May 15 2019 Meet #12: Our 1-Year Anniversary!

This meet marked the Seattle Commodore Computer Club’s twelfth meet – a solid year of meeting every month and sharing our retro-computing projects.

I can say from the bottom of my heart that it has been a total blast, and I look forward to many more years of good times in the future.

As of this writing, the club has grown to 18 members, 8 of which were able to attend this time around.

We had a jaw-dropping assortment of hardware and software on hand.

First up was Dan’s jaw-quiveringly gorgeous DOS-based Gridcase. This is the same amber-displayed “laptop” as seen in the movie Aliens.

Via a post on AtariAge:

 A GRiDCASE 1537, a variant of the GRiDCASE 15xx series that has a substantial amount of shielding designed explicitly to minimize radio frequency emissions that could be intercepted ostensibly by bad actors. It was a system that was not sold to the general public, and was only available through GRiD’s government services shell company, GSCS, and only if you had permission to acquire a unit from the appropriate superior.

The sound wasn’t particularly impressive, but everything else is just to die for.

Next we saw Christian’s very rare Commodore monitor 2024, hooked to one of his stock Amiga 1000s’. This monitor is also known as the Hedley Hi-Res monitor. This amazing montor did not use a special graphics card, yet could pump out insanely high-resolution flicker-free video (in black and white grayscale) using analog RGB. It’s hard to express how mind boggling this was to witness in-person.


He also had some fun with the stock A1000 and an original Amiga Genlock, hooked to a portable DVD player.

We even had the rare Amiga 1.4 Alpha Workbench on hand, as well as the first-ever game made for the Amiga (made in 1984 before the Amiga was on sale): Radar Raiders by SubLogic. Additional games included Arctic Fox and Archon, which was a total blast from the past.

Great night, good times, awesome people!

March 13 2019 Seattle Commodore Computer Club Meet #10, Notes

Quick update on the awesome meet we had March 13, 2019.

We had a ton of hardware on hand this time.

Matt brought his recently refurbished and 100% awesome X68000 Japanese computer to wow everyone. The machine was essentially an arcade board dropped into a tower, and had a repertoire of arcade conversions that put most computers and consoles of the time to shame. The number of sprites it could handle and fluidity of animation was jaw-dropping. Games like R-type or Galaga88 or Xevious – they looked perfect.

Matt demoing one of the many arcade-accurate games on his super slick X68000 (10Mhz stock).
The video capabilities of the X68000 give the Amiga a serious run for the money. In all honesty, at times it seemed rather superior in some ways, which surprised me. Seeing is believing.

Matt also brought my new Vectrex! I owned one of these back in the day, but foolishly traded it to a friend for his Colecovision after the company went out of business and games stopped being produced. Now, nearly 35 years later I have one in my possession again. I can say it made the hair on my arms rise up, and put a small lump in my throat. Many wanted a chance to play it, and as usual, everyone remarked on how awesome the visuals are.

Christian giving Minestorm a go with the Scramble overlay. We fired it up again after the sun went down, flicked off the lights, and the laser light show truly began!

We also had the MK2 Reloaded with Mechboard on hand for everyone to see what typing can actually feel like on a C64 when you have a cadillac keyboard under the hood instead of a Pinto. Many eyebrows were raised indeed.

Dan tried out typing on the Mechboard and was impressed. “I could actually code on this thing.”

Coupled with the MK2 Reloaded was the LED-enchanced cartridge of L’Abbaye des Morts – one of my favorite C64 games in the past year.

Some asked what the name of the game meant, as I knew it was loosely based on some sort of true story with a dark twist. I found this to help explain the premise:

In the 13th century, the Cathars, clerics who preached about the poverty of Christ and defended life without material aspirations, were treated as heretics by the Catholic Church and expelled out of the Languedoc region in France. One of them, called Jean Raymond, found an old church in which to hide from crusaders, not knowing that beneath its ruins lay buried an ancient evil.

We also played Tenebra Macabre, the new visually gorgeous (difficult but fun) game that weighs in at a shockingly low 16KB. Just gorgeous effects and gameplay.

Ron’s wife was so kind – she baked us beautifully decorated Commodore C= cupcakes (and they were delicious!). Ron – please let her know we are all so grateful!

Lucas and his girlfriend, Katie, joined us for the first time from Camano Island, and he brought his excellent Sony PVM 14″ CRT montor for us to hook things into.

And Christian and Ivan continued work on Ivan’s machines. The A500 sprang back to life! And signs of legitimate progress on the 3000 are being made. Christian was able to show the video outputs from Agnus were indeed working in both PAL and NTSC mode. In the future the traces will need to be checked to see if/where there might be a failure. Getting so close!

What a great night of fun and friends.

February 6 2019 Seattle Commodore Computer Club Meet #9, Notes

We had a great time last night. We had a ton of machines on hand that needed some TLC, and we actually had a couple of wins before the night was over! 

Matt brought his jaw-dropping and brand spanking new Amiga 1000 MiSTer project. I’ve been affectionately calling it the Señor 1000. At one point we belted out a few bars of “Broken Wings” by Mr. Mister to keep with the theme. 🙂

This machine is just so unbelievably awesome, it’s hard to fully express until you witness it in person. Before the night was over we were even playing the SNES version of Earthworm Jim off of it. No. Joke. And it was pixel perfect. 

Hang on, the back of this A1000 looks different. I can’t quite put my finger on it…

We also took a look at David’s C64DTV which he bought at a thrift store for only $5! Unfortunately, it didn’t work with his TV at home, and he was worried it might need repair. 

But we connected it to Matt’s 1080 and it sprang to life! In just a few minutes David was playing Mission Impossible 2. Stay For-ev-vahhhh! 

To my shock, he then used the joystick and on on-screen keyboard and began to program in basic using the device. He got that working, too.

At first, though, he had an error. Hah!

Dan also brought a very interesting hand-held Japanese computer that was made for programming. Interestingly, the manual was printed entirely in Japanese, while the machine was entirely in English. Dan would use Google Translate in camera-mode to scan the manual and retrieve the English instructions. We live in the future, ya’ll!

In another room Christian and Zade continued to work on Ivan’s ailing 3000’s and 500. The 500 worked fine (dead HDD), and began to be an organ donor of chips to try and diagnose the 3000’s properly. More progress was made there before the end of the night but at least one more session is likely ahead. 

Good times! 

December 12 2018 Seattle Commodore Computer Club Meet #7, Notes

We had another fantastic Commodore Club meetup to close out 2018.

Before I go into the details, I want to simply thank everyone who has reached out. For those that have been able to make one of the club’s meets, it’s been a complete and total pleasure. For those that have expressed interest but haven’t been able to make it yet – fear not. 2019 is right around the corner and this shall happen.

Hosting and participating in this Commodore Club has been a dream come true for me. Thanks to all for helping to make it happen.

Meetup #7 Notes

This time around we had two main desktop machines on display and in use. We had an original (unmodified) Commodore 64 breadbin plugged into a 1702 monitor, and the now-legendary A600 MiSTer mod created by Matt M.

The C64 breadbin was equipped with a 1541 Ultimate II cartridge, which had a ton of new(ish) games loaded onto it.

On it we played:

  •  Portal (brand spanking new)
  • Tiger Claw
  • Steel Runner
  • Knight ‘n’ Grail

I totally forgot to bring Bear Essentials! Next time…

The A600 MiSTer also fired up:

  • Tiger Claw (Amiga version)
  • Portal (C64)
  • Sam’s Journey (C64, looks like Amiga!)
  • Barbarian+ (Amiga version, brand new)
  • A SNES game (I didn’t play it and didn’t recognize it)

…and even more. That system really is incredible.

We also had a couple of hand-held systems being passed around. One was Robert’s Game Gear with (at least) 30 cartridges. The other was Dan’s various Pico 8 machines.

But then… Dan blew everyone away when he fired up his OWN hand-made Pico-8 Xmas themed game! that he recently launched to the public. The game is called Santa Panic.

https://dansanderson.itch.io/santa-panic

Several of us stayed glued to his game for a while. Simple concept, beautiful art. It’s something to see and give a go, folks.

With the help of Matt, Zade and Robert we finally got my 3D printer to (drumroll) print! It took a few wrenches and some wire, but everything got sorted out. I still can’t believe it was shipped to me brand new from the factory in such a ridiculous state. Regardless, happy days are ahead.

Once again, thanks to everyone for your membership in the Seattle Commodore Computer Club. I can’t wait to see where 2019 takes us.

Eric

 

Comparing SIDs (in stereo) from the A600 MiSTer and C64.

The now-legendary A600 MiSTer conversion.

Tiger Claw for C64 on a 1702.

Tiger Claw (looks great, not easy!)

Matt dancing to Tiger Claw. He’s got the moves!

Dan shows his new Pico-8 game Santa Panic

Dan shows the Pico-8 music tracker; Barbarian+ in the background.

One of the several Pico-8 “game boy” devices.

November 13 2018 Seattle Commodore Computer Club Meetup #6 Notes

We had a great time at the club this month and had several C= models to geek out over as well as a few fascinating platforms to experience.

Members in attendance this time around included:

  • Eric
  • Matt
  • Dan
  • Christian
  • Zade
  • Ron (all the way from Port Orchard via ferry!)
  • Lucas

Machines on display and in use included:

  • Brand new C64 Reloaded MK2 with Ultimate II cart, 1702 monitor and new 64C case. Several of us played a few rounds of BC’s Quest for Tires. Took me back!
  • C128 with 1541 and 1571 drives (we copied disks – it was a Pirate Party!) and 1902 monitor.
  •  Mac LC3 – a very cool looking (and clean) and robust machine with an internal SCSI2SD drive.
  • Altair 8800 Computer (brand new, replica) with a laptop connected as a terminal.
  • Amiga 2000 ‘B’. This was a machine I never even knew existed. It is essentially an Amiga 1000 motherboard with an Amiga 2000 case. So it has the skinny Agnus (like the 1000) and is limited to .5MB chip, but it also has all of the Zorro expansion ports as well as kickstart ROM! Very cool, historical machine to see in person.
  • Dreamcast (made in 1998 – it’s 20 years old so it qualifies) with several CD games.

And then Ron also had several A2000 motherboards that needed minor repairs, which Christian did indeed fix! So great to bring that hardware back to life.

Seattle Commodore Computer Club members fully engaged with a wide assortment of kick ass retro hardware.

Behold “Elite”, written specifically for the C128 (although the game looks and feels a lot like the C64 version. Perhaps it takes slight advantage of the extra RAM?)

An NTSC demo as seen via the C64 Reloaded MKii (NTSC), Ultimate ii and 1702 display.

Ron’s C128 and 1902 monitor, with GEOS128 and GEOWrite loaded. Very cool!

Internal guts of Christian’s super-rare Amiga 2000B. This is a bizarre Amiga 1000 / 2000 hybrid, made as early as 1986!

Closeup of the Amiga 2000B motherboard.

Dan’s groovy Altair 8800 with modern laptop terminal window.

Ron also brought something museum worthy to the club. He has an early Amiga 2000 with… well… just look at that serial number, folks. Wow! Stick that sucker in a glass case!

Shot of Ron proudly holding his piece of Amiga history, serial number 0000024!

Lucas and Matt battling it out in Capcom vs Streetfighter and Streetfighter Alpha 3 on the Dreamcast. Looks absolutely gorgeous on the 1702 CRT. Arcade quality, folks. Amazing the Dreamcast never really took off as it was way ahead of its time.

 

October 3 2018 Meetup #5 Notes

Had a superb club meeting this Wednesday with a bit of Fall crispness in the air.

Matt brought some remarkable hardware with him. First, he brought his (simply awesome) Amiga 600 MiSTer machine. One really can’t appreciate how special this box is until seen in-person. We flipped from a C64, to a black-and-white Mac, to Amiga, to a Sega Genesis playing Sonic! And each core looked (and sounded) really damned good.

Next, he slid his brand spanking new Ultimate 64, which he put inside an original C64 bread bin onto the table. Both the MiSTer and the U64 were hooked into the same HDMI monitor. Then he fired up a game on the MiSTer. After a few moments, we flipped to the U64 and fired up the exact same game to compare.

At first, there was stunned silence in the room.

The U64’s audio crackled and popped. Matt had warned me this was the case, but I still couldn’t believe how bad it was. We test another game and experienced the same thing. To be clear, Matt’s U64 is outfitted with a REAL SID chip, too (unlike the MiSTer, which sounded excellent even via emulation).

I could see the tension on Matt’s face. I could feel it.

However, he happened to pull down a fresh from the oven firmware update that afternoon, and he flashed the U64 right then and there.

After a few minutes he fired everything back up again and… the audio was MUCH improved! Everyone was smiling at that stage. You could still here little pops and ticks during certain operations, but the overall audio experience was vastly improved. Well done, Gideon!

Next – and this nearly brought a tear to my eyes – Matt brought in his fully refurbished Vectrex. To my surprise, some of the club members in attendance had never heard of it. Someone did rightly notice that it’s form factor (released in 1982) looked almost exactly like the eventual 1984 Mac. Coincidence?!

In any case, I bought one back in the day with Christmas money I’d received from my grandfather. Back then, incredibly, they retailed for only $50. On Ebay, good luck finding one for less that 10X that amount these days. Some day…

I used to play that machine with my brother into the wee hours. And the games were not easy – but they were gorgeous and fun, unmatched by many of their pixel-based competitors. And some of the home-brew games that are still being made for it? Folks, they are VERY high-quality. Everyone was extremely impressed.

Thanks for bringing that old Vectrex in, Matt.  That really made my day. And the Ultimate64! I was highly encouraged after the firmware update. That MiSTer build of yours really is remarkable.

And the day kept on getting better and better! Club member Christian asked me to bring my Rejuvenator’d A1000 in again. He’d acquired some more modern RAM and soldered it to some adapter boards. We then proceeded to add it to my 1000, and in a few moments swapped out my 1mb Agnus with an 2mb version from an A3000.

Flicked on the switch.

And suddenly, we were all looking at (most likely) one of the only Amiga 1000’s anywhere around for hundreds if not thousands of miles fully equipped with 2mb of chip RAM and running an ECS Fat Agnus! Simply amazing! I may have embarrassed Christian by thanking him more than a few times. (Thanks, Christian!) 🙂

It was a really, really good night.

Christian also took a close look at new member Ron’s sick A1200. Some surgery was performed but it sounds like she may need more.

Now many of us are looking forward to going to PRGE in a couple weeks. We’re so lucky – the whole retro community is so lucky. These are great times indeed.

August 22 2018 Meetup #4 Notes

We had a really great showing for the club meet this week, with eight members in attendance.

Rob brought his Compaq Deskpro 2000: Pentium 166, 32 MB RAM, VGA and a Sound Blaster 16. It was a very snappy system and – for me at least – brought back a lot of good memories thinking of my step-dad on his beloved PC’s in his computer room. When you see that teal, you know. (Forgot to take a pic, dang it!)

I brought my A1000 that has a fully installed Rejuvenator board. Beyond playing some demos, I cracked open the case so some of us could observe the board while discussing next-steps for reverse engineering it.

Christian brought a few things. He first hooked up a very unusual and quite cool looking (and rare) Commodore PC 20-III.

This is an old 8088 PC-compatible business machine – you know, from that era when Commodore really lost their way. He proceeded to launch Spacewar on the box, which was pretty cool to witness. The Spacewar we saw was the 1985 version by  B. Seiler in 1985, based on the 1962 original.

Next, Christian was gracious enough to show us a quick soldering demo so we could understand how he went about things. He did this after we all marveled over his GBA1000 work at the previous meet in July. I got a few great tips in just a few minutes, and have already ordered a decent pair of flush cutters.

Handy tip: Sometimes the best way to desolder something is to solder it first. Sounds strange, but it works.

He proceeded to show us his process for quickly soldering surface mounted chips using the naked eye. I wish I had eyesight like that! Due to our pretty dim lighting situation, we all helped out with some hilarious phone flashlights. Hah!

Matt brought a ton of extra stuff he picked up recently from a retiring Commodore Group leader (and librarian?) and placed them on the floor for anyone that wanted anything. There were magazines and tons of loose and boxed software, some in mint condition. It was a very cool mix of productivity and creative software as well as games. Lots of games.

As usual, a really great and fun evening. If this meet did one thing, it reinforced that they go by way too quickly!

Now that we have 4 club meets under our belt (and at least two more before the 2018’s end) I think it may be time to create a logo for this club. And maybe some shirts.

— Eric/intric8

 

the 1985 PC version of Spacewar!

Commodore PC 20-III

Christian at work, the club holding up our phone/flashlights to assist.

Christian using his phone as a magnification tool.

July 18 2018 Meetup #3, Notes

We had a great turnout and good times at the 3rd SEA-CCC meet-up last night with seven total members in attendance.

Matt M. brought his exceptional A600 MiSTer, which really is a sight to behold. It has stability and power (if you want it), plus the graphics looked spot on. Very eye-opening to see that compact form factor kick so much butt. Definitely not a DIY project for everyone; it’s not exactly plug-and-play. But if you have the determination, passion and know-how – wow. It was really impressive. And at least according to Matt it’s way more “real” feeling than his rPi experiments.

Eric H. brought his breadbin C64 with WiFi WiModem, UII cart, Magic Voice synth cart and 1702. Eric gave a demo of the Magic Voice synth voice which no one in attendance had seen (or heard) before, which was cool. Shame so few consumer programs were ever made for it:

Recreational: Gorf and Wizard of Wor
Educational: Counting Bee, A Bee C’s, The Spelling Bee, and The Magic Garden Talking Book Series
Business: Magic Desk 1+

We played some Gorf with the voice turned on. Ha. Ha. Ha. 😉

Christian S. brought his mind-bending GBA1000 computer for all of us to drool over. Over “42 total hours” of work to get the machine flying, according to Christian. After looking at the insanely tiny surface mounted solders he performed by hand (and the zoom on his phone’s camera) I couldn’t believe it. I know it would have taken me more like 400 hours, and I still would have failed. Simply remarkable level of skill required. But wow – the machine was essentially an A3000 tucked inside the A1000’s beautiful frame. Simply gorgeous. Thanks for bringing that to the user group for us to see, Christian!

Finally, based on the generous 8-bit donation the club received recently, most folks went home with something to play with or turn into a future project.

It was a great time. Can’t wait for the next one! (Details for Meet-up #4 will be available soon.)

— Eric (aka intric8)

 

 

New Donation to the Club Received

A very large and generous donation was made to the SEA-CCC this week. Read more about it here.

We very much appreciate it, and will do our best to find homes for all of this wonderful hardware and software (half of it has already been claimed in less than a day!).

 

June 13 2018 Meetup #2 Notes

We had a great time at the Seattle Commodore Computer Club last night!

Attendees:

  • Eric Hill
  • Matt Martin
  • Rob Robland
  • David M.
  • Lucas Walter
  • Zade Alisdairi (honorary guest)

It was really a great showing and good times were had by all. We had three main systems set up:

  • Amiga 1000 Phoenix with 1084S monitor
  • Commodore 64 breadbin
  • Atari XEGS (mint!) with 1702 monitor

And there was also a gorgeous mint Atari Lynx with a brand new screen being handed around as well.

For games, we spend most of the night on the two 8-bit machines. An epic game of Archon between Zade and Eric got things going (Eric rocked, natch – dark side FTW) on the C64. Some of the games on the XEGS included River Raid, Robotron, Pitfall II and Joust, among others.

Lucas brought a stack of Amiga disks he’d kept for years and was pleased to find the majority of them still worked. Sadly a handful are going to soon become drink coasters, but nothing lasts forever. On the bright side, his original copy of Aaargh! worked flawlessly.

Thanks to everyone for coming out. It was a total blast.

The next meet-up date will be determined soon and posted on this blog. Stay tuned!

Some pics from the night’s festivities:

The legendary (and bizarre) 3D Amiga game MindWalker

Matt showing his stuff on the CBS Electronics classic “Mountain King”, a very interesting and slightly creepy game.

It was nice to learn that Lucas’ original disk of Aargh! worked perfectly.

One of the scenes from Aargh!

Lucas watching an animation of Fred Astaire dancing in a desert, found within the sample files of Deluxe Paint III.

I hadn’t played Archon in many years. I used to play with my brother (who always kicked my butt BITD). It was SO much fun. Such a great 2-player game.

From left to right: David, Lucas, Zade, Rob, Matt

My dog Jean Luc: a C64 image file stored on an Ultimate II cartridge plugged into a C64 breadbin (off-camera) and connected to the 1084S composite ports

From Top, clockwise: Zade, David, Rob, Matt. Eric and Lucas are off-camera.

Rob having just finished one of the games on the C64, which was borrowing the 1084S monitor with the Amiga 1000.