about being delayed in the tule fog that plagues
each winter, but he encountered only a few short patches during his
130 mile drive.We were
soon joined by
and Greg Dodd. Louis Mazzei had already informed us that he and his
son Vincent would be absent.
Dick attached his CMD hard drive to the club C128, intending to do
some quick copies of the new member and library disks, but to no
avail. Whether it was disks or equipment we never learned, but we
switched over to the Warpspeed 2.0 cartridge and made copies the
old, slow way with three disk swaps required for each side (the hard
drive, if everything works right, allows copying a disk side in a
We had our usual pre-meeting discussion with a wide range of topics.
During the Christmas break from his teaching duties, Robert met with
two members from the northern part of the valley, who re-joined the
club. Welcome back Alfredo Mijango and Steve Dubois.
had also organized the jumble of equipment normally found in
the trunk of his Crown Victoria, putting most items into labeled
Dick presented the annual financial report. During the year, our
treasury had decreased by over $250, with the club lunch being the
biggest expense. In the past, much of our income came from equipment
sales, but over the last few years these funds had gone to CommVEx.
With this event now pretty much self-supporting, we will apply
future software and hardware sales to rebuilding the treasury.
Turning to the hardware part of the meeting, Robert talked about the
Amiga 1200 sitting on display at our tables. He mentioned that he
had an extra Blizzard 68030 accelerator for the Amiga 1200 and
perhaps that could be sold to raise funds for the treasury. He
guessed that it could bring in about $100 to $200.
From Duncan MacDougall, our Amiga repairman in the Bay Area, Robert received an Atari 5200, a cartridge-based game machine. This was met
with great interest and excitement by Greg Dodd, whose email name
says it all - ArcadeDude. The device can be connected to a TV or a
monitor, and we tested several of the games, like Pac-Man and
Dick gave a short demonstration of the CMD Hard Drive, especially
the menu system that can be programmed to load programs from any
partition on the drive or from an external drive.
had a disk of file conversion utilities that had been compiled by Al
Jackson of Las
and he demonstrated the D64 converter. It converts a full disk side
to or from a D64 file, which can be transferred via most any
computer. There were modules for 1571 and 1581 disks, and for
individual files or groups of files. The disk also included several
programs to transfer files between Commodore and Windows or MS-DOS
PCs, including Big Blue Reader, Little Red Reader, and Tiny Yellow
I arrived a few minutes before our appointed meeting time and
started setting up my hardware immediately. Vice-president Roger
came in a few minutes later and started unloading and setting up the
club equipment. A bit later Louis and Grand Poobah of the VIC 20,
Vincent, showed up.
As we ordered lunch, talk centered on websites from which to
download C64 software -- CSDB.dk, C64.com, and Pokefinder.org. From
master programmer Jim Butterfield, we saw a few minutes of the
beginning of his C64
Training Video, which formerly was on VHS tape and now has been
archived at YouTube.com. Though outsiders think the video to be dry
and uninteresting, we found it to be very informative.
Vincent informed us that he was going to display his classic VIC-20
set-up at the Commodore Vegas Expo this year, and I thought it was a
good idea, because I wouldn’t have to bring that set-up in my
crowded car. Roger told of a specific VIC-20 joystick that was
marketed back in the day by
; because I had never heard of that, we had to look for an image of
it on Google.
This month was the “catch-up” meeting, that is, we were to catch
up on the VIC-20, C64, Plus/4, and Amiga hardware and software that
we had not reviewed in previous meetings due to lack of time. One of
the bits of hardware was a Ray Carlsen-refurbished Sony GVM-1311Q
monitor, and we were going to try Commodores and Amigas with it.
We got to the new VIC-20 game, Super
Starship Attack from Flinale. It required 16K of
expansion, which Roger thoughtfully provided. With all that extra
RAM, we were treated to a very nice shoot-em up game, very C64-like in
quality. The Sony’s display was extra sharp and made the game
experience extra special.
We had the C16 up and running. We didn’t have any software to run
with it, but it was still a treat to see this VIC-20 successor. The
number 3 key was broken, and its remaining shaft would fall back
into the board, thus touching off dozens of 3’s across its
40-column screen. Vincent had a cure for that; hold the C16 upside
down, and it would work properly!
The C16 ran through the spare Magnavox LCD monitor.
Next up was some Plus/4 software to try, the newly-released SVS-Calc
2.0 spreadsheet. Unfortunately, both
Plus/4’s that I brought did not want to cooperate -- one worked
for a second before the screen went black and the other did not work
at all. I should have brought the more reliable, modded,
Roger had brought the new C64 game, Donkey
Kong Jr. 2014. He remarked that it was supposed to be a more
accurate representation of the arcade game. It played very smoothly,
and the graphics were more detailed than previous C64 Donkey Kongs.
Finally, we tried the Amiga 600 through the Sony monitor. Repaired
once before for its video, the A600 video problem was back. Its
signal was not being outputted into the Sony monitor, so we tried
the new Amiga
-to-S-video board. The S-video board worked, but the A600 colors
were wrong. Going through the board’s composite video output did
not cure the wrong colors. Finally, I hauled out the old Amiga 500
with Kickstart 1.2 and tried the S-video board. Success! A nice
sharp picture whether going through S-video or through its composite
output. We were only able to test still images and not a moving game
image, because the old Kickstart 1.2 did not like the game disks
which wanted 1.3. Lesson learned? Replace the old Kickstart chip
with the newer version.
Overall, it was a productive meeting, and the Sony monitor was
superb. I wonder how good the picture is on its big brother, the
Sony GVM-2020, which is for
a small group this time, just
Robert, Roger and Dick, but we still covered a lot of topics and tried
a bunch of software and hardware.
Robert reported that he had purchased a used C64 game disk, Jump Jet,
for $23 on
He had previously picked up a copy on cassette tape in a small,
dingy shop in
in the late 1990’s or early 2000’s, but it did not load. He will
demonstrate the program at the April meeting.
we got on the topic of dishwasher technology, which was of interest
to all three of us present, all having worked in restaurants where
the job was partially or completely manual. Dick had also served on
KP in the Army, where machinery took care of the “regular”
dishes, but big pots and pans had to be scrubbed by hand. We agreed
that this experience helped build character.
Robert went over a list of coming shows of interest to computer
Vintage Computer Festival East in
the week after Easter (Bil Herd will speak)
on May 2
on May 15 -17
on July 18 and 19
30th Anniversary at the
a week after CommVEx.
Robert will be attending Maker Faire, and of course,
Robert also told us about a project by Dallas Moore, who has acquired
the molds used to make Commodore computer cases, each mold weighing
about 5,000 pounds. He is running a Kickstarter campaign to raise
funds to make a run of C64C cases in red, white, blue, clear, and
beige, which will be available to contributors. More information can
be found here.
We had a show-and-tell session with some hardware items and on-line
previews of new software. This included a new C64 game, Hyperion,
with excellent graphics. You can see it here on
YouTube:Looking at it, the opening was reminiscent of the high
quality Commodore demos that were popular in the 1990s.
We also looked at an advance preview of a new C64 basketball
game, Stick It, coming soon.
Sweden, Robert showed us the new Amiga S-video
board, a device for the Amiga to
video output to S-Video or composite, as well as the latest HV SwinSID chip which is meant to
replace the original 6581 or 8580 chip in the C64.Though the HV SwinSID is more accurate in sound quality when
compared to older SwinSID chips, it still cannot be used with input
devices; thus, Koalapads, Commodore 1351 mice, and paddles will not
work with it.
Moving on to demos, we focused on the Commodore 128, celebrating its
30th anniversary, with the usual mixture of success and failure.
GEOS 128 refused to boot from
Robert’s CMD Hard Drive connected to his C128D, so that will have to
wait for another time.
However, Robert did show the 128 version of Fast Hack ‘Em 6.0, one of the
first quick copying programs for Commodore; Big Blue Reader 128, and
the text editing program Zed 0.77, which Robert used in lieu of a word processor for a number of years.
Write Stuff 128 on the hard drive, we also took a brief look at that
program and even read some archived e-mail messages that Robert
sent to Dick back in 2004!
After missing a few meetings,
and the Mazzei Boys (Dad Louis and son Vincent) were present, along
Roger Van Pelt, Robert Bernardo, and
For Show-and-Tell, Dick brought volume 1 of the newsletter archives,
which includes the very
first issue, dating from November, 1981. It was single
page which apparently was created with a typewriter and photocopied,
and contained eight practical tips for the Commodore user. This was
the focus of the first few issues -- no "articles" as
The members were very interested in the colorful Reset magazine,
issue #06, which came from
Australia.It came with a disk
full of C64 programs.Also
In the magazine Robert had an On the Road article about his trip to
last summer in order to rescue Commodore equipment.
Robert reported on the Kickstarter campaign to provide funding for
the Amiga 30thanniversary observation, July 25 and 26. The project achieved
its funding goal, and will move forward.
That reminded some of those present of other Kickstarter or similar
fund-raising campaigns which had been successful, often unexpectedly
In other show news, Vintage Computer Festival East was going on as
we met. Our friend from Canada, Leif Bloomquist, has posted photoson Facebook.
Everything is on track for CommVEx,
July 18 and 19 in Las Vegas. Major raffle prizes include a C128D, 1581 floppy drive, and a CMD
RAMLink. The biggest news was that C128 engineer Bil Herd will be
present and will speak.
Robert, Dick and the Mazzeis are all planning to attend. Vince will
bring his complete, original, chocolate brown VIC-20 system,
including a joystick and VICModem.
Robert will be participating in the 2015 Maker
Faire, May 15, 16, and 17 in San Mateo. Since this date conflicts with our meeting date, the May meeting
will be held on the 24th.
Last year at CommVEx Louis rebuilt an Atari CX40 joystick,
using modern parts to give a better feel to the stick movement and
fire button (action on the original was "mushy"). He
reported that the required parts are either no longer available or
are in very limited supply, and a rebuild such as he did would no
longer be possible.
Dick was going to a conference in southern
and had to leave after lunch and the business meeting, but he wanted
to see the GEOS 128 presentation.We agreed to delay that until the next meeting.Robert
carried on with the hardware/software part of the meeting.
First up was Jump Jet for the C64.Having had a non-working cassette version of the program for
years, Robert recently had bought the disk version from eBay, and the disk worked.With
very little practice, he and the other club members tried to fly the
Harrier jump jet off the deck of the aircraft carrier.Time and time again, they crashed the plane, but with each
practice they became better with the computer controls and stayed in
the air longer.Probably
after a good deal of practice, they would have had no problem flying
the plane and would be able to hunt the enemy airplanes in the game.
Afterwards, Roger gave a brief presentation of the
64 cartridge with add-on MP3@64 board.The MMC
64 came out in 2005 and was developed in Germany.Because Roger had it
for a month, he was familiar with its functions, and he had updated
it to the latest firmware and had installed some typical software --
games, music, and animation/movies.He showed how to navigate through its file browser and how to
use its function buttons.Because
64 used a SD card, loading programs was very fast.Not really meant for multi-file loading, the
64 loaded single files just fine.He ran a few files, the most impressive being the
music compositions and the demonstration .AVF movie clip which ran
at 10 frames a second.Unfortunately,
Roger was not able to demonstrate the MP3@64 board which plays MP3
sound files; no MP3 files were on the SD card.Perhaps by the next meeting, some nice music could be found
so that we could test out its abilities (maybe some Star Trek
amenable to creating a video presentation of the
64 for CommVEx.
Robert explored issues 34 and 35 of Loadstar 128 disk magazine, a
quarterly disk magazine which was last published many years ago.The disk had articles with commentary, reviews of hardware
and software, and software programs to run.The Loadstar 128 programs would run in 40 or 80 columns, but
Robert was looking for 80-column games.He found one to show which was akin to those woodblock
puzzles that a person would play, except instead of blocks of wood,
on the computer screen the user would move squares forward through
the puzzle; the trick was that the user could not move the squares
Robert was frustrated with this game and all woodblock puzzles, Louis
enjoyed the mental challenge and was able to proceed from level 1
and almost complete level 2.
We had a good meeting for May, with Louis, Vincent, Roger, Robert,
Greg and Dick in attendance.
had an exciting announcement regarding CommVEx.
At Maker Faire the previous weekend, a man came up and started
asking Robert questions about his Commodore background. The person
turned out to be Leonard Tramiel, son of late Commodore founder Jack
Tramiel. Leonard will be in
in July for an event and decided that he would also be able to
had many observations regarding the Nostalgic Computers
exhibit of which he was a part of at Maker Faire. He noted that with
hundreds of attendees going through the exhibit, it was standing
room only, and Robert stood for hours just to let others sit and use
the Commodore 128D and Amiga 3000 he had brought. Many attendees did
not know there was still hardware and software development for
Commodore and Amiga. Many did not know that there were still clubs
and shows devoted to these computers. Many did not know that the C64
Super Mario Bros was a re-done Great Giana Sisters game which itself
was a clone of the real Nintendo Super Mario Bros game. Many did not
know that the games Star Wars/Empire Strikes Back/Return of the Jedi
had been converted to run on an Amiga.
will be in Europe
on our regular June meeting date, so we rescheduled the meeting to
June 14. Robert will attend Amiga30
in Amsterdam, a celebration for the 30th anniversary of the Commodore Amiga
computer. Many Amiga VIP
's will be there.
Our demonstrations began with the long-delayed look at GEOS
128. The program booted up flawlessly from disk, and Robert did
a short demonstration of geoWrite. The 80-column version offers a
number of benefits over the original 40-column program, most notably
the display of the entire page width, instead of the annoying
sideways scrolling required in the C64 version. Several of us took a
turn typing some brief text, then experimenting with changing the
font selection and size.
The demo was of special interest to Dick. He no longer has a
Commodore set-up, but he used GEOS extensively in the past,
including producing the newsletter in geoPublish.
We also tried out geoPaint in both 80 and 40-column mode. The former
is limited to black and white, including various fill patterns, but
again allows viewing a full-page width.
Robert set up his Amiga
CDTV, first released in 1991. Designed as a game machine, it
contains what is essentially a complete Amiga 500, and with the
optional mouse, keyboard and floppy drive, it can be used as a
computer. However, we inserted a couple of the CDTV's proprietary
game discs, Wrath of the Demon and Defender of the Crown II. The
device has a large keypad, remote controller with numerous
specialized buttons in addition to the normal joystick commands.
The Mazzei boys had brought their fire engine red
VIC-20, and our first step was to run a joystick test program,
Contact, which advised us that the item we were using was "a
piece of cr*p." Regardless, the Wico joystick worked OK when we
tried out Panicman, a PacMan clone that both Louis and Greg put
through its paces, running up a respectable score. We also tried out
Address Book, an April Fool's program which looks like a boring
productivity program. However, when you picked most of the menu
choices, you'd get a rude beep and a notice which displayed,
"Access Denied." When you chose Play a Game, then you
would be led to a type of math game. Then we tried Knossoss, a maze
game which would show you a map of the maze at first, and then you'd
have to go down corridors in first-person, 3D perspective, trying to
figure out the maze.
to the C128, Robert ran an IPaint viewer for 16K video RAM
C128's. We looked at various, 80-column IPaint graphics which
natively displayed in 640 x 200, but because of the club's C128 with
RAM, we could only see a portrait-sized window into the full image. If
we had 64K video
RAM, we would have been able to see the entire picture.
The best IPaint
seemed to be the detailed Biplane. There were many Doodles which
were converted to IPaint, four Doodle images fitting in one IPaint
YouTube, Robert brought up a Computer
Chronicles show from 1985 on his Mac laptop, and we learned
about the "new" products coming from Commodore, including
the C128 and the Commodore LCD computer that never made it past the
When the members had left,
Robert and Roger stayed to do further
experimentation on the
64 cartridge with MP3@64 board. Would that combination play MP3
music? First, Robert downloaded onto his laptop some music from
Trekcore.com - the original series, one-minute Star Trek Theme and
the three-minute Goodbye Mr. Decker from the Doomsday Machine
episode of Star Trek. Then he moved the music to the SD card. He
inserted that SD card into the
64 and powered up the C128. Going to the File Browser, Robert found
the theme song and clicked on it. It played flawlessly at 256 kbits
per second... high-fidelity! Then for the second song, he clicked on
that. It had been recorded at a lower rate, 128 kbits, but it too
sounded fantastic. For the next meeting, Robert and Roger plan to
have a wider selection of music for the members to hear.
We'd like to take a paragraph or two here for a salute to Bobby
Salazar's Cantina, where we hold our meetings every month. They
have a small banquet room which they make available to us, despite
our small numbers. The service and the food are always good. Our
waitresses go out of their way to take care of us, and we are
allowed to occupy the room from
till around 4 p.m., although our total bill probably would not pay for such service in
The business started as Sal's in 1942 when Bobby's father, Sal, a
Mexican immigrant, decided there was more to life than picking
peaches and opened a restaurant in Selma, about 20 miles south of
Fresno. The family now operates several Bobby Salazar's locations,
and in Fresno, Madera
under the Sal's
Thanks to the management and staff for providing Fresno Commodore
User Group with one of the best meeting places we've had in many
June meeting was one of the rare ones; only two members were going
to be there, the other local members bowing out due to other
commitments. Nonetheless, Robert brought a carload of C= items as usual.
He arrived to the meeting on-time but had to tell the workers at
Bobby Salazar's Restaurant that he was going to leave briefly in
order to pick up another member (Roger) and that if any other
members appeared, they were to wait until his return. Over a half
hour later, Robert and Roger arrived and immediately started setting up the
Because Robert had to transport Roger, there was no room in the car to bring
the planned Amiga 1000. After another half hour of setting up
equipment, they finally settled down to order lunch. Robert talked about his plans to leave for Europe soon in order to
attend the June 20 Back In Time Live concert of C64 music in
Brighton, England, and the June 27 Amiga 30th
anniversary celebration in
On the laptop computer, they looked at the updated web pages for the
July 18-19 Commodore Vegas Expo.
Interspersed with all this Commodore talk was discussion about
Roger's rebuild of a classic 1980's Fisher boombox. Then they viewed
a new Bil Herd
interview which was posted to YouTube by Polish C= fans.
The interviewer was a young man who was going to university, and
some of his questions were unexpected ones which asked Bil for
career advice. For the fourth month in a row, the 30th anniversary
celebration of the C128 continued at the meeting; in honor of that
computer, they tried out some C128 games, courtesy of the GEnie
Commodore File Library at CBMFiles.com.
games were all text-based – Star Trek 80, Keno 128, Starfighter
128, and Trucker 128. They spent most of the time on Trucker128 –
a simulation which had the player drive a semi truck across the
and he had to do so without failing or dying. Because the game was
created in the 1980's, many details, such as the price of gasoline,
were from that time. Robert and Roger reasoned that those details could be updated by
changing certain BASIC lines in the program. In fact, the program
could be made even more interesting by introducing "racy"
elements in those details!
The rest of the time was spent going through the various programs on
64 cartridge and loading in more 128-bit Star Trek: Original Series
music which was played through its MP3@64 board.
Robert had to meet his sister in north Fresno, so the meeting was adjourned at
3:30. Time had run out in which to demonstrate the games Blazer and
Galaxy Apocalypse for the VIC-20; those games would be shown at a
Robert Bernardo &
arrived on time, just before , and was soon joined by...no one.
he waited. He checked email on his iPad. He ate chips and salsa and
he called Roger, who is always very responsible about getting the
equipment to the meeting on time. Because of the change from third
Sunday to second, Roger had forgotten about the meeting. His brother
had the only car, so he would have to be picked up.
Robert, would there be a meeting? Dick called
Robert, knowing he would get no answer if
Robert was not at home.
Robert’s cell phone is registered in Europe, and Dick didn’t have the number anyway.
No answer. Dick decided that if
Robert had not arrived by , he would eat lunch and then leave. First he decided to send an
Robert. He might get it on the road, but most likely not. Just
before Dick pressed “send,” in walked
Robert, with a sad tale of locking his keys inside the house.
Getting this resolved put him about 45 minutes behind time.
Dick then left to get Roger and the equipment, and soon all was
well, with only a 90-minute delay in getting things started.
The focus of conversation was
CommVEx, coming up the following
weekend. For the first time all the club officers will be present -
Robert, Roger, the Mazzeis, Dick, and newsletter editor Lenard
Roach. Roger will travel with
Robert who leaves Wednesday, and Dick will report on Friday evening.
Being a first-timer to
CommVEx, Roger had several questions about
the show, and Dick and
Robert answered all of them.
Having returned from a quick trip to
Europe, Robert showed some goodies he purchased there, including several
brand new C-64 games, an adapter to control the C-64 with a Play
Station controller, a
mouse to Amiga mouse adapter, and a virtual
drive that installs in the Amiga 500 to replace the mechanical
drive. It also works with the A1200, but requires substantial
modifications to the case.
He also showed the BenQ
monitor (pronounced Ben-Q), acquired in England
and the first monitor he’d ever purchased brand new. It was thin,
lightweight, and featured a nearly square screen, designed
especially for computers such as the Commodore Amiga. The BenQ
monitor was put through its paces, and it performed well with every
screen mode of
Robert’s Amiga 3000, quite a feat for a modern monitor in that
most of them cannot sync down to the Amiga’s 15 KHz signal.
then showed some video of bands he saw at the June 20 Back In
Time Live 2015 in Brighton, England, playing Commodore and Amiga game music on real instruments.
Finally he reported on his trip to
Amsterdam, Netherlands, for the Amiga 30th anniversary show. Speakers included Amiga
developers Dave Haynie, RJ Mical, and Carl Sassenrath. We watched
brief video excerpts from their talks.
For our software demos, we tested the games
Robert brought from England, with the usual results that some were very good, and some were a
bit hard to figure out. They were the new Psytronik/Binary Zone C64
games -- Rocket Smash EX, Kung Fu Maniacs Trilogy, Gravitrix, and
We also tried out classic C128 applications -- The Hunter (a hunting
test which showed we did not have good hunting knowledge), Morse
Code Tutor (which played back sounds that vice-president Roger could
decode), and Typing Tutor
(a simple keyboard typing program).
Robert Bernardo & Dick Estel
Mazzeis, Louis and Vincent, as well as Greg Dodd, made an
appearance after being absent the last month or two. Also present
were Robert Bernardo, Roger Van Pelt, and Dick Estel.
While we waited for our food, we looked at two photos of Robert at
the recent Star Trek Convention in
, posing in original series’ uniform on the
bridge and in the transporter. Getting these photos lightened
Robert’s account by a number of credits, but everyone agreed it
was worth the cost.
Next we had a lengthy discussion of funding for future CommVEx shows
. At the 2015 CommVEx, those present were invited to participate in
a discussion of the future of the event. The main focus was getting
a larger room and how to finance it. Various ideas were discussed,
including combinations of table sales, increased admission,
voluntary donations instead of admission, and free admission.
Dick presented an analysis of sources and amounts of income for the
past five years, and estimates for what we would receive under
various methods discussed. It was decided to continue with the
business model that has sustained CommVEx for the past ten years –
a flat admission for both days, no charge for table space, and no
change in raffle ticket prices. Since the cost of the larger room is
nearly double, the admission price will be set at $20, covering both
Saturday and Sunday.
Greg advised us that he would like to host a meeting at his house.
We will try to schedule this for November or December.
Louis stated that he is always on the lookout for supplies of
Commodore computer chips, so there will be some available for
members as needed. He also plans to give some to Ray Carlsen, who
recently gave him a power supply.
Greg brought in a rare Atari
Falcon computer, which had been highly modified, and which had
been given to him recently. Despite various attempts, it would not
work, and it will eventually go to Duncan MacDougall of The Other
Group of Amigoids for repairs.
Robert set up a VIC-20 and plugged in a new product, the Mini 32K
expander with DIP switches and a reset button. We looked at Pluto, a
new demo showing the famous Disney dog walking
along to the beat of a jaunty tune. Then he ran Boray Gammon, a
new backgammon game for the VIC.In the game, you can let the computer play itself, have
yourself play the computer, or have yourself play against another
person. Unfortunately, none of us knew how to play backgammon,
though Roger had an inkling of what to do, based on how his brother
played the game. Roger said that he will try the program at home and
see how his brother gets along with it.
Robert also made a Commodore disk from a D64 image using D64it for
the C64. That took several minutes, but after the process was over,
he had a disk of the latest graphics slideshow, Botticelli
Bilderdisk 40, for the Plus/4. Using a
Plus/4, Robert ran the disk's first program, which was the
introductory screen, and then the first graphic, which was of an
evil locomotive. But when the space bar was pressed on the computer
so that the next image could be displayed, there would be many
video artifacts, and the next image would never be displayed. Though
Bilderdisk was advertised to be both
video-compatible, we found it to be only partially
In a more successful presentation, Robert loaded Robert
“Hydrophilic” Willie’s BASIC 7.80, which makes certain C128
graphic commands work in both 40 and 80-column mode.
As the meeting wound down, Robert powered up the Amiga
CDTV, which now boasts a matching keyboard and mouse.
Robert Bernardo &
The September meeting brought together most of the regulars - Robert Bernardo
Roger Van Pelt
, Louis and Vincent Mazzei, and
, along with son Gregory, whom we haven't seen for a while.
There was some further discussion about next year's CommVEx, since
one of the sponsors had asked us to reconsider the pricing plan. The
consensus of the group was to stick with the plan, $20 admission
covering both days, and no charge for tables.
Next month we do not have our regular meeting, since it is the
annual club lunch. The date was moved to October 11, and the
location will be the Grub House on
December's meeting will also be special, since we will travel to
Patterson and meet at Greg's house, where we will finally get to see
his arcade game collection and other equipment.
Louis brought two boxes of 3.5" double density disks for
whoever wanted them; Greg was the first to claim them.
The disk, from 1984, was surprisingly sophisticated in operation,
but the favorite thing on it was the game section, which captured
the attention of Gregory, usually not a big Commodore fan. He
quickly grasped the concept of some tricky game play, tried out a
number of the games, and even understood the flow of the BASIC 2.0
which was used in creating the games.
Robert then showed us a very nice, graphical, 80-column game for the
C128, Alien Invaders. Once again Gregory was the best player.
Moving on to other software and hardware, Louis set up his
red-painted VIC-20 with newly-installed JiffyDOS. Unfortunately, it
did not want to start up. Robert then set up his well-used VIC-20 with JiffyDOS while Louis
investigated what was wrong with his. Robert tried to demonstrate eight, previously unreleased System IIII
games for the VIC-20. Some of the games required that the 1 or 2 key
be pressed. Robert discovered the 1 and 2 keys on his VIC were not working, and so,
only about half the games were demoed -- Adventure World, Ms. Pacman,
VICeye Arcade Game, and Video Quest. Once again, Gregory was the
tester for all of the games.
Robert decided his VIC will have to go to Ray Carlsen for repair.
Louis determined what was the problem in his VIC -- the JiffyDOS. As
soon as that chip was removed, the computer was fine.
The Amiga 1200 had its own problems. Two newly-refurbished power
supplies both failed to get it running, though the second one got to
a Workbench screen but with no icons. The power supplies will have
to go back to Duncan MacDougall of The Other Group of Amigoids for
further testing and repair.
brought Peter Hanson's heavily-optioned PAL
Plus/4 in order to run the Botticelli Bilderdisk 40 slideshow of
pictures. The artful pictures were a great way to end the meeting.
by Robert Bernardo &
As always, our October meeting was
actually our annual club lunch, which evolved from a picnic that was
held for several years at the home of a former member.
Since this is not a “meeting,” the rules are different:
No official business is discussed.
2. There are no hardware or software demonstrations (I was about to
say there are no computers allowed, but let's face it, everyone has
their smart phone with them).
3. Families are invited.
4. The club pays for lunch.
5. We go to a different restaurant from the one at which we
Robert Bernardo, Dick Estel, Roger Van Pelt, Aaron Van Pelt, Louis and Sophia Mazzei
and son Vincent, Greg and Krysta Dodd and sons Gregory and
Kristopher gathered at Guri’s Grub House, a restaurant that
specializes in locally sourced foods.
Everyone enjoyed their choices, from appetizers to sinfully
delicious desserts (mainly chocolate brownie cake with ice cream and
caramel topping). We had a fun discussion of various topics,
naturally including computers.
In another tradition (or is it rule #6?), at the end of the meal
Robert distributed gift grab bags to all the members.
the success of this year’s event, it’s 100% guaranteed to be
repeated again in 2016.
Robert Bernardo &
We had the usual attendance, Robert, Roger, Greg, Louis, Vincent and
Dick, all hungry and ready for a good Mexican dinner, good talk
about Commodore, and some interesting software and hardware demos.
It was noted that this month marks the 34th anniversary
of the founding of the club.
Obtained from the SC3 Arcade Party and the Southern California
Commodore & Amiga Network meeting, Robert once again had some
items to give away, including an empty C64 case, and a rare Tandy
102 laptop, both claimed by Louis. There was also a Commodore
-801 printer, which had no takers.
However, there were also
C64 game cartridges and a broken C64, the
C64 and a few of the cartridges being claimed by Roger.
Greg advised us that he has a conflict and can’t host the December
meeting, so it will be at our regular Fresno location, and we will
travel to Patterson, about 100 miles northwest, for the January 17
The issue of admission vs. table rental for
CommVEx (July 30-31 in
) was discussed once again. It was pointed out that expected table
rentals, at any reasonable price, could not produce enough income to
assure the continued existence of the event. The decision stands to
charge $20 admission for the event (covers both days) with no charge
Robert reported that the Vintage Computer Festival will return in
after an absence of several years. It will be in August at the Computer
in San Jose.
Attendance was up at the recent Amiga show, AmiWest in
Sacramento, and Robert is planning a Commodore exhibit for the 2016 Maker
Faire in San Mateo
In presentations, for the VIC-20 we tried out a couple of new games
- the very entertaining, action-packed, space-shooter Pulse, and the
more strategy-based Demons of Dex. For the C64, we tried out the
preview of the adventure, Athanor: The Awakening, but Robert
couldn’t get very far with his limited knowledge of the parser
vocabulary; he kept going around and around in the same area of the
adventure without any exploration farther out.
For the C128, Roger understood how to play Monty Hall, a text
simulation which uses the Basic 7.0’s RANDOM function and
challenges the player to pick among 3 choices in order to earn
money. We also tried Robert Willie’s alpha version of
128 (Software Activated Mouth), but because Reciter, the easy-to-use
input module for the English language, had not been converted to
128, we had to use phonemic language to get
to speak. After much trying, we got
128 to say, “Hello”. We had more success in just running the
128 demo which spoke a complete, pre-programmed sentence.
For the classic Amiga, we tried out a few random, graphics, and
games disks from the massive disk collection of Jason Forster. We
used an Amiga 500 with 1 meg. of Chip
and switchable Kickstart 1.3 and 3.1. Some of the disks ran, some
, some needed
-only video. Many days of investigation would be needed to catalog
each disk and determine the requirements of each disk.
By Robert Bernardo
Though the December meeting began late due to miscommunications, we
finally gathered at Bobby Salazar's Mexican Restaurant. In
attendance were Robert, Roger, Louis, and Vincent.
As lunch proceeded, we voted to keep the same roster of FCUG
officers for 2016 and to send our annual donation to St. Jude
Robert reported that if the Nostalgic Computers exhibit is approved
for the 2016 Maker Faire in
, he plans to have a VIC-20 set-up and an Amiga 1200 set-up on
display. Because V.P. Roger still did not have transportation to and
from meetings, other than his brother's car, Robert offered to loan
one of his father's old vehicles –- an early 80's (but later
discovered to be 1979) Cadillac DeVille. The only problem would be
that it would cost $800 to get it running again (mainly tires and
battery); Roger would pay for the registration and smogging. Roger
declined the offer.
After lunch finished, we settled down to watch William Shatner in
his pre-PET/VIC-20 days narrating the 1976 AT&T show, Microworld.
Basically, it was a video of how the components were made for
computers and how computers can deal with data.
Then we had some adventure gaming time! For the VIC-20, we tried out
at the classic, The Lair, and for the C128, it was the semi-classic
Westfront to Apse. Unfortunately, the newly-redone Ultima IV
Remastered for the C64 would not run from the SD card drive which
Robert brought; that program would have to be converted to a real
disk for use in a future meeting.
Once again, Robert did not get very far in the adventure gaming
department, though Roger was more successful in understanding and
using the adventure commands. In fact, Roger was so intrigued with
the VIC-20's Lair that he said he would try out more of it at home.
For the Amiga, we examined the Kickstart adapter kit for the Amiga
1000. It would take a little bit of soldering to install it, and in
addition to the Kickstart 1.3 that was already in the A1000, it
would need a KS 2.04 chip (KS 3.1 would be overkill for the
requirements of the machine).
Finally, we played with newly-released beta version of BoulderDash
128 by Jason "Pyrofer" Wright. Jason was an attendee at
CommVEx 2015 and had come all the way from
to show off his 80-column
adapter prototypes. Now he had developed the first 80-column C128
game seen in years, and it was quite a nice port of the original C64
game. The character,
, moved across the screen briskly, and the boulders fell well.
Robert thought the boulders didn't fall fast enough, because
could move out of the way if he were quick enough. However, it was
later confirmed that in the original game,
had the same characteristics. In fact, BoulderDash 128 emulates the
original version's screen very well. One thing Robert and the others
agreed was that it was difficult to see the exit to the next level;
if the exit were to have a contrasting color to the background, then
the player wouldn't have a hard time searching the 80-column screen.
The only thing the beta version needed was music and/or sound
effects and perhaps more levels. Jason had admitted that music and
sound effects were last on his to-do list, because he had to
understand where to use them in the computer's memory.
The long-awaited visit to Greg Dodd’s home in Patterson, about two
hours north of Fresno, finally took place on January 17. The
main reason to have our meeting there, of course, was to see and
play with Greg’s collection of arcade games, and it was everything
we expected and more.
Roger rode with Dick from
Fresno, while Robert drove in from his
parents’ house in Stockton, a short half hour trip.
Since we had not had lunch, we all got in Greg’s SUV and went
across town to the Pizza Factory,
a chain that specializes in putting their restaurants in smaller
towns. Pizza Factory started in the Sierra foothill communities of
Oakhurst and Mariposa and spread throughout the western states. Dick
had eaten in nearly a dozen of their locations and recommended them
without reservation. Greg and his acquaintances were happy that the
chain had just opened in Patterson.
When we arrived at the Pizza Factory, we met Duncan MacDougall.
Duncan, a member of The Other Group of Amigoids (Amiga club) in San Jose, came from his home in that area and had
been invited to join the meeting at Greg’s. For lunch, Dick had a
sandwich while Roger, Duncan, Robert, and Greg had the pizza buffet.
Back at Greg’s, our first stop was his computer room. It was the
first time for us, and our jaws dropped as we gazed on an amazing
collection of game machines, controllers, and software. It’s
probably not true, but the first impression was that Greg had one of
every game machine ever made, as well as Atari and Commodore
Cartridges and boxed software were displayed neatly on a number of
shelves around the room, and it would not be exaggerating to say
that this is what gamer’s heaven must look like.
Next we went out to what was once the garage and had been converted
to an arcade; Robert had been there before. Narrow walkways wound
around a dozen or so game consoles – pinball, sit-down racing
machines, Pac-Man, Star Wars, and classic shooter games.
From then on it was “kids in a candy store” time, with everyone
going from game to game, testing his skill. Even Dick, who has never
been very interested in games, tried his hand at pinball and Pac-Man,
complaining that the latter was too fast compared to the Commodore
version (in other words, he died a lot).
All too soon Dick and Roger had to leave, with a two-hour trip back
to Fresno. Robert and Duncan stayed and retired
with Greg to the computer room. There they talked about the
consoles, about the computers, and about modding and hacking the
machines. Duncan, the hardware repairperson, examined
Greg’s Amiga 500 and two of Robert’s A500’s, giving
suggestions on how to improve them and how to repair certain
As the sun started to set, Robert and Duncan decided it was time to
leave. Clearly having enjoyed their visit, they thanked Greg for his
of Greg’s computer room are on line here
Robert Bernardo & Dick Estel
Our regulars were all on hand for the February meeting: president
Robert Bernardo, vice-president Roger Van Pelt, secretary-treasurer
Dick Estel, Grand Exalted Poobah of the VIC-20 Vincent Mazzei, board
member Louis Mazzei, and member Greg Dodd. As usual, Greg won the
prize for traveling the longest distance for approximately the 38th
While we started our lunch, we were serenaded with Commodore
music by 8-Bit Weapon’s (Seth and Michelle Sternberger) latest
Language: Ambient Music for Deprogramming.” Departing from their
usual up-tempo material, they had created a collection of background
Dick reported that the
series of articles is coming to an end soon. He will now begin a
series of biographical articles on current members and will be
sending a questionnaire to be completed. Only half-jokingly, he
warned that failure to return the form would result in facts being
made up from thin air (perhaps a suitable approach during an
Maker Faire will take place in
in mid-May, and Robert will show off a VIC-20 and an Amiga 1200. He
joked that last year the public wanted to see a Texas Instruments
TI-99 computer at the display, and he may well have to bring one to
satisfy the crowd this year.
We watched the beginning of a newly-released video, “Growing the
8-Bit Generation,” which features Jack Tramiel’s last interview.
We will look at more of this fascinating production during future
meetings. A preview can be found on line here.
Several months ago Dick received an email from a former Commodore
user who had seen some of the Commodore-to-JPG graphics Dick posted
example). He asked if the original Commodore graphics were
Dick found them on his CMD hard drive and was ready to send two 3.5
disks to the gentleman. However, it turned out the user did not
really want “original Commodore graphics” but a .D81 or other
disk image version for use with an emulator.
Robert agreed to attempt a conversion and set up the program
-Command, which is supposed to create .D81’s on the Commodore.
Unfortunately, the interface was not intuitive, and the instructions
were not clear. Robert was able to transfer the files from the
3.5” disk to a flash drive, but it did not create the needed .D81.
Roger thought that he could accomplish the task with equipment and
software he had at home and took the disks with him. After about a
week, he was successful, and the files have been sent to our
correspondent, who was delighted with the results.
Hardware and software demos continued. After a bit of playing with
the keyboard, we ran a few sound samples from the Megalosound 8-Bit
Stereo Sampler for the classic Amiga. Also for the Amiga, we saw a
few of the latest European demos.
For the Commodore 128, we tried out Robert Willie’s latest version
(Software Activated Mouth) 128, which was supposed to be compatible
with the SuperCPU 128. At 20 MHz. on the SCPU, the voice sample
included with the program ran too fast and was unintelligible. At 1
MHz. on the SCPU, the voice sample ran very, very slowly. At 2 MHz.
on the SCPU, the voice sample sounded correct. Without the SCPU, at
1 MHz. the voice sample sounded correct, but at 2 MHz. the voice
sample ran fast. Conclusion – Willie will have to work on the
program’s compatibility some more.
In hardware we examined the 4 MHz. RS65C02 CPU which replaces the
6502 chip in the VIC-20 and the SmartBasic.net Null Phone Adapter
which allows you to connect two computers and allow them to
communicate to each other via their respective term programs.
By Robert Bernardo
Greg was under the weather and not up for the two hour drive from
Patterson, but the rest of the regulars gathered at Bobby Salazar's
Cantina on March 13, a week earlier than usual.
Robert, Roger, Dick, Louis and Vincent had all remembered to set their
clocks ahead the night before.
Once again we enjoyed the unusual music of
and 8-Bit Weapon as background to our conversation.
Robert will be attending Silicon
Valley Comic Con in
next weekend. He wanted to show a Commodore, but will not have a
table. He showed us a clear vinyl backpack that he found, that
nicely holds a C64 -- a combination that is not too heavy to carry
around for the day.
At the last meeting we were unable to create .D81 files of some
Commodore graphics that an out-of-state user had requested. Roger
thought he had a method that would work and took the original disks
home. He used a null modem cable, RS232 adaptor, and the Novaterm
9.6 terminal program. On the PC end he connected a VIC-1011A
cartridge with the Mincom terminal editor to his Linux PC, and used
zmodem protocol to transfer the files. At 2400 baud it was a slow
process, but all 200 files made the trip successfully.
He then used Directory Master to create empty .D81 images and
imported the files into them. The finished results were sent by
email, and the recipient replied that they worked perfectly. Roger
and Robert will look into creating a video demonstration of that process to
show in at this year's Commodore Vegas
Expo. (More Vegas Expo here)
When lunch was concluded, we watched part 2 of the newly-released
video, "Growing the 8-Bit Generation," which features Jack
Tramiel's last interview. This is a high quality, professional
production, and we look forward to seeing more of it in the future.
Louis had what appeared to be an ordinary C64C sitting on the table,
but he began describing what's inside
the case. It's something completely alien to Commodore - a
Windows XP PC complete with a one GHz. Pentium processor, one Gb of
, cooling fan, and more. With the proper connections the original
Commodore keyboard becomes a
keyboard, although there are certain compromises, for example, no
10-key calculator pad.
It was a tight fit, but he got everything in it; with everything
plugged in, it has just a 16 watt power draw, less than some compact
fluorescent bulbs. The total cost was around $150, not including
some recycled parts that he had "lying around." He was
hoping not to open it up until CommVEx, but when it did not boot up
during his demonstration, he removed the cover and we got a look
Louis was supposed to show how the ZoomFloppy device installed in
his "C64bit" machine could easily create and dearchive
.D64's, .D71's, and .D81's. However, for the rest of the meeting, he
tried to troubleshoot its boot-up problems. By meeting's end, he
diagnosed it to an underpowered power supply that was not giving
enough juice to all the devices in the machine. When he removed
nearly everything from the electric buss, then it would boot
properly. He promised to have a more powerful power supply to run
the machine at the next meeting.
Robert was having his own computer problems, too. With D64it, he was
supposed to dearchive the .D64 of the latest
128 and run it from disk. However, for some reason the 1571 drive
did not want to cooperate, i.e., it did not want to dearchive the
.D64 to disk. This had never been a problem in the past.
Robert would have to de-archive the .D64 at home with a 1541 drive or
get Roger's help to build a disk of
What was a success was
Robert's presentation of Bomberland, a C64 cartridge game from 2013 and
released by Retro
Gamer CD of England. Costing between $50 and $60 to get it to
, Robert bought it, because it was advertised to be enhanced when used
with the C128.
Robert, Roger, and Vincent all tried the game, and Robert and Roger thought that the only C128 enhancement was that the
game de-archived faster from its ROM at start-up.
Bomberland is a 1 to 4-player game and features large sprites for
the characters, colorful passages for the characters to go through,
and great music. Though the characters move somewhat slower than the
earlier Bombmania, the game still has plenty of action to satisfy
By Robert Bernardo
Everyone was back in good health this month, so we had full
attendance on April 17, our normal meeting date, but an hour earlier
than usual. Greg, Robert, Roger, Dick, Louis, and Vincent all made it more or less on
time. The time change was because Robert was going to accompany his father, a World War II and Korean War
veteran, on an Honor Flight
next week and had to be at a pre-flight meeting by
There was plenty of new business on the agenda, including an
announcement by Greg that he will host a barbecue/swim party/gaming
event at his home this summer.
We also heard about a new Commodore game box, reminiscent of the
failed C64x, which is trying to be crowd-funded on Indiegogo. It
will be available as The 64 desk computer or The 64SX hand-held
device with its own screen.
Robert mentioned a brand new Commodore club, the Bay Area Commodore
Collective, founded in February of this year. There’s a separate
article on this historic event in this issue of the Interface.
Louis told of son Vincent’s latest achievement, adding a purple
belt in goju-ryu,
a variation of karate. Just hearing the effort involved made us
older folks tired. Arriving at the test location at
, Vincent had to jog for five miles, complete a one and a half hour
workout, six katas (movements) twice each, 4 full-speed, full-power,
self-defense exercises; a 7-minute punch/kick-out, 600 push-ups, and
600 sit-ups. The members commended Vincent on both the physical and
mental discipline required to accomplish this honor.
Louis regretfully announced that Lucille, the PC in a C64C case, had
been laid to rest, the challenges of getting enough power to run the
expanded machine having stopped him for the time being. The project
will be resurrected in the future as soon as he gets a new Pico
board for it.
We learned that Athana
had ended production of 5.25 inch floppies, Athana being the last
such facility to produce disks in the U.S. Remaining stock will be
available while it lasts at $11 for ten disks. Also no longer made
Commodore cases produced from the original molds. The molds had
been sold to Jens Schoenfeld in
, who is expected to make the product available in the future, at
Francois “Eslapion” Leveille of Montreal, Canada is distributing
the new PLAnkton and PLAkate boards which replace the classic MOS
chips in various Commodore computers and disk drives.
The September meeting will be held one week later, because Robert will be traveling and talking Commodore/Amiga with users in the
southern hemisphere, with stops in New Zealand and Australia.
When lunch was concluded, we watched part 3 of the just-released
video, "Growing the 8-Bit Generation." Although much of
the film focuses on Commodore, this particular segment included
discussion of Apple’s place in the early days and featured Steve
With time running out, we got busy with the demonstration part of
Several months ago Roger took home
PowerPad, a large, square device which takes overlays for
various games and educational applications. It is operated with what
is essentially an early-day tablet technique. Roger was able to
obtain the pin-out information for the connecting cable which had
been missing, and he got the device working. His efforts also
included taking the PowerPad apart and cleaning corroded contacts.
The item still needed a bit more work and remained in Roger’s
capable hands after the meeting.
The PowerPad system consisted of operating software (on a
cartridge), the input device (the pad measuring 17 by 14 inches with
a 12-inch square drawing surface), and individual program overlay
(which is placed on the pad’s drawing surface). We tried out a
golf game, which first required pressing the pad for club selection.
Then the player had to input the desired azimuth on a 360 degree
circle and press another button to take the shot.
Since none of us had any type of golf skills, we tended to run up
double-digit scores on our first attempts. Roger had practiced at
home and did manage a few respectable holes. Louis likened the game
to that of Artillery Duel in that the player had to input trajectory
The only other demo we had time for was a blast from the past. From
the hardware/software collection of Gerald Oborn, Robert had discovered some Fresno Commodore User Group disks – one of
them being the April, 1991 Disk of the Month (
’s were put together by the late Lloyd
Warren and sold to members for $3 each. The only one of us who
was in the club back then was Dick, who was a bit disconcerted to
realize how quickly that quarter century had gone by.
We tried out several things on the disk, including an Academy Awards
trivia quiz (that needs updating to 2016) and a graphics display
program that brought up several Doodle and Koala pictures that none
of us had ever seen before.
The collection included half a dozen of our old
’s, and we look forward to trying a couple more of them at future
meetings. (The April 1991
almost didn’t happen: Read about here.)
Robert Bernardo &
was on board for a fast-paced May meeting – Louis, Vincent, Greg, Robert, Roger and
lunch we discussed CommVEx,
films about Jack Tramiel, Maker Faire, and a variety of other
In addition to watching another installment of "Growing the
8-Bit Generation," we learned that an overseas filmmaker is
planning another film focusing on Jack Tramiel, but taking “a
different approach,” whatever that may be.
Robert will be going to Maker Faire the coming weekend, showing off
VIC-20 and Amiga 1200 set-up's. And Dick offered to contact two
individuals who may be willing to make presentations at CommVEx.
Dick announced that he will be reducing his participation in club
meetings and will probably attend four to six meetings per year. He
will continue to handle all other club duties.
He also advised members that he will be sending out questionnaires
in order to write biographical articles on each member for the
Dick reported that he had received an email from a new club, the New
England Commodore Enthusiasts. It is essentially a Facebook
group, with no actual meetings at this time.
During the meeting we had a visit from Randy
Smith, who was a member long ago in the 1980s and 90s. He is
still a Commodore user and needed a new monitor for use with his
C128D. Robert was able to provide one from his extensive hardware
Robert and Dick enjoyed getting back in touch with Randy, who was meeting the
other members for the first time.
Robert set up his VIC-20 which has been modified to use S-video and loaded up
the demo version of a game called “Pulse,” which several members
tried out. Robert will show the
full version of the game at Maker Faire.
Robert also showed the Behr-Bonz
cartridge, a newly released game cart with 127 classic VIC-20
games. There was no case, but the device will fit into a standard
VIC-20 cartridge case.
Finally, Robert hooked up a
dusty Blue Chip 128 (1571 clone) drive that he pulled from storage,
only to discover that it would not work. It will make a trip to
Washington and Ray Carlsen’s shop next time Robert heads to the
We also took a quick look at another 25-year old FCUGDisk
of the Month, this one from February 1991.
While these demos were going on, Louis opened up his red
VIC-20 to install a new 65C02 P4 4 Mhz chip from Rockwell. The
computer won’t run at that speed, but the chip runs cooler than
the standard CPU. At the end of the meeting, he also installed one
in Robert's VIC and heat-sinked that chip.
(Keep up with what's going to happen at CommVEx here.)
by Robert Bernardo
I was the
first to arrive to our scheduled meeting on June 12, followed by
Greg, Louis and Vincent, and Roger. Treasurer/secretary Dick was
arrival of Roger, he and I immediately got to setting up the
equipment, Roger with the club C128 set-up and me with the VIC-20
and Amiga 1200 set-up's.
lunch, we started the meeting. There was no old business that anyone
could think of. However, we did have discussion about the July 30-31
Commodore Vegas Expo; Jim Drew had new hardware to exhibit at the
show, and CBM engineer Bill Seiler was coming in to speak about his
involvement with the VIC-20. Though Louis had his doubts about
attending CommVEx, when he and Vincent heard about Bill attending
the expo, he definitely said that they would be attending, Vincent
wanting to get his VIC-20 autographed by Bill.
business, Louis started off with a reports about the C64 Reloaded
and the proposed Amiga Reloaded boards from Individual Computers.
with my report on another successful Vintage Computer Festivalers'
exhibit at the Bay Area Maker Faire this year. Once again hundreds
of faire attendees went through the exhibit with me showing off the
VIC-20, Amiga 1200, and Texas Instruments TI-99/A. Once again the
reactions of the attendees ranged from “Oh, my God... I'm in
heaven” to “Thank you very much doing this” to “I used
this/these when I was growing up” to “This is a floppy
disk/cassette/cartridge and we would load our programs from it.”
Once again the exhibit won an award as being one of the best at
Greg ended the new business segment of the meeting with a downer. He
reported that he might be moving to South Haven in northern
Mississippi. Almost his entire computer and arcade machine
collection would be following him there. We would lose a faithful
Next we saw
another 20 minutes of the video, Growing the 8-Bit Generation. While
we were doing so, Randy Smith visited in order to turn in the
Commodore monitor which he received at the May meeting. The
40/80-column switch on it was acting up, and I said that the monitor
would go to Ray Carlsen for repair. Randy also gave a CMD hard drive
for Ray to repair, the front panel switches not working reliably on
the unit. After watching a bit of the video with us, Randy then
started the hardware portion of the meeting. In order to use the
ZoomFloppy, Louis tried to install applications on the two Windows
XP laptops that I brought. Without the applications the ZoomFloppy
would not be able to convert disk images into real floppy disks that
the Commodores could use. Ultimately, by the end of the meeting,
Louis was unsuccessful in installing the applications.
On the Amiga
1200 I showed off two of the most popular games that were played at
Maker Faire – Rodland, a cute Japanese-style platformer, and
Fightin' Spirit, an arcade-style fighting game. Vincent and Greg
amused themselves with the many vintage games which were in the
Behr-Bonz cartridge installed in the VIC-20. In fact, at that moment
Greg e-mailed the creator of the cartridge, Francois “Eslapion”
Leveille, in order to buy a cartridge, even though Greg did not have
a VIC-20 in his collection.
We took a
brief look at the Chalkboard PowerPad tablet, this time with Leo's
Lectric Paintbrush for the C64, though we did not run .D64 for the
program. We'll have to schedule more time for it at the next
the meeting ran late, and the last of us did not leave until almost
by Robert Bernardo
We had our FCUG meeting
one week later than usual, because I was out-of-town in the Pacific
Northwest and member Greg was out-of-town at the California Extreme
pinball show. In attendance at the meeting were myself, Greg, Roger,
Louis, and Vincent.
We actually stayed
on-schedule and on-agenda. We ordered lunch and went about talking
about old business and new business. Not having any old business, in
new business we talked about the upcoming Commodore Vegas Expo.
Louis and Vincent were excited that they were going to meet CBM
engineer Bill Seiler at the show. I reported that on my trip to
Oregon I had bought hundreds of dollars of electrical extension
cables and 12-outlet power strips (no sales tax in Oregon) for the
expanded CommVEx room. I told that I had met with the Portland
Commodore User Group and had a contact who would send the UNIX
installation CD for my Amiga 3000. I also reported that Ray Carlsen
had donated much Commodore PET hardware for CommVEx and that it was
still sitting in the back seat of my car. I reported that I had a
successful meeting with the events coordinator of Seattle's Living
Computer Museum and that a new show, the Pacific Commodore Expo NW,
was to be held there. Finally, I reported that I had gone to the
Commodore 64 Users of Greater Victoria (British Columbia, Canada)
and that they were lending their support for the new show.
At the end of lunch, we
finished watching the video documentary, "Growing the 8-Bit
Generation," and then watched the trailer for the new Viva
In hardware, Louis opened
up the Ray Carlsen-modded, early VIC-20 and Carlsen-modded Plus/4
that I had brought back from Ray. Louis opened up his VIC-20 to
compare it with the Carlsen-modded one, noting that Carlsen did a
s-video modification and built a homemade heatsink which was placed
on the CPU. The Plus/4 had a heatsink placed over most of the chips
and also a cooling fan installed.
For the fourth month in a
row, the Chalkboard PowerPad returned, this time with the
music-composing program, MicroMaestro. Roger was very interested in
trying out this addition to the PowerPad line of applications, and
he did his best in trying to compose a tune with it. For CommVEx,
Roger also agreed to videotape presentations on C64-to-Linux
transfers and the Chalkboard PowerPad applications. We would film
those on Monday in Fresno.
We also punched the
buttons on the Kim Uno, a modern clone of the classic KIM-1, but
being that we weren't programmers, we didn't get very far.
As usual, we ended late,
but we were thoroughly happy with the meeting.
It was a fun
meeting on August 21, with good attendance - Robert, Roger, Greg,
Louis, Vincent, and Dick.
Louis and Dick reported on CommVEx, which was a big success. We had
a larger room with plenty of room for exhibits, sales tables and
presentations. Admission and raffle sales brought in enough that we
need only an additional $100 to pay for the large room for 2017.
Robert also told the group about a new Commodore show that we will
help present in 2017. PaCommEx, the Pacific Commodore Expo
Northwest, will be held June 9 and 10 at the Living
Computer Museum in Seattle. Clubs from Oregon, Washington and
British Columbia will join FCUG in putting on the show. There will
be no rental fee, no sales, and no raffles, and admission will be
paid to the museum, greatly simplifying preparation for the event.
reported that he may be ordering from China some original MOS
chips, which are the sound and video chips for the Commodore 16
and the Plus/4.
stayed in Las Vegas for five days of the Creation Star Trek
Convention, will beam up again, or at least beam out on the ocean,
for a January Star Trek Caribbean cruise which will be graced by
William Shatner. The cruise had been sold out for months, but at the
convention he found out that cabins had opened up. He immediately
reserved the cheapest cabin. Now that he is assured of getting on
the cruise, his main problem will be what Commodore item he would
have Shatner autograph.
be traveling even before that, with a trip to New Zealand and
Australia in September. He will meet with Commodore individuals and
groups in both countries.
our conversation veered off in multiple directions, with a long bull
session about Star Trek, CommVEx, and the use of drones.
to the hardware table, we drooled over Robert's very sharp-looking
Commodore electro-mechanical adding
machine. It seemed to have some sticky keys, but once they had
been properly exercised, it worked fine.
showed a West German-made VIC
20 which he purchased in England some years ago. He had never
powered it up, due to a two-prong electrical input only used in
Europe. He will look into having Ray Carlsen modify the motherboard
with an input used in North America so that he could use North
American power supplies.
Greg was not
to be outdone in the hardware department, having brought in a giant
Atari Edladdin Super 78 Joystick
which he won at the recent Atari Party in Davis.
software, Robert demonstrated some 40-column C-128 games and a
drawing program written by our member in Los Gatos, Ricardo Quesada.
They were created when he was still in his native Argentina in the
late 80's and early 90's, and the text was in Spanish, but we were
able to figure out how to play some of them. Robert also had a bunch
of assorted C128 programs, including a CP/M productivity packages
that included a word processor and a database program.
September meeting will be one week later than usual, September 25.
With the temperature close to 100 degrees, only the calendar told us
it was fall as we gathered for the September meeting. We had full
attendance, plus two guests. Members included Robert Bernardo
Roger Van Pelt
, Vincent Mazzei,
, Greg Dodd, and
Chris Brenner drove the three hours from
to show us some very exciting hardware, and Roger and his equipment
were brought by his brother Aaron, who stayed for lunch and the
Louis passed around his Raspberry
Pi, which is described on a web
site as “a tiny and affordable computer that you can use to learn
programming through fun, practical projects.” It’s about the
size of a deck of cards. The Pi recently reached the 10 million unit
mark in sales, and the news said that it would be challenging the
C64’s 17-30 million record in sales.
Robert announced that the website for the Pacific Commodore Expo
North (PaCommEx) was now live. The event will be held at the
on June 10 and 11, 2017.Our
sister club, the Southern California Commodore & Amiga Network,
also had a new
In Commodore Vegas Expo matters, Robert reported that a Plaza Hotel contract for next year still had not
been signed; the hotel had been waiting for the ballrooms to be
refurbished and could not confirm any reservation dates until they
were finished. However, the hotel’s sales manager assured
Robert that the contract terms would be the same with the use of
Ballroom 9, and if no one was using Ballroom 8, that would be
included for free.
Greg talked about his dream arcade room that he hopes to set up at
his place in Patterson. If it gets done, it will be a large,
insulated building with blacklight carpet and his collection of
classic arcade game consoles.
Louis offered free of charge some new HD 3.5” floppy disks which
he rescued from being thrown in the trash at his workplace. He had
about eight boxes of 20 disks each.
When we moved to the hardware area, Chris showed us his pride and
joy, an Atari 2600 recreated as a Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA).
He had been working on it for a decade and recently came up with his
idea for the box to put it in. It’s designed to look like a
Walkman cassette player but accepts Atari cartridges, as well as
some original hardware Chris designed for various purposes that fit
in the port. It all fed into an HDMI monitor that allowed the
selection of various resolutions.
Among the things he showed us, in addition to Atari games, were
perfect renditions of the PacMan and Ms. PacMan arcade games
(vertical layout), and a
Commodore 64 complete with FastLoad. With the C64 core loaded into
the FPGA, Chris showed how accurately his 1990’s Digimaster
audio-capturing application worked. Then he loaded in a C64 game to
show how it replicated sprites and music. One thing that he had not
tested on the FPGA was whether it could handle the complicated
effects of a C64 demo.
Chris could not make it to CommVEx this year, and he had a standing
invitation for next year. His more immediate need was whether he
could exhibit his device at the Amiwest Show 2016 on October 9-10.
The president of the Sacramento Amiga Computer Club, the club which
runs Amiwest, had not responded to any of Chris’ e-mails.
Robert thought there might be a way for Chris to contact another
Amiwest attendee and have the exhibit on his table.
Robert brought in a composite/s-video-to-VGA converter, borrowed from
of the Clark County Commodore Computer Club of Las Vegas. He tested
its composite output to the BenQ BL912 VGA monitor he brought, but
with the club’s C128 in 40-column C128 mode or in C64 mode, the
VGA picture bloomed too much, and there was ghosting around the
on-screen characters and borders. He theorized that with an s-video
cable connection, the picture would look better, but he didn’t
bring that cable with him. He also tried an eBay
composite/s-video-to-HDMI converter with Chris’ HDMI monitor. The
results were much better with a more accurate picture, though the
picture was always displayed as widescreen instead of the
Commodore’s original square screen.
In software, Robert showed off two C64 games revamped for 2015, Commando Arcade SE
and Ghosts’n Goblins Arcade, both improved versions of the
1980’s originals. An enthusiastic Greg played with both of them,
verified that they were better, and wanted disk copies of both.
Meanwhile, Vincent took photographs of the various Amiga screen
modes outputted by
Robert’s Amiga 1200 to the BenQ VGA monitor. A forum member from
Amiga.org wanted to know how that particular BenQ dealt with the
different screen mode resolutions, and the photographs would help
him decide if the BenQ was a worthy monitor to buy.
At the very end of the meeting, Louis tested Greg’s newly-bought,
very clean VIC-20. After checking that it worked properly, Louis
opened it up and attached a heatsink to the computer’s CPU. Then
he tested the machine again to determine that all was well.
Robert Bernardo &
upon a time the Fresno Commodore User Group had an outdoor picnic in
the beautiful backyard of the late Sandy and Ingrid Dippolet. After
their passing, at least one picnic was held in the little, somewhat
scuzzy backyard of
. As our membership declined, we came in from the outdoors and
turned this annual event into a restaurant lunch.
it's NOT a regular meeting, because:
No official business is discussed.
There are no hardware or software demonstrations, and no Commodore
Families are invited.
The club pays for lunch.
We go to a different restaurant from the one at which we regularly
year Robert Bernardo,
Roger Van Pelt
, Aaron Van Pelt, Louis and son Vincent Mazzei, Greg and Krysta Dodd
and sons Gregory and Kristopher gathered at the Mad Duck, a popular
restaurant near the state university in
enjoyed their choices, with one member declaring his meal the best
hamburger he had ever had. Dick could only eat half his French dip
beef sandwich and was heading out of town right from lunch, so he
offered the leftovers to the group. Louis claimed the goodies,
stating that Vincent (age 14) would be hungry before they got home.
In fairness to Vincent, it's at least an hour's drive.
had a fun discussion of various topics, naturally including
Robert was dismayed when he realized that he had forgotten another
tradition of the lunch; he failed to bring the gift grab bags he
always hands out to all the members. He promised to remedy this
oversight at the next regular meeting.
the years, these events have always brought good food and good
company, and we hope they continue for many years.