July 26, 2008: It’s late July and for the last four years that has meant the
annual Commodore Las Vegas expo (CommVEx). This is a small gathering
of enthusiasts who continue to work with and advance the 1980s era
Commodore brand of computers. Although the C64 was the biggest
selling computer in history, and the first introduction to computing
for many, it has been replaced by faster, newer machines, and
relegated to the category of “classic,” along with its immediate
successor, the highly popular C128.
so, diehard Commodore fans have developed ways to make their
machines come close in performance to more modern Windows-based PCs
– including high-speed Internet connections, printing with laser
printers, and working with CD-ROMs.
show was the brainchild of Robert Bernardo, president of the Fresno
Commodore Club (FCUG), along with a couple of other dedicated
Commodorians in Canada and Nevada. Las Vegas
was chosen because it’s a “happening” place, and the local
club was able to provide support and equipment.
I virtually never use my Commodore any more, I have remained a loyal
member of FCUG, and planned to attend all the expos. Various circumstances
prevented me from coming to #1 and #3, but I was here in 2006 and I
am here again in 2008, at the Plaza Hotel in old downtown Vegas. In
addition to helping Robert carry in and set up equipment, as club
treasurer I am the registrar, ticket seller, and accountant.
left home early yesterday, getting on the road about
I’m driving the Honda, not towing a trailer, so I was able to move
along pretty fast. I stopped in Tehachapi for an early lunch at
about , and arrived in Vegas about .
been a year of change, which caused this to be my longest trip of
the summer. I had planned to travel across the southern U.S.
with my grandson Mikie, as far as Alabama, but I changed my mind. I moved in June, so a trip of that nature
was just not a good idea. Then we decided to make it a week long
trip to northern California, which would have delayed my move to
July, but neither of us was very enthusiastic about this journey, so
I decided to stay home and get moved a little earlier.
visit to Las Vegas
was going to be the final stop on my long southern journey, so I was
pretty much committed to being here one way or another, and now I
put in a few hours setting up last night, and have been here since
this morning, with the official opening of the show ten minutes away
We already have eight people here, most of whom will be doing some
kind of demonstration during the show. Since the expenses come out
of Robert’s pocket, everyone pays admission regardless of their
duties or level of participation.
the early days of Commodore, there were several print magazines
devoted to the brand, as well as one disk-based magazine called Loadstar. Amazingly, although all the print publications are long
gone, Loadstar continues on, and the current editor/publisher, Dave Moorman
and his wife
Shari, are here for their first CommVEx show.
in attendance is Justin Pope, whose focus is the Amiga computer, a
Commodore product that followed the highly successful C128. The
Amiga uses a graphic based interface (like Windows and McIntosh),
but was an innovator in quality sound and graphics before they were
routine on other PCs. Justin has four different Amiga models set up
for demonstration. His family had a video production company when he
was a kid, and he started working with the Amiga at around age 11.
repeat attendee is Yul Haasmann of Las Vegas, who has set up a
keyboard connected to his Commodore. These computers were known for
good sound in their heyday, and work well with various music
accessories and programs.
showed off the 20-minute video he created which gave a look at
Commodore/Amiga club activities in California, as well as how the band, Warp 11, is
connected to Amiga. The video included the proceedings of the Southern California Commodore Amiga
The Other Group of Amigoids (TOGA), and the Fresno Commodore User Group,
including our giant club storage facility for abandoned equipment. He had
shown this video in England, the
Netherlands, and Belgium, and the crowds at those European shows and clubs
found it highly entertaining.
small contribution was a discussion of the Font Resource Directory (FRD), a printout of over 1000 fonts used in the
program. GEOS was
a disk-based, alternate operating system for the Commodore 64/128
that turned it into a point and click machine, similar to Macintosh.
When I was editing the club’s newsletter, I wanted a way to
see what the different fonts available looked like. I made a
printout showing each character in the available fonts, starting with
about 30 pages. Eventually the FRD
grew to ten times that size. I made it available at cost
to fellow Commodore users, selling around 100 copies over several
July 27: We’re getting ready for the second and final day,
starting in about 90 minutes. Attendance yesterday was not what we
had hoped, but we were afraid that interest might be declining. Also
some of the regular Commodore people who attract attention could not
attend this year. Even so, everyone is having a good time –
meeting and talking with other Commodore enthusiasts, looking at
rare equipment, and watching the demonstrations. The highlight
yesterday was a teleconference with Bil Herd and Andy Finkle, two
men who worked for Commodore during the early days, and helped
design the C128 and Amiga.
the realm of equipment, we have some items that were made only in Europe
(the Commodore was heavily promoted and very successful overseas),
and lots of newer items made to enhance the computer’s performance
for the 21st Century.
more repeat visitors are Jeff
Krantz and his 9-year old son, Connor. Connor has been pressed into
service to draw the tickets for the various raffles for the last
three years, and is eager and enthusiastic in performing his duties.
I think if he had his way, the event would be one long raffle.
had three or four drawings this morning before Connor arrived, so we
chose the next youngest person present, Josh Shiflet, who is over 21 but probably under 25. Josh did his best Connor impersonation, jumping up and down
excitedly when it was time to draw, although I thought his
enthusiasm waned a bit by the fourth drawing. Fortunately, the
Krantzes arrived in time to take care of most of the work in that
the show ended yesterday, about eight of us enjoyed the hotel’s
$7.77 buffet, then came back to the meeting room. After this,
everyone did their own thing…some went home, I went to my room
with my current novel, and a couple of diehards played with the toys
till nearly midnight.
morning I tried my hand at the slot machines with little success –
win a few, lose a lot. I cashed out when I had about $4 left, hoping
that voucher would be my key to riches later today.
went back downstairs a little later and put my $4 voucher in a
nickel machine. I would bet five and win two, so switched machines,
got down to my last nickel, then hit a $40 jackpot, doubling my
initial investment. When that happens, it’s time to quit – but
will I? (In the evening I tried my hand again, but quit when my
winnings were down to $15 – enough to pay for my two buffet
had a few more people in today, plus most of yesterday’s attendees
have returned, and we have a full schedule of demonstrations. My own
contribution was going to be a discussion of Big Blue
program that allows the conversion of Commodore text files to PC
format. This has been a boon for many former Commodore users who
have their life story, genealogy files or even a book they were
writing on a bunch of Commodore disks, which can’t be used in any
existing Windows PC. BBR
converts most Commodore formats to plain text files, which can then
be loaded and edited in any PC word processor. Our club has provided
this service for two or three years, and has made a number of folks
happy who thought their old files were lost forever. Sadly for the
attendees at this event, we ran out of time before I could do my
were several interesting demos today. The highlights:
Dot.Basic by Dave Moorman
Plus, an object oriented BASIC extension for the C-64, with a
library of some 90 commands now, including bitmaps and SID
by Dave Moorman
Tower, Dave demonstrated this graphical user interface which simplifies
use of the 64
HDD. He mentioned that a C128 version of this HDriver GUI is being
The Video Toaster by
the prime years of the Amiga, a third party company developed an
accessory called the Video
Toaster. Combined with the Amiga, this
amazing $1500 device allowed the creation of special video effects
previously possible only with expensive professional equipment
costing ten times as much. Justin’s family made use of the unit as
part of a video production company they operated for a number of
1541 Ultimate by
showed his interview with the developer of the 1541 Ultimate,
Josh gave his presentation. The 1541 Ultimate is a European SD-card
product that emulates the classic Commodore 1541 drive, right down
to the familiar grinding and head-knocking sounds (digitally
reproduced). Among other things, it allows loading files directly
from D64 emulation disks.
Amiga Forever by Michael Battilana
is from Italy, where he works for a software developer whose products include a
CD ROM package (Amiga Forever) that preserves thousands of Amiga
games and demos. The package includes everything needed to run
different emulation engines, operating system versions, games and
demo productions in simple one-click steps. Michael generously made
a copy of the product available as a raffle prize.
finished up around , and began the laborious project of hauling everything out of the
meeting room. I had brought a small luggage carrier, and had about
three loads of stuff to take to my car, up a ramp, then up the
elevator one story, and out to the garage. Robert had to return a
carload of items to Al
Jackson of the Las Vegas club, who kindly provided a half dozen or
more set-ups, including monitors, keyboards, and disk drives. We
made about five trips, up the ramp, but at least not up the
we had another carload of items that Robert had brought from his
home in Visalia, which all had to go up the elevator to his room on the 8th
floor. We made at least four trips with this material. Our thanks go
out to Dave, Sheri, and Josh, who helped with this project.
had dinner at the buffet again, staying and talking long after
dinner was finished, until we got kicked out by employees eager to
clean up and go home. We headed for our respective hotel rooms, with
another successful Commodore Vegas Expo behind us.
the next morning, and stopped at the Sizzler in Barstow
Estel, July 2008
The Commodore Flag waves over CommVEx
Dave & Sheri Moorman
When not drawing tickets, Connor kept
busy with games
Justin & Karen Pope & their
Keith Henrickson meets the Moormans
Michael Battilana from Italy explains the
Amiga Forever project
Josh with his Commodore soccer jersey
Jeff Krantz & Paul Armstrong of the Las
Yul Haasmann of Las Vegas
Jeff Krantz & Paul Armstrong of the Las