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johndias

My First Commodore!

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Got a VIC-20 over the weekend, a CL find (although it was a 3 hour drive one-way). Came with the box (in OK shape, cardboard is holding up but the artwork is looking rough), computer, PSU, RF converter and TV adapter.

 

OK, you're gonna cringe but I plugged it in with the original PSU before I found out that's not a smart thing to do! It powered up but I got no video.

 

Fortunately, I didn't have it powered on long and after I learned about the problems with these PSUs I ordered one from Ray Carlsen and also tested the one I have. It was still reading 5V on the DC pins so... phew! 😬

 

As for the video, I saw on Ray's site where he talks about the Mitsumi's having some cap issues. Sure enough, I pulled it open and it's a Mitsumi and the two cans are showing some corrosion on the legs (but thankfully didn't leak). I'll be replacing those.

 

I'm excited to join Team Commodore - what else should I be looking for on this unit? Tips? Mods? Webby links appreciated, too!

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Congrats! The VIC-20 was also my first Commodore. It's a fun little system to mess about with. I loved it so much until I fried it. There are some great games on cartridge, and with a RAM expander(which I highly recommend), you'll have plenty of RAM for BASIC coding and some games that support it. I'm sure you've heard of the 8 Bit Guy; he made a game called Planet X1 that runs on a VIC-20 with 32k of RAM. It's impressive and fun, especially for a VIC-20 game. Cheese and Onion is also apparently very fun, although I've never played it.

 

Let's face it; the VIC-20 isn't a powerful system. It's only got 5k of ram(3.5k free), 22 column screen, and CBM BASIC 2.0 isn't the best. However, the limitations are what makes it so fun to mess with! You'll find some great games and programs for it. Good luck!

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I love my Vic-20 and still have (and use) the one I got as a child. I never realized until literally last night that Bandits on the Vic-20 is the same game as The Earth Dies Screaming on the Atari 2600.

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3 hours ago, bluejay said:

Congrats! The VIC-20 was also my first Commodore. It's a fun little system to mess about with. I loved it so much until I fried it. There are some great games on cartridge, and with a RAM expander(which I highly recommend), you'll have plenty of RAM for BASIC coding and some games that support it. I'm sure you've heard of the 8 Bit Guy; he made a game called Planet X1 that runs on a VIC-20 with 32k of RAM. It's impressive and fun, especially for a VIC-20 game. Cheese and Onion is also apparently very fun, although I've never played it.

 

Let's face it; the VIC-20 isn't a powerful system. It's only got 5k of ram(3.5k free), 22 column screen, and CBM BASIC 2.0 isn't the best. However, the limitations are what makes it so fun to mess with! You'll find some great games and programs for it. Good luck!

Oh yes, 8BG is one of my YT subscriptions! I've never bought Planet X1 but I probably should go ahead and grab it, and that'll give me an excuse to add the RAM expander!

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You can get composite video from the video port on back, but be careful because one of the pins has voltage on it for the modulator and the pinouts aren't the same across all commodores.

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20 minutes ago, desiv said:

You can get composite video from the video port on back, but be careful because one of the pins has voltage on it for the modulator and the pinouts aren't the same across all commodores.

Oh yeah, I did see something on DenialWIKI that I bookmarked for later, might dig into that this weekend while I await the PSU.

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2 hours ago, johndias said:

Oh yes, 8BG is one of my YT subscriptions! I've never bought Planet X1 but I probably should go ahead and grab it, and that'll give me an excuse to add the RAM expander!

I've got great news for you; Planet X1 is free to download. It was never a finished game, so he just made it available free to download off his website. Unfortunately RAM expanders(especially the 32k ones) are ridiculously expensive, often going for 2-3 times what the computer itself is worth. You're best off getting one of these: https://www.thefuturewas8bit.com/shop/commodore/pu-vic20.html and a SD2IEC of your choice. Trust me, you DO NOT want to deal with cassette tapes and floppy disks, especially Commodore ones.

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2 hours ago, desiv said:

You can get composite video from the video port on back, but be careful because one of the pins has voltage on it for the modulator and the pinouts aren't the same across all commodores.

This is exactly how I fried my VIC-20...

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Well, I may just proceed with the RF converter repair for now until I get more familiar with the machine, plus I don't know what else may be wrong with it.

 

I have a spare Gotek, which I assume could be used with the VIC-20?

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No on the Gotek.

You can get an SD2IEC or Pi1541 tho.

I did the Pi1541.

All you need is almost any Pi (I used a Pi0), a DIN plug, and a level shifter.

You can also add an OLED and some buttons if you want a display. (I did)

Works great.

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2 hours ago, johndias said:

Well, I may just proceed with the RF converter repair for now until I get more familiar with the machine, plus I don't know what else may be wrong with it.

 

I have a spare Gotek, which I assume could be used with the VIC-20?

Although the VIC-20's RF modulator works much better than other ones, I still would use composite if I were you. They sell cheap Commodore video cables on ebay. But be careful; the color is often labeled wrong and you will have to try swapping them around. Do not connect it to anything with the computer's power on. Turn it off before you do anything, or else you'll have a nice, dead VIC-20.

I'd also recommend a pi1541. If you happen to have a raspberry pi you can buy a hat for it that will emulate a 1541. If you don't a pi zero and a pi1541 zero is the cheapest and most compact option. If you have a PC with a parallel port, 64hdd is also an option.

A Gotek won't work. I believe they are meant for PC use... They are not compatible with the Commodore's way of things.

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7 hours ago, desiv said:

You can get composite video from the video port on back, but be careful because one of the pins has voltage on it for the modulator and the pinouts aren't the same across all commodores.

Partly true, but when it comes to composite video, the three pins 2 (ground), 3 (audio) and 4 (video) are the same across all. The pins that differ are pin 1 which is luminance on C64 but +6V on VIC-20, and pin 5 which is audio in on C64 but secondary video out (for RF modulator?) on VIC-20. You should not mess with either for a plain composite video cable.

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I don't know if the American version video circuit is different from the European one (the modulator for sure) but if not you can convert the video composite output in S-Video. Im my case the quality difference was amazing:

 

After

W412ESO.jpg

 

Before

q2YHJiW.jpg

 

Also, Pi1541 is really useful and even if do you have a Commodore 64 can serve both computers, VIC-20 and C-64.

 

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16 hours ago, carlsson said:

Partly true, but when it comes to composite video, the three pins 2 (ground), 3 (audio) and 4 (video) are the same across all. The pins that differ are pin 1 which is luminance on C64 but +6V on VIC-20, and pin 5 which is audio in on C64 but secondary video out (for RF modulator?) on VIC-20. You should not mess with either for a plain composite video cable.

Ah!  I think I see part of my confusion.

I was comparing text pinouts to pics, but I wasn't looking at the pics closely.  ;-)

I didn't realize the pinout goes (top to bottom) pins 1 and 3, then 4 and 5 and 2 at the bottom.

For some reason, I was assuming they were numbered sequentially.

Then I found this:

http://www.zimmers.net/cbmpics/cbm/vic/manual-b.html

 

Interesting side note.

I have a cable here that I never used. It is premade and the RCA jacks are labeled video and audio.  5 pin DIN.

Audio goes to pin 3, all good there.

But video goes to pin 1!  Which is luminance on the C64, but +5v on the Vic 20!!!

So it is a monochrome C64 video cable, which would be bad for a Vic-20.

I might see if I can open it and move that wire from pin 1 to pin 4...  ;-) 

 

Thanx!

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Your premade cable probably is meant for SMS & Genesis model 1, which have composite video and audio on pins 1 and 3, but swapped around compared to the others.

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OK, so if I do the mod, just null pin 1 and 5 based on carlsson's advice?

 

Also, looks like I should get the Pi1541 - sold! ;)

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7 hours ago, Papalapa said:

I don't know if the American version video circuit is different from the European one (the modulator for sure) but if not you can convert the video composite output in S-Video. Im my case the quality difference was amazing:

 

After

W412ESO.jpg

 

Before

q2YHJiW.jpg

 

Also, Pi1541 is really useful and even if do you have a Commodore 64 can serve both computers, VIC-20 and C-64.

 

WOW that's a huge difference.

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7 hours ago, wongojack said:

The "Before" pic looks better to me

Yeah of course, "Before" one is S-Video output while "After" is composite video. In my VIC-20 composite was dreadful as you can see.

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On 9/11/2020 at 4:41 PM, carlsson said:

Your premade cable probably is meant for SMS & Genesis model 1, which have composite video and audio on pins 1 and 3, but swapped around compared to the others.

I was thinking maybe, but took another look at it.

The RCA jacks are labeled (raised letters on the jacks) Audio and Video.

And it was the center pin on the jack labeled video that was on pin 1, which is Luma on the C64, but +V on the Vic 20.

So if the labels are accurate and original (and by label, I don't mean sticker, but it is raised lettering on the plastic), this was for a system that has video on pin 1, which could be a mono C64, or possibly some other system I'm not aware of (perhaps Atari 800, but that would also be monochrome, not color)...

 

Anyway, I moved pin 1 to pin 4 below it, put it back together, tested with the multimeter, and...

I had moved audio (pin 3) to pin 5.  Flipped it.. ;-(  D'oh!  (always test with a multimeter before you plug it in...)

So, moved that pin back.. Then I moved the real pin 1 to pin 4 below it...

Tested again, and got it right this time...

Then I put it all back together this time.  ;-)

(Note: for multimeter testing, I was comparing it to my known working Vic20 cable, as I know I tend to flip left/right connectors when thinking about them...)

 

Plugged it in, and I now have a Vic-20 audio/video cable that looks like it was made for it.

(The one I have that I was using before, I made before I had any solder skills, so it is just wire cut, twisted, and electrical taped...  I do need to redo that one with solder and heat shrink tubing now...)

 

Was a little nervous when I fired it up to test it with Demon Attack.  I started it and moved the ship to the right with the joystick and fired a bit..  All good...

Went to move left... and ... couldn't...  Hmm...

 

But, with some testing, looks like it's my joystick.  (whew)  If I move up and left, it goes left.  Just not straight left.  So, time to take that joystick apart to check.

It's a Suncom SkilStick, so it's a decent one; worth saving..  ;-)

 

Edited by desiv
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21 hours ago, desiv said:

But, with some testing, looks like it's my joystick.  (whew)  If I move up and left, it goes left.  Just not straight left.  So, time to take that joystick apart to check.

It's a Suncom SkilStick, so it's a decent one; worth saving..  ;-)

 

I know, talking to myself. ;-)

 

Just a minor update to my OT divergence.  

 

Took apart the joystick, widened the clips a bit and cleaned off any corrosion on the tabs..  Looked good.  Put it back together...

Tried it, and...  It now wouldn't move at all..  Hmmm...

Re opened it and.. 

Hey, there's a ground wire hanging loose with no end...  ;-(

Looks like I managed to break off the ground wire from it's crimped clip.  <sigh>  

OK, don't have another crimp that size handy, so stripped a tiny bit of wire and soldered it to the crimp.  Carefully put it back together.

 

And now it works great.

I probably should have disconnected that wire (it was the only wire going to the top half of the joystick) while I was working on the bottom half of the stick.  Being a tad lazy bit me again.  ;-)

 

Anyway, now I think everything is happier. I even cleaned up the top half of the case.  (Could use retrobrighting, but I haven't done that with any of my machines yet...)

It needs more cleaning (the board a bit and the bottom half of the case), which is on the list...

 

But he just looks and feels happier to me now.  ;-)

Edited by desiv
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4 hours ago, desiv said:

(Could use retrobrighting, but I haven't done that with any of my machines yet...)

I am wary of doing this with any of my machines.

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On 10/4/2020 at 8:02 PM, OLD CS1 said:

I am wary of doing this with any of my machines.

I did it, turned out great. Time will tell if I made the right choice.

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On 10/4/2020 at 9:02 PM, OLD CS1 said:

I am wary of doing this with any of my machines.

I agree. I think what people do not understand fully (yet) is that while the retrobrighting process may look like it yeilds great results in the beginning (it does if done correctly) not only does it revert back over time but more importantly it ruins the structure of the plastic....it is much more brittle. I've seen advertised retrobrighted computers and consoles on ebay that do not generate the bids as they should as well. Obviously people do not want them adulterated...much like cleaning an old sword, firearm, or coin. I recommend leaving these things alone...

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I have gone that route too.  Just didn't retrobrite.

 

Frankly, they look old, and are old.  Well loved.

 

I have used a magic eraser to gently get rid of some things.  That is abrasive though.  Use with care.

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