FCUG Meeting Reports Page 1

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.

Latest Meeting Report     Older Meeting Reports          Commodore Links

2016     2015     2014     2013     2012     2011     2010

2017 and later years are on Page 2

    

Latest Meeting Report

December 2016

All our 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 in January.

His presence 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 it.

On his 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 released.

That early 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.

In official 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.

Dick brought 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.

Having 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.

For the 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.

Robert 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.

Next we 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.

Then we 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.

For the 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 game, Encounter.

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 first

2010
February    March    April    May    June    July
August
    September    October    November    December

 

February 2010

Starting 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 Fresno(two branches).

Robert 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.

Robert 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 copies onDVD 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 impressive.

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.

 

March 2010

We had a special guest at our March 21 meeting, Leif Bloomquist of 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 home page.

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.

Finally 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 itinerary.

  

April 2010

This 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.

Robert 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 in 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 at Blip.tv

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 Cleveland.

Robert 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 VIC-20 malfunction.

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.

   

May 2010

We 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 of 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.

Due to schedule conflicts, the June meeting was moved to June 6.

    

June 2010

At the June meeting we had the usual complement of Robert Bernardo, Dick Estel, 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.

Robert 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.

Robert 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 Robert's "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 digital cameras.

     
July 2010

(No meeting notes found)

     

August 2010

In 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.

Robert 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 two years.

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 and here.

The 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.

     

September 2010

Coming out for the September meeting and lunch were three of FCUG’s stalwart regulars, Robert Bernardo, Brad Strait , and Dick 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.

Robert 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 . The big 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.

Some 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, CBM -Command, and 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.

Finally, 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 , probably on October 15, 16, or 17.

     
October 2010

(No report found)

     

November 2010

Our 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 Estel.

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.

Robert 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 also 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).

Robert 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 C64.

Another project, a RF adapter for the C64 joystick ports which uses the Amiga CDTV remote control, is moving along slowly in its development.  

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.

     

December 2010

On 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 Brad Strait 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 Loadstar files

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 CommVEx.

Robert passed around the latest copy of Commodore Free, a monthly Commodore magazine published in England . Robert also 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. And here's another site with some cool stuff about Jeri.  

Robert 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

C64) 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.

Robert 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 it.

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 specialties.

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.

      

2011
January
    February    March    April    May    June    July
August
    September    October    November    December

January 2011

The year kicked off with what we consider full attendance of our local members, Robert Bernardo, Brad Strait , Dick Estel, 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 .

Robert 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 expansions.Using that 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, Robert passed 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 transfers.

Robert 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: 

Commodore128.org: <http://www.commodore128.org/index.php?action=forum>

http://www.commodore128.org/index.php?action=forum

Commodore.ca: <http://www.commodore.ca/forum> http://www.commodore.ca/forum

Commmodore Computer Club UK : <http://www.commodorecomputerclub.co.uk/forums>

http://www.commodorecomputerclub.co.uk/forums

CompSysCBM:<http://groups.google.com/group/comp.sys.cbm/topics>

http://groups.google.com/group/comp.sys.cbm/topics

Denial VIC-20:<http://sleepingelephant.com/ipw-web/bulletin/bb/index.php>

http://sleepingelephant.com/ipw-web/bulletin/bb/index.php

Lemon 64:<http://www.lemon64.com/> http://www.lemon64.com/

Retro-Link:<http://retro-link.com/smf/> http://retro-link.com/smf

Plus Four World:<http://plus4world.powweb.com/> http://plus4world.powweb.com/

PETSCII.com:<http://jledger.proboards.com/index.cgi> http://jledger.proboards.com/index.cgi

     

February 2011

The 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 the 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 year's CommVEx.

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.com Each 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 CRT t.v. with RF connections.

Food-wise, it was typical Panera Bread fare -- tasty, fresh, if a bit overly-salted.The 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.

     

March 2011

There's 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 , West Sussex , England . Although Robert 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 Joaquin Valley 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 Pleasanton , California .

FCUG members in attendance besides our president included Brad Strait and Dick Estel.

     

April 2011

Every 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 11 a.m. 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 Robert reporting 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 Cleveland

After old business, Robert showed off the A1200 with its variety of games and demo programs, ready to be exhibited for Notacon.

Robert 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.

Finally, 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.

I 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.

   

May 2011

To add excitement to this month's meeting, Dick ordered a side of hot wings for all to share. After eating his sandwich, Brad Strait was 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.

Robert 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 near future.

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 American games.

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+ presentations. 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 2011

The June meeting was attended by a very select few, namely Robert and Dick.

Robert 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..

Creation 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 prizes.

For the demonstration part of the program, we looked at Robert's 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).

Robert 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.

Last 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.

     

July 2011

July's 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 Vegas Tuesday, and everything is as ready as possible.

Robert gave a report on his recent trip to England and the 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!]

From 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 transportation.

     

August 2011

Once again we had the full complement of four local members for August: Robert Bernardo , Roger Van Pelt , Brad Strait , and Dick Estel .

Robert 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 Amiga CD32.

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).

Robert 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 6400.

Robert 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.

     

September 2011

Brad Strait and 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 , a 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 available.

Robert 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 , is now down.

The annual club dinner (successor of the former club picnic) will be held at the regular meeting time, Sunday, October 16, 11 a.m. , at a restaurant to be determined. Dick will coordinate the planning via e-mail.

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.

Robert 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 Manassas, Virginia.

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 .

     

October 2011

Back 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, Brad Strait 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 Company.

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.

We had a great lunch, good conversation, and enjoyed getting together with one of our "alumni," and we'll do it all again next year.

     
November 2011

(No November meeting notes found)

     

December 2011

by Robert Bernardo

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 ( MCC -216) with the latest cores and more games, copying a Bombjack.org DVD disc which was full of Commodore magazine scans ( Roger 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 card.

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 in north Fresno before heading off to Stockton for the Christmas holidays.

   

2012
January
    February    March    April    May    June    July
August
    September    October    November    December

     

January 2012

We 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.

Robert 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).

Robert 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.

Robert 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.

     

February 2012

By Robert Bernardo

On Feb. 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 to cross Fresno and get to the Panera Bread Restaurant in Clovis.

Because 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.

The 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. Everything that I had planned on the meeting agenda 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.

However, I decided against that, thinking that I should return back home in Visalia early and take a nap.

   

March 2012

Stormy 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 down in 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 Commodore 128’sRGB 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 Robert had 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 appears again.

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.

      

April 2012

In 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.

A nice obituary can be found here.

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 the PET.

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 retirement, Stan!

      
May 2012

We had full attendance of our now five local regulars, Robert Bernardo, Roger Van Pelt, Brad Strait, Louie Mazzei, and Dick Estel. And thanks to Louie, we welcomed a new member, his father Robert, 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 event.

Roger 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 print ads.

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.

Photos from May 2012 meeting

      
June 2012

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 seen one.

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!

--Robert Bernardo

     

July 2012

We had a good turnout for the July meeting, with Robert, Roger, Louie and Dick in attendance, while Brad was out-of-town.

Robert 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 of computers.

Robert 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.

Robert brought in a pair of Haitex 3D glasses for the Amiga, originally released in 1988, which he bought on eBay 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.

We 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.

After 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.

     
August 2012

As we moved to a new location, we had almost 100% local attendance, plus a guest. The Valley regulars included Roger Van Pelt, Robert Bernardo, Dick Estel, Louis Mazzei, and his son Vincent, our newest member. Joining us from the Netherlands was Daniel Strang.

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 SID 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 different.

Meanwhile, Vincent played with drawing programs on the Amiga 3000 which was borrowed from Richard Hough of Tulare.

Robert 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.

Robert will attend the AmiWest show in Sacramento in October. This event will be at a new location due to scheduling conflicts.

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.

     
September 2012

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” lunch.

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 is possible!).

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 video.

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.

--RB

     
October 2012

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 Strait, Roger Van Pelt, Robert Bernardo, Louis Mazzei, Vincent Mazzei and Dick Estel.

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.

Roger 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 Northridge, California.

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 each year.

--DE  

   
November 2012

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 three trips.

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 food.

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 us eat.

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 unreadable.

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 Hummer (Louis).

Despite the length of the meeting, it was fun and interesting throughout, and we will be back to do it again in December.

     

December 2012

We had 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 USB 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 two.

  

2013
January
    February    March    April    May    June    July
August
    September    October    November    December

  

January 2013

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 Alfredo Mijango , another SX owner, as well as Robert's modded SX, which was still with Ray Carlsen for keyboard repair.

Also present were Roger Van Pelt and Louis and Vincent Mazzei, who brought Vincent’s rare, silver-labeled VIC-20.

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 noon, 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 in Amsterdam.

He explained that he and the Dutch users had met during the afternoon from about 1 to 5 p.m. (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 signed off.

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 and 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 Louis Mazzei to replace Bill Gilbert on the board of directors. Vincent Mazzei was appointed Grand Exalted Poobah of the VIC-20 (GEP of VIC).

Dick reported on a phone conversation with Del Contreras, former FCUG technician. Del 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 Randy Smith visited to pick up a C128D keyboard that Robert sold him. He spoke at length with Roger and briefly with Louis. During his brief visit, he discussed GEOS and RAM expansion, tweaking Roger ’s curiosity about Wheels, the newer operating system which can use GEOS applications. Roger had never seen Wheels in operation. Perhaps a Wheels presentation is in order.

 

February 2013

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 our food.

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 malfunction.

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 port.

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 wrong voltage.

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.

  

March 2013

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 below!)

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 those dots.

Perhaps at the next meeting, we should give those games another go now that we have those instructions.

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 day.

Everybody helped me pack up the car, Louis and Vincent left, and Roger and I hung around another hour just to decompress.

   

April 2013

Although he is sometimes late because he thinks the meeting starts at 11:30, 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 – Robert Bernardo, Brad Strait, Roger Van Pelt, Louis and Vincent Mazzei, and Dick Estel. Local actually covers a wide area of the central San Joaquin Valley. Roger is the only one with a Fresno address. Robert lives in Visalia and the Mazzei’s in Farmersville, both in neighboring Tulare County, while Dick and Brad are residents of Clovis, 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.

Around noon 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 Charlotte stopped by, and they got to see the commercial also. It’s on line at https://blip.tv/episode/6559074. There will be a version 3.1 to correct a spelling error in the credits.

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.

We 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.

In the 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 RAM Expansion Memory.

In the software part of our meeting, we looked at a few of the early, simple VIC-20 programs from the Jeff 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.

  

May 2013

The May 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 Larry Anderson is expected to attend. Louis will be prepared to man the registration desk if Larry and Dick are not able to do so.

Roger 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.

The PETdisk for the Robert's PET 4032 was uncooperative, but Brad enjoyed keying some BASIC lines into the computer.

  

June 2013

For 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 Apple laptop.

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 SID Symphony cartridge.

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.

Finally 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 included:

1. Two rebuilt, upgraded C64 power supplies from Duncan, the repair tech for The Other Group of Amigoids (TOGA), based in San Jose. These have better quality, modern components, and are very light in weight compared to the original CBM products.

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 developer.

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 VDC 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.

  

July 2013

It was a hot, Hot, HOT day in 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 Robert, 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 in it.

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 Las Vegas 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 4 p.m.

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 appearances.

Robert reported on his attendance at Atari Party 2013, held July 6 at the Yolo County Public Library in Davis, 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 ( MMC -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. Roger went home and brought back two Scott Adams games which we tested to good effect.

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 lot, we transferred the many Commodore and Amiga goods headed for CommVEx out of Robert's car and into Dick's truck. Dick had kindly lent the truck for Robert's trip to Las Vegas for CommVEx.  After the show, when Robert was to return to Fresno, they would trade vehicles and goods again.

For more information about products and services mentioned above, visit the following websites:

William Shatner: http://williamshatner.com/ws/

Vorpal Utility Disk: http://csdb.dk/release/?id=100535

Vic-Voder: http://www.geocities.ws/cbm/vic-voder/vic-voder.html

Multiple Classic Computer 216: http://www.mcc-home.com/

CommVex: http://www.portcommodore.com/dokuwiki/doku.php?id=commvex:news

RetroGaming Radio: http://www.retrogamingradio.com/

Atari Party Photos: http://www.dickestel.com/atari13.htm  

  

August 2013

It was 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 being.

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 Ciula, who 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 CommVEx, which 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 Visalia 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.

Louis plugged 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 Strait 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 Winner joystick.

  

September 2013

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 Mazzei, 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 Amiga games for them. They came for the quesadillas, but stayed for the games!

Since the last meeting Robert's CommVEx photos have been added to the FCUG website here. (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 98.

Roger 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 China offering lots of "shiny, new" SID 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 eBay 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 unreasonable.

Roger 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 like this.

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 games Robert 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.

  

October 2013

Back 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 free lunch.

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.

Robert 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.

In a tradition that has gone on for many years, Robert handed out gift bags with a small, non-computer item to everyone.

      

November 2103

We 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, Brad Strait 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 anyway).

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 store here, or log on to the FCUG home page and click on “CommVEx 2014” near the top.

Robert 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 CBM from 1978-1984. The new book was to be the completion of this project, covering CBM 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.

While 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 computer.

Robert brought a table of stuff he acquired at the Computer Station in Long Beach, 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.

Robert is working with a group of California 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 Mountain View, 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.

  

December 2013

Illness and family obligations kept half our members away from the December meeting, so it was just Greg and Gregory Dodd, RobertBernardo, and Dick Estel.

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 Oregon and brought back Louis Mazzei '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 examine it.

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 RAM.

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.

Although not present, Roger Van Pelt 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. Rob ert remarked that after playing Gorf awhile, the voice seemed to be making fun of him!

   

2014
January
    February    March    April    May    June    July

August    September    October    November    December

 

January 2014

We were back to "full" attendance this month with Brad 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 below).

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 Station in 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 technician Ray Carlsen had repaired.

Looking ahead, Robert will be attending the Vintage East Computer Festival in Wall, New Jersey the first weekend in April, and Notacon 11 in Cleveland, Ohio on the second weekend. Due to Easter falling on the third Sunday, the meeting that month will be April 27.

 

February 2014

For 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 attendees.

We 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.

In 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.

In 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 vice-president. You’ll have to take over.”  After telling him that I’d advise him how to run a meeting, he agreed.

On 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 was for
sale in
Westminster, followed by a YouTube video of the arcade game in action.

We 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 daisywheel printer.  From 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.

Dodge 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.

While 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 didn’t know.

I 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 "transport" mode. It 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.

With 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.

Nevertheless, 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.

Also 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.

With 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.

Something 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 repair. Greg wouldn’t 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.

It was nearly 5 p.m. 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 parking lot.

--RB

 

March 2014

I arrived at Bobby Salazar's Restaurant about 5 before 11, and I started setting out the equipment. Member Greg was already there, and he was soon followed by v.p. Roger and much later, members Louis M. and son Vincent.

Member Brad had already e-mailed his apologies that he wasn't going to make the meeting, and treasurer Dick was absent, too.

As 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 FCUG 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!).

As 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.

Wow, 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!

He 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.

He 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 Sunnyvale and consults/advises others on how to keep their mainframe computers going, like the Living History Computer Museum 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 the CRT 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 PAL -only and thus would not work on our NTSC VIC-20.

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 PAL -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 4:30 , but I couldn't hang around afterwards, because I had errands to run.

--RB

  

April 2014

For 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 meeting.

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 Poland 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 site, here..

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 English words.

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.

by DE & RB

 

May 2014

In 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.

Robert presented a film on the Internet that was produced by his students at John Muir Middle School 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.

Robert 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.

Robert 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.

Robert 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 back-up).

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, Duncan 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.

Robert 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 Europe 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 times.

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 manual.

Moving to hardware, Robert brought in a Quickshot SV-2000 robotic 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 more pictures here.)

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 Zorro III 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 RAM that the computer formerly had, now it showed a whopping 284 million bytes!

Though we had no program that would tax the Fast RAM capacity of the Amiga, Robert booted up the naughty Leisure Suit Larry 3, and Roger tried to maneuver around the landscape of this graphical adventure.

 

June 2014

Despite 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.

Robert 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.

While attending 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 New Jersey 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 motorcycle jumps.

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 3.5K free RAM.

 

July 2014

by Robert Bernardo

On 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.

Louis 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 interesting C64 road sign in Colorado which Dick had sent.

I 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.

Because 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.

However, 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 2014

The 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 Dick Estel.

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.

Robert reported on this year's CommVEx in Las Vegas 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.

Robert 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 RAM 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.

On his recent trip to Europe, Rob ert 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 familiar.

 

September 2014

September’s meeting brought a rare visit by Brad 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 Greg Dodd.

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 is.

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 River Park area, at the regular meeting time.

Robert and Greg both attended the Classic Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, along with hundreds of others. Robert's photos are on-line at here and 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 on-screen.

Robert 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 2014

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.

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 regularly meet.

This year we chose Logan '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 Kristopher.

We 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

The November, 2014 meeting of the Fresno Commodore User Group marked the 33rd anniversary of the club, founded in 1981. On hand were Robert Bernardo, Brad Strait 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 model.

Robert informed us he will be traveling to the Portland 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 AmigaKit.com, 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 here.

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 Rob Clarke, a British transplant living in Switzerland Unfortunately, it did not work with the PAL VIC we had on hand, so testing it was delayed until we bring a NTSC Plus/4 to a future meeting.

 

December 2014

by Robert Bernardo

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 Pacific Northwest 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 SID 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 schematic.

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 San Mateo 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 Germany Though we did not have a MIDI music keyboard to connect to the Kerberos, we were able to play around with the SID and MIDI 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. However, 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 3:30 – our usual late adjournment.

   

2015
January
    February    March    April    May    June    July

August    September    October    November    December

 
January 2015

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 the San Joaquin Valley each winter, but he encountered only a few short patches during his 130 mile drive.  We were soon joined by Brad Strait 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 single pass).

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.

Robert had also organized the jumble of equipment normally found in the trunk of his Crown Victoria, putting most items into labeled boxes.

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 Breakout.

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.

Robert had a disk of file conversion utilities that had been compiled by Al Jackson of Las Vegas , 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 Brother.

 

February 2015

by Robert Bernardo

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 CBM ; 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 RAM 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 NTSC 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, PAL Plus/4.

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 RGB signal was not being outputted into the Sony monitor, so we tried the new Amiga RGB -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 sale at eBay.com.

 

March 2015

by Robert Bernardo & Dick Estel

We had 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 eBay He had previously picked up a copy on cassette tape in a small, dingy shop in London in the late 1990’s or early 2000’s, but it did not load. He will demonstrate the program at the April meeting.

Somehow 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 hobbyists:

Vintage Computer Festival East in New Jersey the week after Easter (Bil Herd will speak)

Atari Party in Davis, CA on May 2 

Maker Faire in San Mateo, CA on May 15 -17

CommVEx v11 in Las Vegas on July 18 and 19

Amiga 30th Anniversary at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA a week after CommVEx.

Robert will be attending Maker Faire, and of course, CommVEx.

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.

From Sweden, Robert showed us the new Amiga S-video board, a device for the Amiga to convert its RGB 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.

Noticing 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!

 

April 2015

After missing a few meetings, Greg Dodd and the Mazzei Boys (Dad Louis and son Vincent) were present, along with Roger Van Pelt, Robert Bernardo, and Dick Estel.

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 such.

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 the Pacific Northwest last summer in order to rescue Commodore equipment.

Robert reported on the Kickstarter campaign to provide funding for the Amiga 30th anniversary 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 so.

In other show news, Vintage Computer Festival East was going on as we met. Our friend from Canada, Leif Bloomquist, has posted photos on 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 California 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 MMC 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 the MMC 64 used a SD card, loading programs was very fast. Not really meant for multi-file loading, the MMC 64 loaded single files just fine. He ran a few files, the most impressive being the SID 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 music!).  Roger was amenable to creating a video presentation of the MMC 64 for CommVEx.

Finally, 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 backward.  Though 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.

 

May 2015

We had a good meeting for May, with Louis, Vincent, Roger, Robert, Greg and Dick in attendance.

Robert 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 Las Vegas in July for an event and decided that he would also be able to attend CommVEx.

Robert 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.

Robert 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.

Next 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.

Back 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 16K video 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 image.

Finally from 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 prototype stage.

When the members had left, Robert and Roger stayed to do further experimentation on the MMC 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 MMC 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 11 a.m. till around 4 p.m., although our total bill probably would not pay for such service in many places.

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 and Selma under the Sal's name.

Thanks to the management and staff for providing Fresno Commodore User Group with one of the best meeting places we've had in many years.

 

June 2015

by Robert Bernardo

The 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 equipment.

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 Amsterdam.

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.

The 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 United States 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 Robert's MMC 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 future meeting.

 

July 2015

by Robert Bernardo & Dick Estel

Dick arrived on time, just before 11 a.m., and was soon joined by...no one.

So he waited. He checked email on his iPad. He ate chips and salsa and waited.

Finally about 11:25 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.

But without 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 noon, he would eat lunch and then leave. First he decided to send an email to 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 USB mouse to Amiga mouse adapter, and a virtual USB 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.

Robert 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 X-Force.

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 III (a simple keyboard typing program).

 

August 2015

by Robert Bernardo & Dick Estel

The 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 Las Vegas , posing in original series’ uniform on the Enterprise 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 in Las Vegas . 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 RAM 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 NTSC 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 PAL video artifacts, and the next image would never be displayed. Though Bilderdisk was advertised to be both NTSC and PAL video-compatible, we found it to be only partially NTSC -compatible. 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.

 

September 2015

by Robert Bernardo & Dick Estel

The September meeting brought together most of the regulars - Robert Bernardo , Roger Van Pelt , Dick Estel , Louis and Vincent Mazzei, and Greg Dodd , 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 Shaw Avenue near Cedar.

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.

Our demonstrations started with a look at Loadstar disk number 1, in honor of former editor Fender Tucker , who is now blogging about his Loadstar days.

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.

Meanwhile, 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.

This month Rob ert 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.

 

October 2015

by Robert Bernardo & Dick Estel

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:

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 regularly meet.

This year Rob ert 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.  

Considering the success of this year’s event, it’s 100% guaranteed to be repeated again in 2016.

 

November 2015

by Robert Bernardo & Dick Estel

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 MPS -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 meeting.

The issue of admission vs. table rental for CommVEx (July 30-31 in Las Vegas ) 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 for tables.

Robert reported that the Vintage Computer Festival will return in 2016 to Silicon Valley after an absence of several years. It will be in August at the Computer History Museum 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 SAM 128 (Software Activated Mouth), but because Reciter, the easy-to-use input module for the English language, had not been converted to SAM 128, we had to use phonemic language to get SAM to speak. After much trying, we got SAM 128 to say, “Hello”. We had more success in just running the SAM 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 RAM and switchable Kickstart 1.3 and 3.1. Some of the disks ran, some needed more RAM , some needed PAL -only video. Many days of investigation would be needed to catalog each disk and determine the requirements of each disk.

 

December 2015

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 Children's Hospital.

Robert reported that if the Nostalgic Computers exhibit is approved for the 2016 Maker Faire in San Mateo , 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 England to show off his 80-column RGB 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, Rockford , moved across the screen briskly, and the boulders fell well. Robert thought the boulders didn't fall fast enough, because Rockford could move out of the way if he were quick enough. However, it was later confirmed that in the original game, Rockford 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.

  

2016

January     February     March     April     May     June

July     August     September     October     November     December

 

January, 2016

by Robert Bernardo & Dick Estel

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 computers.

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 defects.

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 hospitality.

Photos of Greg’s computer room are on line here and here.

 

February 2016

By 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 consecutive month.

While we started our lunch, we were serenaded with Commodore SID music by 8-Bit Weapon’s (Seth and Michelle Sternberger) latest album, “Disassembly Language: Ambient Music for Deprogramming.” Departing from their usual up-tempo material, they had created a collection of background music.

Dick reported that the Memory Lane 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 election year?)

Maker Faire will take place in San Mateo 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 on-line (for example). He asked if the original Commodore graphics were available.

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 CBM -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 of SAM (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.

 

March 2016

By Robert Bernardo & Dick Estel

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 Seth Sternberger and 8-Bit Weapon as background to our conversation.

Robert will be attending Silicon Valley Comic Con in San Jose 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 RAM , cooling fan, and more. With the proper connections the original Commodore keyboard becomes a USB 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 inside.

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 SAM 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 SAM 128.

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 the U.S. , 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 gamers.

 

April 2016

By Robert Bernardo & Dick Estel

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 to Washington , D.C. next week and had to be at a pre-flight meeting by 3 p.m.

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 5:30 a.m. , 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 ITX board for it.

We learned that Athana in southern California 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 in the U.S.A. , new Commodore cases produced from the original molds. The molds had been sold to Jens Schoenfeld in Germany , who is expected to make the product available in the future, at premium prices.

Francois “Eslapion” Leveille of Montreal, Canada is distributing the new PLAnkton and PLAkate boards which replace the classic MOS PLA 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 Wozniak.

With time running out, we got busy with the demonstration part of the meeting.

Several months ago Roger took home Robert’s Chalkboard 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 and force.

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 ( DOM ). These DOM ’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 DOM ’s, and we look forward to trying a couple more of them at future meetings. (The April 1991 DOM almost didn’t happen: Read about here.)

 

May 2016

By Robert Bernardo & Dick Estel

Everyone was on board for a fast-paced May meeting – Louis, Vincent, Greg, Robert, Roger and Dick.

Over lunch we discussed CommVEx, films about Jack Tramiel, Maker Faire, and a variety of other topics.

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 Commodore 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 Interface.

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 collection.

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 northwest.

We also took a quick look at another 25-year old FCUG Disk 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.)

 

June 2016

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 absent.

With the 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.

While eating 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.

Under new business, Louis started off with a reports about the C64 Reloaded and the proposed Amiga Reloaded boards from Individual Computers.

I followed 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 Maker Faire.

Finally, 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 member.

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 departed.

We 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 meeting.

As usual, the meeting ran late, and the last of us did not leave until almost 5 p.m.

 

July

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 Amiga film.

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.

 

August

It was a fun meeting on August 21, with good attendance - Robert, Roger, Greg, Louis, Vincent, and Dick.

Robert, 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.

Louis reported that he may be ordering from China some original MOS technology TED chips, which are the sound and video chips for the Commodore 16 and the Plus/4.

Robert, who 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.

Robert will 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.

As always, our conversation veered off in multiple directions, with a long bull session about Star Trek, CommVEx, and the use of drones.

Moving over 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.

Robert also 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.

Moving to 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.

The September meeting will be one week later than usual, September 25.

 

September

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, Louis Mazzei , Greg Dodd, and Dick Estel . Chris Brenner drove the three hours from Sacramento to show us some very exciting hardware, and Roger and his equipment were brought by his brother Aaron, who stayed for lunch and the meeting.

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 Living Computer Museum in Seattle on June 10 and 11, 2017. Our sister club, the Southern California Commodore & Amiga Network, also had a new website.

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 NTSC 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 Al Jackson 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.

 

October 2016

by Robert Bernardo & Dick Estel

Once 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 Dick Estel . As our membership declined, we came in from the outdoors and turned this annual event into a restaurant lunch.

However, it's NOT a regular meeting, because:

1. No official business is discussed.

2. There are no hardware or software demonstrations, and no Commodore computers.

3. Families are invited.

4. The club pays for lunch.

5. We go to a different restaurant from the one at which we regularly meet.

This year Robert Bernardo, Dick Estel , 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 Fresno.

Everyone 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.

We had a fun discussion of various topics, naturally including computers.

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.

Throughout the years, these events have always brought good food and good company, and we hope they continue for many years.

   

November

No report available at this time

 

December

See above

  

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Updated January 31, 2017