CommVEx 2015: What Happens When Commodore Users Gather

I’m not getting any younger, in fact I’m getting older by the day.  This fact along with the fact that this year is the 30th anniversary of the Commodore C-128 and the original Commodore Amiga prompted me to attend this year’s CommVEx in Las Vegas lest I not be around for the next significant anniversary. For those that don’t know me, I designed the C-128 at the ripe old age of 25 back in 1984-85, though I would ask that you not hold that against me as it was a very long time ago.

Also this year Dr. Leonard Tramiel, son of Commodore’s founder Jack Tramiel, was able to swing by which was an unprecedented and unforgettable event.

Having been flown and accommodated as a speaker for the occasion by the Fresno Commodore Users Group, my mind was mostly on trying to overcome the jetlag, thinking about what I was going to speak about, and trying to catch a nap while the live band played across the street until 2:00 AM (5:00 AM my time)

At some point on the second day I remembered my camera and completely disregarding the stabilization and white balance settings I set off to yak it up with some of the attendees.

I must warn you unless you’re an old Commodore fan or a lover of 8 bit stuff, you might want to skip around. Here’s a chart of highlights with time codes:

  • 0:30 Crushed by CBM
  • 1:30 C128D Door Prize
  • 2:20 Yet anothe C128, w/ drive emulator
  • 3:38 C128 Easter Egg
  • 5:00 Commodore middle manager resurected as a stuffed talking dog
  • 8:30 Commodore SX 64 transportable C-64
  • 10:00 Jackbusters
  • 11:45 Drive and Peripheral emulators for CBM
  • 13:57 Preserving old games/software
  • 15:00 Tables full of CBM Equipment
  • 17:30 Old C64, C-64C with new kickstarter case

I have to say that I am surprised that anyone remembers these old computers and that they take the time to use and even continue to develop code for them.  I am also surprised that these old dinosaurs still work, something I would not have thought likely back in the mid 1980’s.

What you don't want to find after you have checked into your hotel room.
What you don’t want to find after you have checked into your hotel room.

27 thoughts on “CommVEx 2015: What Happens When Commodore Users Gather

      1. I guess I owe you and the fellows at Commodore a big thanks. My first computer, first programming experience (copying out of a magazine for what seemed like hours, my first “hack” (editing said program for more life’s etc), learning to type and first trip on the “internet” using a dial-up 300 baud modem. All this starting in 4th grade. Good times and I would honestly not be where I am today without such a wonderful start. Loved the video and the history lessons.

        In all honesty, I had taken every toy, tool, kitchen appliance and anything else I could apart to see how it worked. I usually found them easy to figure out. However upon opening the computer up and seeing nothing but chips, wires and switches, I was amazed. That put me on a path to find out just how exactly the “computer” worked. Still doing it 20+ years later.

        After finding HaD some years ago I once again find you teaching me new things regularly, please keep it up

        My most sincere thanks

  1. It was during yet another late night/early morning programming session on my shiny new C-128 that my wife so cleverly observed that if I loved programming so much that I kept staying up late doing it that I needed to switch from hardware to software. I managed to make that change shortly thereafter. I’ll be forever grateful to both Bill and the missus for making that possible.

    I moved up to a C-128 and then an Amiga 500 and then an Amiga 2000. The most incredible computers I’ve ever owned, with features that I still wish my current computer had. I keep an Amiga nameplate (it has the beachball and AMIGA on it) on my desk at work to remind me that even being technologically amazing is no guarantee of long-term success. This applies to people as well as products. I got the nameplate at an Amiga Developer’s Conference in Atlanta. I still remember the line from that conference where one of the speakers said that “Intuition” was the world’s only one word oxymoron.

    Personally, while the C-128 was so much more better than the C64, I think it owed both it’s success and the fact that it wasn’t even more successful to its feature of being able to run C64 programs. I’m sure you know way way more about it than I do, but it seemed like the manufacturers didn’t want to come out with programs that took advantage of what the 128 had to offer simply because they could just write a C64 version and it would run on both machines. Unless there was a compelling reason to do a 128-only program, they stuck with the 64.

    There aren’t many objects I get nostalgic about, but my C= machines are among them.

    Thank you, again.

    1. Developers didn’t write apps for new computers unless there was an incentive whether self-realized or promoted. Prior to Jack Tramiel’s leaving, Commodore would engage the developers early in the design cycle and maybe get a little coercive as well about getting behind our new stuff. With upper management gone and replace by middling management sheep, (there were a few remaining good ones, you know who you are, though I daresay the middlings think they were them also), there were no orchestrated developer or marketing programs which included the tail end of the TED based computers.

      The one thing we did was not allow a super-C64 mode as we didnt want developers writing games that might have issues on standard C64s, so we made sure we took away the option before we were done(you should have seen our super64 mode though….) With that said the C128 was meant as a transitional machine, get a second sell out of some C64 owners, introduce 80 column, break the 64k barrier, etc., and the C128D was _supposed_ to be sold during this time as well.

      And then it was time for the Amiga, though it suffered, it seems to me, from some of the same lackluster Marketing we had grown to expect. And then CBM decided it wanted to make PC Jr’s or some such stuff and the rest is (sad) history.

      1. I hate to ask. Do any copies of the “Super64” mode rom exist or did it require hardware differences?
        It doesn’t make any difference now but it would be so cool to try the Super64 mode and see what could have been. I always wondered why there wasn’t an expanded 64 mode in the C128! Now I know :)

          1. So what enhancements did the super-C64 mode bring?

            Maybe that would be a great project for the WinVice emulator or a fpga based C64 like the Turbo Chameleon 64 or an additional mode for the yet to be released Mega 65!

  2. Oh man, I can’t bear to watch…it’ll just be too painful a reminder of all the old hardware I lost… ;_; When I was but the tiniest nerdling my dad had that red/black bat-top joystick for the Atari though, I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen one of those since. :D

    1. I cant bear to watch “Death Bed Vigil” which is a video by my cohort Dave Haynie. I get 5 minutes in and have to turn it off out of sadness for what could have been.

  3. My first computer (which I still have, AND functions) is my VIC-20. I still have it running, and taught my daughter BASIC (and FORTH) on it (Thank you HESware). She is now 12 and would rather play the X-BOX 360…which gives me time to play on my VIC-20. I still swap software with my cousins in Germany with the C64 and AMIGA. I had a C128 for a few weeks, and loved programming on it. Unfortunately, my C128 was stolen and never returned. And yes…I was a “Commodork” to my friends, but now…I get the respect from my Apple and IBM friends…Thanks Bill for the video and trip down memory lane. :)

    1. I took it as a compliment from the programmers, had I screwed the pooch badly they would have had other words I am sure, they were (rightfully) cynical of those that couldn’t do their jobs.

  4. I am still using the C64, but hope that one day I will no longer be too intimidated by new technology to dare upgrading to a C128. That new BASIC alone seems a bit frightening.

    Having said that, 80 column PETSCII with both character sets available at the same time is quite tempting.

    And at least the new BASIC is also in ROM – I mean, having to load BASIC from disk with that Amiga, what were they thinking? A computer without BASIC in ROM has no soul. (And no PETSCII, what the heck? You’d almost think think they just bought it in an glued “Commodore” on that thing.)

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