FCUG Meeting Reports Page 3

   

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

2010 - 2016 are on Page 1          2017 - 2022 are on Page 2          2023 Reports          2024 Reports

    

Latest Meeting Report

February 2024

By Robert Bernardo and Dick Estel

The usual suspects were on hand for our February meeting – Robert, Roger, Dave, Bruce and Dick. Pre-lunch conversation covered electric vehicles, a source of used camera equipment, artificial intelligence (the scary, modern version), and Robert’s attendance at the final TOGA meeting hosted by 29-year president Randy Abel.

The full group name is The Other Group of Amigoids, and the club is in the Los Gatos/San Jose area. Randy is moving to Austin , TX , and his contribution over the years can be explained by the fact that it will require three members of the group to take over his duties.

We briefly discussed CLASS (Commodore LA Super Show) coming up April 13 and 14. Bruce planned to go, and Roger and Dick may be riding with him. We also expected newsletter editor Lenard Roach and his fiancée from Kansas City , KS .

Speaking of whom, it was noted that Lenard had been doing the newsletter for 18 years (see separate article in this issue).

Robert commented that there would be a 3-hour Maker Faire in Hawthorne , CA (south of the Los Angeles International Airport ) in May. He did not feel it was worthwhile to transport equipment that far or even to attend for such a short event.

Everyone was reminded that our next meeting would be in less than two weeks on March 2, a rare Saturday meeting. Robert will be traveling to Australia and New Zealand for most of March.

Demonstrations began with THEA500 Mini. It operated with the new software distribution of Aminimiga, which gave an Amiga desktop and provided games and other programs. Aminimiga was one huge file, essentially a hard drive image, so work files (for example, from a word processor) couldn’t be saved in the usual way. However, files could be saved in a special desktop folder.

On the Ultimate 64, Robert also showed the newish TRIANGULAR Micro OS complete with word processor, calculator, and games. Because the OS was written in BASIC, desktop operations were very slow at 1 MHz. and too fast at the U64’s maximum speed of 48 MHz. Robert found that 2-4 MHz. was the sweet spot for using the OS.

Afterwards, we experimented with Dancing Feats, a classic C64 music composition program, in which we set the beat, the bass sound, and other style choices, and then used the joystick to create tunes. No actual music was produced, probably because we were so bad at controlling the touchy control of the joystick.

We also briefly looked at a C64 desktop publishing program called Stop Press. It was aptly named, because we were unable to actually run it. It apparently required that a real disk drive be connected, and Robert didn’t want to go through the trouble of reconfiguring the U64 to accept a real disk drive. Perhaps at the next meeting...

More successful was PETSCIInoid, a version of Arkanoid but using PETSCII characters instead of sprites. The object of the game – aim the bouncing ball to remove tiles at the top of the screen.

After that game, Robert showed a classic C64 application, The Complete Fireworks Celebration Kit. The app would start up with a demonstration of fireworks exploding on-screen (multi-color mode). It would continue running that same demo unless an F-key was pressed. When Robert pressed an F-key, a menu would pop up in order to customize the fireworks display. The user could make the changes in the design of the fireworks, duration, and music. However, the controls were not intuitive, and Robert had to keep referring to a .PDF of the instructions. Also, even though he inputted different designs for the fireworks’ explosions, they all seemed the same.

To wrap up the meeting, Robert ran another C64 classic, Neutral Zone. In this game you turn left or right and elevate/declinate your gunsights before shooting off a fireball to destroy the enemy spaceships that are attacking your space station. No wonder Robert showed off this game; one spaceship seemed similar to a Star Trek cruiser and another spaceship looked like a Battlestar Galactica Viper! Roger and Dave were impressed at the detailed look of the game screen and the smooth game play, all from this 1983-1984 game.

The meeting ended at 3, because Robert and Roger had to go to the “film studio” in order to film Roger’s presentation for CLASS.

Other 2023 reports

   

Older Meeting Reports

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

  

2023

January     February     March     April     May     June

July     August     September     October     November     December

  

January 2023

By Robert Bernardo and Dick Estel

The third Sunday of the year was cold, with dark, cloudy skies, and rain expected any time. This was on the heels of weeks of record rain that brought deadly flooding to California. However, it was warm and welcoming inside the Panera Bread restaurant at Shaw and Marty in Fresno, as members of the Fresno Commodore User Group gathered for lunch, conversation, and computer stuff. On hand were Robert Bernardo, Roger Van Pelt, Bruce Nieman, Dick Estel and Michael Calkin.

Pre-meeting conversation during lunch touched on the variety of drones now available and enhanced movie experiences in theatres, such as 3-D, ScreenX, 4DX, and even Sensurround, the much older technology of theater seats that shook during the 1974 Charlton Heston disaster epic, “Earthquake.”

Plans are pretty well set for the 2023 edition of the Commodore L.A. Super Show (CLASS) in April. A generous donation from Lenard Roach covered the last $121 of the 2022 deficit, as well as providing $20 toward 2023 rental costs. The show will feature a class on using BASIC 7.0/7.8 to create a simple C128 game, and a possible Zoom visit from the owner of the Commodore name, based in Italy .

Also in April, Robert will show various vintage computers at the Los Angeles Maker Faire at the Los Angeles Historic Park.  He thinks there will be 3 or 4 computer systems at the Classic Los Angeles Computers exhibit – an Ultimate 64 or TheC64, an Amiga 600, and an Atari 800XL and/or Texas Instruments TI-99/4A.

Robert is looking forward to receiving a Mega65 from Trenz Electronics in Germany. This update of the almost legendary C65 (fewer than 200 prototypes were produced) comes in at $830, including Euro conversion, shipping, and the wire transfer fee (no other payment options were offered).

Robert let us know that the jillions of things available on the Internet now include an archive of Radio Shack catalogs from 1939 to 2011 when this iconic chain slowly faded out of existence.

Our attention next turned to a demonstration of TheC64 (none dare call it a Commodore), with the newly acquired C64 Enhancer flash drive containing over 800 C64 games and over 100 VIC-20 games. Another flash drive from Retro8BitShop offered the top 100 games. Member Michael got on TheC64, bouncing from game to game without ever really concentrating on one.

He had that same attitude when Robert brought out the Amiga 600 with its Arcade Game Selector II, a menu system that showed a thumbnail picture of each game screen on the Amiga’s hard drive. With the AGS II and hundreds of games loaded on the hard drive, it was easy for him to select one to play… much too easy because he looked from thumbnail to thumbnail without really deciding on one. Robert finally picked one for him, ML Tank, an Amiga version of the classic, wire-frame Tank game. Even on the A600’s unaccelerated 7.14 MHz speed, the game ran very quickly, the tanks zooming around the landscape on the screen. Michael became engrossed in the game for... a few minutes.

Next, Roger’s venerable VIC-20 was powered up, running the TRIANGULAR microOS. This upgrade required use of a RAM expander. Another variation of the TRIANGULAR microOS for the C128 was also presented.  As old-time GEOS users, everybody appreciated the effort done to make TRIANGULAR easy to use, and though it came with a few built-in applications, was it really necessary to boot up a graphical user interface in order to use a Commodore? Michael played with the settings of the OS and changed the colors and screen pattern.

Instead of using a classic ham radio, Roger loaded up a ham radio program on his laptop PC that accessed weather stations in Germany and the Netherlands. Incoming data was then fed through a Kantronics device to translate it into plain text on the club’s Commodore 128 (in C64 mode). This was a fairly specialized version of “plain text,” much of it consisting of radio shorthand comprehensible only to Roger. Later, Roger tuned into stations in the United States and found one where the user was speaking mostly in normal English. Robert urged Roger to have this as a filmed presentation for CLASS 2023.

The end of the meeting had Michael playing several of the games on THEC64.

 

February 2023

For a while it looked as if the February meeting might have only Robert and Dick. However, two more of our regulars soon arrived, Roger and Bruce. Being Super Bowl Sunday probably did not affect our attendance; the game would not start till well after the end of the meeting, and most of us are not major football fanatics.

Robert announced that we have recently received a total donation of $60 from Editor Lenard Roach toward the room rental for the Commodore LA Super Show (CLASS), coming up in April.

In March Robert will be filming a commercial for CLASS and a presentation by Roger on the use of Commodore with ham radio. This triggered a discussion of how radio waves are bounced off the ionosphere and variations in signal strength caused by the lowering of the ionosphere after dark.

Robert informed us that there may be a demonstration of ChatGPT at CLASS. This is a chatbot that interacts in a conversational way and is able “to answer follow up questions, admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests.”

Robert brought a number of print magazines, which were passed around. They included C64 Gaming from Australia, Retro Gamer from the United Kingdom but also distributed in the U.S., Amiga Addict from the U.K. and Amiga Future, published in Germany but available in an English edition. C64 Gaming was a download, but a real print version would cost over $40 US to have it shipped here. Amiga Addict was primarily a British magazine and generally only available at British newsstands (Robert had bought it when he was in Europe in late 2022.) Amiga Future was a magazine only available by postal mail; Robert had a subscription to that one. It even came with a cover CD of Amiga programs.

Hardware/software explorations started off with the Mega65, the enhanced replica of the never-produced Commodore 65 of the late 1980’s. Robert had received the computer just a few days before the meeting. Included in the box was the comprehensive Mega65 User’s Guide, designed to look exactly like a classic Commodore guide right down to the spiral binding. Robert also had printed out the Mega65 specifications from the C64-Wiki, the Mega65 Welcome Guide by Dan Sanderson, and the List of Alternative Cores for the Mega65 (cores being Apple II, Commodore 64 (more compatible than the C64 mode built into the Mega65), GameBoy and GameBoy Color, and ZX Spectrum).

Robert showed that the first time the Mega65 is powered up the user must set the time and select the video mode (PAL or NTSC). Once this is done, it would power up with the correct settings until they are changed. Then he went into showing what programs came in “Demo Disk #1,” the .D81 image which came pre-installed on the internal SD card of the Mega65.

Staying in Mega65 mode (the computer came with two modes – Mega65 mode and C64 mode), he demonstrated several programs through the Demo Disk menu. The splash screen of the Demo Disk had animation running around the circumference of the screen. Ordinarily, the Mega65 booted into 40 MHz.. With the use of computer’s built-in freeze menu (accessed by pressing RESTORE for a second and then releasing it), Robert slowed the computer to 1 MHz. (C64 speed) and showed the effect that it had on the animation. Needless to say, the animation was very slow! Then he sped the computer to 2 MHz. (C128 Fast speed), and the animation was faster. Then he ran the computer at 3.5 MHz. (original C65 speed), and the animation was faster. Finally, back to 40 MHz. and the animation was back to full speed.

The Demo Disk menu was coded in BASIC 65, the Mega65’s enhanced version of BASIC 10 which came with the Commodore 65. In fact, a majority of the programs on the Demo Disk was coded in BASIC 65. The Demo Disk menu was divided into 4 categories – 1. Demos, 2. Games, 3. Music, and 4. Utility. The rest of the meeting was devoted to running programs off the Demo Disk.

Under the Demos category, the club members saw such demos as 2 Bitplane Cube (a rotating cube spinning quickly), Mand65 (a mandelbrot graphic generated quickly), and Snow (a Christmas demo). Under the Game category, they played with games, such as Tetris, Poopie, and Blaster. Under the Music category, they listened to Cheek2Cheek and the DualSIDCompo which included five compositions including X-Files, Black Adder, and M. Impossible. Under Utility, they looked at Vector Clock and saw the sub-menu option of GO64.

In fact, GO64 was a direct command on the Mega65 screen. Just type GO64, the computer would respond with “Are you sure?”, and then by pressing “y” and then ENTER, the user would be brought into C64 mode. For the next meeting, Robert promised that the members would investigate more of the C64 mode of the Mega65.

 

March 2023

By Robert Bernardo and Dick Estel

A day with just a few rain showers seemed like a “dry” day after several atmospheric rivers in January, February, and March had brought heavy rainfall to the San Joaquin Valley and Sierra foothills, resulting in widespread flooding and evacuations in some areas.

On March 19, members of the Fresno Commodore Use Group braved the light sprinkles, and Dave, Robert, Roger and Dick appeared at the Panera Bread restaurant for our monthly meeting.

Robert placed on the table a 3D-printed version of the club name and logo, made on a 3D printer by Randy Abel, the leader of The Other Group of Amigoids in San Jose . This triggered a discussion of 3-D printing, with Roger describing a 90-foot rocket that has been made from metal using the 3D-printing technology.

Robert had re-activated Bernardo Studios to film demos with Roger and a commercial for the Commodore LA Super Show (CLASS). He took the production on location to Vasquez Rocks, just off of State Highway 14 northeast of Santa Clarita. This was where a number of scenes from Star Trek were filmed, and of course, Robert filmed a Commodore next to Kirk’s Rock, where the good captain fought the Gorn in episode 18. Watch for this commercial to appear on YouTube in the near future.

CLASS is coming up April 15 and 16, and a few more things have been added to the agenda. David Pleasance, head of Commodore UK , will appear virtually to talk about the machine’s big success in Europe . The second thing is still a secret, so you will have to attend CLASS or wait for a post-show report. Also appearing long-distance from Australia will be Paul Gardner-Stephen, the man who developed the Mega65 which is the modern day replica of the Commodore 65.

Roger talked about the method of sending BASIC code via a flashing square on a television screen.  A 1985 BBC TV show about computers used this method. There is a video about this here and an article here. Hypothetically, the interface for the Commodore and the software could be re-created, but how would the signal be sent to a CRT monitor and would the software be dependent on a European PAL signal ( North America uses a NTSC signal.)?

We moved on to software, starting with the Mega65 in C64 mode and various C64 games on the SD card that functions as a disk drive for this retro-futuristic machine. Various hiccups were encountered, but most games worked fine. Solitaire requires a working mouse, and the one Robert had, which had belonged to our late member Meredyth Dixon, was NOT working (it may have been non-functional, because Robert had set the machine for an Amiga mouse instead of a Commodore mouse). Super Bread Box, a jumping and shooting game, was partly functional, but the “bullets” Robert fired did nothing when they hit the target. Canabalt was a running game in which all you had to do was jump between buildings as the tempo between jumps became faster and faster.

Finally, a game that we all enjoyed was “Frogs,” in which you scored points by pushing other frogs into the water. We agreed that Frogs would be especially enjoyable if preceded by a drinking game. (To digress, what is this business that frogs cannot live in water? Falling in the river in Frogger is fatal. Have all the game developers failed biology?)

One other game, Shotgun, kept us entertained for a few minutes. In this two-player game, you had to pick up your shotgun and shoot the opposing enemy before he shot you with his shotgun. The tricky part was that the shotguns disappear after a short time, and then the players had to start over in trying to destroy each other.

  

April 2023

April 2023

By Robert Bernardo and Dick Estel

We had an unexpected and very special guest at this month’s meeting. In the early days of Commodore, Kurt Madden operated a computer store in Fresno , did extensive programming work, and was one of the founders of the Fresno Commodore User Group. He had done an on-line search and found our website, but assumed it was just something “left over” and that the club no longer existed.

He decided to visit our meeting place, and to his delight and surprise, there we were. We were equally delighted to meet him and learn more about the club’s beginnings.

He had a store, Micro Pacific Computer Center, in the Fig Garden Village Shopping Center, where he sold software by the ton, ran a factory-authorized Commodore repair center, and attended the big computer shows of the day, Consumer Electronic Show and Comdex.

Under the name Mirage Concepts, his company developed a Commodore word processor that was a big seller. He also produced a number of other software products. Eventually, the company went out of business and Kurt moved on to other projects.

In 2019 we talked by phone with another club founder, Chuck Yrulegui, who could only remember the first name, Kurt, of his colleague from the early 1980s. We were happy to fill in the blanks, and get some correct information that will be posted in the article that appeared in the March/April 2022 Interface.

Kurt was unable to stay for the meeting, which left it up to Robert, Bruce, Dick and Michael to carry on (Michael was late and missed out on the history lesson).

Robert gave a very positive report on the Commodore LA Super Show (CLASS), held earlier this month in Burbank. Paid attendance was 41, the largest of any FCUG sponsored event since the first Commodore Vegas show in 2005. Admission and raffle sales not only covered the room rental, but provided a nice profit to help fund the 2024 event, tentatively set for April 13 and 14.

Robert also attended the LA Maker Faire April 1 in downtown Los Angeles. He had a table with Commodore, Amiga and another one or two vintage computers, which drew curious looks and questions from some of the thousands who attended.

We began the demonstration part of the meeting listening to some Amiga music (MOD) files, played not on an Amiga but on the Ultimate 64, which is a multi-talented modern computer, disguised in a classic C64 case.

Basically, Robert redid the presentation he had at CLASS, a presentation that our newsletter editor, Lenard Roach, had hoped to present at the show, but in his absence, Robert stepped in. Robert showed some Christian graphics with an interlaced picture of Jesus and then a PETSCII picture of Jesus. Then Robert ran the game, Satan’s Hollow, a classic game marketed by Commodore Business Machines, a game in which the player shot down the horde of demons flying around and then tried to shoot a fire-breathing Satan. Michael played that game in full cheat mode and was pleased with its speed and the number of baddies to destroy.

We then put Michael to work with a reading comprehension game, the Baker Street Kids. The program displayed a series of paragraphs based on the Bible, with questions about various specifics. Michael got a B+, missing only one question.

Next it was Robert vs. Michael in a fight game, SNK vs. Capcom. A Super Street Fighter look-alike, the game had each player pick his particular character (different characters had different fighting skills) and then pick a country in which the fight was to occur. It was a rousing game. Robert and Michael kicked, somersaulted, jumped, and punched to the eventual winner who was… and then the game reset itself! Hmm, that had never happened before. Then Michael played against his father. Pick character, pick country, fight! Though it was fun, it wasn’t long before the game reset itself again… in the middle of play! It was time for the meeting to end, and as Robert was packing up, he checked the joystick connections. Joystick #2 was loose in its port, i.e., it was not plugged in all the way. Perhaps, that was the reason why the game kept resetting itself.

  

May 2023

By Robert Bernardo and Dick Estel

The third Sunday of the month arrived, as it always does, bringing together members of the Fresno Commodore Users Group for our regular meeting. It was May 21, and the weather made it clear that summer was replacing the cold, wet winter and spring which dominated the news the first part of the year

Undaunted by the predicted high of 90 degrees, Robert Bernardo, Roger Van Pelt, Dave Smith, Bruce Nieman, and Dick Estel bellied up to the counter at Panera Bread, ordered lunch or just a soda, and launched the usual far-ranging, pre-meeting discussion. They even looked at the brief video from the game show, Jeopardy, which showed the answer, “Boasting 64 KB worth of pure computing power, this company’s personal computer went for $595 in ‘80s money.” The question was “What is Commodore?”

The first order of the day was for everyone to sign a card for Ray Carlsen, in appreciation of his long service doing Commodore repairs. In days of long ago, there was such a thing as factory-authorized Commodore repair centers, and virtually every club had a member or two who had the tools and skill to fix various Commodore computers.

Now there are just a few such individuals scattered across the country, and we have been fortunate to have Ray “just up the road” in Washington state, and even luckier that Robert travels to the Pacific Northwest every so often, almost always delivering items for Ray to repair or retrieving them after Ray does his magic. Ray has cut back his activities lately but continues to keep FCUG’s equipment working long beyond its natural life span. Ray, we salute you and thank you for your service.

Roger told us about a project he is working on, which he explained as follows:

“A while back I saw an episode on YouTube of a British computer show from 1985. They were inviting the audience to participate in an experiment where they would build a receiver circuit for their home computers that would allow them to ‘download’ software from their televisions via a flashing square displayed on the screen during the show. The flashes were picked up by a photo transistor attached to the screen by a suction cup. This was connected to the circuit board by a pair of wires and the computer would run a program to receive the software.

“I later found the circuit schematic and receiving program in a magazine article from the same period and eventually thought I would build it and try it out with one of the uploaded broadcasts. This is my first attempt and has a low chance of working right off due to the nature of the transmission source, a PAL video standard TV show, digitized and uploaded to YouTube at 480p.

“I may never get any further than building the circuit. But who knows?”

Robert showed part of a video by a man who has put a C64 Mini AND an A500 Mini into a standard Amiga 500 case. Neither device had a working keyboard, but this computer whiz had the original A500 keyboard working with both units.

The date of the June meeting is changed to June 11, because Robert will be leaving for Seattle on the regular meeting date. He will conduct the return of PaCommEx, the Pacific Commodore Expo Northwest, returning June 24 and 25 after a four-year hiatus. It will be held at the Old Rainier Brewery building, and admission will be free with expenses being paid by https://sdf.org.

Speaking of shows, the Commodore Los Angeles Super Show is coming back on April 13-14, 2024 , and Robert has sent in the deposit to hold the room at the Burbank VFW hall.

Next up was a brief look at the website for a new operating system for the Commodore 64, C64 OS. It works from an SD card and is fully compliant with all CMD devices.

During lunch, a newly-hacked but very old C64 program was running – Party Songs by John Henry. We could not tell if this was John Henry, the famous railroad man, or a real person of any type, but his music was all older songs in the public domain, accompanied by some well-done Koala art. We also took a brief look at a similar collection of Christmas songs by the same man.

For the presentation of a new C64 programs, Robert really concentrated on staying on-task. First off was Avventura, an Italian text adventure game written in BASIC and featuring PETSCII graphics. He joked that somebody could take the text and rewrite it in English by using a phone app to translate. Next was Boulderdash Jr. 8, another Boulderdash game clone with sometimes impossible puzzles to get through. This was followed by A Christmas Adventure, Cipher Patrol 2, Cursed Tomb, Enhanced VIOS, For Speed We Need 3, Lester v1.1, Irom2, NewsStand, Missile Defence, Rambler, Sulphur Eye, Snake vs Bomb, Space23, Synthia2, The Last Defender, Yauzeras, and Zeta Wing 2. Whew! Quite a number of games!

Somehow, David detoured the presentations into board games that had been converted to the C64. With some quick downloads onto the SD card, Robert showed off Risk (which no one knew how to play without there being physical dice) and Mythos, an incomplete version of the Legend of Zelda.

However, Robert was not finished yet. For the C128, he ran the rediscovered 80-column games, Spukschloss (Haunted Castle) which was a German text adventure game (written in BASIC and which could be translated to English), B-1 Bomber which was a text strategy game, and the new easy-to-use 80-column text adventure, the Lair of the Lich King. The members were the most impressed with Lair of the Lich King, because the player did not have to necessarily remember truncated game commands but just use the cursor keys to move graphically through the adventure map.

Finally, for VIC-20 with 16K RAM expander, Robert tried to run the eXimietas VIC-20 CHIP-8 emulator. CHIP-8 was an interpreted programming language that ran on computers, like the COSMAC VIP computer with a 10-key pad for input (very much what the Commodore KIM-1 looked like). He was able to load and run the .D64 that brought up the CHIP-8 desktop, but unfortunately he ran into a problem when he tried to run the separate .D64 which had the applications. There was no way to load up another .D64 on the SD2IEC card drive without erasing what was in memory. In other words, Robert needed a real disk of the applications from which to load. The applications .D64 had to be converted to that real disk. Robert and Roger agreed that it would be done by time of the next meeting.

  

June 2023

by Robert Bernardo

Robert came in a few minutes late, and then it took longer for him to set up, because he had an Amiga 2000 to assemble with two LCD monitors. Unfortunately, one of the monitors, a Dell U2410, didn’t survive the trip, having a cracked screen with only a partial view and at a bad resolution. That was the second Dell to die in 2 years! Robert would have to order another Dell and make sure that any others would be protected better during transport.

From Stephen Jones, the Amiga 2000 needed two monitors due to its special configuration, i.e., it was 3 computers-in-one -- an Amiga running OS 3.1, a Mac running System 6.01 (both usable from one monitor via RGB-to-VGA), and a PC running DOS 5.0 (which needed a separate monitor for VGA).  With only one monitor, Robert could only show off the Amiga and Mac sides of this system.

Roger set up the club C128 and its peripherals, along with his VIC-20.

After the longer-than-usual set-up time, Roger, Robert, Dave, Michael, and Bruce ordered their food.  However, Bruce, our big Amiga aficionado, did not stay very long.  A family emergency called him away, and thus he missed out on the A2000 presentation.

The meeting started with old business and new business.  Discussion included the June 24-25 Pacific Commodore Expo NW in Seattle (Robert will be there with many Commodore and Amiga systems and associated monitors) and William Shatner (the July meeting being delayed until the 23rd due to Robert going to New York state to see Shatner at the Star Trek Tour set).

Presentations started with Robert showing off a Youtube video in which a user took PC/Mac/Amiga Blender objects and converted them so they could be displayed on a Commodore Plus/4.  Michael was very interested in how the objects were created and manipulated in the 3-D environment in Blender. Robert urged Roger, our Blender expert, to study this video and see if he could re-create the image-making process for the next meeting.

Then Robert presented TRIANGULAR microOS for the C128 in 40-column mode. For some reason, he couldn’t get v1.35 Beta to run, so he had to revert to v1.34.  TRIANGULAR was written in BASIC 7.0, and so, it was slow in its use.  Using a joystick as the controller, Robert would move the pointer in a leisurely manner to the desktop icons seemingly built of PETSCII characters.  He handed the joystick over to Roger, and Roger tried out some of the icons.  In Games, there was a Crab in New York (a Frogger clone), SimCity, and Star Wars.  The Frogger clone ran slowly, Star Wars was incomplete and didn’t boot up, and SimCity was a game that no one could play, because no one could understand its minimalist on-screen prompts.  In Setup, Michael had fun changing the microOS background, i.e., changing its colors and its pattern.  Speaking of configuration, Robert noted there was no way to change the pointer color in v1.34.  The pointer was always white, and when the pointer would traverse white areas of the background, it would disappear.  Very disconcerting!

Robert went to the A2000 presentation while Roger disassembled the C128 and put the VIC-20 in its place.  The A2000 had extra RAM but no accelerator, and so, going through the menus was a relatively slow process.  He ran a few Amiga demos and some Amiga music, but the really big thing was when he ran the Mac emulator on the Amiga.

He used the rare A-Max module which connected to the disk drive port of the Amiga.  Inside the module were Mac ROMs.  When he clicked the A-Max Start icon on the Amiga, the application would call the data on the ROMs, load them into the Amiga memory, and then run the rest of the Mac OS desktop.  In a few minutes, the classic, monochrome Mac desktop would appear.  He and Roger tried out some of the applications available on the Mac, like Word, Photoshop 1.0, and Oregon Trail (with monochrome graphics for the Mac).  Some games didn’t work, but those that did had no sound or low sound volume, due to a fault of the A-Max emulator.

David and Michael had to leave, but Robert and Roger carried on with the VIC-20.  Like the previous meeting, they tried to get the Chip-8 emulator to run on the VIC.  However, they failed again.  They couldn’t get the Chip-8 desktop to run from device 9 of the SD2IEC with a real, applications disk in the 1571 set as device 8.  Perhaps they couldn't configure the SD2IEC correctly.  Perhaps Chip-8 could only be run from device 8.  With this failure, Robert decided that next time everything from Chip-8 had to be on real disks – the Chip-8 desktop on a real disk, the applications on a real disk (a flippy?).  With everything on real disks, it should be able to run.

 

July 2023

by Robert Bernardo

As in previous FCUG meetings, the July meeting started off normally. Robert got to Panera Bread first and started setting up the equipment. However, he noticed that a few tables away, someone kept looking at him. Eventually, that someone walked over to Robert and asked if this was the classic computer club. Robert said yes, and Phillip Lima introduced himself, saying that he had brought in more than 3 bins of C64 equipment, software, and literature.

When members David and Roger arrived, Phillip explained that his grandparents had owned the items, that they had passed the items down to his parents, and that his parents eventually passed them down to him. Now Phillip wanted to dispose of the items without having to throw them in a dumpster.

For the next 90 minutes, David, Robert, Roger, and Phillip discussed and went over some of the items. There were lots of GEOS disks. The 1701/1702 monitor was good. However, when the four C64C’s were tested with a Ray Carlsen heavy-duty power supply, all of them had no screen display. Robert looked at the pile of C64 power bricks and thought those had burned out every C64C. Due to time constraints, Robert didn’t test out the 1541C disk drives nor the software packages nor the 9-pin dot-matrix printer.

Phillip wanted some money for all the goods. Robert countered that extra space was at a premium in his storage and that C64C’s would need repair from Ray Carlsen (which meant money being spent). After some more talk with David and Roger, Robert decided to hand a check to Phillip for $100. After Phillip left, David immediately paid Robert $20 for the working monitor. Roger was entranced with a GeoRAM cartridge and took it for study.

Finally, the group could carry on with lunch and then with old and new business. Robert showed off THEA500 Mini which was recently autographed by actor/director/writer William Shatner. Robert told of how he met Bill Shatner at a 3-day Star Trek event in early July in Ticonderoga , New York . The first day Bill was leading a group through the re-created Starship Enterprise sets at the Star Trek Tour, and he recognized Robert (Robert said it was embarrassing to be singled out as Bill talked to him, i.e., the others in the group were probably wondering, “Why is Bill Shatner talking to this guy?”).

The second day Robert stood in line to have THEA500 Mini autographed by Bill. Robert had it turned face down, and Bill would autograph its underside. Like an assembly line, an assistant would hand Bill an item to autograph, Bill would sign and pass it on, the assistant would hand another item, Bill would sign, etc.. Bill would never look up, because he had to autograph hundreds of items for the fans. However, when Bill got to Robert’s item, he signed it, turned it right side up, looked at its miniature keyboard, and looked up at Robert. (In past years, Robert was always the one person who would bring Commodore and Amiga goods for Bill to sign, Bill having been a Commodore spokesman in the early 1980’s.) Bill smiled and enthusiastically tried to converse with Robert. The line of adoring fans was stuck. Bill’s assistants stared. Why was Bill talking to this guy? The third day as Robert waited just outside the lobby for another tour of the sets, Bill came out of the front door. Immediately, Bill saw Robert sitting there, walked up, and thanked Robert for coming to see him. Once again, everyone just looked. Then Bill went to his SUV in order to be chauffeured to his next convention venue.

In other club discussion, Robert talked about the success of the June 24-25 Pacific Commodore Expo NW 2023 with 48 people attending (the Commodore Los Angeles Super Show 2023 had 40 attendees). That made PaCommEx even bigger than the long-running, annual Amiwest Show in Sacramento . He mentioned that the Vintage Computer Festival West would be coming in early August, but he wouldn’t be able to attend. The above-mentioned Amiwest Show would be coming in mid-October as would be the resurrection of the Bay Area Maker Faire. Robert would be the videographer at Amiwest and was going to apply for exhibit tables at the Maker Faire. The proposed exhibits – classic computers.

In celebration of the new Barbie movie, Robert ran the classic C64 Epyx game, Barbie! Though the game just had Barbie going from store to store on a shopping spree, the digitized speech from Barbie and Ken was very good. In celebration of the new Oppenheimer movie, Robert and Roger tried out various C64 games and demos with an atomic theme -- SWIV Atomic Explosion, Atomic Isle, Cool Cat, and the classic War Games. They even ran B-1 Nuclear Bomber on the VIC-20.

Also on the VIC-20 with 16K RAM expander, Roger ran the desktop for the eXimietas VIC-20 Chip-8 emulator and its associated games. The Chip-8 was a virtual machine designed in the mid-1970’s for use with the COSMAC VIP and Telmac 1800 microcomputers. The eXimietas Chip-8 was probably the first emulator to run on the VIC-20, i.e., the VIC-20 was emulating a different computer. Roger ran the various dozen or so Chip-8 games, and both he and Robert were amazed at their simplicity yet still be entertaining. Robert especially like the Pacman clone and the Kaleidoscope demo.

The meeting had gone long, David having left hours earlier. Robert and Roger started packing away the club equipment. However, young Michael and his family suddenly appeared. So instead of packing away the equipment, Robert hauled out THEA500 Mini and let Michael play with various games which were built into the system. That went on until Michael grew tired of playing them. Finally, Robert and Roger were able to pack up everything. It was a new record for the longest ever FCUG meeting – 7 hours!

  

August 2023

By Robert Bernardo & Dick Estel

The extreme heat of early August had moderated somewhat by August 20, and Panera Bread Restaurant was keeping its employees cool, considering that they were working a lot harder than the customers. However, it was too cool, because both Dick, Dave, and Robert went to their cars to get long-sleeved shirts or sweaters.

This month those customers included Robert Bernardo, Roger Van Pelt, Bruce Nieman, Dave Smith, and Dick Estel. Robert and Dick each had been members more than 25 years, and Roger joined us long ago enough that we estimated his time at well over 15 years. Bruce and Dave joined more recently, although Dave was a member back in the late 20th century. Only Dick was really old, however.

Pre-meeting discussion covered a wide range of topics. One had to do with the registering of domain names that took place in the early days of the World Wide Web, when enterprising computer users registered such names as red.com, blue.com, and various commercial and government names for the users to sell at a profit. This included the once notorious whitehouse.com which eventually became far less interesting. Whitehouse.net still provided some entertainment, though. Hit the refresh button for endless fun.

But seriously, we had a good lunch and an informative meeting. Robert will be going to see Ray Carlsen in October to pick up and deliver equipment for repair. Ray had announced that he was stepping back from his repair service but will continue to help special customers such as Robert. Robert discussed finances relating to the Commodore LA Super Show (CLASS). Enough money was received from admission, raffle tickets, and equipment sales to cover all expenses for this year as well as a bit for next year’s room rent. He questioned whether to keep admission at $25 or to lower it to $20. Club members agreed that keeping the same price would be best and would allow for unforeseen expenses. A reduction one year could require an increase the next year, and it seemed best to be consistent.

During a recent trip to Las Vegas, Robert visited Al Jackson, former president of the now-defunct Clark County Commodore Computer Club and a reliable supporter of our Commodore Vegas Expo (CommVEx) exhibitions in his city. He’s doing fairly well but is doing less with his computers and is considering getting rid of them.

For decades, FCUG has held the annual October “picnic”, which now is actually a lunch at a different restaurant each year. Family members are invited, the club pays for lunch, and there are no computer demos. Due to conflicts with our normal third Sunday, the event will take place on October 8, location to be announced.

Demonstrations got under way with a look at a Commodore PC20-III, a machine from Commodore’s ill-fated venture into the pre-Windows PC market. When Robert acquired the machine, it had been sitting unwanted and unloved in someone’s damp and moldy shed in northern Washington state. The hard drive was frozen and many other issues were apparent when Robert turned it over to Duncan MacDougall for repair. Duncan did a number of modifications, most interesting of which was adding a Snarker Barker (Sound Blaster clone) 8-bit sound card.

Robert showed off a few PC games. Paku Paku, a PacMan-type game, used the better sound from the sound card, but another game, an Arkanoid clone, used the PC’s one-bit internal speaker. Robert and Roger used the keyboard to control the games; a PC joystick was not available, though Duncan was repairing one to eventually give to Robert.

Robert wondered whether he should buy Geoworks Ensemble (GEOS for the PC) from eBay so that he could have a GUI desktop instead of having to go through the prompts of DOS 6.0 on the PC. In fact, all of members at the meeting were rusty on their knowledge of DOS commands, e.g., what is the command to go back to the root directory?

Robert then showed off an Amiga 3000, recently repaired and upgraded by Duncan. The upgrades included a Spectrum 24-bit video card and an Ethernet board. With the desktop display controlled by the video card, all desktop movements were speeded up; windows opened up quickly and were easily resized and moved around without any of the slowdown of the original Amiga video system. However, when it came to displaying a list of applications in each window, there was no speed-up, because that relied on data transfer limitations of the hard drive and CPU.

Speaking of transfers, that was the last item on the demonstration agenda. At a meeting of our sister club, the Southern California Commodore & Amiga Network, Robert had been given a box of C64 floppy disks. His job was to transfer the PaperClip word-processed files on those floppy disks to text files that a PC could read. At our FCUG meeting, he demonstrated his method of doing the transfers.

With the club C128 in 80-column mode, the club 1571 disk drive, and a SD2IEC card drive, he ran the text processor, ZED 0.77. He set ZED to read “screen code” which was the format of saved PaperClip files, and he set ZED to write “ASCII CL” files. He loaded up a PaperClip file from the floppy disk. Though the screen formatting was wrong and though ZED did not do line-wrap on words that go past the 80-column screen limit, the file was still readable to the naked eye. Then he saved the converted file to the SD card on the SD2IEC drive. However, the file was still not ready to be read by PC.

He took the SD card out of the SD2IEC and inserted it into his laptop. He then ran DirMaster 3.51, a PC application. Within DirMaster, he ran a directory on the SD card, and it showed the converted file with a .S00 suffix. Still within DirMaster, he loaded the file and then saved it as a text (.TXT) file. After the save, he opened up the text file to prove that it was readable in the PC.

He had used the above method to transfer many PaperClip files to text files, and he had e-mailed those text files to the owner of the floppy disks. Roger said there that WinVICE would convert files, but Robert never used VICE. Robert had used a method that he himself understood.

 

September 2023

 By Robert Bernardo and Dick Estel

Turnout was unusually low for this final summer meeting. When Dick arrived, Robert was nearly done setting up the equipment, and no one else was around. Roger and Dave had both let Robert know they would not be present, and we recalled a period when membership was at an all time low and meetings were sometimes just Robert and Dick.

An hour later Bruce arrived, increasing the crowd by 50%. The pre-meeting conversation ranged far and wide, and included our condolences to Robert on the loss of his mother, who passed away recently at the age of 93.

Robert also noted that he will be attending his 50-year high school reunion soon. This prompted brief discussion of Dick’s 50th, 16 years ago.

In a blast from the past, Robert gave everyone a punch card, one of those 3 by 7.5 inch pieces of lightweight cardboard with holes that constituted a code that can be read by a computer. The basic technology dates back to the late 19th century. Dick recalled that a TV station where he worked used these cards to create the daily log of programs, commercials, and announcements. Driven by idle curiosity, Dick determined that there are approximately 800 spots where a hole could be punched on each card.

The first matter of official business was the club “picnic,” which is now actually a lunch at the usual time but at a different restaurant. At a club picnic, there is no official business and no demos, and family members are invited. The location chosen for this year is the Andiamo Italian restaurant in Clovis . Also because of conflicts, the lunch will be on October 8, the second Sunday instead of our usual third Sunday meeting time.

Robert will be the official videographer at AmiWest Show, October 12 through 15 in Sacramento .

Meanwhile, the Interim Computer Festival will take place in Seattle September 30 and October 1. The show is open to all classic computers.

Robert is planning to attend the Bay Area Maker Faire October 20 – 22. Plans are for Duncan MacDougall to join him, although Robert has not yet received an acknowledgment of his request to attend. In any case, Robert will be going to Seattle in late October, and he will visit Ray Carlsen in order to deliver items for repair and pick up items that have been repaired.

Robert had brought the books, “From Vultures to Vampires,” volumes 1 and 2. The books told the story of the Amiga computer starting in 1984 and going to present day. Volume 2 even told the story of how the Commodore name eventually landed with a Dutch company. Volume 3 will come out later this year. Bruce expressed his interest in buying his own copies of the books, but when Robert told him the price of each volume, he quickly lost interest.

Moving on to software demos, Robert let us look at rarely seen classics from long ago, the Hayden Software Temperature Lab and the accompanying Light Lab. Besides software, the boxes included sensors, an interface for the sensors, a thermometer, extensive manuals, and a lot of other items. An example of experiments that could be performed with Temperature Lab was to determine how long it takes ice to cool a soda (a rather inexact phrase). The burning question of “How do fireflies give off light?” was also answered.

Robert had some disappointing news about his other planned demonstrations. He had brought his Commodore PC20-III DOS machine and hoped to run a PC version of GEOS. The program had installed correctly, and the machine pretended to be booting up this graphical operating system but just displayed the word “Loading” until the user gave up and moved on to something else.

Robert had also brought the Mega65 (C65 clone) and was going to give a presentation on GEOS 65, the GEOS version which was originally developed from GEOS 128 and was now converted to run on the Mega65. Unfortunately, though Robert had the microSD card with the GEOS 65, the Mega65 did not recognize the card as being compatible with its system. (Robert discovered later that he had to prep the microSD card with the Mega65, before using it with the system. Live and learn!)

 

October 2023

By Robert Bernardo and Dick Estel

October means it’s time for the annual club picnic, which is really a lunch at a different location from our usual meeting place. Also, family members are invited, and there are no computers set up and no demonstrations.

This year we had a small group. Faithful regulars Roger and his brother Aaron were taking care of some family matters and had to miss out. However, the rest of the meeting regulars were there – Dave with his daughter Megan, Bruce, Robert and Dick.

Blowing off any diet plans any of us had, we went to Andiamo Ristorante Italiano and explored its huge menu. Of course, half the pages were wines, priced up to $150 per bottle, but we’re a sober bunch, at least at those prices. Instead we enjoyed calzone, linguine tutto mare, lasagna al forno, fettuccine (both Alfredo and Gamberoni), plus salad and dessert for some of us.

It was the first time at this location for everyone but Dick, but the prices were very reasonable, the portions were large, and some members will be back on their own.

We enjoyed the usual wide-ranging conversation, and everyone enjoyed the food and the company.

We’ve been holding his event for 3/4 of the club’s life, and hopefully it will continue many more years.

  

November 2023

By Robert Bernardo and Dick Estel

Attendance was small on November 19, but that was normal. The five regulars were there -  Robert, Roger, Dave, Bruce and Dick. Robert gave a report on the clubs he regularly visits in California , and most of them usually had single digit attendance, the norm for Commodore clubs in the 3rd decade of the 21st century. However, this was not true of the clubs he had visited in Europe recently.

What is lacking in quantity is made up in quality (hopefully). There have been interesting discussions, sometimes about computer-related matters and sometimes far off-topic. Certainly meeting the far off and interesting heading was Robert's report on the bandurria, a Philippine musical instrument owned by his late father, but given away before he passed. You can look it up on the Internet.

Robert recently attended two shows in California . The Bay Area Maker Faire, held at the decommissioned Mare Island Naval Base, drew thousands. A smaller turnout of 75 showed up at Amiwest Show in Sacramento , still a good increase from last year's count of 50.

Robert spent dozens of hours filming, editing, and posting Amiwest videos to YouTube. He spent three long days at the Bay Area Maker Faire, entertaining the many attendees who passed by him at the Vintage Computer Festivalers tables. He brought the Ultimate 64, Amiga 600, and THEA500 Mini to exhibit while others brought a Tandy 1000, BBC Micro, and a Mac 660 laptop.

At the end of Maker Faire, Robert was badly injured when he tripped as he walked to his car in the parking lot. He had fallen onto both knees and arms with lots of skin torn off and blood flowing. After Robert spoke about that, Dick remarked, "Robert, you have to be careful. You're not young anymore!" The things Robert does for Commodore!

Well known for his travels, Robert will be visiting New Zealand and Australia in March. The members look forward to his report on attendance and other matters. This requires a change in the meeting date to March 2, a Saturday.

Traveling closer to home, Robert recently visited Ray Carlsen in southern Washington . Ray was moving farther into retirement; at age 79 Ray had been doing electronic work for 60 years. In August he said he would continue to do repair work for Robert and a small number of special clients. In late October when Robert visited him, he was only able to test a few disk drives and clean their heads and politely declined to repair anything else that Robert had brought. Though he won't take on any more repair work, he will continue to make and sell power supplies till he runs out of material to make them.

While in Washington , Robert filmed a commercial for next year's Commodore Los Angeles Super Show (CLASS), featuring a non-union dog who was not on strike. Watch for this epic production on YouTube as the tentative CLASS date of April 13 and 14 gets closer. Robert's trip to Oregon and Washington was not without problems. He was a couple of days late to the area, because in mid-Oregon, he started having electrical problems in the 1990 Ford LTD Crown Victoria, and by the time he got to Portland, the car was in full-blown breakdown mode. With a lot of visiting Auto Zone and O'Reilly's, he was able to get a new battery and rebuilt alternator (the first rebuilt didn't work; the second did). Fortunately, he had brought his tools and battery charger and spent hours removing and replacing the electrical parts in the parking lot of his hotel. The things Robert does for Commodore!

The membership voted to donate $50 to St. Jude hospital, which has been doing excellent work with childhood cancer for over 50 years.

Moving on to demos, Robert fired up THEA500 Mini. Most of the meeting was taken up with that machine and the new Aminimiga distribution which turns the Mini from a game machine to a full-fledged Amiga computer complete with desktop and folders full of productivity, graphics, music, and game software. Bruce was especially interested and concentrated on the graphics programs.

As the meeting neared the end, Robert and Roger ran the brand new File Conductor for the Commodore 128 in 80-column mode. Roger found it to be an easier-to-use disk drive file organizer than older organizers.

As Robert and Roger were packing up, young member Michael showed up with his family. Robert unpacked THEA500 Mini and let Michael play with that as the rest of the equipment was put away. Before leaving, Robert handed to Roger an AEA Pakratt PK-64 controller for ham radio and C64. He asked Roger to study it and make his findings known at the next meeting.

  

December 2023

By Robert Bernardo & Dick Estel

It was unseasonably warm on December 17, with light rain predicted, coming in from the south. The members had sympathy for fellow US residents suffering heavy rain, snow and wind in other parts of the country.

There was a good turnout, with Robert, Roger, Dave, Bruce, Michael (but just for a few minutes), Dick, and the latter's great grandson Jack, who was looking forward to exploring games on the club's ancient systems. He and his brother play on tablets where they are competing against and talking with other remote gamers.

Robert and Roger were very kind in setting up games for him to play, and he explored several different games on THEA500 Mini with Aminimiga distribution, as well as Frogger and Donkey Kong on the C128 in C64 mode. Accompanying THEA500 Mini, Robert brought a 7" HDMI monitor, his new $54 Amazon.com purchase and just the right size to pack into a suitcase with the Mini. Jack found the 40-year old Commodore platforms a bit tame but enjoyed the games nonetheless.

When the meeting got underway, it was time to elect officers for the coming year. As in the past, the current officers and board were re-elected by acclamation. A list of officers can be found at the end of this newsletter.

With the full retirement of Ray Carlsen from repair work, the club members had been wondering where to go for repairs. The old saying, "when a door closes, a window opens," came to the rescue. Robert discovered that a Sacramento Amiga Computer Club member, Chris, did 8-bit computer repairs. Since he had a "day job," his Commodore repair time was limited, and when Robert presented him with four C64s in need of TLC, he asked to receive them one at a time.

Presentations started with Bible Baseball, a game in which you advance to the bases by correctly answering multiple choice questions. Jack took the controls and concentrated on this more than all the previous games combined he had earlier played. The other members all contributed their best guesses to the answers, too. The questions were fairly obscure and seemed to all come from the Old Testament, often with three choices that left all of them scratching their heads (their own, not each other's).

Ultimately, they got a hard question right, Jack hit a grand slam home run, and the computer was defeated 5-1. They took a brief look at Jewish IQ Baseball. Written by the same authors as Bible Baseball, it was the same game as Bible Baseball except with more difficult Old Testament questions. The next game was Game of the Maccabees, which was divided into two parts. In first part, you shot spears at the five enemy soldiers who shot back at you with spears. If you press SPACE, then the second part presented even more obscure Old Testament questions to answer (which encouraged the members to move on to the next game). The last was Samson and Delilah, basically a platform game in which you as Samson have to jump and dodge the arrows of the enemies and try to get to Delilah. Even in the accelerated mode of the Ultimate 64, the game seemed too sluggish with Samson not being able to jump over the enemies properly.

Dick and great grandson Jack left, but the rest of the members carried on. Roger gave a very thorough presentation on what he discovered on the AEA Pakratt PK-64 controller for ham radio and C64. He talked about the theory behind it, how it was meant to be used, and showed how far he could get it working (it crashed when being put into full operation). He thought that it may have a bad capacitor that needed replacement.

On the Commodore 128 in 40-column mode, Robert and Roger tried out the latest TRIANGULAR microOS, now at v1.40 and released the day before the meeting. Compared to v1.35 which was presented at the June Pacific Commodore Expo NW in Seattle , you navigated the desktop more quickly in this version. The built-in games, Star Wars, Crab in New York (like Frogger), and Sim City , all ran more snappily as did the text editor, Words. It seemed easier to exit out of folders; in the earlier version, there was no way to exit and you had to turn off the C128.

To round out the meeting, the members saw various demos from the Top 10 C64 demos according to CSDB.dk (Commodore Scene Database), such demos like Wonderland XIV and No Bounds.

    

2024

January     February     March     April     May     June

July     August     September     October     November     December

 

January 2024

By Robert Bernardo and Dick Estel

The year got off to a good start with most of the usual suspects in attendance on January 21. Robert, Roger, and Dick along with the latter’s great grandson Jack, back for a second time, were in the first wave to arrive. Young Michael stopped to chat briefly, went back to his parents in the restaurant, and came back to take part in the meeting.

Bruce arrived much later than usual, claiming to have forgotten about the meeting (but we suspected him of getting in an extra hour of sleep). Dave was ill and had announced his non-appearance a few days earlier.

Shortly after our arrival, Jack was playing a classic, Space Invaders, on the Mini PET which was newly bought by Robert and constructed by Duncan M. of The Other Group of Amigoids ( San Jose , CA ). Robert explained that this was a replacement machine for Larry Anderson, the webmaster who maintains the websites for the Southern California Commodore & Amiga Network, the Commodore Los Angeles Super Show, and the Pacific Commodore Expo NW. Replacement? What did that mean? A few years ago Robert had borrowed two of Larry’s Mini PET’s, a version 1.46 and a version 1.58, to exhibit at CLASS and at the Vintage Computer Festival West.

Robert stored the Mini’s in the trunk of his Ford LTD Crown Victoria . Well, after being there for some time, Robert figured that the Mini’s would be safer in a house. He put them in a box and brought them in. Unfortunately, after time passed, Robert forgot where the box was. The Mini’s were too safe! This year Larry kept hinting to Robert that he wanted to use the Mini’s. Robert searched the family home in Stockton . He searched his house in Visalia . Not found. So, in order to maintain his friendship with Larry and to keep the websites running without problem, Robert thought that a replacement Mini would do until he found the originals. Even one Mini PET was expensive, and in order to save 100 pounds UK (about $120 US) over a fully assembled Mini, Robert ordered the unassembled Mini and had Duncan assemble the machine (which took about 4 hours). Robert assured the members that this would be their only time to see this Mini PET, because it was going to be delivered as soon as possible to Larry in San Andreas , CA .

In non-Commodore pre-meeting conversation, Robert reported seeing the movie Ferrari at a Regal theater which offered only VIP seating. Besides admission, this included all-you-can eat popcorn, soda, and soft-serve ice cream, all for $20 – probably a good value in these days of mind-boggling inflation.

Last month Robert brought a partially working AEA Pakratt PK-64 controller for ham radio and C64, and this month Roger asked for permission to fix it. Robert gave his permission and asked if Roger wanted to do another video for the April 14-15 CLASS. Roger was non-committal, but Robert, the long-time director, will make plans to film the video next month.

We watched the commercial Robert had produced for CLASS, in which Bosey the Commodore Dog made important computer decisions on our behalf. Member Michael immediately figured out how Bosey made his decisions in the video! The video can be found at https://youtu.be/Zbs8wtCPo8k.

We learned about some new products coming from Retro Games Ltd., who made THE64 Mini, THE64 Maxi, and THEA500 Mini. RG is releasing THE400 (an Atari Mini) at this very moment and later this year will release the THEA500 Maxi with functioning keyboard.

Before Dick and Jack and Michael left the meeting, the latter two were able to play a few more C64 games – Delve Deeper (a dungeon crawler), the Secret of Monkey Island (graphic adventure), Alternate Reality (another graphic adventure), Boom (a sideways shooter which took too long to load and was too difficult to play when loaded), the Briley Witch Chronicles 2 (graphic adventure), China Miner Christmas (platformer), and Valkyrie 3 (a Shoot’Em Up Construction Kit game with the user flying a little biplane).

They also looked at a few demos – Copper Booze (showing colored rows and columns of lines), FppScroller (showing a scrolly message with different effects applied to it), and Whirlybirds (a 3D demo in which the user moves through a snowy landscape).

Then Roger and Robert booted up the latest version, v1.43, of TRIANGULAR microOS on the C128 in 40-column mode. Though Robert was pleased with the speed improvement in navigating the desktop and that the sound in Synth was now working, he was not so pleased that the OS would crash sometimes, giving the statements, “undef’d statement error in 45” or “syntax error in 78.” Robert said that he would inform the programmer of these errors and other problems, like not enough color contrast between the background and the foreground on menu items. Other than those problems, the games – Crab in New York (a Frogger clone), GP Brazil (a racing game), Star Wars (shoot the tie fighter), and SimCity – worked well, though lacking in sound or enough sound effects.

Then Roger connected the VIC-20 with 24K RAM, and he ran the Bible program, Pentateuch (first 5 books of the Bible). Robert wanted to see this run and then send the program to Interface editor, Lenard Roach, who has been collecting Christian programs. One part of the program called Book Selection, which was akin to an index, ran very slowly, i.e., after pressing a key, you had to wait a long time before anything would happen. Lag was not present in other parts of the program in which a Biblical quote was shown on the screen and then was followed by a nicely-done, monochrome graphic. In fact, the program was in 40 columns and not in the VIC-20’s normal 22-column screen. The graphics rivaled those done on a C64.

Finally, Robert ended the meeting by going through a C64 disk given by TOGA leader, Randy Abel. The disk was labeled, “Fun Disk,” and Robert wanted to know if it was really fun. There were several programs on the flippy disk, but the boot menu program didn’t cooperate, and Robert had to go to each program directly. First was Up ‘n Down, a game where you navigate a car through hills. Then there was Broadsides, commercial game from the company, SSI. You navigated your galleon in order to deliver broadsides against the enemy galleon. It was a very intriguing game which involved strategy, so intriguing that it would be better to read through the comprehensive manual, which was available online as a .PDF.

On the other side of the disk were three John Olsen adventure games, Revenge of the Moon Goddess, Perils of Darkest Africa, and Night of the Walking Dead. Because the games were all written by the same author, they all had the same look and feel, with certain words (text) colored for emphasis or as clues. The games were shareware/donationware games, John Olsen’s mailing address listed. Robert wondered if John Olsen still lived in the Oregon town in the address. After a brief Internet search, Robert found two John Olsens who had lived in that town but had moved away to other Oregon towns. Robert wondered whether he should try and contact the Olsens, just to confirm if one of them was the programmer of the games.

  

February 2024

See above

 

March 2024

 

 

April 2024

 

 

May 2024

 

 

June 2024

Meeting date changed go June 9

 

July 2024

Meeting date July 21

  

August 2024

Meeting date August 18

 

September 2024

MEETING DATE MOVED TO September 22

 

October 2024

Meeting date October 20 (Annual Club Lunch)

  

November 2024

Meeting date November 17

 

December 2024

Meeting date December 15

 

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CLASS (Commodore Los Angeles Super Show) 2019

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SC3 Party

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Classic Gaming Expo 2003

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Commodore in Germany

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Commodore 25th Anniversary

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Updated May 20, 2024