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Harry's Adventures in Classic Computing

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Here I am again with another "Adventures" thread. I plan to update this frequently like I do my "Harry's Adventures in 7800 Collecting" topic.

And look at that-- when I tried to type a quotations symbol for that last sentence, I accidentally typed an @.

Yup. I'm learning BASIC on my new Commodore 64.

Well, not actually. I don't have a C64 (yet), but if you've been following my posts you would notice that I have been adding a bunch of new emulators to my Nintendo Wii. Since then, I've also modded the "Virtual Wii" mode that's on the Wii U. So now I have two emulation devices: one downstairs in the Game Room (the Vader-Wii), and one upstairs in the (Game)Room (the Wii U).

Anyways, we had an old USB keyboard that nobody had used in years since we got rid of our desktop around 2014. I decided to get a Commodore 64 emulator going on it. Ever since learning a lot about vintage computers (and Commodore specifically) from The 8-Bit Guy YouTube channel back in 2018, I had always wanted to learn BASIC. It's just so cool! I tried getting emulators in the past, but none worked on my stupid Windows Vista laptop. I had even considered picking up BASIC Programming on 2600. 

I'm very glad I have this new emulator. So far, I haven't loaded up any games on the SD card for the Commodore 64. The emulator is a port of the "Frodo" emulator for the Wii, and it seems to have an option for full 1541 disk drive emulation on it, as well as saving to it. I wonder if there was a way I could get the image for a blank floppy disk and save some of my BASIC programs to it.

Before we get to my first BASIC experience, let's talk about the keyboard I'm using. It's USB as previously mentioned, and has a modern layout. Not great for C64 typing, I found. Lots of the characters are in very foreign spots compared to what I'm used to. The ( symbol, for instance, is SHIFT and 8 instead of SHIFT and 9. What's more, + and - are flip-flopped. I tinkered with the emulator for a few hours and eventually got used to it, but now that I'm back to the normal layout while making this post, I'm having problems. On the plus side, the Arrow Keys act as cursors instead of those stupid ones on the OG Commodore 64. Overall, the keyboard isn't bad at all, just something you need to get used to.

I'm having fun learning BASIC, too. It reminds me a lot of Scratch, but with text. Last night, I spent a few hours typing up a Bowling program from the classic book "101 BASIC Computer Games". I bet a lot of you remembered that one. I never got "Harrison's Funky-Ass Bowling" to work right (I don't think it was meant for C64 BASIC), but I did learn a few valuable commands, like some variables and whatnot. I think I'll type another program up on my new "computer" tonight. Oh, I love the Wii U so much. I'll defend that thing until the day I die. It's a great system.

In the future, once I get the BASICs (get it?) of the Commodore 64 down, I hope to get some other vintage computer emulators on my Wii and Wii U. There are quite a few available; I'm most interested in getting the Apple II one and Atari 8-bit one. But the 64 is where I'm starting my adventure. I'm kind of bummed that there's no VIC-20 or TRS-80 computer emulators for the system; I'd pick the VIC over the 64 for a starting computer. But this is fine.

Anyways, that's where I am in my other adventure right now. I have some questions for you all:

  1. What Commodore 64 games would you recommend I load onto my card and try out?
  2. Do you have any good BASIC games or programs I could type out that will be cool/fun and help me to understand the language better?
  3. What "computer" should I get next? What games should I try out for it?
  4. Did they port Temple of Rom to any system besides the TRS-80?
  5. Would you like to see a "Harry's Adventures in Wii Hacking" thread?
  6. Can someone please help me stop pressing @ when I want a "?

Thanks for reading my thread! I expect to update this frequently whenever I experience something new that relates to the topic. Take care.

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You've got questions, I've got some ideas for your consideration:

  1. What Commodore 64 games would you recommend I load onto my card and try out?
    Here are my favorites:  Raid Over Bungelling Bay, Dr. J vs Larry Bird One on One, MULE, Summer Games, Bruce Lee, Boulderdash  Those should get you started.
     
  2. Do you have any good BASIC games or programs I could type out that will be cool/fun and help me to understand the language better?
    Find a copy of the manual that came with the C64 (or VIC-20).  It's excellent.  Beyond that, look for a "COMPUTE!" or "COMPUTE!'s Gazzette" magazine archive online and do those.  The problem with the Commodore computers is that the version of Microsoft BASIC included is very old and vanilla.  There are no graphics or sound commands included.  You end up typing in machine language data lists and then POKE/PEEK commands.  You will learn nothing from them. 
     
  3. What "computer" should I get next? What games should I try out for it?
    The Atari 800XL is the cream of the 8-bit computer crop IMO.  It has a very good version of BASIC included.  Look for the same list of games as the C64 (no Raid over B-Bay, though).  Add in all your favorite arcade ports.  Ballblazer and Rescue on Fractalus are masterpieces. 
     
  4. Did they port Temple of Rom to any system besides the TRS-80?  Nope.  But look up the Apshai series.  Much better and more fun.
     
  5. Would you like to see a "Harry's Adventures in Wii Hacking" thread?
    YES!  Sign me up now.

     
  6. Can someone please help me stop pressing @ when I want a "?
    Yes.  Skip the C64 and go straight to an Atari 800xl. 

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One more thing, Harry.  Some emulators are way too authentic and load C64 disk images at the speed of a real C64.  SSSSSLLLLOOOOOOOOWWWWWW.  If that's the case, I can't stress enough -- get a different emulator or skip it altogether.  It was slow back then, and it's agonizing now.  Adding a "Fast Load" cartridge by Epyx to your emulation setup helps, but goodness gracious is it hard to set up.

 

 

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Oh, and there's more.  You got me started on a topic I love.  Sorry for all the replies.

The fun really starts when you begin to compare the same games on the different 8-bit systems.  Example:  MULE.  The C64 has the better sound chip.  Yet the classic MULE theme sounds better on Atari.  Why?  If you listen closely, you'll hear four sound channels on the Atari version.  Only 3 on the C64. 

Or on Blue Max - they are almost identical.  But the Atari version has a beautiful screen shake when you bomb stuff.  It's subtle, but adds a lot to the game.

Or on One on One.  Again, they are almost identical.  But the C64 has some incredible music on the menu screen.  Silence on the Atari.  And the 7800 added the more detailed wood flooring. 

 

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5 minutes ago, RickR said:

One more thing, Harry.  Some emulators are way too authentic and load C64 disk images at the speed of a real C64.  SSSSSLLLLOOOOOOOOWWWWWW.  If that's the case, I can't stress enough -- get a different emulator or skip it altogether.  It was slow back then, and it's agonizing now.  Adding a "Fast Load" cartridge by Epyx to your emulation setup helps, but goodness gracious is it hard to set up.

 

 

One of the cool things about this emulator is that there are several different options for loading games, from what I can gather. There's the "real 1541 emulation mode", which has a little disclaimer saying that it may be slow. There's also a standard loading mode, so you can load it normally. That's all speculation; the only thing I have really focused on was the BASIC prompt thing. I looked around the emulator settings and UI and stuff, and that's what I saw. I'll have to test it out myself.

And isn't that part of the experience? What's the point of a game if you can't watch the entire Godfather trilogy while it's loading? There is none!

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2 minutes ago, HDN said:

And isn't that part of the experience? What's the point of a game if you can't watch the entire Godfather trilogy while it's loading? There is none!

Back in the day, you'd start a disk loading and go to the bathroom, get a snack, work on your homework, etc.  The Atari disk drive ran circles around the C64.  Interestingly, the C64 tape drive was a lot faster than the Atari tape drive. 

 

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16 minutes ago, RickR said:

Did they port Temple of Rom to any system besides the TRS-80?  Nope.  But look up the Apshai series.  Much better and more fun.

Temple of Rom was more for my dad than myself. But I'll take a look at this Apshai series. What's it on?

17 minutes ago, RickR said:

What "computer" should I get next? What games should I try out for it?
The Atari 800XL is the cream of the 8-bit computer crop IMO.  It has a very good version of BASIC included.  Look for the same list of games as the C64 (no Raid over B-Bay, though).  Add in all your favorite arcade ports.  Ballblazer and Rescue on Fractalus are masterpieces. 

The Atari 8 bit line was one I was really excited to try out. I would love to try some of the games that were also on the 5200 as well.

19 minutes ago, RickR said:

Would you like to see a "Harry's Adventures in Wii Hacking" thread?
YES!  Sign me up now.

Great! I will post one sometime soon. I should also thank my godfather. He's the one who hacked the Wii back in 2011 and he also walked me through my Wii U jailbreak.

20 minutes ago, RickR said:

Can someone please help me stop pressing @ when I want a "?
Yes.  Skip the C64 and go straight to an Atari 800xl.

Hence the "Ha Ha" rating.

9 minutes ago, RickR said:

Oh, and there's more.  You got me started on a topic I love.  Sorry for all the replies.

No, no, don't be sorry! Stuff like this is why I make these types of threads in the first place.

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1 hour ago, RickR said:

OH!  And let's  not forget Star Raiders on the Atari.  It was truly a "killer app" at the time.  And still fun today. 

This game was one of the first I had to get and play when I first acquired an 800xl. I later got rid of it and have a 130XE I can use now. But that is also because I have a NIB still in plastic 800xl in the box in the closet hehe.

But I still prefer to play Star Raiders and Fractalus on the 5200 given both games really made excellent use of the analog controllers.

 

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How I choose to spend a Saturday night. Waiting for a program I typed in to roll a pair of dice 1,000,000 times. In BASIC. Not exactly known for its speed. Let’s see how long this takes us.

After this, I plan on typing in another program from 1978’s “101 BASIC Computer Games” by David Ahl: Russian Roulette. I am thoroughly enjoying my time with this book. The presentation is wonderful and it is quite educational on the basics of text-based BASIC commands. I especially love all the little illustrations of the robots playing all the different games, a lot of which are quite imaginative. The games themselves also are quite unique and varied. Not sure how good they are as I haven’t gotten any to work except this dice one. I’m assuming not great, but not terrible. There’s only so much you can do with text-based games in BASIC. You can’t expect someone to sit there and type out a full text adventure.

I do wish I had a physical copy of the book, but the PDF is fine.

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I love the c64!  I have a c128 (which is the big brother, but fully backwards compatible)

My favorite games on the computer are (well, besides the ones that RickR mentioned):

  • Jumpman (and Jumpman Jr.)
  • Space Taxi
  • Bruce Lee
  • River Raid (The c64 version blows the Atari 2600 version out of the water(... see what I did there??))
  • The hobbit (Text adventure! Seriously, I'll wait... (Time passes))

Those should give you a good idea of what the c64 classic library is like

There are also some great new games to check out (usually available on itch.io)

  • Neutron (and Santron, which is neutron with an xmas theme)
  • Galencia (amazing Galaga clone)
  • Zeta Wing (another vertical scrolling shooter)

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In addition to the games mentioned by both @RickR and @MaliciousCarp, I would add Archon to the list. I wasn't as big of a fan of Archon II but it's worth checking out. Summer Games II and Winter Games; Epyx really had a heck of run back in the 1980s. If you like adventure games, then check out The Bard's Tale. Infocom focused on text adventure games, including the Zork trilogy and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

 

This link lists several C64 developers on itch.io -- http://retrogamernation.com/commodore-64-itch-io-sites/

 

Another friendly forum site worth checking out is EverythingC64 as there are some gamers there who also like to work with BASIC --  https://everythingc64.boards.net/

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