FCUG Meeting Reports Page 2

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, 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. Some months are missing and will be added if and when they become available.

  

Latest Meeting Report     Older Meeting Reports          Commodore Links

2022          2021         2020          2019          2018          2017          2010 - 2016 are on Page 1

    

Latest Meeting Report

June 2022

By Robert Bernardo

Robert arrived at the Panera Bread meeting place first, followed by David and then Roger. Setting up the equipment seemed to take longer than usual, probably due to an abundance of small talk.

In old business, Robert reminded that the Commodore Los Angeles Super Show was to happen in two weeks (the June 25-26 weekend). He still had to edit the CLASS commercial and Roger’s GigaCAD-to-Blender video presentation; he would do the former on Monday and the latter on Tuesday. Talk wandered to Robert’s imminent purchase of a new Epson EcoTank 3850 printer from Costco.com. David assured him that the Epson would be a very wise purchase, remarking that the ink in that printer would not be used up for a long, long time.

In a hardware presentation, David showed off his recently-received A500 Mini, a machine he had ordered many months ago on Amazon.com. Robert’s trustworthy Dell LCD monitor with its many video inputs was not working; in fact, the members discovered that its inner glass panel had shattered. Without a HDMI monitor, David couldn’t power up the A500 Mini and demonstrate what it could do. However, Roger and Robert were still very impressed. The Mini was solidly built. Though called an A500, it was more like an Amiga 1200, because A1200 applications could work on the machine. It came with 25 built-in games, had 2 USB ports, a USB-C power port, and the requisite HDMI video port. Its keys and disk slot were there as decoration, i.e., they were non-functional. It could be used with an external keyboard and other USB controllers, not just with the USB joystick and mouse that came with it. It could access a USB stick so that more disk images and files could be loaded and run.

The A500 Mini was still listed on Amazon.com as being available, whereas its sister machines, the 64 Mini and the 64 Maxi were unavailable, and when found on eBay, were being priced at a much higher price than when they were originally offered.

In regards to the Epson printer mentioned above, Robert had printed out the .PDF manual of the Retro-Printer Module. The print-out was very thick! Robert still had not assembled the RPM with a Raspberry Pi 4b, and time was running out before it was supposed to be ready by CLASS time. After reading the manual, Robert discovered that he should have bought the pre-configured microSD printer driver configuration card that was offered for sale. He now had to download an image of the printer driver configuration and get it onto his own card. However, he didn’t have the means to get that image onto the card. He hoped that friend Larry Anderson, host of Portcommodore.com/class, could help him image the card. Robert also showed the print-out of the manual for the Mimic System's Spartan. The Spartan was an add-on box which housed an Apple II+ computer and which you attached to your brown Commodore 64. After participating in a discussion on the Commodore forum of Atariage.com, Robert was convinced to exhibit his Spartan (non-working due to power supply problems) at CLASS 2022. It was last seen at the Vintage Computer Festival West in the mid-2000’s. The Atariage discussion centered on the eBay sale of a nearly complete Spartan (computer, original box, manual, foam inserts). That eBay sale eventually ended at $3,650! And the computer was not proven to be in working condition!

With the Dell LCD monitor broken, the software presentations had to go through the club’s CRT monitor. First, Roger ran the CAD-M program on the club C128 in C64 mode. He loaded up the CLASS logo he had created. Very nice! In solid fill, the logo had been colored nicely, and the lettering was well-formed. He tried to rotate the logo, even though the computer was in 1 megahertz C64 mode. After the members waited several seconds, the logo would finally move. Later, they tried the logo on the Ultimate 64 and its 48 MHz. acceleration. (See below)

Then they tried the new game, Amaurote 128, which had been converted from the Spectrum computer. Though the opening screen loaded, they could not get the game to run, neither in 80-column mode nor in 40-column mode. They successfully ran Amaurote 64 which used the C64’s high-res screen. It was very interesting to control the four-legged walking machine as it walked on the isometric pathways, but other than that, the members couldn’t figure out the object of the game, how to release a bomb, and the symbols at the bottom of the screen.

Other C64 apps that were presented: Junior Pacman, Ms. Pacman (both games attracting the attention of others in the restaurant), the new Empire Strikes Back, Street Fighter 2 demo, Italian Star Trek, We Are Stardust, Tasered in the Crotch, and Playpiano. The last seemed to be a program for playing music live, i.e., there was no way to save any composition. Both Roger and Robert agreed that the program would be easier to use with the Incredible Musical Keyboard, a piano keyboard which laid on top of the C64’s keys.

Finally, Robert transferred the CLASS logo (mentioned above) from Roger’s floppy disk to the Ultimate 64 SD card. Then he ran CAD-M on the U64 and loaded up the logo. Even with the U64’s 48 MHz. speed, the logo rotated very slowly, though nominally better than the 1 MHz. original speed of a C64. Why so slow? It was a matter of object complexity. Last year Roger drew the object C= on CAD-M. That rotated speedily, even in solid fill. However, drawing CLASS was much more complicated. Roger estimated that he had built the CLASS object with 100 polygons, far more than the C= object. The U64 was speedy but not speedy enough to overcome the complexity of drawing all those polygons and rotating them. Roger said that the only way to get more speed was to run CAD-M in VICE on a PC/Mac.

   

Other 2022 reports

   

Older Meeting Reports

Below this point, reports are in chronological order, oldest first

  

2017

January     February     March     April     May     June

July     August     September     October     November     December

 

January 2017

We had our biggest attendance for many months in January, thanks to a new member and the appearance of one we haven't seen for four years. Brad Strait not only made a long overdue appearance, but he paid his dues and said he would probably be able to attend more often. Meanwhile Bruce Nieman, who attended his first FCUG meeting in December, joined the club. Welcome!

Others in attendance were Greg Dodd, Louis and Vincent Mazzei, Roger Van Pelt, Robert Bernardo, and Dick Estel.

Dick presented the annual financial report. The treasury was down slightly from last year, but we have had very few expenses, so there will be enough for any costs that are likely to come up during the year.

There was a lengthy discussion of CommVEx. With the Plaza Hotel unable to guarantee a room until April, Robert booked the nearby California Hotel. There were certain limitations, including no Friday set-up and the need to remove all equipment at the end of the day on Saturday. This did not go over well with a number of people who have attended in the past, and a "rebel force," including members of our now former co-sponsor club in Las Vegas, are apparently planning a competing event for the same weekend. CommVEx will proceed as planned, and time will tell how things work out.

Robert discussed several possibilities for demos at CommVEx, including some that would be on video if the demonstrator is not able to attend.

Louis and Greg reported that they are discussing the formation of a new user group, one that will support all the many orphan computer platforms, such as Radio Shack, Texas Instruments, Atari and others. The tentative name is Classic Platforms United (CPU), and details will be revealed as they are developed.

Robert showed a section of a new Brian Bagnall book, "Commodore - the Amiga Years." The .PDF file was only available to Kickstarter backers, Robert being one of them.

Also we saw the first 12 minutes of the new film, "Viva Amiga, the Story of a Beautiful Machine" which had Amiga engineers and historians talk about the history and current state of the Amiga computer. It is available on Hulu and on iTunes, disc formats coming later this year.

Members watched as Bruce booted up his Amiga 2000 for a quick look. This demo was very short since he had to leave early, but we were able to discover that it had a 68040 processor and a graphics card. Bruce said he will be it back for the next meeting.

Roger displayed a collection of updated Commodore games on a flash drive. They have been configured to be as much like the arcade versions as possible. We saw Frogger, Donkey Kong and Jr. PacMan, while Greg demonstrated his proficiency, rarely getting "killed."

 

February 2017

Driving from Stockton, president Robert arrived to the meeting 20 minutes early. He started setting up the equipment. V.P. Roger arrived later, and both of them set up their various computer hardware bits. Roger helped Robert set up the two Dell 2001FP monitors Robert had recently bought from the East Bay Area. The Dell’s had VGA, DVI, s-video, composite inputs, and a stereo headphone jack/stereo speakers. The Dell’s were not your ordinary flat screen LCD monitors, because they could scan down to 15 KHz and thus were usable with classic Amigas with the appropriate RGB-to-VGA adapter. Also under s-video and composite modes, they were NTSC and PAL-compatible.

Eventually, members Brad, Louis, Vincent, and Greg came in, and everybody started ordering their food. While everybody waited for their food, Robert informed the group that Maker Faire was coming to San Mateo in May, and once again, an application was put in to have a classic computers’ exhibit. He also said he would be traveling to the Pacific Northwest in April so that he could check up with the Living Computer Museum, the venue for the June Pacific Commodore Expo NW. As for July Commodore Vegas Expo, he reconfirmed with Louis about the presentation on modding the Plus/4.

Just as the guys finished lunch and started seeing part 2 of the video, “Viva Amiga: the Story of a Beautiful Machine,” member Bruce dropped in, and Roger and he went out to bring in Bruce’s Amiga 2000 system.

As they were setting up, Robert showed the new Ray Carlsen power supply for the VIC-20 (early model) and the Canadian 3D-printed, VIC-20 cartridge case for the Final Expansion 3, Rev. 11.

Back to the A2000, Louis and Robert verified that it was running OS 2.0. Then Louis opened up the machine so that everybody could see what was in it – an A2320 scandoubler board for VGA output, a Progressive Peripheral & Software 68040 28 MHz. board with 16 megs of Fast RAM, a Supra board with 4 megs of RAM, a MegaChip for 2 megs of Chip RAM, and a Trumpcard SCSI board with a 120 meg. hard drive. It was a very capable machine.

However, on closer examination, Louis discovered corrosion “fuzz” on the legs of the old Ni-Cad clock battery. Both Robert and Louis urged Bruce to have the battery replaced as soon as possible so that no more damage could be caused. Louis even offered to replace the battery at the next club meeting, a task that would not be easy to do because the various boards and the internal power supply in the Amiga would have to be removed.

Then Robert and Roger concentrated on Commodore 8-bit business. Without JiffyDOS in the Vincent’s VIC-20, Robert couldn’t figure out the long commands to open the .D64 files on the Compactflash card in Robert’s uIEC-CF. Oh, well, the VIC-20 programs of $B, Maxi-Edit, and Cask Jumper would have to wait for another meeting.

For the final part of the meeting, Robert and Roger tried to make sense of the C64 educational program, “Bear Jam”, for the Chalkboard Powerpad. In past meetings Robert had brought what he thought were all Chalkboard Powerpad programs – Leo’s Links, MicroMaestro, and Leo’s Lectric Paintbrush. However, he recently discovered that Bear Jam was available for download, but he didn’t discover where the instructions were. Thus, Robert and Roger were poking at the Powerpad, trying to make Bear Jam do something for some purpose. They found some pressure points on the Powerpad which activated some graphics on the screen, but what did they mean? After many minutes of trying to discover the meaning and the manner of the program, they both gave up and promised to make a concerted effort to find the instructions on-line.

  

March 2017

By Robert Bernardo

For the March meeting, Robert and Roger were joined by Brad and two of his children, William and Charlotte. The last time we saw William was back in 2013, and back then Charlottewas just born. The older sister, Katelyn, was not present at the meeting, because she was at dance class, according to Brad. Robert reminded the family of the SX-64 commercial that he had filmed, starring Katelyn and William. Brad hadn't remembered that it was posted to YouTube, and Robert showed him where it was. Brad popped up the video on his cellphone, and the family enjoyed the commercial. Robert reminded William that he was now famous.

Robert and Roger had their usual two-item combination lunches, while Brad ordered the easy-to-eat and fun cheese quesadillas for himself and the kids. As lunch neared the end, Robert started with club old and new business. He talked about the upcoming shows – the May Maker Faire, the June Pacific Commodore Expo NW, and the July Commodore Vegas Expo. Just as he finished his summary of the shows, a visitor came in – Alex Lewandowski.

We tried to view part 3 of the newly-released film, "Viva Amiga: The Story of a Beautiful Machine, " but Robert couldn't find the external speakers for the laptop which was to play the movie, and so, the movie was delayed until the next meeting.

In hardware, Robert showed the Final Expansion 3, Rev. 11, for the VIC-20 – this time with the board and 3D-printed case all assembled. However, he was without his usual VIC-20, because it was under repair by Ray Carlsen. In a few days, he was to go to the Washington state and pick up the VIC from Ray. Robert then showed the new SwinSID Ultimate. For about $34 from Austria, the SwinSID U was advertised as a very proficient replacement for the SID chip. Robert couldn't decide which Commodore computer would receive the SwinSID U. Though he had a few PAL C64's with burned-out SID chips, he was leaning toward installing it in his B128 which runs its SID chip at 2 MHz. With the chip running that fast, the SID would run hotter (than its usual hot temperature) and be prone to failure.

Brad borrowed Robert's Kim Uno (KIM-1 replica), and he actually knew how to use it, except for discovering how to use its built-in Chessmate.

At the February meeting, Robert and Roger flailed around with the Bear Essentials and the Chalkboard Powerpad for the C64; they had no instructions nor the Powerpad overlay for the Bear Essentials, and so, they were just poking at the Powerpad without knowing what they were doing. This month Robert brought back the Bear Essentials and Powerpad, but this time he had the instructions and a color printout of what the overlay was supposed to show. Roger had more success in finding the particular pressure points on the Powerpad and had the Bear Essentials respond a bit more. However, without the exact-fitting overlay, Roger was still estimating where the points were and was not able to find all of them. All in all, getting to use the program was partially successful. Robert had the idea that the color printout of the overlay would have to be enlarged and proportioned to the size of the overlay and be printed on something like acetate.

Robert had brought in the A2000 which will be at the May Maker Faire and at the July CommVEx. Refurbished by Duncan MacDougall, this one was loaded with a Blizzard 2060 50 MHz. board, 128 megs of Fast RAM, 2 megs of Chip RAM due to MegaChip, SCSI controller board with 8 megs of RAM, NewTek Video Toaster, Digital Processing Systems Personal TBC, A2065 Ethernet card, Digital Processing Systems Personal Animation Recorder (PAR), OS 3.1, SCSI CD-ROM drive, 4 gig SCSI main hard drive, 500 meg SCSI hard drive for the PAR. Robert brought up a few windows to show what was in the computer, but mainly he had brought it to show how Duncan redid the cabling and cards inside the computer. With Alex's help, he then tried to install more memory onto the Blizzard, but the eBay SIMMs he had bought were too thick and wouldn't fit the SIMM slots. He would have to buy thin-line SIMMs. At the end of the meeting, when all other members had departed, he and Alex carried on with a far-ranging discussion about classic Amiga and Amiga NG issues.

 

April 2017

We started small but finished big as far as attendance was concerned. Robert, Roger and Dick were present for the opening of the meeting. Robert noted that a free condo room is available in Las Vegas for the CommVEx weekend, to be used by a club member or a special guest.

Robert also reported on his trip to the Pacific Northwest , where he visited repair guru Ray Carlsen, and checked out our location for the Pacific Commodore Expo Northwest, scheduled for June 10 and 11 at the Living Computer Museum in Seattle.

There was preliminary discussion of the future of CommVEx. This year's show will go on as planned, on July 29 and 30 at the Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas. With the increased room cost and the movement of a number of regular attendees to another show, it's not certain that we can continue with the show in Las Vegas. A small room is now about $1,900 for two days, and the large rooms that we have become used to the last two years are over $3,700. A final decision will not be made until we see how things go at this year's event.

As he has done for several years, Robert will be attending Maker Faire on May 19-21. He will be displaying a collection of vintage Commodore machines. Due to the conflict with our meeting date, the May FCUG meeting will be May 7.

We started watching the next segment of the film "Viva Amiga: The Story of a Beautiful Machine." During this time we had an infusion of guests, in the form of Roger's parents, Mary and David Van Pelt, and his brother Aaron. During the early years, David made use of computers in his work, and he was interested to see the new hardware that has been developed for Commodore.

For the second time, Robert brought the new Final Expansion 3, Rev. 11, the cartridge for the VIC-20, with custom-made 3D-printed case. With the help of its manual, he and Roger figured out its RAM options and DOS wedge. Then they tried to run a new program, the "CGA emulator" which needs 35K RAM, the maximum attainable on the Final Expansion. They did see a high-resolution, 320x200 screen, but the graphic was corrupted, probably due to the fact that the picture was for PAL video and not for NTSC. Then they tried to run Doom for the VIC, a program which also needed 35K RAM.  The opening title screen ran, but then when the next part of the program was called, it crashed, probably due to the fact that the SD card in the FE was not a real disk drive and the program expected to load from a real disk. Robert and Roger decided that next time a real disk with Doom would have to be used.

Five programs from OS4Depot.com were installed in the AmigaOne G4, but the two games - Tux Football and Fighter - would not run. The successful programs that did run were the demos, Ballfield and Etch-a-Sketch, and the emulator, ViCE (Virtual Commodore Emulator). In C64 software, the newly-made Bruce Lee II was tested.In this part-platformer, part-fighting game, movement was smooth and the music was nice, but both Robert and Roger couldn't figure out how to escape out one of the beginning levels. Then they turned their attention to which two-player game would be used in this year's CommVEx game competition -- Way of the Exploding Fist or World Karate Championship. After looking at both of them, Robert and Roger decided that neither of the games had the smoothness or the responsiveness required of a karate game.  The search would have to continue.

 

May 2017

The May meeting took place on a day with fluctuating weather. It had been 99 degrees the Thursday before our May 7 gathering, 69 two days later. Sunday started out with a cold rainstorm and ended with temperatures heading back up.

However, everything was just right inside Bobby Salazar's Cantina, with a small but lively group. In attendance were Robert Bernardo, Dick Estel, Brad Strait, and the latter's two youngest kids, William, 7, and Charlotte, 4. Bruce Nieman came in later for a while.

At first it seemed to be stormy inside, when several pieces of equipment failed to work. Equipment Manager Roger was ill, so Robert had gone to his storage facility and pulled out a 1084-S monitor, which he connected to his VIC-20. Although the monitor had been working recently, on this day it displayed nothing but a narrow horizontal line, leading to a couple of lame, flat-lining jokes.

No problem, we thought, as Robert set the VIC and the monitor aside and moved his SX-64 into its place. However, the SX monitor produced nothing but a plain, light gray glow, so it also was banished to the corner. Using the BenQ VGA monitor, Robert set up his tower AmigaOne G4, and finally we had a working computer, just as our food arrived.

Equipment matters were set aside as we enjoyed lunch and started the official business meeting. Robert will be attending Maker Faire in San Mateo later in May, an event that draws around 100,000 people. A fair number of them always stop and ask about the old computers he displays, which this year will include a C64 and an A2000.

On June 2nd Robert will be at the William Shatner Weekend in southern California , where he will ask the one-time VIC 20 spokesman to autograph a piece of Commodore equipment.

The big event in June is the Pacific Commodore Expo at the Living Computer Museum in Seattle , an event Robert is producing with the help of other Commodore enthusiasts in the area. We had been told there could be no selling at the event, but it has been determined that commercial activities are allowed under certain very stringent circumstances, including the completion of tax forms for three different jurisdictions and obtaining a business license. In other words, we will not be selling.

In CommVEx news, Robert reported that he will be putting advertisements for the show on Craig’s List in several areas.

There will be a time change for our June meeting, scheduled for June 18, Father’s Day. Another group has booked the room we use at 2 p.m. that day, so we will start our meeting at 10 a.m. , and be out of the restaurant by 1:30 .

At the conclusion of business, we watched the final segment of the movie “Viva Amiga: the Story of a Beautiful Machine,” this part focusing on music creation, and a few minutes of the follow-up movie, "Viva Amiga: the Bil Herd Story."

There was not much in the way of hardware and software demos, due to malfunctions. William sat at the AmigaOne and wrote a short story about Fire Monsters, and the rest of us discussed all kinds of things, many of them computer-related.

 

June, 2017

By Robert Bernardo & Dick Estel

The meeting started earlier than usual -- 10 a.m rather than the usual 11 a.m. -- because another group had booked the restaurant room at 2. We were to be out of there by 1:30 or so. We had three of our long-time regulars - Roger Van Pelt, Robert Bernardo, and Dick Estel, plus two special guests. Dave Smith was a member more than 22 years ago, and he joined the club that day. He is now retired and is thinking of getting a Commodore system set up. Alex Lewandowski, a Visalia resident originally from Poland , had attended one of our meetings in the past, and this time he brought in a special piece of equipment for our enjoyment. His involvement with Commodore and Amiga began when he was about seven years old in the 1980s.

During the business meeting, Robert reported on the Maker Faire in May, where he set up several systems. Hundreds of thousands of people attended this event and hundreds came through the Vintage Computer Festivalers exhibit where Robert was. Many had questions for Robert. The items that drew the most interest were the KoalaPad and Flexidraw Lightpen. People were surprised that such items had existed for the Commodore.

In June Robert hosted the Pacific Commodore Expo at the Living Computer Museum in Seattle , now known as the Living Computers: Museum + Labs.There were between 10 and 20 people at the various presentations, plus the casual drop-ins from regular museum visitors, making the total between 50 and 60. The event will be back in 2018 on June 9 and 10.

CommVEx is coming up, and everything is ready to go. Paul Armstrong of Las Vegas will have sales tables, and Al Jackson will provide computer systems as usual. Although it will not affect our plans, the rival event planned for the same weekend has not yet locked up its venue, and their funding may be in question.

For the hardware part of the meeting, Alex showed us his Amiga A600 installed in a MacroSystem Casablanca case. This looked very much like a standard VCR and was originally an Amiga in a case for video-editing. Alex had installed a Vampire 600 accelerator and was continuing to work on the machine. He also brought a Vampire 500 accelerator, this version to go in an Amiga 500 or 2000.

Alex tried to run several Amiga game .ADF's (Amiga Disk Files), but they weren't being recognized by the HxC Floppy Emulator he had installed in the machine. He admitted that he had to tweak the system some more. Near the end of the meeting, the restaurant waitress said that the afternoon group had cancelled their reservation, so we did not have to rush out at 1:30 . Even with the more leisurely departure, we were packing up by 2:15 so that Robert could get to Father's Day festivities in Stockton .

 

July 2017

by Robert Bernardo

For the July meeting, members Robert, Roger, Brad, and David were present. They talked about the upcoming July 29-30 Commodore Vegas Expo v13.  Brad was not prepared to film any presentation for the expo, but Roger was ready.  After the meeting, Roger and Robert would go to Bernardo Studios, a.k.a. the University Inn Hotel, and Robert would film Roger's two C64 software presentations.  As the meeting progressed into old and new business, Robert showed the website that had an auction listing for Admiral Kirk's Commodore PET 2001 from the movie, "Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan!".  For the movie, the computer had been beautified with a chrome and gloss black finish.  It sold for over $5,000 and with the auctioneer's profit margin, taxes, and shipping, the computer came out to be about $8,000.

Though there was no Amiga content in the meeting this time, Amiga fan and FCUG member Bruce Nieman came to visit for about half an hour in the middle of the meeting.

For the hardware part of the meeting, the members helped David relearn the C64 and 1541 disk drive that he was buying from the club.  They helped him to load up disk programs and run them.

Later on, Robert showed off a few new programs for the VIC-20. Meteor Wave was an interesting Missile Command clone in which you had to stop the missiles from dropping on the city by touching a lightpen in front of the path of the missile in order to destroy it.  Robert remarked that it's the only VIC game program he knows that uses a lightpen.  He then showed a nicely-rendered screen called VIC McKracken, a play on the C64 game, Zak McKracken.  The screenshot looked so good that a person could mistake it for a screenshot from that C64 game.  As usual, Robert couldn't make any headway in an adventure game, this time the new Legend of the Lost Catacombs, though Roger seemed for willing to figure out its command parser and map.  Finally, using the full memory of the Final Expansion 3 cartridge, Robert tried to run VIC-20 Doom.  He got as far as showing the title screen but after that, nothing. VIChaos

Instead of the meeting going on until 5 or so, Robert adjourned the meeting an hour early, because he and Roger had to film the CommVEx presentations.  After the everything had been packed up, the two went off to the University Inn Hotel where Robert proceeded to check in.  The hotel had been the site of previous CommVEx films, and this year Robert got a ground floor room -- no lugging equipment to an upper floor.  After moving much C= equipment and film gear into the room, Robert and Roger went to a nearby sandwich shop for dinner.  Afterwards, they returned to room for a night of filming, and it went on until 11! Not only did Roger do his two presentations, but Robert also filmed a Commodore “commercial” for CommVEx.  Roger left because he had to work the next day, but Robert filmed a few more shots until he was satisfied.

 

August 2017

Although we lost some long-time members this year, we have added at least as many new ones, and several of them joined the other “old-timers” for the August gathering at Bobby Salazar’s Mexican restaurant.

Brad Strait was present with both his daughters, Katelyn (9) and Charlotte (5). Katelyn had attended meetings now and then since she was five. Charlotte was born after Brad became a member, and made her first visit while still an infant, so the club has sort of watched them, as well as brother William, as they have grown (part way) up.

Also on hand were Robert Bernardo, Roger Van Pelt, Dick Estel, fairly new member Dave Smith, and Mike Fard, who joined the club before the meeting ended.

Robert gave a report on Commodore Vegas Expo, held in Las Vegas at the end of July. Although attendance was down, those who were there had a great time, and the show will continue next year. We didn’t quite cover expenses, and the room rates have increased, so we will return to one of the smaller rooms for 2018. We may also consider moving to a different city in the future.

Michael Battilana from Italy was in town for DefCon and visited during the off-hours of CommVEx. He gave a C64 Forever package and an Amiga Forever package for the raffle and also a web address which allowed CommVEx attendees and FCUG members to receive a free download of Amiga Forever and C64 Forever.

The September meeting date was moved to the tenth, since Robert will be leaving for Europe shortly after that. He will visit Germany , Sweden , the Czech Republic , Wales , and England , attending Commodore and Amiga events and meeting with international friends from years past. In Bensheim , Germany he'll search for the Mega65 computer (C65 clone) at Maker Faire. In Stockholm and Gothenburg , Sweden he'll meet with Commodore and Amiga programmers. In Cardiff , Wales he'll visit AmigaKit. In England he'll attend the meetings of the Lincoln Amiga Group (in Lincoln ) and the Amiga North Thames group (in Enfield ).

Entering the wonderful world of hardware and software, Robert had on display a Commodore PC20-III, a MS-DOS computer. The computer came from the Sacramento Amiga Computer Club, and Robert was warned not to power it up until it had its internal power supply thoroughly cleaned of dust. Mike opened up the machine and discovered that it came from 1987.

Robert loaded up a C64 Forever 2017 CD on his Windows XP laptop, and we explored its Commodore emulation capabilities. The same process was followed with Amiga Forever 2017 DVDs.

Meanwhile at the club C128, Katelyn took on all comers in Ringside Boxing, the two-player, two-joystick Compute!'s Gazette C64 game that was used in competition at CommVEx.

Later, Robert and Roger tried to run VIC Doom with its stiff memory requirements on the VIC-20; unfortunately, they only got to the opening screens and were not able to enter the game proper. They had more success with the simple but fun VIC-20 game, Meteor Wave, which required use of a lightpen to stop the falling meteors.

 

September 2017

Because Robert was traveling to Europe on September 13, the meeting was held on September 10, the second Sunday of the month. In attendance were Robert, Roger, David, Brad and his children, William and Charlotte; and new member Mike Fard.  Under old/new business, Robert reported on what occurred at the Commodore Vegas Expo.  He was grateful that members of the Southern California Commodore & Amiga Network had come to support the show and that newcomers had come from the Defcon hacking show that was going on during the same CommVEx weekend.  He reported that Roger's filmed presentations had done well with the CommVEx audience.  He also had a date for CommVEx 2018 – August 11-12.  All he was waiting for was confirmation from the Plaza Hotel, the CommVEx venue again.

He mentioned the October 21-22 Sacramento Amiwest Show and asked the members if they needed anything from Europe .  No one needed anything, though Robert joked that Duncan, his friend from The Other Group of Amigoids, was urging him to buy British computers, like a Spectrum.

The Educator 64 and Commodore PC20-III, which had been exhibited at CommVEx, were shown at the meeting.  Brad was most interested, and so, the E64's “hood” was opened and the PC20 was opened so that he could peek inside.  The PC20 was not working, and Robert would visit repair tech Ray Carlsen in September to see if Ray could fix it.  Robert showed the new Vampire 500 board for the Amiga, and he showed the new Vampire 500-to-Amiga 2000 CPU slot adapter board from Paul "Acill" Resendes.  He remarked that now he has to install that hardware into an A2000 and get the blazing speed promised from that set-up.

Everyone at the meeting, especially William and Charlotte, tried out Computes' Gazette C64 Boxing game that was popular at CommVEx.  In fact, it was hard to tear the kids away from the game.  Even when the game was not running, William still liked to type on the keys and see his letters up on the screen.

As the meeting drew to a close, Robert tried to run VIC Doom as he had tried at the previous meeting.  This time he used a PAL VIC-20 with the Final Expansion 3 cartridge set for full memory.  As with the previous outing, he did not get it to run.  A bit more successfully, he (with a lot of help from the ever-patient Roger) ran VIC Music Composer cartridge for the VIC-20.  Certain keys did not work with the program, and Roger and Robert did not know if it was a fault with the cartridge or with the use of a PAL VIC-20.

 

October 2017

by Robert Bernardo

Every October the club has its annual “picnic” lunch, in lieu of a regular meeting. This year the members went to the new Dave and Buster's Restaurant in north Fresno . Dave and Buster's is famous for having dining combined with a huge game arcade.

They were one of the first ones to show up when the doors opened that Sunday morning. Those who attended were David S., Mike F. and Sherry, and Robert B.. The first table that they were shown was near the arcade games, but because there was a great deal of noise, they moved to another table as far away from the arcade as possible. They ordered off the well-stocked menu, but they did not go overboard in ordering food.

After lunch, they wandered through the vast arcade. They were most interested in the giant Space Invaders arcade game which stood 12 feet tall!

Though picnic lunches had not been known for being C= related, afterwards everybody wandered off to Robert's car to pick up some C= gear that he had brought in.

 

November 2017


By Robert Bernardo & Dick Estel  

With plans to take a new cover photo for our website, we had a nice turnout in November. Brad Strait was present with his two youngest kids, William and Charlotte. Also on hand were Robert Bernardo, Roger Van Pelt, Dick Estel, and Dave Smith. The members all had a Commodore shirt or logo as part of their attire, and we managed to get a pretty good shot.

Robert announced that the room in Las Vegas has been reserved for CommVEx V14, which will take place August 11 and 12, 2018. Closer in time, Robert will be visiting Commodore repairman Ray Carlsen in early December, and took requests to pick up one of Ray’s Computer Savers for Brad and Dave.

Robert told us of a C64 sighting – a scene set in a missile silo control room in the TV show CSI: Los Angeles featured a bank of what were clearly brown C64s, with the logo taped over.

During his recent trip to Europe , there was a serious break-in at Robert’s house, so we discussed what was taken, what was left behind, and various security measures that are now in place.

Moving to our demonstrations, Robert had brought a pile of new Commodore games from England , and set them up for testing by William and Charlotte. Titles included Honey Bee, Jam It (basketball), and Snake. All the programs worked well, although the kids had limited success with some of them.

Robert set up his newest toy, an A.L.I.C.E. laptop, with dual boot system – Windows 10 or Linux with Amiga emulation.

During the last part of the meeting, Roger, Dave, and Robert ran various VIC-20 programs, including some new British games also from England .

 

December 2017

By Robert Bernardo & Dick Estel

We had one of the best turnouts in a few months for December. On hand were President Robert Bernardo, Secretary-Treasurer Dick Estel, Board Member Brad Strait, Brad’s youngest daughter, Charlotte; Dave Smith, Mike Fard, and newcomer Randy Stoller, who joined the club before the meeting was over. Vice President Roger Van Pelt came by briefly to drop off the equipment.

It was time for elections, with one vacant position to be filled, the board members slot previously held by Louis Mazzei. Dave Smith was elected to the position, and all other officers were re-elected.

Before we got down to business, Robert told us about his latest mishap, getting rear-ended near Salem , Oregon . Before they could get their vehicles towed to a repair shop, he and the guilty driver had to wait some time for tow trucks to get through the heavy traffic that had contributed to the accident. Robert’s tow truck driver went above and beyond the call of duty, giving him a ride to the Trail Band concert venue which was his destination. Though stuck in Oregon a few days longer, he was able to drive his car out of the collision center and visit Ray Carlsen in southern Washington . Robert dropped off four, flat C128's for him to repair and picked up items left for him to repair back in September – a PET 2001-4, a CBM PC20 keyboard, and a SX-64. He also picked up a couple of Ray's Computer Savers which the FCUG members had ordered at the November club meeting.

At the December meeting, Robert distributed the Computer Savers to the members, and he spread out a large pile of free programs that came from a member of The Other Group of Amigoids (Amiga club) in San Jose . Of note were some 2-packs of Kodak-brand blank 5.25” floppy disks with the original price of $9.95, marked down to $2 (and now free).

Continuing the Christmas giveaway, Dave had brought in a package of reusable plastic water bottles, available to whoever wanted one.

In keeping with a long-standing club tradition, we voted to make a $50 donation to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis . The institution has an enviable record in treating children with cancer, all services provided at no charge.

Robert loaded up a series of games for Charlotte to try. Brad and Mike joined in from time to time.

As the meeting came to a close, Robert and Dave tried out more of the new, commercial game disks from BinaryZone.org.

  

2018

January     February     March     April     May     June

July     August     September     October     November     December

 

January 2018

Although we lost some long-time members in 2017, we had even more new ones joining us, most of whom were present at the January meeting. Those present included Robert Bernardo, Roger Van Pelt, Dave Smith, Brad Strait with daughter Charlotte, Randy Stoller, Mike Fard, Bruce Nieman, Alex Lewandowski, and Dick Estel.

The centerpiece of the pre-meeting random discussion was the latest episode of the TV comedy, “Young Sheldon”, which shows "The Big Bang Theory’s" Sheldon Cooper as a nine-year old. In the January 18 episode Sheldon got his first computer, a Tandy 1000, and demonstrated some of its uses to his family.

In official business, Dick asked the members to begin thinking about backup plans in case someone in a key position is no longer able to carry out his duties. No decisions were asked for at this time, just that members give it some thought.

Dick presented the annual financial report, which will appear in the newsletter, and noted that our total assets increased by a small amount in 2017.

Robert was preparing once again to bring Commodores for the Classic Computers' exhibit at Maker Faire, May 18 – 20 at the San Mateo Events Center . The Classic Computers' exhibit has always drawn a great deal of attention with our old computers, computers that many people had thought were completely forgotten.

Other future events included Vintage Festival Seattle in February and Pacific Commodore Expo in June, both in Seattle. None of the club members had an interest in traveling to Washington in the winter.

Robert fired up his laptop and showed segments of the new documentary, “The Commodore Story”, which will have it first public showing at the Computer History Museum on February 23.

Though Christmas had come and gone, C= "gifts" were still arriving -- more software from John Yaccarine of The Other Group of Amigoids (San Jose) and computer chips from Rolf Miller of the former CIVIC 64/128 club (Ventura). The club members grabbed many of these free items.

Once again we loaded up some of the BinaryZone.org games Robert had brought back from England for testing by Charlotte and the other gamers in the club.

 

February 2018

Good attendance is now the rule for the Fresno Commodore User Group. Members in attendance at the February meeting were Robert Bernardo, Dick Estel, Dave Smith, Roger Van Pelt, Brad Strait , Mike Fard, and Bruce Nieman. Guests included Raymond Ciula, who brought in some software and equipment to donate, and Duncan MacDougall of The Other Group of Amigoids in the San Jose area, who demonstrated a few demos on his PAL C128DCR (converted from a NTSC C128DCR).

The official meeting and the pre-meeting discussion covered a wide range of subjects, mostly computer-related. The group wished Robert a Happy Birthday, only one day late.

The star of the show was a set of VR64 virtual reality goggles which Robert had purchased from Jim Happel for $80. He loaded up Jim's game, “Street Defender,” although it took some swapping of equipment to find a Commodore that worked properly. The club C128 would not work, and Mike Fard diagnosed the failure being due to a blown internal fuse in the power supply. They then tried to use Mike's C64 which he had picked up from the free equipment of Raymond Ciula. It powered up, but the keyboard did not respond very well, if at all. Finally, they had to run the game on Duncan 's PAL C128DCR.

The game showed the dual image on the computer monitor, with a reasonably good 3D image in the goggles. With the goggles preventing actual view of the keyboard, the big challenge was firing weapons against the attacker by use of the F keys and turning the view within the goggles by use of the Left Arrow and number 1 key. The club's summarized opinion of the gameplay was that it was clunky, because there was no use of a joystick.

Duncan then ran a very smooth shoot 'em up from his 1541 Ultimate drive, entitled “Enforcer.” It was very advanced with smooth, sideways-scrolling and lots of on-screen objects. He said that it was the best one out there and that it had been developed in 1992. On the 1541 Ultimate directory, Robert saw a game with the name of “Clystron,” and he thought that with such a name, it must be good. He was wrong! It had screen after screen of documentation before it even came up to the game. Forget it! Then they tried a new game called “My Life.” Though it had just one screen – a view of a bedroom – Duncan liked it, because it was a copy of the classic game, “Mikey.” Because the club members did not know the object of the game, they were not so enamored with it. Finally, Duncan bought and downloaded the new, commercial C64 game, “Sam's Journey,” from Protovision. It was a smooth and cute platformer, with Duncan saying it was the best one ever made.

 

March 2018

By Robert Bernardo

For March we had Robert, Roger, Dave, and Brad and son William in attendance. It's a good thing the guys were there to help out Robert. In Robert's car, a five-foot long box had to be carefully removed from the passenger compartment, and this box had the necessary equipment for an Amiga computer demonstration!

In the talk leading up to the demonstrations, Robert spoke about the April 14 Livermore Innovation Fair and how he was going to bring a SX-64 and a classic Amiga to exhibit at the show. Then he spoke about the May 18-20 Maker Faire Bay Area and about bringing the same computers to that show, in addition to a Texas Instruments TI-99/4A.

After lunch, the members couldn't wait to see what was in the five-foot box. Robert opened it and showed the skiboard, skateboard, and short surfboard which went with the Amiga CD32 game, Surf Systems' Biff Boardin' /Urban Surfin' /Biff Select V2.03. Robert had not brought the CD32 game console, but he would do so for the April meeting. Nonetheless, everybody but Dave tried standing on the boards, imagining how the game would play. The members urged Robert not to show the boards at the upcoming shows for fear that children would fall off the boards, injure themselves, and then sue for damages. In the more controlled environment of CommVEx, Robert could show the game and the boards there.

At the request of Robert, Roger brought in Jump Jet for the VIC-20. Unfortunately, it was a .TAP file (cassette tape file), and Roger couldn't run it off his SD2IEC drive which emulates a disk drive. Then Robert tried to run the graphical adventure, Ultima IV Remastered for the C64. This Ultima IV was an improved, bug-fixed version of the original, and Roger had downloaded it from the Internet and transferred it to disk. Again misfortune struck when both Robert and Roger couldn't get it to run. The only thing they could do was look at the original, which Robert had brought -- box, instructions, maps, and all.

In preparation for the the August 11-12 Commodore Vegas Expo, Robert showed the new International Karate Ultimate, which is set for the CommVEx game competition. This improved, bug-fixed version of IK played very smoothly and was great fun.

The members got to hear the music, the Commodore Rap, which was archived on YouTube. Who would have known that such music existed from the mid-1980's?!

Then they got to play with one level of the classic C64 game, Break Dance. William was especially good at moving the joystick to control his break dancer in the game. Back in the day, Break Dance received a low rating from the various Commodore magazines. Seen through our modern eyes, it now seemed a lot of fun.

Robert realized that Break Dance, which Roger had downloaded from the Commodore Scene Database, was not complete; there was supposed to be more than one level of the game. Finding a more complete version was put on the to-do list. Robert said that both the Commodore Rap and clips from Break Dance would be combined to make a commercial for CommVEx.

 

April 2018

By Robert Bernardo

For April's meeting Robert, Roger, Dave, and Brad were in attendance. Brad's kids were not in attendance this month and were missed. Dick Estel was not at the meeting, and he was missed. Nonetheless, the members carried on.

Robert reported on the April 14 Livermore Innovation Fair (LIF), which was a new venue in which to exhibit classic computers. He noted that the booth area was small, and unlike the giant Maker Faire Bay Area which had 100,000 attendees, LIF had hundreds, and consequently, the number of visitors to the booth was much less. Robert had brought a SX-64 and an Amiga 1200 along with an Atari 800XL while the others in the booth had brought an Apple II clone, a MSX system, and more. The booth was outside in the courtyard of the venue, and though covered by shade, the sunlight was still bright enough to overwhelm the picture of the Dell LCD monitors that Robert used. The visitors could only use the SX-64 comfortably because of its bright, built-in CRT monitor. The lesson learned – bring CRT monitors when using computers outside.

After lunch, Dave showed a video of the new C64 Mini (which was due for eventual release in North America ). It was an interesting device with 50 built-in games and HDMI output. However, the consensus was that without a real keyboard, it was more of a toy.

In the last meeting, Robert had brought the skiboard, skateboard, and short surfboard for the Amiga CD32 game, Surf Systems' Biff Boardin'/Urban Surfin'/Biff Select V2.03. This month Robert brought a boxed, Amiga CD32 console, complete with the new, heavy-duty, Ray Carlsen power supply, instead of its wimpy, black, brick power supply. However even with a new, heavy-duty power supply, Robert couldn't get the CD32 game console to boot. Sometimes the CD32 opening screen would show, but the Surf Systems' disc wouldn't run. Robert theorized that because the CD32 was European PAL and not North American NTSC, the disc did not recognize the machine (Surf Systems was California company). Robert would have to come back to a future meeting with a NTSC Amiga CD32. Robert brought his C128DCR and SuperCPU 128 in order to run the new alpha version of the game, Tempest for the C128. Tempest was a classic, vector-graphics, arcade game, and programmer Robert Willie built this C128, 80-column version. Unfortunately, the DCR would not boot reliably with the SCPU connected. With Roger's help, Robert opened up the computer and checked out the clip-on connections for the SuperMMU board, a board necessary for the SCPU to run in C128 mode. The connections were tight. Not being able to diagnose the problem, Robert realized that the machine would have to go to Ray Carlsen for repair.

Brad and Robert brought in the latest Wi-Fi modems for 8-bit Commodores, a pair of StrikeLink modems (two versions) and the WiFi64 modem (from SharewarePlus of England). The StrikeLinks came caseless, and the WiFi64 had a neat, little case. Brad's StrikeLink was an early version, and Robert's StrikeLink was a later model. In a side-to-side board comparison, the only obvious difference between the two was a rearrangement of the components. The WiFi module used in both was exactly the same. After Robert opened up the case of the WiFi64, they compared its board with that of the StrikeLinks. Its board looked exactly like the board and Wi-Fi module of the later StrikeLink.

Roger liked how the WiFi64 came with printed instructions and a deck of “playing cards.” Called Top Cards: BBS Edition, the cards described every current Bulletin Board System for the Commodore, including the Borderline and Cottonwood BBS's of FCUG member Andrew Wiskow.

Brad attached his StrikeLink to the club's C128, and Roger ran the C64 terminal program, CCGMS. Brad's goal was to connect to the restaurant's Wi-Fi and then cruise to various Internet sites. He was able to get the modem to respond, but he was unable to connect. Robert realized that the CCGMS they were using was version 5 and that version 6 was the latest one. Perhaps the problem was the v5 software; perhaps v6 would have better results. Because Robert had no Wi-Fi at his house, he lent his StrikeLink and his WiFi64 for Roger to try out at his place. (Note: At his apartment, Roger was able to connect successfully with both modems and CCGMS v6.)

The meeting ended with Robert, Roger, and David going through the various C64 and C128 programs on the April, 1988 disk of Compute!'s Gazette magazine. It was a time-travel trip to what was popular 20 years ago! For a simpler time, the disk had simpler games and utilities. The question was would such programs hold the interest of a Commodore user today. Maybe yes, maybe no.

 

May 2018

By Robert Bernardo & Dick Estel  

The holiday and various obligations contributed to an unusually low attendance at the May meeting – just Robert, Roger, and Dick.  However, we had good conversation, ate a great lunch, and got to see an unusual Commodore peripheral.

After setting up the computer equipment, we ordered lunch.  Dick mentioned that the club library did not get much use, which was fine with Dick, since he did not have to do any work as librarian. He said that he would bring a few of the educational game disks to the next meeting to see if our junior associate members, William and Charlotte, might enjoy them.

Having finished lunch and business, we moved into the hardware/software part of the meeting.  Somehow, time had put the “hard” into “hardware,” as three disk drives, including two recently donated by Rolf Miller of Ventura , failed to load.  Fortunately, another Miller drive was retrieved from the trunk of Robert’s Crown Vic, and this drive worked.

Robert started talking about Maker Faire Bay Area which was held the previous weekend.  As usual, Robert had spent hours manning his computers at the Vintage Computer Festivalers' exhibit.  As usual, hundreds and hundreds of fairgoers had gone through the exhibit, exclaiming how they used to have the Commodores, how they used to program the computers, and how they began their careers with them.  As usual, there were the equipment breakdowns, like fellow exhibitors having their Apple II not powering up and their C64 burning out its SID chip.

Robert said that Maker Faire was good training for the June 9-10 Pacific Commodore Expo NW to be held at the Living Computers: Museum + Labs in Seattle. At PaCommEx, Robert planned to bring 7 to 8 Commodore and Amiga systems to display.  He also talked about his fears of being the only person to exhibit at PaCommEx, the other exhibitors not responding as time grew near or even canceling out of the event.  His trip will include a stop to drop off and pick up equipment for repair at Ray Carlsen’s, of course.

Robert gave us the latest on CommVEx in Las Vegas , coming up August 11 and 12. Robert is trying to get a Commodore engineer to attend who has possession of a legendary C65, serial #1.

Although we could not view it, Robert showed us the official Blu-ray release version of The Commodore Story, which has been in the works for some time.  He was able to pass around the book that came with the Blu-ray.

Unlike other meetings, this time Robert stuck to the presentation agenda exactly.  First, because it was the 20th anniversary of Wheels 64/128, the compatible OS for GEOS, we watched an on-line video of it in operation. Then, he showed off the relatively-inexpensive ($42 US) SD2IEC drive from Jason Micari of Australia ; it came with a 3-D printed case, plugged into the cassette port, and had a short, attached serial cable to which Robert connected a serial cable extension so that it could daisychain onto a disk drive.

We were able to see something old but new to us.  Advertised as a "music synthesizer and multi-track recording system," the Music Port by Tech Sketch was software and a pre-MIDI keyboard that attached to the user port of the C64.  Accessing the SID chip, it played 3-note chords and gave us a nice concert with the pre-loaded songs that came with it.  It was a big hit when displayed at Robert’s table at Maker Faire Bay Area.  Roger liked how using the piano-type keyboard was a more natural way to do music rather than composing music on a “tracker” with a screen full of numbers and sliders.

Lastly on the C64 front, we looked at a disk from the library of the defunct Diablo Valley Commodore User Group of Walnut Creek , California . Robert remarked that the 1990's game and utility programs were very simple-looking.

Robert tried to run the Plus/4 disk magazine, Lone News 21, in C64 mode on the club's C128.  Unfortunately, the disk magazine wouldn't run, meaning that it required a Plus/4 computer so that users could view it.

Switching over to C128 40-column mode on the club's C128, we tried out newer Manic Miner 128 and compared it with older Manic Miner 64; the older version had music and animation, and so, the 128 version was not an exact duplicate of 64 version.

The C128 system was set aside, and the VIC-20 was connected.  Downloaded from links at the Denial VIC-20 Internet forum, we ran the new game, Pyrotech, and the new demo/game, Dr. Ultra + Snake.  The graphic of Dr. Ultra was particularly well-drawn.

Finally, we checked out the Amiga 2000 computer which Duncan MacDougall of The Other Group of Amigoids had upgraded.  He repaired its 28 MHz. 68040 processor board, installed a DKB MegAChip for 2 meg Chip RAM, added 40 megs Fast RAM, attached a Video Toaster board (but didn't install its software), and upgraded the machine to the latest WHDLoad with more games.  Robert and Roger played a few of those games which were on the A2000's hard drive.

 

June 2018

Having our meeting on Father’s Day presented some challenges. At least one member who is the father of three was absent, and we assume he was having fun with the young ones. In attendance were two fathers, Dave and Dick, who had celebrated with their daughters earlier in the day/week; and two non-fathers, Robert and Roger.

The restaurant was very busy by the time we arrived, and the staff expected big crowds. We use a small banquet room at the back of the restaurant, with about ten tables available for eating and our large amounts of equipment. They asked us to limit the space we used to just two tables in order to provide for large groups expected later in the day.

We were able to do this, although we were interested to note that at 1:30 p.m. there were only 16 other customers in the restaurant’s dining area and just a handful in the bar. They never placed anyone in “our” meeting room.

Over the last few years we have talked about creating a new “New Member Disk,” since the old one dates back to the 1990s and definitely needs an upgrade. Robert had volunteered to take on this job and reported that he is going to try to get it ready for CommVEx in August. At the show, he will hand out copies as part of the traditional gift bags presented to each person attending.

Back in the day (way back) all the library disks were brought to each meeting. There has been little call for them lately, but Dick reminded the members that all they have to do is ask, and he will bring the desired disks (limited to one box) to any meeting.

Robert reported on the Pacific Commodore Expo (PaCommEx) in Seattle the previous weekend. Robert set up a number of systems, and to his pleasant surprise, members of the Seattle Retro-Computing Society and the Puget Sound Commodore User Group also brought in equipment. A highlight of the event was the unexpected visit of Don Elman, a former editor of Commander magazine, who spoke briefly on Sunday.

On Saturday at the show, Eric Hill spoke about making a new run of the classic Rejuvenator board for the Amiga 1000 and about A1000 Kickstart mods which combined the Kickstart and Workbench into one bootable disk.

A considerable number of people came to the museum because of the show, plus the “regular” museum visitors were surprised by some of the exhibits and amazed to learn that hardware and software is still being developed for Commodore.

The museum events' director was delighted with the success of the show and offered financial assistance for next year’s event.

Before the show Robert dropped off a large number of items to be repaired by Ray Carlsen, who estimated the work would take 30 days. Robert stopped on his way home and was happy to find that Ray had completed all the repairs.

Some time ago Robert learned of a mini Maker Faire in Los Angeles and finally received an invitation to apply to present an exhibit. It will be at the public library in downtown L.A. on December 1.

Next it was time for hardware and software demonstrations. Robert received a 1541 Diagnostic Cartridge from Chris Zimmerman, who had attended CommVEx previously. It was made by World of Jani and turned out to include disk diagnostic features. It loaded up and worked fine on our 1571 drive.

Then Robert showed off Toni Westbrook's Shredz64, a C64 music game which is used with Westbrook's PSX-to-C64 adapter and a Guitar Hero guitar. Robert had last shown this in 2008 at a club meeting and had brought it back, because he had shown it at PaCommEx and was also going to show it at this year's CommVEx.

From Ryan Sherwood of the Puget Sound Commodore User Group came 3 disks with the name of “Scibax Demo”. As Ryan had explained to Robert, with the 3 disks a user could learn how to create C64 demos with graphics and music. It was not as simple as it sounded. The 3 disks were full of instructions, examples, and music and graphics creation programs. However, the user would still have to learn some programming in order to connect all the pieces and complete a demo. As member Dave said, it would take a lot of study.

The meeting finished with Robert and Roger going through several of the programs on the SD card that came with Roger's SD2IEC card drive. One such program was Pinball Spectacular, a C64 game that did well in imitating the board physics of a pinball game.

 

July 2018

The July meeting drew a good crowd – Robert, Roger, Dave, Dick, Brad, and his daughter Katelyn. Dick had brought part of the club’s disk library, including the educational section, and we immediately put Katelyn to work testing some of these programs.

There are 72 disk sides with educational programs, most of which were originally created for the Commodore PET. They are fairly simple programs, all in BASIC, but with a wide variety of subjects and age levels. Since none of us but Brad knows what today’s fifth grader knows, we asked Katelyn if she was familiar with negative numbers, adverbs, and a couple of other subjects. The adverb program offered a sentence with multiple choice answers, and she did well but soon grew tired of it. A few of the listings offered two or three words that would have fit the sentence, and it was necessary to glean hints from the context.

After trying and abandoning a quiz on negative numbers (with complex sign sequences such as 50 - -5 + +5 - +6), she enjoyed the more basic math quizzes. Library disk copies are available to members at no cost at the meeting (blank disk required) and can be mailed for the cost of a disk and postage.

Robert handed out the two latest copies of the Interface, and we again were reminded of our debt to Lenard Roach for producing this publication from far off Kansas City .

Robert has ordered the newest Commodore computer, the Ultimate 64, and the first production run has begun, with delivery expected soon. This is a modern board with the usual Commodore connections plus HDMI and fits into a standard C64 case (not specified if it’s the original brown, the later white, or both).

With CommVEx 2018 coming up August 11 and 12, Robert planned to film several demonstrations with Roger that evening at a local hotel (renamed Bernardo Studios for the evening).

We viewed part of a You Tube TV show with the “8-bit Guy,” featuring an interview with Bill Herd and a look at the C16 and Plus-4, with analyses of the pros and cons of these now-obscure machines. The second half of the show will be viewed at the August meeting.

We then loaded up a German language CAD program, Giga-CAD, whose menus proved a bit challenging. Roger was familiar with this type of program and was able to load existing graphics from the disk and even draw a little. We learned the German words for “on” and “off” (“auf” and “aus”). The user should be able to rotate the drawing in any dimension, but we did not figure out how to do that. Roger may try this at home.

Another German language program, Amiga Demomaker, stymied us completely.

For the C64, we played a new version of Monopoly, which was touted to exactly follow the game rules, and Exploding Fish, which had no exploding fish! To satisfy Robert's flying needs, we also played with classic games, FlyerFox, Falcon Patrol, and Falcon Patrol II .

To finish off the meeting and in honor of World Cup football (soccer), we tried out the VIC-20 game, ASCII Striker, which was a simple-looking program in which you had to shoot goals. We then tried the VIC-20 game, Escape, which was supposed to be a top-down game of a spaceship flying through corridors.  Robert likened it to be more of a tank game, because the sprites looked like tanks.

 

August 2018

by Robert Bernardo

The end of summer meant that less members were at the August meeting, the absent members probably enjoying the last days of their vacations. Only Robert and Roger were in attendance. However, the low attendance did not stop the two of them from carrying on with the meeting as usual.

After setting up the club's Commodore 128 system and Robert's Amiga 2000 system, they ordered food, and soon they were deep into discussion. Robert spoke at length about the August 11-12 Commodore Vegas Expo – the pre-show happenings which included meeting/speaking to Las Vegas C= enthusiasts, setting up all the equipment, running the show on Saturday and then Sunday, finding support from the Southern California Commodore & Amiga Network members who attended, relating his impressions of the raffles and the gaming, and talking to the hotel about a 2019 show. Robert passed out a leftover CommVEx gift bag to Roger, and Roger was surprised at the variety of Commodore and Amiga items in it. Unrelated to CommVEx, Robert also gave a reminder of the upcoming October Amiwest Show in Sacramento.

For a few minutes, Robert and Roger looked at one of the videos presented at CommVEx – the video of Roger describing the use of certain C64 software with a C= wi-fi modem. Of course, Roger didn't want to see too much of it (because he had already presented the technique in front of the camera), but Robert wanted to prove that with good editing, the many mistakes during the actual filming could be erased. Also, though the video looked dark when seen through the camera viewfinder, it came out perfectly exposed when shown on a TV screen.

For the software part of the meeting, Robert had brought the SuperCPU 128 so that he could easily run the 3D Construction Kit game, A Chance in Hell. Unfortunately, the club C128 did not boot with the SCPU, only showing a black screen in 40-column C64 mode. Switching the SCPU from 20 MHz to 1 MHz did not solve the problem. Robert retrieved his C64C out of his car and set it up. Then he tried the SCPU with it. Again a black screen. Roger sprayed some DeOxit on the connecting edge of the SCPU, hoping that the chemical would clean the contacts. Some black oxide was wiped off, but that didn't cure the SCPU problem. Without the SCPU working, Robert didn't want to show the game running at the normal C64 speed of 1 MHz; it would have been unbearably slow.

Roger had brought the German C64 CAD program, GigaCAD, again, and though the SCPU would have helped make the program run more smoothly, Roger felt that even at 1 MHz he could show off what he had learned in the one month since he had been using the program. Then he went into an intense explanation of how the program worked, how to design objects, and how to render them in 3-D. Robert was very impressed, so much so that the rest of the meeting was devoted to GigaCAD, and the Amiga 2000 was ignored. 

 

September 2018

Cooler pre-fall weather brought out a good crowd, including a couple of members who have not attended in quite a while. On hand for September were Robert Bernardo, Roger Van Pelt, Dave Smith, Randy Stoller, Mike Fard, and Dick Estel.

Having recently paid his dues, Dick has been a member for 30 consecutive years. Dave countered by displaying a membership card from 1993, although he left the club for a long period, re-joining in 2017.

Robert will be going to Oregon for a Quarterflash concert and will take equipment to Ray Carlsen for repair. In other travels he will attend the AmiWest Show in Sacramento October 11-14, and then will have a table at the Mini-Maker Faire in downtown Los Angeles December 1. With hardware from at least one other person, his table will be titled, “Classic LA Computers” (CLAC).

Robert reported on CommVEx, which had a decent attendance but did not produce enough revenue to pay for the room cost. A lower rate is available next year, and a member of TOGA, the Amiga group in San Jose, will sell some of the equipment Robert has in storage to pay down the deficit. Plans for CommVEx 2019 remain undecided at this point.

Next month will be the club’s annual “picnic,” which is now an indoor lunch at a different restaurant. Lunch is paid for by the club, and there will be no official demonstrations or business. The location will be the Elbow Room in Fig Garden Village.

After lunch we watched a video Robert shot at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, featuring four Commodore engineers in a panel discussion. Participants were Bil Herd, Leonard Tramiel, Hedley Davis, and Ron Nicholson. The event followed the showing of the film, The Commodore Story.

Moving to our software demonstration, Roger had been working with the German C64 Giga-CAD program we first looked at in July. He and Robert used Google to translate the manual, and using the SuperCPU, Roger showed us how a drawing can be rotated in various directions for a 3-D view from many different angles. Roger’s work with this program will continue.

Using the SuperCPU with the 3D Construction Kit game, A Chance in Hell. Robert and Roger played with v1.1 of the game which author Steven Flanagan had just sent over. Version 1.1 was now further bug-fixed and enhanced for the SuperCPU. Steven also had sent the 3D Kit Game, the original demo game which came with 3DCK but which he had enhanced for the SCPU. Robert and Roger briefly looked at that game.

Robert fired up the Amiga CD32 and ran the very colorful and realistic program, Pinball Dreams, and several members tried their hand at it. Balky controllers prevented anyone from beating the high score.

Ending the meeting, the members played the new VIC-20 games, Spikes, Defense Shield, Alien Invasion, and Cavern Explorer.

 

October 2018

Back in the day, the Fresno Commodore User Group had an outdoor picnic at the home of one of our members. 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 Rob ert Bernardo, Dick Estel , Roger Van Pelt , Dave Smith and Mike Fard gathered at The Elbow Room in Fig Garden Village , a restaurant that has been in business in various locations since 1955.

We had a fun discussion of various topics, naturally including computers. Sticking with the theme of ancient technology, Dick reported that he has connected is 1970s Tandberg reel to reel recorder to his stereo system, with mixed results. Tapes go back as much as 50 years, and ancient splices do not hold up well. The machine also produces an intermittent high frequency signal in one channel, which interferes with attempts to copy the music to the PC.

Roger spoke briefly about his continuing work with the German Giga-CAD program that we’ve been experimenting with since July. Robert warned Roger to be ready to give a video demo for the next CommVEx.

Following another tradition, Robert brought gift grab bags for all attendees. There was an extra one which we presented to our waitress.

Throughout the years, these events have always brought good food and good company, and we hope to enjoy another one in 2019.

 

November 2018

By Robert Bernardo

Robert arrived to the meeting first, followed by Dave, Roger, and Mike, in that order. Roger set up the club C128 system, and Robert set up his Amiga CD32 system. Mike was very interested in Robert's Sony GVM-1311Q monitor, having never seen such a NTSC/PAL CRT monitor like that one (it appeared at CommVEx, but Mike didn't go to the show). Dave showed off his new 64 Mini which he had ordered from Amazon.com, but Dave was not prepared to demonstrate it, saying that he would save that for a future meeting.

The waitress was fairly quick this time with the orders being taken efficiently; while the members waited for the food, the big topic of discussion was the Camp Fire in Paradise, California; the Woolsey Fire in the Malibu area, and the unhealthy/hazardous smoke covering the valley all the way through Fresno down to Bakersfield. Robert knew of a Commodore vendor who was in Paradise ; he hoped that vendor had survived the fire which wiped out the town. Robert had also talked to Mario Luppi of the Southern California Commodores & Amiga Network, the club based in Northridge. (Mario and his wife visited FCUG in 2017.) The Luppis lived in Westlake Village, a city evacuated during the Woolsey Fire, and he and his wife saw fire on the mountaintops as they were evacuated. Did their house survive? They discovered that the houses on their side of the street remained standing; the houses on the other side of street were destroyed!

As the FCUG members chowed down on their food, Robert talked about how SCCAN was going to have an exhibit table or two at the December 1 Downtown Los Angeles Maker Faire and two to three tables at the January 5-6 Retro City Festival in Pomona. Robert spoke about how FCUG has voted on donating money to a charity during the December meeting. For the last several years, it had been to the St. Jude Children's Hospital, but Robert thought that this year with the disastrous fires in California, the club should donate to aide the victims. The other members agreed with the idea.

After the meal, Robert started up the CD32, and the others concentrated on the various game discs for that machine while Robert tried to run the newly-revised 3D Kit Game on the C128. He tried but failed, because his SD2IEC card drive would not fit in the computer with the SuperCPU attached. He'd have to wait until a C64 or a differently-designed SD2IEC was brought to the meeting. However, he was able to carry on with the rest of the demonstrations without hardware difficulties.

Among the various CD32 discs, the members especially liked the cartoony and smooth-running Zool. Over on the C64 mode of the C128, they tried out the new games – Shadow Switcher (a platformer), Great Giana Sisters 30th Anniversary Preview (another platformer), Knightlore (isometric graphic adventure), Tower of Rubble 64 (a type of Bomberman), Hibernated 1-This Place Is Death (text adventure), and their favorite, the atmospheric and gory Limbo Preview (run-and-jump). Then they went into C128 mode with the 80-column text adventure, Innuh's Pyramid. Finally, they closed out the meeting by setting up the VIC-20 and running Chinese Patience (a card game) and Morse, a program which lets the user practice Morse code by pushing the firebutton on a controller and listening to the dot and dash sounds while seeing the results on-screen. The 8K RAM-expanded version of the program ran better than the unexpanded version, but there was still some lag due to the firebutton insensitivity of the particular controller used.

 

December 2018

By Robert Bernardo and Dick Estel

Robert had a Christmas present for the members and hopefully for many Commodore fans – there WILL be another CommVEx show! Commodore Vegas Expo v15 will take place August 10 and 11 (tentative on signing the contract) at the Plaza Hotel in downtown Vegas. Although this will be the final CommVEx, all agreed that the show has had an amazing run.

Receiving this news from Robert were Brad, Dick, and Dave. We said that this news was like having dessert before our lunch!

Robert also noted that the third annual Pacific Commodore Expo (PaCommEx) will be held in June in Seattle. And Robert is trying to coordinate a new show in May – the Commodore L.A. Super Show (CLASS) at the Santa Monica Public Library. We’ll have more information about all these shows in the future.

Dave once again passed around his C64 Mini, a game machine designed to look like a quarter-size C64. which Brad and Dick had not seen before. A demo will be scheduled some time in 2019.

Dick passed around a thank-you card from St. Jude hospital, which has received our annual charitable donation for the last few years. Because of recent devastating fires in northern and southern California, the club voted to make a donation to the Red Cross disaster relief fund this year.

It was also time for elections, with the existing slate of officers being re-elected by acclamation. They are: Robert Bernardo, president; Roger Van Pelt, vice president; Dick Estel, secretary-treasurer; and Brad Strait and Dave Smith, members of the board of trustees.

Robert reported on his participation in Mini Maker Faire in Los Angeles the previous day. Over 8,000 people came through the downtown L.A. library, with many of them checking out the Commodore and Amiga units at the table Robert manned with members of Southern California Commodore & Amiga Network (SCCAN).

On January 5-6 Robert will attend the 2nd annual Retro City Festival in Pomona, which focuses on arcade and pinball games. SCCAN will have three exhibit tables there.

Turning to hardware and software demonstrations, Robert set up his Amiga CD32 and we tried several programs. Some would not load, and some did not work past the menu, but Bump & Burn and Bubba 'n Stix both functioned and were well-received by the members present. More CD32 game discs were tried, and the quick-loading ones were favored. Robert remarked that there is a new board that can be installed in a CD32 console which gives a SD card solution, i.e., the programs would load more efficiently off a SD card instead of the 2X speed of the CD32 disc drive. He was not ready to buy that board yet.

   

2019

January     February     March     April     May     June

July     August     September     October     November     December

  

January 2019

The first order of business at our meetings is to carry in the equipment This can be just a few items or a few tables full. Sometimes we have as many as five computer systems set up, with no duplicates. More about that later.

Next the various systems are set up and plugged in, with all the peripherals needed for the day’s events.

Only when we have completed these tasks do we sit down, place our orders, and attack the chips and salsa. The official meeting does not begin until we’ve nearly finished eating, but there is always discussion during lunch, mostly tech-related but sometimes straying far and wide.

To kick off 2019 on January 20, Robert, Roger, Dave, Brad and Dick held forth on how various companies failed to capitalize on their main product and either faded away (Commodore) or rose from the dead with something entirely new (Apple). There was mild debate on whether the iPhone will be the end of Apple; Mac almost was the end of Apple, and the Amiga definitely was the end of Commodore. Brad pointed out that Apple has billions in cash, providing a pretty good cushion against future problems. The other unanswered question was whether Tesla can survive without Elon Musk, with Brad noting that it has barely survived with him.

Robert passed around the new book, “Commodore: the Inside Story,” written by former Commodore UK executive, David Pleasance. The book tells the story of David's rise in the company and then the Commodore's downfall, all from his British perspective.

In official business, Robert reported on the 2nd annual Retro City Festival in Pomona , which he attended in early January. The focus was on arcade and pinball games, but Robert and other members of the Southern California Commodore & Amiga Network (SCCAN) had several exhibit tables featuring classic computers.

We also discussed the three shows that Robert and FCUG will present this year, the first being the Commodore Los Angeles Super Show (CLASS) on April 27-28. Plans to hold it at the Santa Monica Public Library did not work out, and the venue instead will be Toolbox LA, a co-working space in Chatsworth. Robert will make the final payment for the room early in February. Everything is a “go” for Pacific Commodore Northwest (PaCommEx) in June, and our expo web designer, Larry Anderson, will have the website updated soon.

The final Commodore Vegas Expo (CommVEx) in August is still in the “very probable stage,” with the contract yet to be signed. The final word should be out by late February/early March.

At the insistence of club members, Robert also told us about his trip to Ticonderoga , New York , for a tour of the Star Trek original series set. The tour was led by Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner, still going strong at age 87. The weather was cold with light snow, the plane trip frustrating, but all worth the effort to stand on the bridge of the Enterprise . Robert remarked that this year at the William Shatner Weekend in Burbank he will make an effort to interview Shatner about his involvement with Commodore.

Moving to demonstrations, we finally got a look at Dave’s 64 Mini in action. This is a replica C64, about the size of a VHS cassette, containing a modern game machine that emulates new and old Commodore games under Linux. Dave connected a keyboard, a joystick and a gamepad controller via 3-way splitter into the device’s USB port. The display was fed into a Samsung HDMI monitor. Dave treated us to several games, including Boulder Dash and Choplifter.

Some programming of the machine can be done using BASIC. There’s an on-screen virtual keyboard which Dave said was very tedious to use, but any USB keyboard can be plugged in.

As Dave ran the very intriguing game, Digiloi, on the 64 Mini, Robert loaded up the same game on the club C128 so that he could compare the game's SID music between each machine. Digiloi was programmed in assembly language using Commodore keyboard graphics. Considering the limitations of the tools at hand, the game looked very good and played smoothly.

Though Robert had a packed agenda with various stuff for us to try out, the rest of the meeting was devoted to testing the new Ultimate 64, a modern motherboard replacement for the C64. No legacy chips were used in the U64 (Robert joking that it was a World War II German submarine sunk in 1940). Robert had put the U64 in an ordinary brown C64 case; however, if you looked around the back and right side of the computer, you would see that it was not ordinary, what with its dual USB ports, Ethernet port, HDMI port, missing RF jack and channel switch, and spacing gaps where there should be plates covering the holes.

After connecting the U64 to Dave's HDMI monitor, Robert powered it on and had to switch the monitor to 4:3 aspect ratio instead of its standard 16:9 ratio. Then he showed the computer's configuration menus which were accessed with the machine's multi-function switch and the F2 key. With the computer configured (or so Robert had thought), he ran the Digiloi game. There was no sound from the game! Robert went back to the U64 configuration menus and verified they were OK. Still no sound. Robert connected a regular A/V cable to the back of the computer and hooked it into the monitor (which also had composite and audio ports). Sound came from the game via A/V cable! Finally, after going into the computer menus again and after much thought, it was determined that the U64 was connected to the wrong HDMI port of the monitor; one port allowed sound and the other didn't. When the HDMI cable was connected in the correct port, there was no problem with the sound.

Robert ran several games from the SD card USB adapter connected into the U64. He discovered that if you “Mount a D64” and then ran it, the Epyx Fastload (a cartridge emulated in the U64) would work. However, if you directly “Run a D64”, the fast loader would disabled.

Then it was time to test the U64's disk drive capabilities. He tried to load and run several disks by using the club 1571, the club 1581, and his own 1541. All failed to load and run. He could not even pull up a directory. It was back to the configuration menus. IEC drive and printer enabled... yes. Disk drive selection... change from 1541-II to 1541. Virtual drive disabled... yes. Still no correct response from real disk drives Finally, on advice from Roger, Robert reset all the menus back to original with the exception of the enabling of the IEC drive. The real drives now worked correctly. The virtual drive option had to be enabled (though that seemed contrary to what Roger and Robert understood).

With real drives working correctly, Robert loaded and ran 1581 Toolkit, the FCUG membership disk, and even a German GEOS disk. However, the GEOS disk only reached the desktop without any icons. Without a mouse, further GEOS testing would be difficult. Robert had wanted to test the U64's SID emulation (UltiSID)... would it recognize a mouse?

Finally, in order to test the UltiSID, Robert plugged in a Koalapainter cartridge and a Koalapad into the computer. The U64 ran the cartridge but did not respond correctly to the Koalapad. No matter which way Robert moved the Koala stylus, he could not move the screen pointer lower than halfway down the screen. Even enabling/disabling the Paddle Control in the configuration menus made no difference. The U64 had failed. If the UltiSID was inferior to real SID chips, then the real ones would have to be installed in the U64's sockets (the U64 had sockets for two actual SID chips). Robert was now suspicious of U64's handling of paddles and a mouse; further testing would have to be done with applications that used paddles and a mouse.

 

February 2019

By Robert Bernardo and Dick Estel

Nearly everyone who attended the February 17 meeting drove in the rain as they left their homes, with the temperature around 40. By the time we reached Bobby Salazar’s Restaurant in central Fresno, the storm had moved east, and there was blue sky above us. Even so, this cold storm brought snow to very low levels, down around the 1,500 feet level.

Inside the restaurant it was warm and cozy, and there was a good turnout: Robert Bernardo, Roger Van Pelt, Dave Smith, Brad Strait and son William, Dick Estel, and Randy Stoller.

The main topic of the business meeting was the various exhibitions in which the club is involved. First up was the Commodore Los Angeles Super Show (CLASS) on April 27-28 at Toolbox LA in Chatsworth. Robert reported that Mark Ripkin, who worked at Commodore late in its run, will be at this show. Robert also reported that the Livermore Innovation Fair was coming on May 4 and that the application for the May 17-19 Bay Area Maker Faire had been submitted. He showed the updated websites for the June 8-9 Pacific Commodore Expo NW and the August 10-11 Commodore Vegas Expo v15. The Pacific Commodore Expo was being held at the Seattle's Living Computers: Museum + Labs, and Robert remarked that Matisse Fletcher, the events' coordinator who was in charge for the last two PaCommExes had moved to the Burke Natural History Museum in Seattle. Though she had moved, PaCommEx 2019 was still a go.

We have now committed to holding CommVEx 2019 at the Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas, the 15th year for this now-iconic event.

Robert was working on a video commercial for CLASS, and the script called for young students. After we finished eating, we went outside, and 9-year old William Strait made his TV debut in a small but significant role for the commercial. Robert also photographed a brown C64 sitting on Randy’s new Tesla, perhaps a contrast between old and new technology. Since some us had never seen such a vehicle, we were intrigued by the presence of front and back luggage compartments, and the lack of traditional dashboard items which were replaced by a large video display.

Returning to the meeting room, Robert presented a salute to Valentine’s Day by loading up Wordwriter by One Step Software and showing samples from a disk of “Love Letters 1: A Selection of Famous Love Letters.” The definition of “famous” is highly subjective, because most of us found these missives severely wanting.

On a laptop, Robert brought up the website, https://www.commodoregamebase.com. This is an extensive collection of Commodore games and other applications, sorted by model (Commodore PET, C128, and VIC-20) and arranged alphabetically. Each game has a screen shot, and the game can be downloaded and run with an emulator or on a real Commodore.

The new Ultimate 64 (https://ultimate64.com) returned for further testing. After running a few games from the SD card adapter attached to the USB port of the machine, the U64 began giving trouble, i.e., the screen was not being displayed. Even after a reset and after a power-down, the screen reliably did not come back on the U64. Robert and Roger spent the rest of the meeting trying to get the U64 running again. When they did get the screen back, they would go through the U64 menus, trying to track down some kind of setting that stopped the display. By the end of the meeting, they had given up on trying to solve the problem. Robert did say he would bring the machine to the next meeting of the Southern California Commodore & Amiga Network and have the members check it out, especially the one member who had the U64, too.

 

March 2019

by Robert Bernardo

As usual, we met at Bobby Salazar's Mexican Restaurant. Robert arrived first and started taking down the chairs and setting up the tables in the back room. David came in later, followed by Roger. During lunch, Bruce came in but only stayed a few minutes.

For this meeting, talk centered around the first-ever Commodore Los Angeles Super Show. It will be held on April 27-28 at Toolbox LA in Chatsworth. Robert had already scouted the area for nearby restaurants to the venue.

After the discussion on CLASS, Roger talked about data transfer via television video! Various classic computers, including Commodore 64, could have received such data transfer when users in Europe watched certain TV shows. There would be a flashing pixel(s) in the corner of the TV screen, and that would be the data coming through to specialized receivers that the users would have. Then that data could be converted to a program on disk/tape! Roger showed a YouTube video that demonstrated how this was done.

Robert brought his Ultimate 64 again, but this time with new firmware revision 1.10, a newly-painted case, and a new carrying case. He explained that the breadbin case was found in storage. It had already been painted black by a south San Francisco Commodore dealer who had converted an old C64 motherboard into what he called a “C64GS.” (Not really because a true C64GS had a reduced-cost/reduced-component board and came from Germany.) Robert threw out the old board and installed the U64 board in its place. For added board support, he installed the 3D-printed brackets from CoreI64. The black paint needed touching up, and Robert went to a hobby shop, bought Tamiya Color Paint for Plastics, semi-gloss black; and re-sprayed the case. He bought new chrome badges for where it said Commodore and Power on the case. He used the original dark brown keyboard to complete the look.

The carrying case came from Harbor Freight Tools. It had the aluminum frame/black plastic suitcase-look and came with a carrying strap. The interior was lined with pluck foam which was removed in spots to contain the U64 breadbin, the SD card-to-USB adapter for the U64, and the U64's power supply. Laid over this was a presentation folder that had color photocopies of the U64 website which briefly introduces the machine and its operation.

With the club C128 at the ready, Robert showed off the new 128 40-column games, Knight Lore v1.10, Two Days to the Race, and the Space Invaders demo. For the C64 side of the computer and with the use of the SD2IEC, we ran the new 64 games, Bruce Lee – Return to Fury, Boulderdash Junior II, and Street Defender v1.6 for VR64. We connected a VIC-20 and with the SD2IEC and ran the new programs, Go-moku (which needed 24K expansion), Two Days to the Race (which needed 32K expansion and played exactly like the C128 version), Snake, Spaceship, and Realms of Quest V Beta Track. The last program was not a game but a compilation of “music” to be used in the future game, Realms of Quest V. However, the term, “music,” must be used very lightly. The members agreed that each musical number sounded more like noise or special sound effects or highly out-of-tune compositions. (Ah, the look on their faces!)

The meeting ran long, and Robert was the last to leave. He stopped by the front counter to reserve the room for April. However, the counter person said that under a new restaurant policy, the room would have to be reserved with an $80 deposit which would be returned after the meeting. He paused for a second and went to the back room. Another counter person came out and said that from now on, the room would cost $100 a month (no return of money) and could only be used a maximum of 3 hours. He said that our group was taking up space that another group had wanted that day, even though we had reserved that room weeks in advance. Shocked, Robert replied that he'd have to discuss this with the club.

Thinking fast, Robert thought of where the club could meet for free. The idea came immediately. Do what the Southern California Commodore & Amiga Network did for its meetings -- meet at Panera Bread Restaurant. Robert scouted the local Panera's that afternoon. The Clovis Panera was too crowded, and the north Fresno Panera was too busy and not conducive to setting up computer equipment. The last Panera on West Shaw Avenue proved to be a wonder. It was far less busy than the other two Panera's, had a restaurant area in the back with multiple electrical outlets, and even had a covered patio with electrical outlets. This was the spot for FCUG meetings from now on!

  

April 2019

By Robert Bernardo

After 6 1/2 years at our previous venue, the Fresno Commodore User Group met at a new venue, Panera Bread Restaurant at 3590 W. Shaw Ave. in Fresno. At that meeting were Robert, Roger, David, Brad, Randy, and Mike. With Robert leading the way, the group aimed toward the back of the restaurant, which was where most of the electrical outlets were. Taking over a few tables, Robert set down boxes of items to present and also set up a Commodore SX-64.

Unlike the previous venue where a waitress came to the table to take orders, the group went to the front counter and ordered food from there. It took a bit longer to place the orders, because most members were not that familiar with the Panera menu, but the food was ready far more quickly than at the older venue.

After eating lunch, talk concentrated on Commodore. The day before the meeting, Robert opened up “Bernardo Studios” at University Square Inn. At the studio, he and Roger spent hours filming a video, tentatively titled, “The C64, SuperCPU, and Giga-CAD.” With his knowledge of Computer Aided Design programs, Roger made a presentation on the German program, Giga-CAD, arguably the most sophisticated C64 CAD program. The video will be edited and shown at future C= shows.

Robert spoke about the Commodore Los Angeles Super Show which was to be on April 27-28 at Toolbox LA in Chatsworth, California. He was hopeful that it would be successful, though he acknowledged that he didn't know what attendance would be, i.e., would it draw outside people rather than those associated with the sponsoring club, the Southern California Commodore & Amiga Network?

Another topic of discussion was the Brixty Four. Composed of Lego bricks, the Brixty Four comes in different versions – just the case, the case and the keyboard, or the case plus keyboard plus motherboard. A user could source his own parts (bricks) in order to build the Brixty Four, he could buy the parts from website, or he could buy the pre-built units from the site.

The pre-built option would cost hundreds of dollars! Robert showed one of the Brixty Four videos found on YouTube.

On a side note, Robert told how a member of the Southern California Commodore & Amiga Network bought a MechBoard (fully mechanical, modern keyboard) for his C64C. That MechBoard cost $300!

Then Robert started opening boxes. First, it was a box full of new books, the book being “The Vintage Commodore 128 Handbook” by Margaret Morabito. The book, which originally was supposed to be published in 1985, had been held from publication, the author updating it and finally releasing it this year. The book will be sold at a discounted price at the Commodore Los Angeles Super Show and at the Commodore Vegas Expo.

In the other boxes were items from Tim Harris of SharewarePlus.blogspot.com. He had sent over these items to be sold at the above shows, with the monies going to pay down the costs of those events. The goodies were the C64/128 FM Radio Module, the Final Cartridge III+, LumaFix 128, the C64 Multicart+, Trackdisplay for the 1541-II, a Pi1541 (Raspberry Pi not included), the 1541 Diagnostic cartridge, cynthCART 64, and SD2IEC for the C64/128/VIC-20/SX-64 user port.

Robert was able to demonstrate some of those items on the SX-64. The Final Cartridge III+ was noteworthy in that it was a modded implementation of the classic FC3; the new version had more utilities available in its drop-down menus. The C64 Multicart+ came in a nice case and had 63 games built into it. The 1541 Diagnostic cartridge needed more instructions for interpretation of its results on the SX-64's built-in disk drive. The cynthCART 64 played its music well with the SX. However, because the SD2IEC was programmed as drive 8, it could not be used with the SX, due to that machine's disk drive already being drive 8 (the SD2IEC would have to be reprogrammed on a C64 that did not already have an attached disk drive).

David bought the Final Cartridge III+, and Randy bought the pi1541. Robert thanked them for supporting CLASS and CommVEx.

Because of the quick speed of Panera's service, the meeting was able to end earlier than it had in years past. After the meeting, Robert met with two of the Panera people who manned the counter. They reaffirmed that the club was causing no problem and that we were most welcome to have meetings in their restaurant.

 

May 2019

By Robert Bernardo

We met for the second time at our new location, Panera Bread Restaurant on West Shaw Ave. in Fresno. Robert had come from Stockton, and though he had left early from that city, he had to pick up Roger who had no ride. Even so, they were able to arrive a bit early and set up the club equipment.

Because the weather was cool and there was a nice breeze, this time we met in the covered patio, and we were free to spread out our equipment over several tables. In attendance were Robert, Roger, David, and Brad.

Robert gave a report on the April Commodore Los Angeles Super Show. The show was a success with about 40 attendees, good presentations and exhibits, and a lot of enthusiasm for the venue, Toolbox LA in Chatsworth. Most importantly, the show made back its cost with a little bit of money left over.

The next event would be the May 17-19 Bay Area Maker Faire in San Mateo, and Robert intends to exhibit only two systems – an Amiga CD32 and the Ultimate 64 -- to that show. For backup, he will bring an Amiga 600 system. He will leave the rest of the Commodore hardware and software in his station wagon for the June 8-9 Pacific Commodore Expo NW in Seattle.

The big topic of software discussion was Super Mario 64, which had only been released a few days before our meeting. The programmer had worked on it 7 years, porting it from the Super Nintendo version. He then uploaded it to various websites so that people could download it for free. When Nintendo found out about the program, the company started sending cease-and-desist orders to those websites that carried the game. The game was erased off those sites; however, with some digging, a user can still find the game on-line!

Roger and David knew nothing of the furor. However, Brad had brought a disk copy of Super Mario 64, and that was run on the club C128. Robert also had his copy of SM 64, and that was run on his Ultimate 64 which had been upgraded to firmware v1.10. There it was, the game being run on 2 screens at the same time! Roger got behind one of the computers. With the game in his expert gaming hands, he noted that it was extremely accurate to the arcade version, even down to the hidden world.

Naturally, all this gaming brought out the interest of others sitting in the patio, especially from one little girl (Destiny?). She was very bright and inquisitive. She played with SM 64 for quite awhile, and afterwards, she kept asking for more and different games to play. Because the U64 was set up with a lot of games on its SD card, Robert had her play from that computer. Meantime, the two women that had brought her were content to continue talking with each other.

All the time was taken up with the games, and there was none left over for VIC-20 or Amiga software. Those computers would have to wait for another meeting.

 

June 2019

By Robert Bernardo and Dick Estel

For the most part, the usual suspects showed up for the June meeting. Dick made what is becoming a rare appearance, his first since February and his first at the new location of Panera Bread Restaurant. Also present were Robert, Roger, Dave, and Randy. Dick observed that the new venue has a lot going for it, and he enjoyed the healthier food available at Panera Bread.

It's the season of shows, and Robert hasn't missed very many. He was at a William Shatner Weekend recently, and as usual got "Bill" to autograph a couple pieces of Commodore equipment - a VIC-1525 printer and an Amiga 600. In early June Robert and his big station wagon battled the steep mountains of Oregon, en route to the third annual Pacific Commodore Expo NW at the Living Computers: Museum + Labs in Seattle. Robert wisely took three days each way for this 2,000 mile round trip journey, and he and the vehicle both arrived safely, with stops in both directions to drop off and pick up equipment at Ray Carlsen's repair depot in southern Washington.

Attendance was down slightly at this expo, attributed to the fact that the weather was nice and people were taking advantage of the rare opportunity to be outside. Still there were nearly 100 people going through the museum on Saturday and maybe 60 on Sunday.

Now Robert is getting ready for a trip to Las Vegas, first for the Creation Star Trek Convention and then for the final edition of CommVEx at the Plaza Hotel and Casino, August 10 and 11.

Robert attended the recent Maker Faire in the Bay Area, where he saw and captured on film quick shots of a few Commodore luminaries - Leonard Tramiel, son of Commodore founder Jack Tramiel; Bill Seiler, Commodore engineer; and Jeri Ellsworth, who is developing augmented reality (AR) goggles for gaming. This turned out to be the final "big" Maker Faire, but a one-day event will continue in downtown Los Angeles.

As many of our readers know, Robert has a lot of Commodore equipment - in every room in his house, in a house that his mother owns in Stockton, and of course, in his vehicles. The house in Stockton has to be cleared out so it can be rented, which has led Robert to order a big 10 x 16 storage shed for his yard. While awaiting assembly, he has been forced to rent a storage unit in Stockton, so he gets to move that stuff twice. We encouraged him to take inventory and store everything in an organized manner. We concluded several years ago that he needs an intern to help with this task. Any volunteers?

After lunch, the presentations began. Robert connected the Tech Sketch Music Port keyboard to the club C128 and ran the software. The Music Port was the hit of the Commodore Los Angeles Super Show and the Pacific Commodore Expo NW, and Robert showed off new features of the software that he had learned at those shows. It was very sophisticated software which allows the user to choose instruments, to create custom sounds, and to record compositions.

Robert had recently picked up a collection of Commodore equipment and software from the San Diego area. He had given away most of that collection to the members of the Southern California Commodore & Amiga Network. However, he kept one item - the classic Zoomer flight controller/steering wheel which connects to the joystick port. He found out that the Zoomer worked better as a steering wheel than as a flight controller, and so, the Pole Position driving game was loaded up from Roger's SD2IEC drive. The game worked very well with the Zoomer.

The Ultimate 64 was connected, and Super Mario 64 was loaded up. Randy tried out that combination for awhile, and afterwards, some SID music was played on the U64 so that the UltiSIDs in the machine could be compared to the original SID sound.

Finally, the Shatner-autographed Amiga 600 was connected, and Robert ran the game, Battle Squadron, which was popular at CLASS and PaCommEx. Roger commented that the game was true to the arcade version of Battle Squadron.

  

July 2019

By Robert Bernardo and Dick Estel


Once again we invaded the Panera Bread restaurant at Shaw and Marty for the monthly meeting of the Fresno Commodore User Group. Present were Robert, Roger, Dave, and Dick.

Dick dug out some stuff from the bottom of his “FCUG Briefcase,” including a flier for The Write Stuff Companion, a collection of articles and tutorials on The Write Stuff word processor, which the club sold years ago (we can still find a copy if you’re interested). In fact, Robert had many of the Write Stuff packages with him in a box that came from the collection of Rolf Miller, former editor of the CIVIC 64/128 Gazette newsletter.

Also in the pile was an August 1997 copy of the Commodore Product Source List, a comprehensive listing compiled by Roger Long. We speculated that not 5% of the items listed were still available. Recently, Roger Long put out the list on Internet, editable by anyone. However, Robert found out that it was not easy to edit the list to include new resources and to delete the many old resources. Robert gave up in updating it.

During lunch we discussed the vast number of old and very old TV shows now available in our multi-channel, multi-streaming service world. Some of the classics that have caught members’ attention recently include The Cisco Kid, The Danny Thomas Show, and The Jimmy Dean Show (where the Muppets made their first appearance). Dick’s grandchildren were surprised when he told them Jimmy was known for more than just sausage.

That “other” Commodore show in Las Vegas recently announced that admission will be increased from zero to $35 this year. Apparently their business model of table rental only did not work out. CommVEx continues to charge admission and provide free tables.

Robert reported that he has signed up for the Downtown LA Maker Faire, to be held December 7. That show will continue, even though the Maker Faire parent organization was going through reorganization.

He also gave us a look at the 2019 CommVEx commercial going up on YouTube and featuring some famous Commodore names saying goodbye to the show for its final appearance.

Robert has been cleaning out his storage house in Stockton and moving the items to Visalia . He ran across CAD 3D, which we loaded up on the club C128 to look at, with Roger at the controls. It will require a bit of study at home by Roger before we can enjoy this program to the fullest.

Robert connected the Ultimate 64 and ran the latest 2019 C64 games -- Crystal Caverns, Death Weapon, Run Demon Run, Super Goatron, Stercore XD, Super Galax-I-Birds, Robots Rumble, and the silly Royal Hunt (the wild pigs of the forest hunt naked humans!). However, immediately there was a problem. None of the games had any sound! Robert couldn't figure out the solution. The audio settings in U64 were all correct. Were there bad speakers in the monitor? Robert connected external speakers and still didn't get any audio. Was it a bad HDMI cable from the U64 to the monitor? Unlikely.

Roger did some cross-checking. He took the SD card out of the U64 and put it in Robert's external SD2IEC drive. He connected that to the club C128 and ran the programs. The sound was perfect coming out of the C128! Were the U64 and its internal UltiSIDs faulty? Robert ran some SID music out of the U64, and the sound was all right.

Everybody was ready to give up when Roger came upon the solution; how about reverting the U64 back to its older firmware? Instead of using the current v1.21, go back to the v1.18. Robert took a few minutes to reinstall the older version. Voila! Audio problems solved! The new games played back their audio correctly. Robert said that he would e-mail Gideon Zweijtzer, developer of the U64, and tell him about the v1.21 audio incompatibilities.

 

August 2019

We had a good turnout for our mid-summer meeting at the Panera Bread restaurant that is our new gathering place. On hand were Robert Bernardo, Roger Van Pelt, Dave Smith, Randy Stoller, Mike Fard, and Dick Estel. Long-time member Keith Sohm, who has not been active in the club the last few years, stopped in and was introduced to the newer members.

Dick announced his resignation as librarian effective August 31. Roger volunteered to take over the task. It was noted that there is virtually no demand for access to the library, but the disks need to be maintained for historical purposes.

Robert reported that CommVEx V15 was a big success, with an increase in attendance over last year, and the return of several long-time supporters who had been missing in recent years. The event attained a substantial profit. This was the final CommVEx, so by consensus, the funds will be used to add more hours to the 2020 Commodore Los Angeles Super Show (CLASS).

The annual club lunch is scheduled for October 20, with the Black Bear Diner the tentative location. Fresno ’s version of this popular chain is located right across the street from our meeting location. A final decision will be made at the September meeting.

Demos began with video from CommVEx, with Saj Awan of Las Vegas demonstrating Koalamin, in which the Koala Pad is used with software to simulate the sound of a Theremin.  In the same video, Saj demonstrates the PETpix 2.1, a specialized board connected to the C64 user port and has a Raspberrry PI which is streaming .MP4 video of any length into the C64.

Then we watched Roger’s presentation on video of Digi-Cad, a German CAD program that Roger has been exploring for several months. The video was shown at CommVEx.

To wrap up the meeting, Robert brought out his steering wheel (flight controller) for the C64 and a few car-racing games were played.

  

September 2019


September brought another good turnout, with Robert Bernardo, Roger Van Pelt, Dave Smith, Randy Stoller, Bruce Nieman, and Dick Estel in attendance.

The October 20 meeting will be our annual club lunch, at Hometown Buffet on Shaw Avenue . Members are invited to bring their families, and the club pays for lunch.

Robert reported that CommVEx videos and photos are now on-line. He will be going to the AmiWest show in Sacramento October 23 – 27.

Recently Robert made a trip to Washington , to drop off items for repair by Ray Carlsen, and to see the latest descendant of the musical group Quarterflash, Ross-Frazier-Koontz. He also met with people at the Living Computer History Museum in Seattle and scheduled the date for the 4th Pacific Commodore Expo NW on June 13 and 14, 2020.

Robert also visited the Seattle Commodore Club, which meets in the evening at the leader’s workplace. There were a dozen in attendance. Activities were divided between gaming and hardware hacking, with no formal agenda or business.

On his return back to California , Robert was happy to learn that Ray had already completed all repairs, allowing Robert to fill up the tiny remaining space in his vehicle.

We took a new group photo for the website. In keeping with our interest in old technology, Dick used a Nikon film camera with black and white film. The photo is now on line.

Moving on to software demonstrations, Robert loaded up several C128 80-column programs. First was a nice genealogy program, Pedigree 128 from Loadstar. It offered the standard ancestor tree display, with options to print out the tree as well as additional notes that can be entered about each individual.

Next was an 80-column graphic editor, Electropaint 128, a color-graphics screen editor for the C128, in which you use PETSCII keyboard graphics to create 80-column graphic screens for such things like a BBS.

There was ST View ][, a C128 picture viewer for graphics that were originally made on the Atari ST . The included pictures displayed very well!

Robert could not get Fast Hack’em 128 v.6 to work from the SD2IEC drive, probably because the program was expecting a real disk drive. However, he was able to run SIDPlayer 128 (for playing music SID’s), Millifoot 128 (a game), and the ZED 0.77 text editor that he’s been using for many years instead of a word processor.

Roger took over the keyboard for Home Designer, a cross between a CAD program and a drawing program. We were able to create lines and boxes, and with a little more research, we have high hopes for this one.

 

October 2019

In keeping with a tradition going back decades, the October meeting is our annual picnic. Or maybe “picnic.” We used to have a potluck picnic in the beautiful back yard of one of our members who has since passed on. So we eventually transitioned to an annual lunch, with a few well defined guidelines:

It’s held at a different restaurant from the one where we have our regular meeting.

It’s held at a different restaurant each year.

There is no formal business, no demonstrations, and only minimal discussion of computer-related matters.

Also family members are invited, and the club pays.

This year we had seven in attendance – Robert Bernardo, Dick Estel, Roger Van Pelt and his brother Aaron, Dave Smith, Mike Fard, and his wife Sherry.

We ate at the Hometown Buffet, just across the street from our regular Panera Bread meeting place. It’s an “all you can eat” buffet, and we made a good effort to live up to the name. There’s a big variety of food – a salad bar, two or three kinds of chicken, pasta, vegetables, a ham and roast beef carving station, and of course way too many tempting desserts.

We checked in with Robert on the storage building going up in his back yard. It’s mostly completed, and he has started moving some of his huge collection of Commodore, Amiga, and other equipment and software into it. A film crew that’s been following him around for a decade came up from southern California and spent the day filming some of the action. If this movie ever gets released, it may rival “Gone With the Wind” – at least in length.

Robert also let us know that he will be attending a party put on by Amiga engineer R.J. Mikel. The situation is somewhat complicated by the fact that the event will be held at the Heineken brewery in the Netherlands , necessitating motel reservations and a long plane ride. We’re looking forward to seeing photos and hearing about the trip at our next meeting.

After three hours in the restaurant, we finally managed to get to our feat and head out the door, vowing to eat no more until at least the next morning.

 

November 2019

By Robert Bernardo

Our November meeting started with Dave arriving early, Robert arriving a few minutes late, and Roger arriving later. Because the weather was good, Robert decided to set up all the computer gear in the covered patio of the Panera Bread Restaurant. That decision would come back to haunt him.

After small talk and lunch, Robert talked a little bit of his job of videotaping the presentations at the October Amiwest Show in Sacramento . He spent about 18 hours filming the event which spanned five days and then many more hours editing the videos and uploading them to YouTube.

He then spoke about the upcoming Downtown Los Angeles Mini-Maker Faire which was to happen on December 7. He would have Commodores, Amigas, and a Texas Instruments TI-99A at an exhibit entitled, “Classic Los Angeles Computers!” He invited all to come to the show.

Robert brought in some hardware from the collection of the late Bogdan Macri of the Southern California Commodore & Amiga Network. The hardware was Hewlett-Packard graphing, scientific calculators, and Dave and Roger picked up a few of them – all for free!

Dave, Robert, and Roger then tried out the latest C64 games -- Rocket 'N Roll (shoot spaceships), Keystone Kapers (a platform game ported from the Atari 2600), Croaky (a Frogger-type game), Alien 8 (based on the Spectrum game where the player searches various rooms to solve an unspecified mystery), and Zilsspleef (a game in which you have to avoid hidden mines and solve an unspecified mystery, too). Then there is the music player compilation, XOXOX Softpack (which was incomplete because it was missing certain player modules).

Unfortunately, Dave had to leave earlier than usual; the car exhaust coming from nearby Shaw Avenue was bothering him as the group sat in the restaurant patio. Robert apologized and said that he didn’t know Dave had a sensitivity to the air pollution.

With Dave gone, Robert wrapped up the meeting by showing off the new C64 Halloween games – Luna (fly a witch and shoot the flying skulls), Forbidden Forest (move a Rambo-type character and burn down spiders with his flame thrower), and Get Witchy (a Flappy Bird-type of game except the player controls a witch).

  

December 2019

By Robert Bernardo & Dick Estel

First, the roll call: Present were Robert Bernardo, Roger Van Pelt, Mike Fard, Dave Smith, Dick Estel, and Randy Stoller. Roger’s brother Aaron joined us for lunch only.

The club voted to make a $50 donation to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, a charity we have supported for many years.

It being election month, the existing slate of officers was re-elected by acclamation: President, Robert Bernardo; vice president, Roger Van Pelt; Secretary-Treasurer, Dick Estel; and Board of Trustees, Brad Strait and Dave Smith.

Robert talked a bit about the Classic Los Angeles Computers exhibit that he had at the December 7 Downtown Los Angeles Mini-Maker Faire, but he talked more about how filmmakers Rory Muir and Jerold Kress were still videotaping his Commodore activities (videotaping which has carried on over a span of more than 10 years!). In fact, they traveled all the way to Visalia to film the building of Robert’s tool shed which will house Commodore and Amiga hardware and software.

The Commodore L.A. Super Show (CLASS) returns for a second year, April 25-26, 2020 . Our show in Seattle, the Pacific Commodore Expo NW (PaCommEx) will take place June 13 and 14. More information about both shows is available on-line.

Dave reported that newly-built C64s, named the 64 Maxi, are now available for pre-purchase in Europe . And the Commodore 65 appears ready to rise from the dead. Robert has donated to a fund-raiser to produce moulds for cases for the Mega65, based on the never-released C65 from CBM.  We also saw most of a YouTube video created by the lead Mega65 developer, a video in which he tells of the computer’s features.

Robert showed the Ultimate 64 from the estate of the late Bogdan Macri, the machine being valued at about $650 as customized with new Kickstarter case and MechBoard 64 mechanical keyboard. We checked out a number of programs saved on the USB sticks that came with the computer. One was GEOS 64, which ran from .D64 file in joystick mode, but did not recognize any RAM expansion because it did not have the proper Configure file. Another one was Oregon Trail , but Robert died before he reached eastern Tennessee (OK, I don’t really know where the Oregon trail goes, but he died pretty quickly.)

We took a look at Lenard Roach’s bill and budget work disk 3.1, but without entering actual data and without a connected printer, we could not really appreciate all the program’s features.

We also tried to look at our New Member disk, with plans to update it, but the menu would not load. We have other copies in the library, so hopefully we can return to this project.

   

2020

January     February     March     April     May     June

July     August     September     October     November     December

   

January 2020

By Robert Bernardo and Dick Estel

We started the year with just four in attendance. Was it the gloomy, overcast weather? Or did they stay home to watch the San Francisco 49ers on their way to a Super Bowl Championship? (Sorry, Lenard.)

Whatever the cause, Roger, Robert, Dave and Dick arrived at the Panera Bread Restaurant ready to delve into the amazing world of Commodore. But first we ate lunch, and the conversation during this part of the meeting is often as interesting as the formal meeting or more so.

There was a brief discussion of diets, particularly the paleo diet. No one in the group was interested in exploring the possibilities of eating as did our ancestors of thousands of years ago.

Going back a shorter distance in time, Dick reminisced about his early days with the club, which he joined in 1988. At that time membership was around 150, and we had a Thursday evening meeting as well as the monthly Saturday morning meeting. Exploring the genesis of the club, Dick had recently talked by phone with one of the three original club founders. An article on the beginnings of FCUG will appear in the newsletter some time during 2020.

The topic of life expectancy came up, with someone questioning why in 1900 it was considered to be around 50 years. All of us had grandparents or great-grandparents born before 1900 who lived well past 50. Dick had read an explanation theorizing that the figure was an average. With the high infant mortality rate of that time, the average was based on a large number of people who lived less than a year combined with those who lived into their 80s,

After all this non-computer foolishness, it was time for business. Dick presented the annual financial report, which will appear elsewhere in this newsletter. Our total assets have moved up and down slightly the last few years but have stayed close to $1,200. Income is nearly all from dues, while the only expenditures were the club dinner and a donation to St. Jude Children's Hospital.

Robert reported on his planned trip to New Zealand and Australia in late February. He will visit four computer clubs in Melbourne , Sydney , and Adelaide , and also will meet up with Gaelyne Gasson, a transplant from Michigan who wrote about Commodore and offered various related services for many years.

Moving on to software and hardware, we made one small step in updating our new members' disk which had been unchanged for perhaps 30 years. Robert downloaded a text editor so that we could revise some very outdated information in the welcome message.

While Roger worked on that project, Robert loaded up the new version 1.2 of Super Mario Brothers 64, and several of us tried our hand at this classic game converted from Nintendo. Though Nintendo had reportedly tried to shut down websites that carried the game, the developer did not care and released the bug-fixed version in December.

Next up was the C64 game, Gruniozerca, from Poland – a game where you control a guinea pig to catch the falling carrots. The problem was the game came with confusing instructions; when were you to catch the green or yellow carrots? Red carrots were o.k. to catch for points.

The new Elite 128 v2 was tried, but it always crashed, even though it was the NTSC English version. Perhaps it didn't like the JiffyDOS on the club's C128.

More successful were the other C64 games – Manic Miner 64 (a slow-moving platformer game, even in its new version), Super Vortex (a vertical-scrolling spaceship shooter), Deer Creek (an adventure in which the club members couldn't get very far), Kraken (guide a swimmer in a maze with octopus obstacles), and Amazon Tales 2019 (a sideways-scroller in which you avoid arrows and animals in the jungle). Of all these games, it seemed that Amazon Tales 2019 was the best of the bunch.

 

February 2020

By Robert Bernardo and Dick Estel

Once again we had just four in attendance at our meeting – Robert Bernardo, Dave Smith, Randy Stoller, and Dick Estel.  Members from the Sacramento Amiga Computer Club were supposed to make the three-hour road trip to Fresno and attend the meeting, but they never appeared.

The big news during the business part of the meeting was a new computer show in Los Angeles, City of STEM. It’s a month-long event in April; Robert will have a display table one Saturday. The Downtown Maker Faire in L.A. will no longer be “mini”; it will be a two-day event for 2021 with no show for 2020.

Robert talked about the arduous task of translating 69 pages of the German instruction manual for the C64 desktop publishing program, Pagefox. On his A.L.I.C.E. laptop, he has to type a page-at-a-time the German into LibreOffice (an OpenOffice clone), copy it, dump it into www.translate.google.com, copy the translation, dump it into a fresh page in LibreOffice, clean up all the Google translation so that it sounds like natural English, and then upload that translation to Las Vegas C= enthusiast, Saj Awan, who will add in the graphics from the original manual, and then finally make a .pdf of it.

To kick off the day’s presentations, Robert passed around a little box that he thought had been stolen during a break-in at his house in 2017, but which he recently discovered. It contained a Vampire accelerator board for the Amiga A500 and 2000, which he bought back then for over $500. On Robert’s laptop the members watched an on-line YouTube video of how to install it.

Robert talked a little about his first computer purchase in 1983, a C64 for around $200. Although he coveted an Amiga 1000 in 1985, the $995 price was out of reach at the time. In today’s dollars, that’s $2,885! He had to settle for a C128 for $200.

On his Amiga 3000, Robert started some classic demos which he has shown at the Commodore Vegas Expo, Bay Area Maker Faire, Pacific Commodore Expo NW, and Commodore Los Angeles Super Show, the demos being State of Art and 9 Fingers, both by the group Spaceballs.

Then we tried out some recently-released Amiga games, like Killerball (which looked like it was based on the cult movie, Rollerball), and utilities like DPaint V (Robert worked on a roughly-drawn starship Enterprise).

For the C64, we looked at the new Shoot’Em Up Construction Kit game, Spearhead.

When all the members had left, Robert starting packing up the equipment but was delayed by a restaurant guest, Jose.  He had a strong interest in classic computers and game consoles, so Robert stayed and showed him the Amiga 3000 and the Ultimate 64.  For the next 2 hours, Robert let him try Amiga games, like Shadow of the Beast, Cannon Fodder, Star Wars, and Return of the Jedi, and C64 games, like the newest version of Super Mario Bros. 64.

  

March 2020

No meeting due to coronavirus restrictions

 

April 2020

No meeting due to coronavirus restrictions

 

May 2020

No meeting due to coronavirus restrictions

 

June 2020

No meeting due to coronavirus restrictions

 

July 2020

No meeting due to coronavirus restrictions

 

August 2020

No meeting due to coronavirus restrictions

 

September 2020

No meeting due to coronavirus restrictions

 

October 2020

By Robert Bernardo and Dick Estel

Many years ago the club had an annual picnic in October, actually a potluck on the patio of a member who had a large tract of land and a beautiful home on the edge of the Fresno-Clovis metro area. This couple passed away in the early 2000’s, and after a couple of half-hearted attempts to meet in another member’s back yard, we settled on an annual lunch, which has a few well defined guidelines:

It’s held at a different restaurant from the one where we have our regular meeting.

It’s held at a different restaurant each year.

There is no formal business, no demonstrations, and only minimal discussion of computer-related matters.

Also family members are invited, and the club pays.

LUNCH IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS

Readers will certainly understand that this year we faced the greatest challenge ever – where and how to safely gather under the rules in place and within the members’ comfort zone. Fresno County just allowed limited inside dining, but most of us are not ready to eat inside a restaurant. Some were even hesitant about the outside seating many venues now offer.

President Robert Bernardo scouted a number of locations, and found that Casa Corona, an excellent Mexican restaurant in northeast Fresno, had sufficient outdoor seating and separation that we were comfortable scheduling our lunch there. As it turned out, we had only five in attendance; we sat at three different tables, and no other patrons were seated in our area. Attending were Robert Bernardo, Dick Estel, Dave Smith, Roger Van Pelt and his brother Aaron.

All of us had been adhering to safe practices – limited close contact with family members, no close contact with others, and masks in place when out in public.

We had not had a club meeting since February, so it was great to get together with friends once again. Discussion revolved around what we had been doing, how we were holding up, and especially Dave’s regression to hippie days, since he had not been comfortable about getting a haircut.

Robert reported that AmiWest is still scheduled to take place later in October, with about 20 people expected. He was still uncertain about being inside with that many people, especially for the several hours he would normally spend at the event. With that uncertainty, he decided not to attend. Instead, he is planning a trip to Washington, to take items to repairman Ray Carlsen, with no-contact drop-off and pick-up.

All FCUG-sponsored Commodore events in 2020 were cancelled, but we are checking on the various venues and hopefully Commodore LA Super Show (CLASS) and/or Pacific Commodore Expo (PaCommEx) will be back in 2021.

Lunch photo

 

November 2020

by Robert Bernardo

Where was the electrical outlet? In our first FCUG meeting since February, Roger and I had arrived early to set up the computer equipment in the patio of the Panera Bread Restaurant. The Covid pandemic had canceled all of our other meetings for the year. However, for October and November there was a relaxation in the restrictions, and we decided to chance a meeting.

In October we had had our club “picnic” lunch in the patio of a local Mexican restaurant. Even though indoor dining had opened up at 25% capacity at the time, we decided that eating outdoors was safer. We decided that the November meeting would follow the same tack, i.e., having a meeting outdoors would be safer than having it indoors.

Yet, to the surprise of Roger and me, the Panera Bread patio electrical outlet was gone… sealed off with a metal plate. I figured that the homeless were getting into the patio, and that was the reason the outlet was closed off. Thinking quickly, we decided to hold the meeting indoors. I found some socially-distant tables near the front entrance, and that’s where we placed the minimal set-up of an Ultimate 64, HDMI monitor, and 1571 disk drive.

Why the minimal set-up? Because our time was limited to 90 minutes, the new rule at Panera Bread during this time of Covid. We had to get in quickly and then leave quickly. Member David came in a few minutes later, and we had to wave him into the restaurant instead of into the patio.

After we ordered and received our food, we settled down to small talk. But not too much small talk, because of our time limit. As we finished the last of our food, I called the meeting to order. There was no old business, but for new business we had two items on the agenda. First off was our annual donation to a charity. In absentia, treasurer Dick had recommended that we donate $50 to the Central Valley Food Bank. Motion made, seconded, and passed.

Then I made the motion that we have the same roster of officers for 2021 as we had for 2020. Seconded and passed.

I mentioned to the group that in all the months we hadn’t had meetings, I was still collecting software. Here was a chance to show some of it in the brief meeting. Not really software but a hardware update, I showed the new Turbo Mode setting of the Ultimate 64. In Turbo Mode, the user can pick CPU speeds from 1 MHz. up to a blistering 48 MHz., making the U64 the fastest implementation of a C64 ever.

To show off the 48 MHz. speed, I tried to run the latest 3D Construction Kit updated game, A Chance in Hell. However, it was taking too long to load, and I gave up. It would have to be presented at another time. While we had been eating, Breadamp v.05, a music player for the U64, had been playing in the background. Now we had a chance to look more in-depth into the features of Breadamp. First, on the demo playlist was the THX audio opening for movies, played at 22 KHz in 16-bit audio. The other 3 music samples that were played topped out at 15 Khz in 8-bit audio. Very clear sounding and not rough like the usual C64 1-bit or 4-bit audio.

Because the U64 had been configured to display PAL video, we were able to watch 3 of the 170+ nuvies collected on SD card. Having been around since 2012, Commodore nuvies were composed of up to approximately 760 still-frame NuFLI (Flexible Line Interlace) images strung together to make a video. The collected nuvies were either silent or had non-synced audio. (Well, there was one with synced audio, but it seemed that for those creating nuvies, syncing audio was difficult.) We watched the nuvies: C64- WebungRemastered 2019 (two Australian Commodore commercials put together), A-Team (opening credits of the iconic TV show), and TMS-JCN (video captured of a demo created on an Amiga and other computers).

Finally, we had to play a game. It was “Wreck It, Ralph,” a new C64 game just released a few months ago. It was a marvelous implementation with bright colors, beautiful characters, smooth movement, and good music. Roger immediately sat down to play the game and knew what to do, commenting that he had seen the animated motion pictures based on the game.

While we carried on with the meeting, a young woman on the other side of the nearly empty dining room had been watching us. Finally, she spoke up and asked what we were doing. Roger explained about our club, though she didn’t seem to know what Commodore was. It was only later that I realized that we should have invited her to our next meeting (whenever that was going to be).

We had come to the end of our limited time, though no one really came to push us out. We disassembled the equipment, and before we carried it out to the car, I opened up a box of C= stuff that Ray Carlsen gave when I visited him in October. Almost all of it was VIC-20 software and documentation neatly packed in plastic bags. David got a Super Graphix Jr. printer interface. I handed over seven VIC-20 cartridges to Roger for him to examine. His expertise would come in handy for these rare carts which looked as if they were meant to be used by ham radio operators. All of the carts had typewritten labels from the company, “Kustom Computer Response, Rt. 1 Box 57A, Helotes, Texas 78023,” with the programmer identified as Harry M. Crouse. The carts came with names, such as ARRLDXTEST and CQDXTEST (a few days later, Roger told me that ARRL stood for Amateur Radio Relay League). The carts could be a subject of a future meeting. However, because of the pandemic, a few days after our meeting, indoor dining in Fresno was closed, and so, our next meeting is delayed until indoor dining comes back. That probably won’t be until some time in 2021.

 

December 2020

Meeting cancelled

 

2021

January through June are Canceled

July     August     September     October     November     December

  

All meetings through June 2021 are canceled

   

July 2021

After a year and a half with only one meeting and the annual club lunch, the Fresno Commodore User Group resumed regular in-person meetings on July 18, 2021 . Five members and two guests attended this “historic” event – Robert Bernardo, Dave Smith, Roger Van Pelt, Bruce Nieman and Dick Estel, plus Kevin Staszkow from Roseville and Mike Samboy from Castro Valley. Kevin and Robert had first met maybe eighteen years earlier at a Classic Gaming Expo in the Bay Area.

With the usual general conversation during lunch concluded, business got under way. Dick noted that we had received several donations from newsletter editor Lenard Roach. Our heartfelt thanks to Lenard. Robert also turned in over $180 saved up from equipment sales over the last year.

For various reasons, probably including a world wide pandemic, Toolbox LA, venue for our Commodore Los Angeles Super Show (CLASS) had gone out of business. Robert made several scouting trips to southern California looking for an affordable location and finally connected with the Burbank VFW Hall. Our cost there will be $1,000 for the two days. Happily, we have over $500 available from the last CommVEx show in Las Vegas . The rest will come from admission and raffle ticket sales, with the event set for November 6 and 7. The Southern California Commodore & Amiga Network (SCCAN) will join us in sponsoring this show. You’ll find details about the show, including scheduled guests here.

Robert reported that the Living Computers Museum & Labs in Seattle is still closed, leaving the future of the Pacific Commodore Expo NW up in the air.

Next Kevin entertained and enlightened us with several hardware items he had brought, some of them previously unknown even to Robert. First up was the Ultra 128 cartridge, a Shareware Plus  product containing 128 C64 games. With two one-megabyte EPROMs, the Ultra Cart 128 had 128 8K and 16K cartridge games. To access a particular game, you had to look at a paper cheatsheet and find the binary value (for example, 5F) of that game. Then you dialed that code into the cart’s LED screen by using the cart’s switches. Then you hit the cart’s reset button to load and run the game.

Another device with lots of games was another Shareware Plus product, the Black Magic cart, designed with the same file format as the popular Magic Desk from the 1980s. The Black Magic cart contained four one-megabyte EPROMs, spanning 16 image banks of 256K each, allowing the owner to use up to 320 disk-based games with one cart. The many games were accessed through an on-screen menu. Click here for more information on the DDI Ultra Cart 128 and the Black Magic cart.

Robert plugged in a Commodore Datasette which very slowly loaded “KaliedB2,” a recent Christopher McGee-designed, C64 BASIC program that presented a kaleidoscope-like display which slowly drew four matching figures on the screen (though not Mandelbrot fractals). Before you ran the program, you had to choose from between 1 to 50 iterations that would change how the program calculated the display.

Kevin returned to the stage again with a VIC-20 cartridge, the Behr-Bonz cartridge from Francois Leveille of Montreal , Canada , the cart containing 127 of the most popular games for the VIC. We watched as Roger briefly played Star Trek, Frogger, Demon Attack, and a nice version of Choplifter.

The meeting ended with a review of which Commodore clubs are active, followed by a brief history lesson. Kevin and Mike asked what our plans are to mark the club’s 40th anniversary this October; the answer was “we’re working on it.” They asked if Robert founded the club, which led to a short dissertation on how two clubs, FCUG and 64UM, became one in the mid 1980s, and a recitation of the dates we joined – Dick in 1988, Robert in 1995, and Dave in the late 90s with a break and a recent return. Everyone else now in the club came along in the 21st century. None of the founding members were still active and are mostly unknown. As we parted ways, we looked at the YouTube video of a C64 demo which ran just from a 1541 disk drive (no computer involved) and played musical sounds from the drive while displaying patterns on the screen. The creator was Matthias Kramm, and the demo was called, “Freespin.”

  

August 2021

By Robert Bernardo

Member Roger arrived first to the meeting, followed by David and then Robert who got there 10 minutes late. After the usual time to set up the equipment, lunch was ordered. There was plenty of small talk, especially about DVD recorders, while they waited for the food and while they ate when the food arrived.

The meeting proper commenced with Robert asking on a vote to pay Ray Carlsen $75 for a new power supply that could connect the club C128 or C64/VIC-20CR and a 1541-II/1581 (it had three connectors which attach to those devices). He had already picked up the power supply on a recent trip to Ray’s house in Washington state. Robert made the motion, it was seconded, and the club passed it unanimously. Robert reminded the members of the October 16-17 Amiwest Show in Sacramento and the November 6-7 Commodore Los Angeles Super Show in Burbank . Robert asked Roger whether he would do a CLASS presentation on CAD 3-D (wire-frame only) or the more sophisticated CAD-M. He also asked if Roger wanted to do a video presentation or a live presentation at the show. Roger remained non-committal.

First up on the meeting’s demonstrations, Robert showed a few new programs from a disk sent in by Christopher McGee. One of the programs was Kalied2, not to be confused with the earlier version of Kalied2 presented at the July meeting. This new Kalied (short for Kaleidoscope) asked for the number of iterations from 1-50. After the number was inputted, you pressed RETURN, and the program calculated and drew offset triangles on the screen, compared to the non-offset rectangles of the earlier version. Then Robert tried out Differentiator, a program which required a knowledge of calculus. The members couldn’t get very far, because they couldn’t remember their calculus.

Next, Robert had a presentation on the Deluxe Music Construction Set run from his Amiga 600. The members marveled over its on-screen piano keyboard and friendly user buttons. You could grab a note and move it to the upper or lower music staff. Or you could press the keys on the on-screen keyboard, and the notes would be placed in the staff automatically. Then after you placed your notes, you could press the PLAY button and hear your composition. The members couldn’t figure out how to change the default musical instrument of DMCS; Robert didn’t have the 120-page instruction manual, and there didn’t seem to be one on-line. Roger was able to compose a little ditty but didn’t save it to the hard drive.

Then Robert pulled out the new cartridge from Evie Salomon, the BackBit Pro, with its removable, card-edge connectors for the C64/128, the VIC-20, the Plus/4, and the Atari 800/XE. He explained and showed the process of dropping programs from a laptop onto a microSD card and taking that card and placing it into a slot on the BackBit Pro. Robert had brought his Plus/4 for the presentation, and so, the BackBit Pro was used with its Plus/4 connector. He plugged in the BackBit Pro and powered up the Plus/4. No screen. He tried again and got a shaky screen. He removed the cart and reinserted it. (Ah, the problems of a dirty cartridge slot in the computer…) This time upon power-up, he had the BB Pro start menu come up with its selection of programs that Robert had just downloaded from his laptop. With the use of the F keys, he showed that utility menus could be brought up. Back at the start menu, Robert would cursor up or down among the programs or folders and push ENTER to run the program or go into the folder.

Robert had 3 new Plus/4 programs saved on the microSD card – Stop the Express, Encounter, and Archaeologist. The programs loaded at excellent speed from the BB Pro. They ran properly and displayed opening screens. Unfortunately, the Plus/4 would not respond to the joystick control nor to the joystick button. Was it a bad Plus/4 joystick adapter? Was it a bad TED chip in the Plus/4? There were no music/sound effects. Was it a bad adapter to the external speakers? Was it a bad TED chip in the computer? (The TED controls joystick and sound.) A saddened Robert said that the Plus/4 might have to go back to Ray for repair, though if it was a TED problem, Ray had no more replacement chips. It was a rare chip to get, and there was no modern equivalent of it.

After the Plus/4, Robert brought out the Ultimate 64 and ran the classic CAD-M from Loadstar disk magazine. In this impressive program, you could easily design an object in wire-frame, solid-fill it, and rotate it. On the U64 with its maximum 48 MHz., the process becomes even more fun.

With the help of Roger who also had experience with the program, Robert showed off the CAD objects that came with program, solid-filling them and rotating them, the objects being a butterfly, a jet, and rat (hot) rod. Then Robert cleared the screen and designed a C=, setting the points, filling it, and then rotating it. He remarked that his goal was to design a Commodore Los Angeles Super Show logo on CAD-M and then film it as it rotated. That video would be used in a CLASS commercial for YouTube.

The presentation was not without a bump. Both Robert and Roger couldn’t get a standalone program to run a CAD-M animation of its own logo. David had to leave early, but Robert and Roger kept trying to get the animation to run. The CAD-M instructions gave no help in how to get the standalone program running. Half an hour later, Robert figured how to do it. For the standalone program to work, the machine language part of CAD-M had to be loaded in its part of memory. The process was to load and run CAD-M, press the EXIT and CLR button on its menu, and then load and run standalone program.

With the CAD-M animation now running, Robert wanted to know how to keep the animation running continually (rotating round and round), instead of stopping after 1 1/2 rotations. Robert and Roger looked at the BASIC code of the standalone program, and though Roger was able to make it run 2 1/2 rotations by changing its number of statements, they couldn’t determine how to make it rotate continuously.

Finally, to wrap up the meeting, Robert ran the venerable Giga-CAD program on the Ultimate 64. Giga-CAD had been a subject of 3 FCUG meetings a few years ago and an on-line Commodore Vegas Expo video starring Roger. Originally, Giga-CAD had been run off of disk where load times were slow and the loading itself was sometimes unreliable. With SuperCPU patches installed on the disk and with the use of the SuperCPU, rendering and rotation of objects was tolerable. However, the SCPU only had two speeds – 1 MHz. and 20 MHz. – and so that made for switching back to slow speed when navigating through menus or setting points (20 MHz. was too fast for controllability even with the patches installed).

This time Giga-CAD was saved as .D64 files on the SD card of the Ultimate 64, and the U64 had speeds ranging from 1 MHz. to 48 MHz.. There was no disk drive to worry about getting too hot from loading the many Giga-CAD component files. There was no SCPU to tax a weak C64/128 power supply.

The Giga-CAD main program still took some time to load; the Super Snapshot fast loader Robert had on the U64 was disabled or was incompatible. Once loaded the program ran more smoothly whenever it called its component files from the .D64s. Robert asked Roger to play around with the program on the D64, Roger being the expert in Giga-CAD. Roger took him a bit of time to recall how to use it; the menus were in German, he had not used the program in a couple of years, and Robert had not brought the translated, comprehensive, printed instructions. However, as Roger got more into it, he began to remember. He popped on a Giga-CAD object, skyscraper. At 48 MHz., it rotated better than at the 20 MHz. of the SuperCPU. In fact, he and Robert tried other, various speeds in the rotational experiment – 1 MHz. (C64 speed), 2 MHz. (C128 speed), 4 MHz. (Turbomaster speed), and 8 MHz. (Turbo 8 speed).

U64 maximum speed was fine for rotation and rendering, but it was not good for menu navigation and placing points; maximum speed made the cursor too jumpy. After some experimentation, Roger found out that 1 to 2 MHz. was the appropriate speed for fine placing of points on the Giga-CAD screen, and 4 to 5 MHz. was good for the drop-down menu navigation. Roger asked for a way to get to these U64 speeds without having to go through the U64’s set-up menu, i.e., perhaps a key combination to change speeds. Robert assured him that the only way (and a disadvantage) was to go through the U64 set-up menu. As the presentation ended, Robert encouraged Roger to make a follow-up video of Giga-CAD and its use with the U64. Robert could even loan out a spare U64 so that Roger could do his experiments. Roger was non-committal.

  

September 2021

The Fresno Commodore User Group (FCUG) is getting back to almost normal. We still have to wear masks in some situations, but we are confident that the people who frequent our meeting place and other locations we are likely to visit are the type of people who have the good sense to get vaccinated, so our worries are few.

On September 19 Roger, Robert, Dave and Dick met at the Panera Bread Restaurant that has proved to be one of our best-ever meeting places. On this particular date, we drew the attention of four other patrons who spoke to us briefly, all of whom had owned vintage Commodore machines back in the day.

The main order of business was our annual October club “picnic,” which has for many years actually been a lunch at a different restaurant, with no equipment set up. We considered two excellent restaurants, and Dick called them to see about reservations and what things were like Sundays at 11 a.m.

Neither location accepted reservations. The Black Bear Diner reported that “Sunday morning is the busiest time of the week.” Sal’s Mexican Cantina told us, “When we open the doors Sunday at 11, there is a line of people waiting to get in.”

Our mission was simple. Find a good restaurant that people don’t go to. Did we succeed? We’ll find out October 10. We chose DiCicco’s, probably the oldest Italian restaurant in Fresno . Different family members have opened locations around town and in nearby cities, but we will be going to what we consider the “original.” It’s not actually the original building, but it’s in pretty much the same location and boasts that Frank Sinatra ate there when he was in town.

This year’s lunch will be special in that it marks the 40th anniversary of the founding of the club. About two years ago Dick spoke by phone with one of the founders, Chuck Yrulegui (roo-LEE-ghee). He told us that the club was started by himself, Doug, and Kurt (he could not recall the last names). Chuck produced the newsletter the first year. We’ll have more about this in a future newsletter.

Robert reported on a couple of upcoming shows – AmiWest in Sacramento , and of more interest to FCUG members, the Commodore Los Angeles Super Show (CLASS), to be held November 6 and 7 at the VFW hall in Burbank . The building includes a bar, and one entrance to the building is through this bar. Masks are required in the bar, but not in the section where the show will be held. The show is co-sponsored by FCUG and by the Southern California Commodore and Amiga Network (SCCAN).

Robert had invited David Pleasance, head of Commodore Business Machines UK, to CLASS, but because of pandemic travel restrictions, it was doubtful that he could get from England to Los Angeles in time for the show. However, other guests would be at the show, like Marc Rifkin of Commodore Business Machines (US) and Lenard Roach, author of Commodore books and editor of The Interface newsletter.

This led into a discussion of active Commodore clubs. The Clark County Commodore Computer Club (5C’s) of Las Vegas maintains an ambiguous website, but former members recently confirmed that the club is no more. This organization partnered with FCUG to present most of the Commodore Vegas Expos. As so often happens, the club was held together by one or two individuals, and the passing of their president and the loss of their meeting place spelled the end of the club. Robert mentioned that there was the Central Texas Commodore User Group, and Dick verified that it was up and running. (The FCUG website has a listing of active clubs known to us.)

Before going into hardware/software presentations, Robert talked about his discovery of the Retro-Printer Module, a device from England which would allow classic computers to print to modern USB printers. The RPM uses a Raspberry Pi computer to grab the data coming from the classic computer and then translate it into data the USB printer understands. The RPM not only is for Commodore computers but for other classic computers, like Spectrum, Atari, and more.

With Robert’s Amiga 600 set up, the club members looked at the Deluxe Music Construction Set for the second time. However, this time Robert brought the comprehensive DMCS manual. Roger promptly started going through the book in order to change the default instrument that the program uses. He was able to change the instrument, but he couldn’t figure out how to use/play it.

Robert had brought a box of used, 5 1/4” disks that he recently obtained from a former C64 user. The members looked through the disks with David picking up at least one and Roger taking a few. On David’s disk marked Trek, Robert became excited into thinking there were Star Trek programs. That excitement became disappointment when the disk directory was run and none of the programs were Star Trek-related. On one of Roger’s disks, there was a BASIC program, Lunar Lander, written by the famous Jim Butterfield. The members ran the program on the club C128 (in 64 mode). Like later Lunar Lander programs, the player had to maintain thrust on his spaceship while trying to soft-land the lander and not crash it into the surface. This was a simple program; the spaceship was built from DATA statements, and the resultant sprite resembled an upright oval. Robert wondered whether more DATA statements could be added to build rocket ship fins on the oval and make it look more spacey.

At the August FCUG meeting, the members tried out the new BackBit Pro cartridge with Commodore Plus/4. This month it was time to try it with various other computers. First, it was with Roger’s VIC-20. No matter how many times Robert inserted the cart with its VIC adapter into Roger’s VIC-20, the opening screen would not come up. Thinking the cartridge port on that VIC was faulty or dirty, Robert tried out the BB on his VIC-20. No response… just a blank screen. However, when he then tried the Behr-Bonz multi-cart from Francois “Leveille” Eslapion, he got an instant response right into the game selection menu.

Then Robert tried the BB with its Atari adapter on his Atari 800XL. (An Atari computer in a Commodore meeting!) The results were slightly more encouraging. Out of roughly every 12 insertions, the BB would be recognized twice. Most of the time, he got a blank screen, or he would be put into the Atari’s self-diagnostic screen. When BB was recognized, he would get the menu. Sometimes pressing SPACE would select the game, sometimes not. On the BB’s microSD card, he had a .crt copy of Star Trek: Space Operations Simulator. However, he could not figure out how to start it from the BB menu. He pushed the RETURN key, the SELECT button, even the button on the joystick in both port 1 and port 2. Nothing. He tried other keys. Nothing. However, when he inserted the original Atari Star Trek: SOS cart, the game came up right away and was playable.

Then he tried out BB with its C64/128 adapter in the club C128. Once again the BB was only recognized sometimes, no matter how many times the cartridge was inserted and reinserted into the C128. When it was recognized, he would easily cursor down the menu and press RETURN on the game he wanted.

Robert and Roger thought and thought. It couldn’t be that all the cartridge ports in all the computers were dirty. And why did the same computers respond correctly when a more standard cart was inserted? Conclusions? The BB was unreliable. Roger called it “flaky.”

(Robert reported all of this to BackBit developer, Evie Salomon. She decided that the cartridge firmware needed to be updated and that the cartridge could have cold solder joints. She asked that it be returned to her for repair.)

  

October 2021

Back in the day, the club held an annual picnic in October, at the home of a member who had a large tract of land and a beautiful home on the edge of the Fresno-Clovis metro area. This couple passed away in the early 2000’s, and we eventually settled on holding an annual lunch, which has a few well-defined guidelines:

It’s held at a different restaurant from the one where we have our regular meeting.

It’s held at a different restaurant each year.

No formal business and no demonstrations are given, and discussion of computer-related matters is minimal.

Family members are invited, and the club pays.

This year we called a couple of places in advance, only to learn that 11 a.m. Sunday was their busiest time. We settled on DiCicco’s, probably Fresno ’s oldest Italian restaurant in continuous operation. There are six locations in the Fresno-Clovis area, as well as Madera , Kingsburg, and Oakhurst (in the foothills).

The DiCicco family emigrated to the U.S. after World War II and came west in 1952. The “Four Sons of Italy” bought an existing restaurant and prospered. We ate in the location considered the “original,” although it is a few blocks from the actual spot.

Different family members branched out and opened other locations over the years, and it has been a Fresno-Clovis favorite for roughly 70 years.

Robert Bernardo, Roger Van Pelt and his brother Aaron, Dave Smith, and Dick Estel were in attendance, and all agreed that the food and service were excellent.

Conversation ranged over a variety of topics. One was the closing of Rasputin Records (CDs, DVDs, etc.) in the old Tower Records building and the re-opening next door of the Mad Monk, with an even bigger inventory than Rasputin’s.

Robert and Roger told of their project to film a demo to be shown at the Commodore LA Super Show (CLASS) in November. “Bernardo Productions,” set up in the University Square Hotel the previous evening, had to deal with the usual glitches, keeping them up ‘til just after midnight .

The relative merits of Dish-TV, DirecTV, cable, and the increasing rates were thoroughly reviewed with some discussion of how to obtain discounts. There was a related financial topic, the scarcity and excessive cost of DVD recorders.

Despite being full of pasta, calzone, pizza, and/or spaghetti, we managed to conclude the lunch with dessert – for some of us a modest piece of cheesecake, and for Aaron, a sinfully decadent “Chocolate Madness” – dark chocolate cake, dark chocolate frosting, and more.

Read the DiCicco’s story here.

At our November meeting we will have our usual program, plus observance of the club’s 40th anniversary.

    

November 2021

At first it looked as if the attendees at our 40th Anniversary club celebration would be the “usual suspects” – Robert Bernardo, Roger Van Pelt, Dave Smith, and Dick Estel. As we were helping Robert bring in equipment from his car, a man got out of the vehicle parked next to Robert’s car and said, “Hello, Robert.” It was Andrew Wiskow, from Riverside County, and his son Alvin. Andrew had joined the club years ago and drove up from southern California a few times, bringing little Alvin with him. Military service and his subsequent civilian job prevented Andrew from visiting us for a long time, but a schedule change allowed him to join the special celebration. “Little” Alvin was now 20, about 6’ 3”, and best of all, able to share driving duties.

As we were setting up the equipment, we talked to a couple eating next to our tables. They were familiar with the C64 and had used one for record-keeping in their photo business back in the day.

When the meeting got under way Dick reported that we had been receiving donations from Interface Editor Lenard Roach every few weeks, which the club greatly appreciated. Then the membership voted to make our annual charity donation, $50 to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis.

Robert reported on the Commodore LA Super Show (CLASS) held November 6 and 7 in Burbank. Attendance was 27 people, slightly down from the first CLASS in 2019. Among those attending was Mark Rifkin who worked at Commodore Business Machines from 1988 to 1993, and David Pleasance who worked at CBM UK from 1983 to 1994 and who video-conferenced into CLASS.

CLASS attendees were enthusiastic about continuing the event next year. A major part of CLASS was funded from remaining CommVEx funds; with those funds and CLASS 2021 ticket and raffle sales, there was a $24 profit to be applied to the next show. With rent in the $1,000 range, paying for a 2022 event will be a challenge. CLASS used to be in the spring, and CLASS 2022 will probably move back to spring with a May date.

Dave Smith brought a number of old newsletters printed out from the Internet, most from Australia and most from 1981 (FCUG’s founding year). One single issue was a half-inch thick; most were the more typical ten or twelve pages. Dick brought the first issue of the FCUG newsletter from November 1981. About two years ago he had talked to the man who produced the first year’s newsletters.

For the presentation segment of our meeting, Robert showed a few minutes out of the Roger Van Pelt video on CAD-M, a Loadstar 64 program from 1986. The video was filmed for CLASS 2021, and subsequently, it was put on YouTube. CAD-M was a sophisticated but easy-to-use computer aided design program which ran adequately on the C64 but runs much faster with acceleration from a SuperCPU or Ultimate 64.

Robert had the Ultimate 64 set up, and he described its functions to Andrew and Alvin. He mentioned that it was out-of-stock at the moment, due to parts shortages caused by the pandemic.

Then Robert showed some hardware and much software that he bought from Wayne and Sonia Aller at CLASS 2021. The Allers were university professors who had a Studio City (Los Angeles) business, CompuLearn, which taught kids about computers. With VIC-20’s and C64’s, they taught children such as Colin Hanks, son of actor Tom Hanks; and Ahmet and Moon Zappa, the kids of songwriter Frank Zappa.

The hardware included a boxed Wico trackball, a Tech Sketch LP-10S light pen, and a Chirpee voice recognition module. The software was composed of several educational programs – Match Maker Spanish, Batalla de Palabras, Hop Along Counting, Lion’s Workshop, Trains, and In Search of the Most Amazing Thing – and the Chirpee voice recognition software, Studio 64 music creation program, and the Micro Illustrator program that went with the Tech Sketch light pen.

The educational programs were saved for another meeting, and Robert started off with the Chirpee module and its software running off the club C128 and its CRT monitor. Out of the several programs on the Chirpee disk, Robert ran the Balloon program in which the player had to fly a balloon by speaking into the module, “Up” or “Down.” Robert had some success with flying the balloon, but when Andrew tried it, the microphone in the module did not respond to his voice. Because much of the program was written in Basic, Robert thought that with compilation or with acceleration, the program would respond better to voice commands.

Robert had brought chocolate cake for the 40th anniversary of the club, and as the club members took turns at Chirpee, the cake was passed out. It was totally devoured!

Next up was a look at the Studio 64 music creation program running off the C128. Not as sophisticated as the Deluxe Music Construction Kit for the Amiga which was demoed in past meetings, Studio 64 also let the user put musical notes on a staff for playback. Interestingly, the notes were made of PETSCII characters and thus appeared graphically rough in appearance.

After a quick look at Studio 64, Robert connected the Tech Sketch light pen to the C128 and ran its Micro Illustrator program. Robert had connected the light pen to the wrong joystick port, and the program was not responding correctly because of that. However, before he could correct this and run the program again, Dave had investigated why the restaurant was so empty. Where had everyone gone in Panera Bread? He returned to the meeting and stated that because of a lack of employees, management had decided to close the indoor dining area at 2 and to keep the drive-through open. It was almost 3 when we discovered this.

Feeling guilty for going so long past closing time, the members decided to stop the meeting right there. The equipment was hurriedly disassembled, and Andrew and Alvin left for the long drive back to southern California, saying that they would return for another meeting.

  

December 2021

By Robert Bernardo  

FCUG continued celebrating its 40th anniversary with its December meeting, but only president Robert and v.p. Roger were there.

In old business, Robert remarked that he still had to post his left-over photos from the Commodore Los Angeles Super Show 2021. In new business, it was time to hold FCUG elections. Robert motioned to keep the same 2021 officers for 2022. The motion was seconded and passed.

For CLASS 2022, Robert said that there was $26.00 which was the remainder from CLASS 2021. CLASS 2021 had started off with a $400+ amount to devote to the show. With only $26 this time, the show would be hard-pressed to break even with only ticket sales and the show raffle to cover a $1,000 Burbank VFW venue fee ($1,200 if the venue decided to raise rates). Robert and Roger bounced around ideas to raise money for CLASS. Sell items on eBay? Possibly. Raise CLASS admission? No. Because CLASS 2022 was going to be in the spring and the last show had been in November 2021, the show would have to be organized relatively quickly. Who would be the CLASS presenters? Podcaster Doug Compton from Arizona ? Repairperson Paul Resendez from southern California ? Musician Seth Sternberger? David Pleasance talking about his book, From Vultures to Vampires, volume 2? Roger Van Pelt giving a presentation on how to convert a C64 Giga-CAD object to Blender?

Then Robert and Roger proceeded to the presentations of the day. Robert showed off the new C128 commercial game, “Attack of the Petscii Robots,” the first commercial C128 program in decades. (Attack also sold in C64 and Plus/4 versions.) The Attack program disks (a 5 1/4” 1571 disk and a 3 1/2” 1581 disk) came in a very professional-looking box, along with a color manual and a C64 adapter for the use of a Super Nintendo joypad. The SN joypad would conveniently place several buttons in-hand which was necessary for easy gameplay. Without the joypad, control was left to keys scattered across the C128 keyboard. Attack wouldn’t load with JiffyDOS, and Robert turned JD off. Roger found that the graphical adventure game itself had sprites on a colorful, bit-mapped, graphical background; that’s on 40-column screen. At the same time, on the 80-column screen, a map would be shown of the game area. Unfortunately, Roger brought the wrong club CRT monitor and also had not brought an 80- column cable. The next meeting, he’d bring the correct items and a SN joypad, too.

Then came the C64 games. Slip Stream was a 3- D shooter; you flew an angular spaceship, shooting the objects that appeared before you in space. It was hampered by a very slow loading time and somewhat monotonous music. Based on the novelette, the Briley Witch Chronicles was another graphical adventure game with good graphics. Like the above Attack of the Petscii Robots, it would take several hours to get through the game. Then there was Sonic the Hedgehog, a port from the classic Sega game. Authentic to the original game, Sonic was declared a milestone in C64 programming by those who 0thought that a port was impossible. However, to do its amazing scrolling background and gameplay, the game needed a Commodore RAM expander (1700, 1750, 1764, or emulated RAM expansion in the Ultimate 64 or Turbo Chameleon). And it took a long time to load as it put all that data into the RAM expander. This was version 1.0 (at the time of this writing, the improved 1.2 and cracked versions had been released).

On another table, Robert had set up the Amiga 500 with v8 motherboard and a Vampire 500 v2 accelerator, which made the A500 hundreds of times faster than its original specification. First, Robert loaded up SysInfo, a little Amiga utility which calculated and displayed the speed, identified chip versions, and showed the amount of RAM in the system. The utility confirmed that the A500/V500 combo was one of the fastest classic Amiga computers available these days!

Then Robert ran a full-screen, HDMI version of Doom. This notorious first-person shooter used lots of computer resources, but on the A500/V500 combo, it ran smoothly and without any problem. To further show the speed of the combo, Robert ran a MPEG video, “Gali the Alligator,” a bit of computer animation which was a funny spoof of a kids’ TV show. It, too, ran smoothly. However, due to funny “gore,” it was not meant to be shown to young children. Unfortunately, a child with her parents was passing near when the video was running and saw the animated puppets being slaughtered. The child was amused, as were her parents. Robert could only sheepishly say, “Sorry!”

Finally, Robert got into what the A500/V500 combo could emulate. It had many emulators on its Compactflash drive, like C64 and two Macintosh emulators. Robert said that one of the Mac emulators, Fusion, had come with a folder full of apps, which worked for awhile but then deleted those apps (Self-destruct? Virus? Autodelete after trial run?). The apps were replaced by a video entitled, "Don't Copy that Floppy," filmed by the software industry. In the part-humorous, part-serious, early 90’s video, a rap song asked people to not copy disks! Both Robert and Roger laughed at the cheesy acting and the boring industry types in the video.

Like what had occurred in November, Panera Bread decided to close its doors early at 2 p.m. , due to a lack of workers. And so, Robert and Roger had to cut short the meeting, leaving out further investigation into the Amiga 500/Vampire 500 combo and other new C64 games.

  

2022

January     February     March     April     May     June

July     August     September     October     November     December

  

January 2022

By Robert Bernardo and Dick Estel

Most of the regulars and a couple of our occasional attendees made up a group of five for the first meeting of 2022. These were Robert Bernardo, Roger Van Pelt, Dick Estel, Randy Stoller, and Bruce Nieman. It was noted that Robert had been president for 25 years. Most small organizations like ours are held together by the efforts of one dedicated member, and we appreciate that Robert is filling this role.

We had planned to hold the Commodore LA Super Show (CLASS) in mid-May, but the venue was not available, so the dates will be June 25 and 26 (a change from the dates we discussed at the previous meeting). The CLASS location is the Burbank VFW hall. More information is available on the event website, the Commodore Forum, and on Facebook at the Commodore Los Angeles Super Show – CLASS page.

Robert had set up the Commodore Amiga 500 with Vampire 500 accelerator. Usually, our meetings were very 8-bit oriented, and member Bruce, who was a big Amiga fan, listened politely to that talk. However, with the emphasis on Amiga this time, Bruce’s interest shot up. As Robert spoke of how an Amiga 4000 was repaired at CLASS 2021, Bruce chimed in on how his Amiga 2000 needed repair, too. Randy jumped into the discussion by asking what was wrong with the A2000 with Bruce answering it was having hard drive problems. Robert said it could be cured by replacing the drive mechanism with a solid-state solution, the SCSI2SD board (SD card to SCSI connector on the A2000). Bruce also wanted certain programs found and restored. Robert and Randy said that .ADF (Amiga Disk File) archives were on the Internet and that .ADF’s could be run like a disk from a Gotek drive, essentially a unit which took USB sticks and ran the .ADF’s off the sticks. Bruce didn’t know about .ADF’s and Goteks; Robert said that he would bring his external Gotek for Bruce to try out at the next meeting. In fact, Bruce said that he would bring his A2000 to the next meeting… no easy task because of the computer’s bulk and weight.

One game for which Bruce had been looking was found on Robert’s A500/V500. The game was part platformer, part exploration. Though Bruce played it on the Robert’s A500, he really wanted it back on his A2000. Robert and Randy assured him that the game could be found on the Internet as an .ADF or as a WHDLoad game. Bruce didn’t know what WHDLoad was, and Randy explained that they were formally disk-based Amiga games which had been converted to run off a hard drive.

Then Robert showed off more of the capabilities of the A500/V500, the fastest classic Amiga you can get. In the desktop folder of Videos, he ran the MPEG-1 video of a Megan Trainor song. The computer ran the video with perfect sound sync, though there would be the slightest video “stuttering” at times. He hadn’t downloaded any MPEG-2 videos to try out, though he surmised that the computer would have a harder time at running them smoothly due to their larger file size and higher resolution.

To finish off the meeting, Robert ran Lightwave v3 on the Amiga. Lightwave was the 3-D rendering program used to create scenes for movies and TV shows, such as Babylon 5 and Seaquest DSV. Immediately, Roger’s interest was piqued, because he was the default go-to guy for Commodore CAD programs (and knew how to use Blender on other computer platforms). The Lightwave menus were hard to read (which Robert discovered later was the fault of his LCD screen); if Roger stood back, he was just about able to read the menus. He went straight to loading in an object, rotating it, moving the camera around, and then rendering the object, all at a speed hundreds of times faster than the original Amiga.

He was very curious to play with the system even more, but Robert had to leave for Stockton . Robert promised he would bring back the A500/V500 for the next meeting. Before everybody departed, Robert apologized for not showing the new Attack of the PETSCII Robots for the C128. Though there was an 80-column mode element to the game, the wrong monitor was brought which required a different 80-column cable. However, that did not stop discussion of the game. Inside the game box was a Super NES controller adapter to connect the controller to the computer user port. Randy explained that the game was far easier to control with the SNES controller rather than with the use of keys scattered across the Commodore. Roger and/or Randy would bring a SNES controller to the next meeting. And Randy gave to Robert a 3-D printed case for the SNES adapter, so it could look more finished.

 

February 2022

By Robert Bernardo

Traveling from Stockton two hours away, Robert arrived first to the meeting place. He was able to start setting up the equipment, and soon member Dave joined him, followed by Roger. They ordered lunch, and near the end of it, Robert commenced the meeting. Having no old business to discuss, Robert went into new business. First new business… the preparations for the June 25-26 Commodore Los Angeles Super Show. Robert had made the down payment for the venue, the Burbank VFW hall. Roger agreed that his CLASS video presentation, C64 Giga-CAD objects being converted to Blender, would be filmed in April or May.

Second, Robert said he had applied for exhibit tables at the April 2 City of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) festival at the Columbia Memorial Space Center in Downey, California. He was still waiting approval for one or two tables which would show off an Ultimate 64, an Amiga 500 with Vampire 500 accelerator, and possibly more. Also in new business, Robert reported that a new, long-distance member had joined the club, and he would need a New Member Disk. A brief look at the New Member Disk directory showed that the opening text file had to be revised (the late 1990’s text file said that a free C64 would be given to new members!) and that certain utility programs (which were already on the 1541 Test/Demo disk) could be replaced with something else, like a fun game. Robert made a motion to update the disk, and the members approved the motion unanimously. Robert would take the disk and modify it  

Robert said that he had ordered the Retro-Printer Module from England. Consisting of a “hat” to be attached to a Raspberry Pi 4b computer, the RPM would let the user use a modern USB printer with Commodore computers. The module itself cost over $115! Roger was very interested in having new printers for Commodores. Dave talked about the best Epson printers which used individual tanks of ink, thus cutting down the cost of buying all-color-in-one ink cartridges. Dave said the best deal on Epson printers was through Costco. Using the laptop, Robert went to Costco.com and found some likely Epsons to purchase.

Before going to the hardware/software presentations, Robert showed a few minutes of the "FX-Grabs 3" Tape (Video Toaster "Kiki Effects" raw footage studio shoot)” which was on YouTube. In the early 1990’s, NewTek’s Video Toaster was the premiere, low-cost, NTSC video switcher for the Amiga 2000/3000/4000. Built into the Video Toaster were special effects that could be overlaid onto broadcast video. The effects included Kiki Wipes (and more), named for actress and Newtek spokesperson, Kiki Stockhammer. In the video, Kiki was directed to go through various motions in front of a whitish background.

Robert only showed about 4 minutes of the 30-minute video; as Kiki went through her silhouetted motions in front of the camera, it was too provocative to keep showing, especially since restaurant goers were passing by! Robert said that if the members wanted to finish seeing the rest of the video, they could go to this link. There was also an 8-minute video of Jack Tramiel, head of Commodore Business Machines, filmed in 1983, but Robert decided to show that at a future meeting.

Robert showed the new Unijoysticle 2+ and a little bit of its accompanying video. The Unijoysticle 2+ was an adapter that connected to the computer joystick ports and would let the user wirelessly use Bluetooth controllers, joysticks, and mice. It worked with Commodore and Amigas (adapters may be needed, depending on the computer). Robert had brought two Bluetooth NES-style joypads, but he forgot to charge them up, and so, the demonstration with the Unijoysticle 2+ was put on hold until the next meeting.

Next, Robert showed off the Muppet Learning Keys, a very large tablet built by Koala Technologies, the same company famous for the Koalapad drawing tablet. Muppet Learning Keys came with a box but with no instructions nor floppy disk for the C64. Fortunately, Robert had downloaded the .D64 of the Muppet Diskovery Disk from the Internet, though unfortunately he had not found the instructions on the Net. He connected the MLK to the Ultimate 64 and ran the likely LOAD file from the disk. Though the U64 had a built-in SD drive (i.e., no mechanical drive to slow a LOAD), the .D64 still took a long time to load, and Robert thought this would test kids’ patience (young children were the audience for MLK). With a lot of poking at the MLK keys, Robert and Roger discovered that the cursor keys and the RETURN worked but couldn’t get the other tablet keys to do anything. Some animal images appeared on the screen, but without the instructions, Robert and Roger didn’t know what to do with them. Conclusion – some success with MLK but more had to be learned. (Weeks later on the Commodore 64/128 forum of Facebook, Robert was finally able to find a user who uploaded the MLK instructions to him.)

Last played at the January meeting, the C128 version of Attack of the PETSCII Robots returned, but this time the correct 40/80-column monitor was available. Now the members could see the game in 40 columns, and with the push of a switch, in 80 columns, too! It was a revelation; not only was there a 40-column opening screen to the game, but there was also an 80-column opening screen. The members saw the game map on the 80-column screen; in fact, they could navigate the game by going through the map and then switch to 40 columns to see the game in close-up detail. Very sophisticated! On the 40-column screen, the robots looked like the Daleks from Dr. Who.

There was a little bit of confusion on how to activate the Super Nintendo gamepad to be used with the game, but Robert and Roger figured it out by a careful reading of the opening menu. With the SNES gamepad connected to the C128 user port via an adapter, the gameplay was excellent and very convenient. No more poking at various keys on the C128… Just use the buttons on the gamepad.

To end the meeting, the members looked at some C64 games – the new games, Retaliate, Berzerk (PAL), and Santa Force; and the classic games – Pooyan, Katakis, and Boom. Retaliate gave the player no weapons at the start, Santa Force had Santa in his sleigh shooting at enemies in the sky, and Berzerk (PAL) had lots of speech but no background scrolling. Pooyan was cute with the player having to shoot balloons; Katakis had good music, interesting enemies, and a nice background; and Boom, which was a Doom clone, failed to load.

 

March 2022

By Robert Bernardo and Dick Estel

With four members present - Robert Bernardo, Roger Van Pelt, Bruce Nieman, and Dick Estel – the meeting started with the announcement that the April meeting will be on the 10th, since our regular date is Easter.

Robert brought us up to date on two events coming up in southern California . Sponsored by FCUG and the Southern California Commodore & Amiga Network, the Commodore LA Super Show (CLASS) will take place June 25 and 26 at the Burbank VFW Hall. Red Martian, a Commodore musician from Seattle , will perform at the event. The official website of the event is http://www.portcommodore.com/class

Robert will have two Commodore/Amiga tables at City of STEM festival in Downey , CA on April 2. STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. (More information at https://www.cityofstem.org/). Also in April Robert will travel to New Jersey for the Vintage Computer Festival East. He had not attended this event for a number of years, but the 2022 event would mark the 40th anniversary of the C64. How could he resist? https://vcfed.org/events/vintage-computer-festival-east/

At the end of May, Robert will attend the Hollywood Charity Horse Show (http://horseshow.org) which is hosted by Commodore advertising veteran, William Shatner. When Robert asked for suggestions on what C= items Shatner should autograph (if there is time at this year’s abbreviated event), Roger thought of a Commodore calculator – small and easy to carry.

It seems that our presence at Panera Bread nearly always attracts the attention of a few other patrons. Most of those who ask us about our activities turn out to have used a Commodore or other computer from that era. In March we had three “visitors” who stopped by briefly.

With old and new business done, we went into the main hardware topic of the meeting, fixing Bruce’s Amiga 2000. At first glance, it seemed that everything was all right with the machine; it booted correctly into the desktop screen, OS 3.1 running correctly. However, on closer inspection, all was not well. The mouse was half-functional with the right button not working, a detriment when you have to activate certain menu items with that button. The graphics card external port was loose in its mount. The worst was that there were about two dozen games that seemed installed but really weren’t. When you clicked on a game icon, the computer asked for the game disk. All game disks had been lost; thus there was no way to start the games. At first, Robert thought that the games could be made playable with the use of a Gotek card drive, i.e., run a disk image (.ADF, Amiga Disk File) of each game off the Gotek. That would entail the purchase of a Gotek from amigastore.eu located in Spain .

Bruce didn’t want to go through that; he just wanted to run the games directly off the hard drive. For that, WHDload would have to be installed on the drive. WHDload is an application which takes formerly disk-based programs and runs modified versions of those programs to work off a hard drive. Robert didn’t know the process of installing WHDload, but Duncan MacDougall, member of San Jose ’s The Other Group of Amigoids and visitor to FCUG a few years ago, knew how to do it. Offering to transport the A2000 to Duncan , Robert asked Bruce to bring back the computer another time.

Diagnosing the A2000 took up most of the meeting, but after that was finished, it was time to move on to lighter fare. Robert ran various new games off the Ultimate 64, the games being U-Type (a shooter with the title playing off the well-known game, R-Type), Lane Crazy (the balls looked more like slugs), Bagman 2 (collect moneybags in this platformer), Space Planters (strategy/puzzle), and Tutankham (a maze game). To end the meeting, the members viewed the Commodore nuvies, CVGL 15 Convention, HomeCon66, HomeCon 67 (all three were composed of video and still shots taken at gaming shows), and Miami Vice Nuvie 20 (the opening titles to the classic Miami Vice TV show).

  

April 2022

On a cool Sunday morning, five faithful FCUG members gathered at the Panera Bread restaurant. On hand were Robert Bernardo, Roger Van Pelt, Dave Smith, Bruce Nieman, and Dick Estel.

Dick brought in a Canon EOS 10D camera body he wanted to sell, having recently acquired a new Canon EOS Rebel T7. The old lenses fit the new camera, so Dick kept them, and gave Dave a good price on a venerable 10D. This triggered a discussion of cameras, lenses, and prices, which continued over lunch.

As usual, our computer set-ups attracted the attention of a few other patrons. One told us that a C64 was his first computer, and he was eager to tell his 14-year old daughter about the sighting. A teenage boy was especially interested, and we gave him a phone number and our website for further exploration.

Moving to official business, Robert and Roger were planning a video session in which Roger will record a presentation on converting C64 Giga-CAD objects to Blender, the presentation to be shown at the Commodore LA Super Show (CLASS) in Burbank in June. More information is available here.  

Showing us some of his photos and video, Robert reported on his attendance at the April 2 City of STEM festival in Downey. He had set up three systems – a SX-64, an Amiga 1200, and an Ultimate 64. Murphy’s Law reared its ugly head about three hours into the day when the SX64 stopped working. The Amiga lasted another three and a half hours and also gave up the ghost. Happily, the Ultimate worked perfectly all day.  On Robert’s to-do list for future such events – bring back-up computers!

Robert estimated attendance at about 3,000, dozens of whom stopped by his tables to see and play with the old and new classics, like Oregon Trail, Donkey Kong, Ms. PacMan, Super Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog, Star Wars, the Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi.

In addition to the Vintage Computer Festival East in New Jersey later this month, Robert is planning to attend the Vintage West Festival at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View in August.

Robert also gave an update on the psychology experiments conducted by Dr. Nancy Dess of Occidental College in Los Angeles. She used Commodore computers and other equipment to control and log her work with rats subjected to various types of stimuli. The equipment had been in use until 2020. She was retiring and was donating all her Commodore items to Robert. The day after the City of STEM festival, Robert went to the college to talk to the doctor, pick up the items, and take more photos. He showed us those photos but forgot to bring the Dess disks which had the specialized programs on them. FCUG has a page of Robert’s photos from his original visit with Dr. Dess. Eventually, the new photos of Robert’s latest visit to the college will be posted.

Roger gave Bruce a GO-64! Interface cartridge for the Amiga computer.  He had found it at a Clovis antique store and had bought it for $10. The cartridge would connect to the external disk drive port of an Amiga computer and then with a serial cable, you would connect a Commodore 1541/1571/1581 disk drive to the Amiga. Then you would run the GO-64! disk which would start a C64 emulator on the Amiga. With the emulator running, you could then load disk programs from the above drives into the emulator and run them. Robert said that he had the same interface and would look for the disk(s) and instructions for Bruce.

Moving on to computer games, Robert loaded Cloneimals, the first and possibly only 80-column scrolling game for the C128. Robert bought the program in 2008, but developer John Brown had provided him with a new and improved version (better scrolling and collision detection). The program used software-created sprites (not hardware sprites) to create the shooter and targets.

Robert had downloaded an archive of about 500 Commodore 128 text adventure games.  He showed the first two to us. The first one was Ten Little Indians.  At the start of the game, you find yourself in a railway carriage and only have a limited number of responses before the train crashes.  Roger tried the game twice, but no matter what text command he used, the game didn’t understand. The second was the 7 Doctors, which seemed based on Dr. Who. This text adventure was more sophisticated and understood more commands than Ten Little Indians. You start the game by being in the phone booth (Tardis), and Roger figured that you have to find your way out of it to continue the adventure. Through much trial-and-error, Roger finally used the command, “pull lever,” and the door to the booth opened. That’s how far we got into the game before going on to the next program.

Cloneimals and 500 C128 text adventures were not the only surprises at the meeting. Robert showed off the new Flight Simulator II XL, a bug-fixed version of the original 1984 program.The XL version was just a couple of weeks old. Both Robert and Roger took turns trying to fly the plane off the runway, but they didn’t know where the throttle was to accelerate. They both crashed into the water near the runway. They would have to study of the FSII flight manual in order to pilot successfully. Robert didn’t know how the XL version compared with the SuperCPU version of FSII.  Roger mentioned that his brother would be very interested in this program since he flew model airplanes.

Robert had some games that would not load, but he finally loaded Sever the Wicked, a game in which you only had 24 seconds to shoot as many skull sprites on the screen, and there were dozens of them to shoot. Roger was able to get to 76 shot in 24 seconds.

Then Robert loaded a game that FCUG newsletter editor Lenard Roach had been developing, the Bible Trivia Game. Lenard said that it was a Wheel of Fortune-type game, but Robert and Roger thought it was more a multiple-choice type of game. You were presented with a question and had to pick answer A, B, or C. If you picked the correct answer, you had some music and a flashing screen. If you picked the wrong answer, you got a strange-sounding beep. Robert thought the program needed some color graphics to break up the boring text, and both Robert and Roger thought the rapidly-flashing screen was too irritating. However, there was a flaw which Robert and Roger observed and about which Lenard had warned. Sometimes, after the correct answer was picked, the game would break instead of playing music – a Data Overflow error. The guys examined the offending BASIC line but could not see anything wrong with it. They examined the lines around the offending line. Still nothing. Though Robert was not a programmer with good debugging skills, he thought that running the program through the Blitz 64 compiler would reveal all the bad BASIC lines. (In the compiling process, Blitz 64 lists all the bad lines and then stops the compilation of the program.)  With all the bad lines revealed, then Robert could try to debug them or give those lines over to somebody else on-line to debug.

Speaking of Wheel of Fortune, Robert ran the classic program in hopes that the phrases could be modified for Bible Trivia.  Except for the opening menu, he found nothing which gave access to the phrases already built into the program.  He even ran a program which purported to be an editor for the Wheel of Fortune.  That program came with no instructions on how to save any new phrase within WoF.

Just in case Blitz 64 wasn’t good enough in making a BASIC program run faster, Robert showed off some more compilers, Laser Basic Compiler, Basic Boss Compiler, and Diablo Compiler v3.2. The first two ran, but the Diablo refused to run. Roger joked that it would have been contradictory to have Bible Trivia compiled with Diablo (the devil!).

As at the March meeting, Robert ended the April meeting by showing the latest C64 nuvies – three from gaming shows, HomeCon 57, HomeCon 68, and CVGL 16; one of the Yesterchips’ Museum, and one which was a commercial for Forum64, the German on-line discussion forum for Commodore.

  

May 2022

The Fresno Commodore User Group’s May 2022 meeting brought together the “usual suspects” – Robert Bernardo, Roger Van Pelt, Dave Smith, Bruce Nieman, and Dick Estel.

The big event of the day was to be a group photo, to update the website front page. Alas, it was not to be. Dick had a new camera, and despite a lot of research on You Tube, had not fully mastered some of the settings. Using the self-timer, Dick was not able to get fully in the frame before the shutter went off, and he was just a blur in all the photos. A couple of weeks later he found that the self-timer was set for eight seconds, not the ten he assumed, and also that he could select a 14- second delay. A re-take will surely produce better results.

Also in the realm of photography, Robert and Roger were going to re-activate Bernardo Studios, to film a presentation for the Commodore LA Super Show (CLASS) coming up in June. Their efforts produced much better success.

Robert reported on the Vintage Computer Festival East in New Jersey. Speakers included a dozen former CBM engineers, like Bil Herd and Dave Haynie. Though Robert had arrived on the Thursday before the festival’s start on Friday, by the next day he was suffering from severe jet lag. However, he filmed about 13 hours of Commodore/Amiga-related video at the festival, and when he returned to California, he posted all of video to YouTube.

He considered that the greatest festival moment was when the dozen CBM engineers gathered on-stage and spoke for 2 ½ hours; when would such a gathering happen like that again?! Robert also met a few fellow Californians who had traveled all the way to the festival, too, including Erik Klein, organizer of the Vintage Computer Festival West in Mountain View. VCF West was going to be on a different date this year, and that will allow Robert to attend and have an exhibit table there.

Robert showed a Raspberry Pi 4b which will be connected to the Retro-Printer Module that allows the user to connect modern USB printers to any Commodore. However, the equipment had not been assembled nor configured yet. In fact, Robert had not yet bought the modern printer; he had been eying the Epson EcoTank 3850 printer from Costco.com.

At the end of the club meeting, Robert and Roger tried out three new VIC-20 games: Bloody Xmas, Mystic Sword, and Jovian Moon Lander. In Robert’s opinion, the best of the bunch was Jovian Moon Lander, because it had the characteristics of previous Moon Lander games (overcoming gravity, using retro-rocket fire) and combining those characteristics with rescuing people and having to land on various moonscapes.

  

June 2022

See above

 

July 2022

Meeting date: July 17

  

August 2022

Meeting date: August 21

 

September 2022

Meeting date: September 18

 

October 2022

Meeting date: October 30 (Annual Club Lunch; note date change)

  

November 2022

Meeting date: November 20

  

December 2022

Meeting date: December 18

   

Back to the top

  

This page is sponsored by the Fresno Commodore User Group

 

 

Mini Commodore Logo

Active Commodore Clubs

Mini Commodore Logo

CommVEx (Commodore Las Vegas Expo) 2009

Mini Commodore Logo

Amigathering IX

Mini Commodore Logo

CommVEx (Commodore Las Vegas Expo) 2010

Mini Commodore Logo

AmigaKit

Mini Commodore Logo

CommVEx (Commodore Las Vegas Expo) 2011

Mini Commodore Logo

AmiWest (Amiga) 2006

Mini Commodore Logo

CommVEx (Commodore Las Vegas Expo) 2012

Mini Commodore Logo

AmiWest (Amiga) 2007

Mini Commodore Logo

CommVEx (Commodore Las Vegas Expo) 2013

Mini Commodore Logo

AmiWest (Amiga) 2008

Mini Commodore Logo

CommVEx (Commodore Las Vegas Expo) 2015

Mini Commodore Logo

AmiWest (Amiga) 2009

Mini Commodore Logo

CommVEx (Commodore Las Vegas Expo) 2016

Mini Commodore Logo

AmiWest (Amiga) 2010

Mini Commodore Logo

CommVEx (Commodore Las Vegas Expo) 2017

Mini Commodore Logo

AmiWest (Amiga) 2011

Mini Commodore Logo

CommVEx (Commodore Las Vegas Expo) 2018

Mini Commodore Logo

AmiWest (Amiga) 2012

Mini Commodore Logo

CommVEx (Commodore Las Vegas Expo) 2019

Mini Commodore Logo

AmiWest (Amiga) 2013

Mini Commodore Logo

Commodore in the Lab

Mini Commodore Logo

AmiWest (Amiga) 2018

Mini Commodore Logo

Consumer Electronics Show 2006

Mini Commodore Logo

Articles Index (text files)

Mini Commodore Logo

Emergency Chicagoland Convention

Mini Commodore Logo

Articles Page 1

Mini Commodore Logo

Fresno Commodore User Group Home Page

Mini Commodore Logo

Articles Page 2

Mini Commodore Logo

Fresno Commodore Club Meeting Notes Page 1

Mini Commodore Logo

Articles Page 3

Mini Commodore Logo

Fresno Commodore Club Meeting Notes Page 2

Mini Commodore Logo

Articles Page 4

Mini Commodore Logo

Fresno Commodore User Group Reunion Lunch

Mini Commodore Logo

Articles Page 5

Mini Commodore Logo

Game On

Mini Commodore Logo

Articles - Memory Lane

Mini Commodore Logo

Gaelyne Gasson Commodore

Mini Commodore Logo

Articles - Member Biographies

Mini Commodore Logo

Hamtext Cartridge Demo

Mini Commodore Logo

Atari Party 2013

Mini Commodore Logo

LUCKI Expo 2005

Mini Commodore Logo

Bernardo in England

Mini Commodore Logo

Member Biographies

Mini Commodore Logo

Block Party 2008

Mini Commodore Logo

Memory Lane Articles

Mini Commodore Logo

Block Party 2009

Mini Commodore Logo

MossyCon 4

Mini Commodore Logo

Block Party 2010

Mini Commodore Logo

MossyCon 5

Mini Commodore Logo

Chicago Expo 2000

Mini Commodore Logo

Netherlands Commodore Show

Mini Commodore Logo

Chicago Expo 2001

Mini Commodore Logo

Notacon 2011

Mini Commodore Logo

Chicago Expo 2006

Mini Commodore Logo

Notacon 2014

Mini Commodore Logo

Cincinnati Expo 2007

Mini Commodore Logo

SC3 Party

Mini Commodore Logo

CLASS (Commodore Los Angeles Super Show) 2019

Mini Commodore Logo

SC3 Arcade Party 2009

Mini Commodore Logo

Classic Gaming Expo 2003

Mini Commodore Logo

SC3 Arcade Party 2012

Mini Commodore Logo

Classic Gaming Expo 2004

Mini Commodore Logo

Vintage Computer Festival 2000

Mini Commodore Logo

Classic Gaming Expo 2005

Mini Commodore Logo

Vintage Computer Festival 2002

Mini Commodore Logo

Commodore Gaming E3 Party

Mini Commodore Logo

Vintage Computer Festival 2005

Mini Commodore Logo

Commodore in Germany

Mini Commodore Logo

Vintage Computer Festival 2006

Mini Commodore Logo

Commodore Graphics Page 1
P2    P3    P4    

Mini Commodore Logo

Vintage Computer Festival 2007

Mini Commodore Logo

Commodore Graphics Page 5
P6     P7    P8    

Mini Commodore Logo

Vintage Computer Festival East (2007)

Mini Commodore Logo

Commodore Graphics 9    P10   P11

Mini Commodore Logo

Vintage Computer Festival East (2009)

Mini Commodore Logo

Commodore Information Center

Mini Commodore Logo

Vintage Computer Festival East (2012)

Mini Commodore Logo

Commodore 25th Anniversary

Mini Commodore Logo

Vintage Computer Festival East (2014)

Mini Commodore Logo

CommVEx (Commodore Las Vegas Expo) 2006

Mini Commodore Logo

Estel Home Page

Mini Commodore Logo

CommVEx (Commodore Las Vegas Expo) 2007

Mini Commodore Logo

Email  

Mini Commodore Logo

CommVEx (Commodore Las Vegas Expo) 2008

Mini Commodore Logo

Recommended Links

       

 

Updated July 20, 2022