The Fair Shake

“What the EFF should I play?” – Commodore 64

Friends and visitors, upon seeing my little game room, inevitably ask me what my favorite game console is. I don’t really have one, honest. I like certain games on certain systems. I suppose if a loaded weapon was held to my head I could choose, but there isn’t, so I’m not. Each console or computer system has its own strengths. Even the timid Aquarius with its rubbery keyboard has an excellent port of Dungeons and Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin. I’ve done a fairly decent job of picking up domestic (US) consoles, with a few gaps I’d like to fill in over time as I branch out to explore the Euro stuff like a ZX Spectrum, Amstrad, etc. They all get play, some more than others, but I can even manage to get a friend or two over to play Dragster on the Atari 2600 for an hour or two.

That having been said, one gaping hole in my gaming / classic computer collection was a Commodore 64. I could never find one that fit my criteria. How is this possible? They were cranked out for over 10 years. I suspect ‘gaming systems’ disappeared into an attic, while computers were either tossed or used-until-dead, which is why you see dozens of NES (NES’s? Nes-eye?) and Ataris at flea markets, but few Atari 8 bits, Apple IIs, or Commodores. Games are even harder to find, at least in my area.

My criteria for ownership of a Commodore 64 

  •  Local
  •  Cheap

Cheapness would beat locality, but alas. Until last week. My normal Craigslist surfing led me to an ad posted by a guy with two C64s, a VIC 20, a cassette recorder, and a disk drive, for a decent price, and about 5 minutes from my workplace. I already had a VIC and cassette recorder, and I figured I could sell one C64 as well and come close to breaking even. I met the gentleman, an older guy, probably late 50s, at his house. He didn’t look like a Commodore hoarder, more like “The Most Interesting Man in The World”. When pressed as to why he had so many C64s, he said he had them set up ‘all over the house’. What the hell? I can see a laptop or a tablet in every room, but who needs a Commodore 64 in the bathroom? Scratching my head, I paid the main and drove off with a trunk full of goodies, excited about my new found computers.

Until I got home and powered them up. The VIC 20 was perfect, in box with books, ready to go. Nicer than mine, actually. Same with the cassette adapter. Bonus, it whirred to life when hooked to the VIC after typing SAVE”TEST” and pressing record/play on the oversized Walkman. Sweet. Try the disk drive! I wonder if this guy was a mechanic, as this thing is pretty filthy. Eh, function over form, hopefully. Power it on, and it hums to life.. and continues to hum, the green LED taunting me as it’s friend the red LED doesn’t light up on command from the computer. Neither VIC 20 I now owned recognized it. The internetz showed me it’s probably a bad chip. Oh well. Can’t win em all. I moved on.

I came home with two C64s as well, which were the prizes I was after. One is an original style “Breadbox” model. (aptly named because of it’s appearance to a breadbox, I believe, and not because it literally contained bread). The other was the later release, a C64C. It looks and feels like an 80s computer. Right or wrong, it didn’t ‘do’ anything for me. So I concentrated on the older computer first by powering it up and seeing…

A black screen of death. Ugh. No matter. Try the C64C. Of course, it works perfectly. What to do… The older C64 cried out to be revived with the guts of its younger brother. Some brief reading showed it was possible and done somewhat often. So I swapped mainboards, a not-so-trivial affair after lengthening a set of LED wires, using a small grinder to clearance a metal plate, and so on. Of course I had to leave out a metal shield on the bottom inside the case that was in place for RF interference, so hopefully the FCC doesn’t come knocking on my door.


So it looks nice in front of my TV in the game room right now. Problem is, now that I have a fully functioning C64 that I intend to keep, I realized I know absolutely nothing about gaming on the C64. I can type in some BASIC games, but that gets old.

20 GOTO 10


As a total noob to the Commodore 64, I ask you

“What the EFF should I play?”