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DistantStar001

I'm Getting My First C64, And I Have Questions

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So I'm a long time Apple and Mac user who grew up in the 80s, and believe it or not, I had never even seen a C64 in the plastic until a few weeks ago. I had heard about them, I just never saw one. I got one on eBay for about $30 (untested), and it hasn't arrived yet. But while I wait, I thought I'd ask a few questions.

 

First, about the power supply: My unit didn't come with one but someone at my local electronics store was kind enough to give me an original. I tested the 5v line, and it's giving me 5.14v without load. Is that safe, or should I be looking to rebuild the unit?

 

Second, I have no peripherals, including a monitor: I know I could use the standard RF on the unit, but I was wondering if there was a way to get it to work with the same composite monitors I use with my Apple 2s?

 

Third, on a printer note, I have 4 dot-matrix printers. Two are Apple ImageWritters (II model), another is a wide format Epson, and then there's an Okidata parallel. Is it possible for any of these to work with the c64?

 

That's about it for now, but I'm sure I'll have more when my computer finally arrives. Thanks.

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Welcome to the wonderful world of the best selling computer! There are so many great things happening on the C64 scene.

 

First up, the power supply. Do NOT trust the commodore one. They can go bad and fry your C64. Here is everything you need to know https://www.breadbox64.com/blog/c64-power-supplies/I would recommend getting a new one from Ray Carlsen.

 

For monitors you can get a variety of leads to connect the C64 to a CRT or LCD screen. Try and get one with S-Video and get a cable like this one https://www.ebay.com/i/142845591642?chn=psor you can get a standard video lead for composite.

 

The C64 uses a serial port for peripherals but there are many adapters to let you connect different types of printers. Here is an example of one https://www.vesalia.de/e_wtc64parint.htm

 

Enjoy your C64!

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I wasn't planning on trusting the PSU for the long-term. Rather, I was wondering if the voltage was safe for short-term testing until I can gut it, and build a new one. I probably should have said "rebuild the unit first," as I'm going to regardless. Even if it's fine now, I know that it's only a matter of time before it goes bad. I just wanted to play with it a bit in the interim. I already have a few 9v bricks with bad cords, all I really need is a more reliable DC 5v supply that will fit inside the original Commodore brick. I'm still researching as to what the best build will be, but I'd like to keep it looking original. Or as original as it can, considering that my C64 will come with a lableless Vic-20 top case and keyboard (I'll have to replace that too, eventually). I think that's why it was $30. When it was listed, the ad said it was a Vic-20 keyboard, but the underside, ports, and motherboard were obviously a C64. Anyway, anyone have a suggestion on the best PSU build?

 

As for S-Video, I only have the one tv with that input, and it's a 36 inch CRT, but it's good to know that a composite cable is out there.

 

The printer is just a "would be nice" for now, as I currently have no software to print with (or at all). I have cables for my ImageWriters (the //c one looks to be the right size, but the pins look wrong), and I'm still looking for something to connect my Epson and Okidata. I have two parallel cards for my //e and no cables for either of them. I'm hoping that the C64 will be easier to connect, but is there any additional hardware or software that I'll need to do so?

 

Additionally, I've been looking into a disk drive and was wondering just how necessary they are for the C46. I know that the Apple IIs are nearly useless without one, but they don't have cartridge ports. So is a disk drive necessary, or just a good thing to have? Can I get away with a tape deck?

Edited by DistantStar001

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5.14V is within spec, but if the voltage regulator in the PSU goes bad (apparently comes loose and stops working), that is when you're getting up to 12V instead. If the PSU has been treated carefully, perhaps it will last a little longer though you can never know for sure.

 

Regarding floppy drives, they are not essential but most desired. Tape recorder is fine for loading a few programs but you'd find yourself limited. Fortunately there is a whole range of SD card based solutions that replaces the actual drive, ranging from the somewhat inexpensive but often referred to as limited SD2IEC and uIEC/SD devices, via the relatively new Pi1541 which consists of a Raspberry Pi and a "hat" on that (which offers full compatibility but is slightly more expensive and requires its own power outlet), to the full blown 1541 Ultimate series which are about half the price of a CFFA but has a ton of functionality built in besides being just a floppy drive emulator.

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Back in the day, I used one of these to connect a Panasonic dot matrix printer to my Commodore 128:

 

Xetec Super Graphix Jr.

 

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Super-Graphix-Jr-Printer-Interface-Card-Xetec-Commodore-VIC/161850958151?hash=item25af11a147:g:SU8AAOSwAodWFWKi:rk:1:pf:0

 

It plugs into the serial port on the 64/128 (or the disk drive) and draws power from the cassette port. The switches set the device number (I think) but also set some options like printing real Commodore graphics symbols, or printing readable versions of the cursor control characters when you LIST a program to the printer.

Ex.: 10 PRINT "[CLR][RVS]TEST[OFF]" rather than the actual symbols.

 

There are other options I think besides this one, but it worked great for me and it isn't very expensive.

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Additionally, I've been looking into a disk drive and was wondering just how necessary they are for the C46. I know that the Apple IIs are nearly useless without one, but they don't have cartridge ports. So is a disk drive necessary, or just a good thing to have? Can I get away with a tape deck?

C64 required a Commodore datasette they are digital and do not use standard audio connectors. You can get by with tapes for gaming if you are running a PAL system but few NTSC games were ever released on tape. Ive never used one.

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Would PAL games work on an NTSC system? I know that you can get away with it on a SEGA Master System (although the timing is off), and I think the original NES can if you disable the lockout chip (I've never actually tried though). But on a C64, would the software really be all that different between the two standards?

Edited by DistantStar001

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Would PAL games work on an NTSC system? I know that you can get away with it on a SEGA Master System (although the timing is off), and I think the original NES can if you disable the lockout chip (I've never actually tried though). But on a C64, would the software really be all that different between the two standards?

 

Depends. If they are games that do not scroll the screen then you may be fine. Otherwise you will get a jumbled display due the the Hz difference between PAL and NTSC. The good news is that there is usually an NTSC version of all but the most obscure titles. If you are looking to run euro demos then you may want to look to a PAL C64 or replace the VIC chip and crystal in your existing one with the PAL timed option. That then means your output monitor would need to be able to support PAL. There is more than enough NTSC stuff to keep you happy for a long time so it's not something you really need to worry about.

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So I'm probably going to get a Floppy drive, but I was wondering if there was a Commodore equivalent of ADTPro or a similar program that would allow me to send disc images to my c64, and then write them to a 5 1/4 inch floppy? Or should I be looking a device that will connect the drive directly to my laptop via USB, and cut out the middle computer? I've seen some of these devices on eBay, but I'm not sure how they work. Can they write files, or are they read only?

 

Also, about SD Card floppy emulators. I know that would probably negate my need for an actual drive or floppies in general, but I like floppies and was curious if such a device could be used with my C64 to write the images to disc?

Edited by DistantStar001

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So I'm probably going to get a Floppy drive, but I was wondering if there was a Commodore equivalent of ADTPro or a similar program that would allow me to send disc images to my c64, and then write them to a 5 1/4 inch floppy? Or should I be looking a device that will connect the drive directly to my laptop via USB, and cut out the middle computer? I've seen some of these devices on eBay, but I'm not sure how they work. Can they write files, or are they read only?

 

Also, about SD Card floppy emulators. I know that would probably negate my need for an actual drive or floppies in general, but I like floppies and was curious if such a device could be used with my C64 to write the images to disc?

ZoomFloppy or an XU1541n will allow you to hook a Commodore disk drive directly to your PC and write floppy images.

 

As far as I know you cannot hook an SD card device to a C64 and make floppies from it.

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There are C64 programs to write a D64 from a SD device to a real floppy, like the retired (?) CBM=Command, probably more.

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I believe the solution that is most similar to ADTPro would be the legacy prlink, PC64 interfaces which connect a PC parallel port to the C64 userport and runs a slave program to write a floppy. The Zoom floppy, XU1541 or even older, parallel port based XM1541 are more convenient.

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So my Commodore finally arrived! I'm going to have to replace the shell eventually, as the hinges in the back appear to have snapped off from the bottom, and the (Vic-20) top is missing a screw post that holds it together. The good news is that the keyboard is complete, and the motherboard seems to be fully functional, as best as I can tell, and that's the most important part! But I have to ask, is it normal that the RF shield is made out of some sort of reflective cardboard?

 

Most of the keyboard seems to work, but most of the numbers are nonresponsive. Additionally, the space bar and return keys are really spotty, making playing around in Basic impossible for the moment. Perhaps someone could recommend a good tutorial or YouTube video on keyboard restoration for the C64?

 

Also, how do I test the function keys on the side?

Edited by DistantStar001

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So my Commodore finally arrived! I'm going to have to replace the shell eventually, as the hinges in the back appear to have snapped off from the bottom, and the (Vic-20) top is missing a screw post that holds it together. The good news is that the keyboard is complete, and the motherboard seems to be fully functional, as best as I can tell, and that's the most important part! But I have to ask, is it normal that the RF shield is made out of some sort of reflective cardboard?

 

Most of the keyboard seems to work, but most of the numbers are nonresponsive. Additionally, the space bar and return keys are really spotty, making playing around in Basic impossible for the moment. Perhaps someone could recommend a good tutorial or YouTube video on keyboard restoration for the C64?

 

Also, how do I test the function keys on the side?

 

I had older models before and the reflective cardboard is common. The keyboard is serviceable. Just remove the screws underneath (tiny ones) and desolder the 2 wires from the shift lock key switch and open it up. The keys use carbon dots and usually a cleaning fixes them right up.

I use a 64c these days, but keyboard is the same. I might still have some spare brown-key keyboards somewhere.

Edited by zylon

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So I removed and cleaned the keyboard, reassembled, and put it back. Now all I get is a black screen?

 

Then you need to grab a scope/multimeter and start debugging. You can google and find recommendations what to test first. The PLAs on c64s tend to go bad.

 

So I was just assuming if you bought an untested C64 for $30 you would assume that it would be very very likely broken.

Edited by thetick1
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So I removed and cleaned the keyboard, reassembled, and put it back. Now all I get is a black screen?

 

Wow, I never had that happen from just servicing a keyboard. Does it work fine with keyboard unplugged?

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No

If this is the case then its highly unlikely to keyboard servicing caused the fault. Depending on what kind of black screen you get it could be the PLA or the clock chip.

 

There is a fuse on the motherboard, check to see if its blown.

 

It is not uncommon for these machines to run once then die if they havent been used in awhile.

 

There are a lot of potential things to check and fix.

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The fuse seems good. That much was easy to test, as a simple continuity test gave me a solid tone. I was about to move on, to some powered tests of the board, however, my power supply started giving me some strange readings. The 5v line is giving me between 5.2 and 5.6 volts. That's up from the 5.14 when I first plugged it in. So I no longer trust it. I've been testing it between uses, making sure that there were no spikes or creeping voltages before I plugged it into my computer. I think I cough it before it could do any damage, but then again, I do have a black screen, so I can't rule it out. I think I'm going to rebuild the supply before I go any further.

 

I thought about reseating the socketed chips, but there are only five (the CPU, PLA, VIC II, the inner CIA, and the center ROM), and again even if that would fix it, I still don't trust my current power supply.

 

I really don't know anything about these computers, beyond what I've read, or seen on YouTube. The board is marked "NO.250407 REV.A". I'm not sure what that means. Although I think that means that it's an early revision. But I can't be sure. I've had some trouble finding an image (labeled or otherwise) for this particular board, so I've been relegated to making comparisons to other revisions that don't entirely match.

 

It's a good thing I got this as a project, as so far it's proving to be quite adept at providing me a challenging one. But I'm not giving up. If anyone has any suggestions, I'd be very grateful.

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I really don't know anything about these computers, beyond what I've read, or seen on YouTube. The board is marked "NO.250407 REV.A". I'm not sure what that means. Although I think that means that it's an early revision. But I can't be sure. I've had some trouble finding an image (labeled or otherwise) for this particular board, so I've been relegated to making comparisons to other revisions that don't entirely match.

Looks like you have:

https://www.c64-wiki.com/wiki/Motherboard#A_.28CR.29

 

Just note: "There were many C64s returned to Commodore for repair, and motherboards were replaced with what was available; with the replaced board likely to feature in the repair of another C64. In short, nothing should be inferred about the lineage of a motherboard."

Edited by thetick1

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This was a double post. Sorry, I'm still trying to figure the forum out. I beg forgiveness, for the last computer I bought was literally a Commodore 64. ;-)

Edited by DistantStar001

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Looks like you have:

https://www.c64-wiki.com/wiki/Motherboard#A_.28CR.29

 

Just note: "There were many C64s returned to Commodore for repair, and motherboards were replaced with what was available; with the replaced board likely to feature in the repair of another C64. In short, nothing should be inferred about the lineage of a motherboard."

That's definitely the board. Thank you. I've been searching for that for the past few hours

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The fuse seems good. That much was easy to test, as a simple continuity test gave me a solid tone. I was about to move on, to some powered tests of the board, however, my power supply started giving me some strange readings. The 5v line is giving me between 5.2 and 5.6 volts. That's up from the 5.14 when I first plugged it in. So I no longer trust it. I've been testing it between uses, making sure that there were no spikes or creeping voltages before I plugged it into my computer. I think I cough it before it could do any damage, but then again, I do have a black screen, so I can't rule it out. I think I'm going to rebuild the supply before I go any further.

 

I thought about reseating the socketed chips, but there are only five (the CPU, PLA, VIC II, the inner CIA, and the center ROM), and again even if that would fix it, I still don't trust my current power supply.

 

I really don't know anything about these computers, beyond what I've read, or seen on YouTube. The board is marked "NO.250407 REV.A". I'm not sure what that means. Although I think that means that it's an early revision. But I can't be sure. I've had some trouble finding an image (labeled or otherwise) for this particular board, so I've been relegated to making comparisons to other revisions that don't entirely match.

 

It's a good thing I got this as a project, as so far it's proving to be quite adept at providing me a challenging one. But I'm not giving up. If anyone has any suggestions, I'd be very grateful.

Depending on what kind of black screen you have the culprit could also be the clock generator 8701.

 

https://rover.ebay.com/rover/0/0/0?mpre=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ebay.com%2Fulk%2Fitm%2F132897746584

 

There are tons of repair black screen videos on YouTube, so that should help. There is a difference between a totally dead black screen (toggling power does nothing) and a live black screen (the monitor raster does something, even just audibly, when you toggle power, but stays black).

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