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Hello!  I'm a first time (and super excited) Commodore 64 owner. I have or do own just about every old console on the planet, and a bunch of old computers, but haven't used a C64 since high school or ever owned one.  Right now i have:

 

-The computer and PSU

-Monitor

-1541 Floppy disc drive

-My trusty Atari 2600 joysticks.

 

Before diving into "collecting" and all that; what are the best accessories to just enjoy the system, its software, games, etc. for starters?

 

-Is there a good floppy drive emulator that is known to work well at a reasonable price somewhere? (links appreciated) 

 

-Is it worth also getting the tape deck emulator i've seen on ebay; or will these games work just fine on floppy emulator?

 

-What else are the "good to get" items for any new setup?

 

-What do I NOT NEED that people are shilling out there for the C64? 

 

Thanks in advance! 

 

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you need to pick up a hobby to engage in while waiting for the the 1541 to load :)

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2 hours ago, Rick Dangerous said:

-Is there a good floppy drive emulator that is known to work well at a reasonable price somewhere? (links appreciated) 

 

-Is it worth also getting the tape deck emulator i've seen on ebay; or will these games work just fine on floppy emulator?

 

-What else are the "good to get" items for any new setup?

 

-What do I NOT NEED that people are shilling out there for the C64? 

On the floppy drive front, you basically have three levels:

 

* Entry/manual work: Get a SD2IEC (~$50-55) or uIEC/SD ($60) device. These handle the basic operations of a floppy drive, but don't fully emulate the 1541. It means that original games and scene demos which utilize custom fast loaders by reprogramming the drive, won't load. But since you got a 1541, you can transfer D64 images of those programs to physical disks and play from there. Many people think it is too limited, but I've lived with my uIEC/SD for 10 years or however long it has been on the market.

 

* Medium 1: Get a Pi1541 hat (not sure who sells those right now) and pair it with a Raspberry Pi 2/3 or whatever is required. This supposedly more closely emulates a floppy drive, though some users oddly report issues with this solution as well. It will be a little more costly than the above solution, also depending on if you have a spare Pi to reuse or need to get that one first.

 

* Medium 2: Get a UK1541 if you can find it. Possibly it isn't manufactured and sold anywhere, and to be honest I don't know how capable it is, only that it was announced as an "Ultimate Killer" (see below) at a much lower price.

 

* Top level: Get an Ultimate-II+ (~$130 excl taxes). It might seem a bit steep, but this is far more than a SD memory device. and floppy drive emulator It also emulates cartridges and tape images, it emulates RAM expansion, it has an emulated secondary SID chip and more. It might be sold out which puts you on the waiting list for next batch.

 

There are a few more solutions on the market, like cartridge based devices, tape emulators etc. Generally I find those complementary to what already exists on the market, not so much essentials. It should be noted that tape software comes in two types of images: the TAP format which is an exact representation of a physical tape and for which the majority exists in disk versions, and the T64 format which actually is just an artificial container format which holds one or more PRG files that just as well can be stored as a D64 image except for that T64 is sequential. I strongly doubt you really need a device that handles either of those formats, in particular T64 images with only one file can easily be converted to PRG and then stored on D64 images.

 

If you're not buying the Ultimate-II+, you might want to look into some other cartridge like an Epyx Fastload clone, perhaps a The Final Cartridge 3 (TFC3) or Action Replay 4-6 / Retro Replay if you can find one. Even an EasyFlash cartridge (1 or 3) could come handy, depending on how you want to use it. In order to flash an EF cartridge on the native machine though you need one of the memory card devices mentioned above in order to hold a 1 MB image.

 

When it comes to other peripherals, it should be noted that the original power supplies are known to be more or less ticking bombs, due to either overheating or physical damage which may cause the voltage regulator inside the supply to come loose. The result is that the 9VAC from the transformer which is rectified as ~12VDC, never gets regulated down to 5V so without you realizing one day the power supply will shoot up to 12V into the board on the pin where it expects 5V. It will fry delicate chips, in particular due to the fuse inside the computer only reacts to the other, 9VAC input line. You can get an "insurance" in form of a C64 Saver, a small device you put between the computer and the power supply. It will detect if it gets overvoltage and shuts off the power before the computer is damaged. There are several people making their own Saver devices, each claiming to have a better solution than the competitor. Another solution would be to buy a brand new PSU designed to modern principles which runs cooler and isn't prone to physical damage. Those power supplies though are a bit pricy, so it might not be the very first thing you want to do.

 

Which kind of monitor do you have, and which kind of video cable? The best signal you can get out of the computer is separated video chroma + luma (S-Video), if you have a monitor that supports it. I know there have been attempts to get e.g. RGB out but it would at least require some magic chip inbetween the VIC-II and the motherboard, or even a re-implementation of the VIC-II which brings it own can of worms when it comes to making e.g. a FPGA that is 100% compatible with all the peculiarities of the original chip, many not originally documented. Also as many people have witnessed elsewhere, a good S-Video signal is just as good as a half decent RGB signal on these resolutions.

 

I don't know if there are any particular items for sale that are strictly useless. There are a lot of nifty peripherals from the old days as well as modern ones, though it depends what you really need. Things like a RAM Expansion Unit (REU) rarely are used and again the U-II+ emulates one. Don't even bother thinking about CPU accelerators as the only commercially once recognized one, the 20 MHz 65816 based SuperCPU is ultra rare and expensive, and very few programs support it anyway.

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I ended up swapping out the innards of my C64 with an Ultimate 64. Of course, that's super pricey, and you could get a MiSTer for cheaper (for which there is a C64 core available).

 

One thing that you may run into is that so many of the games were only released in PAL regions, so you may find games you want to play (like Mayhem in Monsterland) that won't run or display correctly on an NTSC system.

 

That said, I think getting an SD2IEC is a good start. There are SO many disk games for the C64, and there are indie publishers that continue to make cool games for the system. I recommend checking out RGCD.DEV and Psytronik Software on itch.io.

 

Another thing I recommend is a 64JPX. Since the C64 only had one button, a lot of games used up on the joystick for jump. There are different modes you can select with the 64JPX, one of which maps up to one of the buttons, effectively giving you a jump button. It makes C64 platformers so much nicer.

 

 

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My best friend in the 80's had a C64 so I probably had *almost* as much experience with that as I did with my own Apple II. I was over at his house almost every day. The setup he had, which was pretty typical for the time, was the C64 itself, a 1541 drive, a 1702 monitor, and a FastLoad cartridge. For me, a system like that is really all you need.

 

I have an SD2IEC and have never had any problem with it. Pretty much every major C64 game came on floppy disk so it's really all you need IMO as far as storage goes. The C64 isn't quite like the Atari 8 bit line with cartridges. Most C64 cartridges were some sort of utility cartridge, and after a while the vast majority of users just left floppy accelerators in that slot all the time.

 

There is a "FastLoad Reloaded" cartridge that's pretty cheap and supposedly works with SD2IEC floppy emulators, though I have not tried it: https://www.thefuturewas8bit.com/eflr.html

 

Yes, I've been living with the stock 1541 speeds as long as I've had my SD2IEC. I don't recommend doing so. Next time I fire up my C64 I plan to try one of these cartridges. It specifically says it works with the SD2IEC.

 

I'd probably get a new power supply too. That's a reason why I haven't used my C64 in a while; getting a little nervous about it with its original PSU. You can read about the C64 power supply here: https://www.lemon64.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=70345

 

Basically they have an "ingot" situation like the Atari 8 bits, although it's much more pervasive.

 

I personally feel like other stuff is overkill, although it depends on what you're trying to do of course. I'm just trying to relive things as they were, so that's all I need.

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14 hours ago, carlsson said:

When it comes to other peripherals, it should be noted that the original power supplies are known to be more or less ticking bombs, due to either overheating or physical damage which may cause the voltage regulator inside the supply to come loose. The result is that the 9VAC from the transformer which is rectified as ~12VDC, never gets regulated down to 5V so without you realizing one day the power supply will shoot up to 12V into the board on the pin where it expects 5V. It will fry delicate chips, in particular due to the fuse inside the computer only reacts to the other, 9VAC input line. You can get an "insurance" in form of a C64 Saver, a small device you put between the computer and the power supply. It will detect if it gets overvoltage and shuts off the power before the computer is damaged. There are several people making their own Saver devices, each claiming to have a better solution than the competitor. Another solution would be to buy a brand new PSU designed to modern principles which runs cooler and isn't prone to physical damage. Those power supplies though are a bit pricy, so it might not be the very first thing you want to do.

 

 

100% truth....I'd only counter that it might be the first thing you'd want to do.

 

I'm still a little stung by my original C-64 (that I've had since 1986) dying earlier this year from this.  Over the years I've read the warnings about the PSUs but assumed that since it was my original and that I always took care of it that it couldn't happen to me.

 

It did.

 

 

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If only Commodore had not filled those PSUs with epoxy, making it almost impossible to service them. I know there exists solutions to replace the power supply PCB (after the transformer) with modern parts but it involves quite a bit of gutting and then comes the FCC/CE marking issues that if you modified a high voltage device yourself, probably you will void your insurance by plugging it in (if we ignore the strictly "not allowed" elements).

 

Fortunately I still haven't suffered a bad PSU among the 8-10 ish ones I've used in recent years but I'm fully aware about the risks.

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On 6/12/2020 at 12:04 PM, Rick Dangerous said:

Thanks all; great posts!

 

Where can one buy a modern and "Safe" PSU for the Commodore 64?

The units that Ray Carlson makes are the best, specially if you live in the U.S. (shipping price considerations)

 

https://commodore4ever.net/collections/power-supplies

 

If you choose to go with a 1541 emulator, make sure to also get a real drive. I would avoid the 1541, and go with something like the Excelerator, or the 1541 II.

Also add Jiffy DOS to your list to speed up loading times on any "drive" you end up with.

 

 

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If you want to use actual disks, a Zoomfloppy is pretty good, though it's more involved getting going. A plus is you can make back ups and archive them on your modern computer. 

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