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Dave Farquhar

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Everything posted by Dave Farquhar

  1. PCjrs aren't very expensive, especially if you find one in the wild. It's been a couple of years now since I've seen one, but each time I've found one, I could have scored a complete setup, including a PCjr monitor, for $50 or less. I passed because I didn't really have the space for yet another computer.
  2. There was a big combination of factors, and without all of them, I'm not certain the IBM PC would have won the day. Legitimacy: IBM brought legitimacy to the market. They were a serious computer company deciding to make desktop computers. That's why Apple literally welcomed them. That was arrogant of them--very arrogant--but Apple saw IBM coming in as a good thing, and it probably was for everyone, for a time at least. Open architecture: Made it easy to develop for. Software: IBM got business software right away, then they got Lotus 1-2-3. Nothing else had Lotus 1-2-3. That made it the killer app. The Mac's killer app was Pagemaker; the ST's killer app was MIDI and the Amiga's killer app was the Toaster. Lotus was bigger than those three combined, and it ensured the IBM PC would get all of the best business software first. The PC had lots of shortcomings, but the open architecture let developers brute force its way through them eventually. And backward compatibility let it keep the market lead once it got it, as they slowly and surely addressed the shortcomings, bolting on faster CPUs, better graphics, better sound, etc., and driving the price down. Cheap clones didn't hurt, either. Well, it hurt IBM, but kept the standard going.
  3. Okidata Okimate printers used a wax ribbon to print on plain paper, or you could use thermal paper in them and use them like a thermal printer. The printers were cheap, but the ribbons were crazy expensive, and thermal paper was expensive too. I had an Okimate 10, and a Canon/IBM printer sold by Protecto Enterprises as the "Big Blue printer" for $39. It took me a while to figure out that dot-matrix printers were cheaper in the long run.
  4. Yep, pretty much. Pretty much. Commodore didn't anticipate the 64's longevity, nor did they expect to sell a lot of disk drives. So to save time and money, they reused as much code as they could to get the machine to market just as soon as memory chip prices allowed them to meet a $595 price point (and then get the price down to $299 and then $249 and $199 as quickly as possible). They figured they'd release something, then release something better in a couple of years to replace it, like the 64 replaced the VIC-20.
  5. I think every Plus/4 I've seen was boxed. I'm not sure on production numbers, but Commodore only made them in 1984 and 1985. It was intended to replace the C-64, but it wasn't compatible with it and its sound capabilities weren't as good and it lacked sprites. It was cheap to produce because one chip (the TED) handled audio, video, and I/O, but unfortunately that chip is very failure-prone. So a lot of Plus/4s don't work, and there's no ready supply of parts for them since the TED was only used in the Plus/4 and the C-16. The best thing to do if you find a working Plus/4 and intend to use it is to put heat sinks on all the major chips to keep it cool. The Plus/4 failed in the marketplace, and most of the inventory was liquidated through closeout shops. I think the original retail price was $250 or $300, but the closeout shops sold them for more like $79. My grade school had a couple of them, because at the closeout prices they were cheaper than 64s and they had some built-in software. So I spent a fair bit of time with them. I can't help you out much with value, but if you hook it up and it works, that'll certainly make it more interesting to potential buyers. And looking at the box, is that a retail price tag on it? That makes the box more interesting.
  6. JR, since your ASM routine resides in the cassette buffer, the 64 just executes whatever random data happens to be in the buffer after returning from your second JSR $FFD2. In those cases, it's always just a matter of time before it runs into an unintentional BRK instruction and stops.
  7. If you're doing a JSR $FFD2 followed by an RTS, you can cheat and do a JMP $FFD2 instead (for the second statement). Not a lot of savings, but it's something.
  8. I remember those days well. I picked up a VICmodem from COMB Liquidators for $20. It was terrible, but got me in the game. Around 1989, we upgraded to a Commodore 1670 (1200 bps!). I called a lot of Color 64 BBSs. Then around 1990, I think, DesTerm for the 128 came out with ANSI support, so I could call PC BBSs and get a roughly equivalent experience on those. Downloading new versions of DesTerm at 1200 bps took forever. In either 1991 or 1992 I got a used Motorola Codex v.32-only modem, so it was limited to 4800 and 9600 bps, but I got it for $175 so it was still a nice deal. A fully capable modem of that speed would have cost about twice that. So I got that and a cheap $40 2400 bps modem for when I needed to step down to 1200 or 2400. I forget when I stopped calling BBSs, but it was probably 1995 or 1996. I was certainly on the web in 1994, but in its early days, there were still things you could do on BBSs that you couldn't on the web, though the reverse was also true.
  9. Cleaning up after bad caps isn't bad--just run the motherboard through the dishwasher, removing a battery if present. Replacing them is the harder part. But leaky caps won't kill the motherboard, at least. I agree that the Amiga 1000 was the best-looking of all the models. I remember a company selling replacement motherboards for them that included all the ECS chips. It wasn't cheap. I can't imagine many of them survive, or that many existed in the first place.
  10. I wanted one really badly when they were new. But as FastRobPlus noted, in the States, the Amiga was past its prime by the time the A1200 came along. There just wasn't enough AGA software readily available to me--the nearest dealer was an hour's drive away--to justify setting aside my A2000 and getting an A1200. So I never got one, but if I spotted one in the wild somewhere for a reasonable price, I'd have a really hard time not grabbing it. I had a hard enough time resisting an A3000 when I spotted one at a garage sale last year for $200. It was boxed, in nice shape, and had lots of software and user's group newsletters. I did take the seller's phone number and put another local collector in touch with her, so it would end up in good hands. I guess that brings up another problem. It wasn't easy to buy an A1200 in the States in the early 1990s. The St. Louis area has a population of around 2.5 million, and it had one Amiga dealer at that point in time, and it wasn't easy to get to. In the A500's day, there must have been a dozen places you could buy one, including the better shopping malls. In 1991 or 1992, there were dozens, if not hundreds of places to buy PCs, including the Radio Shack five minutes away.
  11. I saw that this morning. Very impressive setup indeed.
  12. Probably the IIe, if I had to place a bet. Gateway made well-regarded clones in the 486-era, but it was a clone, and has to share the era with Compaq, Dell, HP, AST, and even IBM, among a host of others. And none of them have the Apple mystique. Plenty of IIe games were available on other platforms, but there was enough distinct about them that you won't completely replicate the IIe experience on anything else of the era. Just like you won't replicate the C-64 or Atari 800 experience on anything else of the era. (I'm discounting emulation, because you either want the real hardware or you don't.) All my friends had different brands of 486s in the '90s, but there was minimal difference between them. Civilization and Railroad Tycoon played the same on my Compaq as it did on my friends' Dells and Gateways. If there was any difference, it was because you didn't have a Soundblaster.
  13. College students may have been the target demographic for those machines. In a crowded dorm room, I can see where they'd be handy. And they did make more sense than a laptop, where you paid twice as much for equivalent computer power. Not to mention they broke down a lot and parts were crazy expensive too.
  14. I sold computers at retail in 1994 and 1995, and remember the all-in-one 486s well. Compaq definitely had one. I didn't sell a lot of them though, probably because I pointed out to people that you could mix and match monitors, and the nicer Sony and NEC monitors in the next aisle would work with any of the desktop or tower computers we sold. I'd say a good 25-50% of the computers I sold marched out of the store with one of those monitors. I thought I remembered there being at least one Compaq all-in-one that was Pentium-based, and a little later on I thought they had one based on the Cyrix MediaGX chip. But they weren't all that popular, and management certainly didn't push us to push them. They wanted us to push 17-inch monitors, so if the manager was watching, we didn't even mention the all-in-ones unless the customer specifically asked about that model.
  15. Wow. That's an enviable setup indeed. I like it an awful, awful lot. I grew up using a 128, so I have a lot of pleasant memories of the machine.
  16. Some people consider Pentium/Pentium MMX "vintage" or "classic" now. After all, they are older now than the Atari 2600 was when people started collecting it. So I can see the argument for it. Though it's not quite as clear cut. That Pentium MMX is a lot more similar to the machine I'm typing this on than the Atari 2600 is to the Pentium MMX (which is the machine I would have been typing this on in 1997). Age may have something to do with it too. I'm in my late 30s, so 1997 doesn't seem all that long ago. And I associate that Pentium MMX with work. I had an IBM PC 300 on my desk at my first job. To someone 10 years younger than me, 1997 seems a lot more distant, and someone younger is much more likely to associate that Pentium MMX with fun. A 486 is more of a fun machine for me, conjuring up memories of the old DOS Civilization (and marathon games late into the night). But even those old 486s have a lot less personality than, say, an Amiga or ST.
  17. Kind of like a TSR. It worked by intercepting ("wedging into") BASIC's syntax error routine, then checked for commands it recognized, then passed on anything it didn't recognize.
  18. My first was a Commodore 64, in 1984. I learned a lot about how it worked from typing in programs from the back pages of magazines. I think we had the same desk as ed1475, too.
  19. The melting point of most plastics is well over 100C/212F, so boiling water won't harm the original connector. To oven-dry, just set your oven to 200 degrees and use that. I've treated other electronics (especially IBM Model M keyboards) by cleaning them with water and then baking them at 200 degrees F or 100 degrees C for a few minutes. But you can also just put them in a hot car for a while too, which doesn't cost anything. I had always heard the original NES connector used an odd metal alloy that oxidized easily, but it could be that the problem is just dirt. Since so many people report the boiling trick works, that suggests to me the problem is dirt, not oxidation. But 10 minutes in boiling water isn't long enough to cause oxidation, or at least, any worse than it already is. Boiling in water is a common step when restoring old prewar Lionel trains, which are made largely of steel. The boiling process doesn't make them any rustier than they were when they started. I haven't tried this yet, but I'm going to just as soon as I dig out my NES.
  20. Sorry to post so late to the topic... I don't get around here much these days. A hair dryer is worth a try. If heat doesn't do the job, you could also use lighter fluid. Dab some around the label, let it wick under, then lift gently and apply more fluid. With some patience, you should be able to dissolve all of the adhesive. And the lighter fluid won't damage the plastic.
  21. You could use an X1541 cable to connect a Commodore floppy drive to a PC with a parallel port to move data. If you're mildly proficient with a soldering iron, you should be able to knock one together in 30 minutes or less.
  22. Here's a page that shows how to identify which SID is in any given 64. Opening the case isn't necessary. http://ilesj.wordpress.com/2010/07/01/how-to-identify-c64-and-sid-model/ On an online auction, you can guess based on the keyboard and usually get it right. If you can actually examine the machine in person, you can tell by looking inside the cartridge port.
  23. Part of that was so Newtek could market a "Mac" version of the Toaster, which really was an A2000 in disguise. The two companies had an arrangement, and it probably benefited both of them, since shops that had an anti-Commodore prejudice didn't have to know they were buying a Commodore computer with a Toaster in it. Then you could run it standalone or plug it into a Mac or whatever it was that made you feel comfortable. I wish I had $5 for every time someone told me in the early 1990s "they have a Video Toaster for the Macintosh now, you know." It never even dawned on them that this "Video Toaster for the Mac" was exactly the same size and shape as an Amiga 2000... True enough, but it always annoyed me when Apple claimed they invented Plug and Play. The A2000 came out almost a year before the Mac II did.
  24. Indeed it did, but that was 10 years after the A1000 came out. But Plug & Play definitely wasn't perfect in Win95. It wasn't until Windows 2000 that I recall Plug & Play working as effortlessly as Autoconfig on an Amiga did. I think you're right about that. It took a very long time for the industry as a whole to realize the benefits of an open architecture with lots of third-party development. But I think if Commodore had harped on expansion for those "other" computers being a weekend-long project (or an expensive project requiring a technician), as opposed to being a DIY operation that takes minutes at most on an Amiga, it would have done better. The big-box Amigas were definitely better in regards to expansion, but you wouldn't know it from Commodore's advertising. They barely acknowledged the Video Toaster and the like, which was a shame.
  25. Autoconfig was a HUGE deal in the 1980s. The first time I ever configured a multi-I/O card for an IBM PC/XT clone, I realized how big of a deal. I had to set jumpers or DIP switches to set interrupts, I/O addresses, and DMA channels for every stupid port on the card. The board must have had a dozen settings, and of course you needed a thick manual to sort it all out. I think it took me 45 minutes, at least. Partly because I wasn't born knowing what the difference between 0x278, 0x378, and 0x3bc was. The fact that I remember that means I went on to configure way, way too many of those things..... With an Amiga, it was just like a modern PC. Plug in the card, boot the system up, and load a driver. Except with an Amiga, you didn't necessarily have to load the driver. To my knowledge, Commodore never mentioned this in the advertising. They should have.
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