1541 – Why so complicated

May 14, 2014

1541YUNO

The Commodore 64 has a disk drive that is unique in many ways. Not only is the Commodore 1541 said to be the world’s slowest disk drive, but it’s also big, bulky, noisy and has a reputation of being unreliable. Also, it works in an unusual way. In many ways it’s the disk drive that has defined our experience with the C64.

In addition to the original model 1541 there were also the updated models 1541C and 1541-II from Commodore. The drives have different looks, differences in hardware and in ROM versions, but the basic functionality and features are principally identical.

Some later models in Commodore’s 8-bit serial disk drive range were improved in some ways, but those have less importance today. For a C64 as a retro system, the 1541 is the de facto standard. Still, in this time of emulators and hardware add-ons, compatibility with the original 1541 disk drive is regarded as a must.

And today, for someone who doesn’t want to resort to emulators only, the large and unconventional disk drive brings some practical challenges. So understanding the 1541 helps us to understand the options we have for replacing it! Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

1541 Ultimate, original vs Ultimate-II

April 13, 2013

1541 Ultimate old vs new

It’s been already quite a while since I last wrote anything about 1541 Ultimate. In the meantime I’ve gotten myself also the new model, the 1541 Ultimate-II. It’s a good time to recap the project and device status at the moment, especially since the latest firmware update brought some nice new features.

So what’s different from the previous model?

Let’s start with the physical differences.

1541Ultimate old vs new 1541 Ultimates side view

Obviously the appearance has changed a lot. The most apparent change is that this new model comes in a case, and is more compact. Now it actually looks like a cartridge, and it doesn’t have those silly legs the previous model was standing on. And yes, having  the case on it is a definite plus.

The smaller size comes with a downside though. The SD card slot is replaced by a microSD card one. Regular size SD cards are much nicer to handle I think. But it’s not only that! Since the first few production batches the microSD card slot part had to be changed due to sourcing issues. Mine is with the new slot, and I must admit, the new microSD slot is a bitch. With this new card slot, the microSD card goes deeper inside the cartridge. You need to have something thin to insert or eject the card. You just can’t do it with the tip of your finger. Read the rest of this entry »


New life of EasyFlash as a cartridge format standard

November 30, 2011

Since my hands-on review of EasyFlash cartridge things have been moving forward. EasyFlash has been gaining popularity in the Commodore community.

At the time of my overview there were only few EasyFlash tailored releases around, and I thought that the most prominent use of EasyFlash cartridge was the possibility to create EasyFlash multicart images from several single load programs using the Draco Cart Maker.

Since that, the EasyFlash tailored game releases kept on coming. These are usually some of the bigger games for C64, or even compilations of them, modified to run from EasyFlash without loading pauses, often including extra graphics, documents or other bonuses, incorporating bug fixes to the originals, and often with game or score saving feature writing directly to the flash memory. These features are sometimes found only in the EasyFlash patched versions.

At the moment there are quite a few EF releases already, and I’m sure new ones keep on appearing. Basically EasyFlash has become a new medium standard for C64.

And even more so with the phenomenal C64 port of Prince of Persia by Mr. SID. It’s a 1:1 port of the original Apple II game and graphically almost on par with the PC and Amiga versions. The famous fluid animation is there and the gameplay is identical to the original game. Not to mention it’s a great game and a classic, now for the first time ever available on C64 and C128. And it’s available only for the EasyFlash cartridge. Read the rest of this entry »


While I’m unboxing my own stuff…

April 18, 2011

It feels like it’s been ages since my last post. One reason for this feeling is probably the fact that I have moved during this break. Being more specific, I have moved in with my special lady. Who does her best to understand my interest to old computers and other weird stuff including my peculiar electro-analogish taste of music. Wish me luck ;)

Not starting a relationship blog here and still sticking to old computers and weird stuff; Some interesting SID related updates have emerged in the meantime for both SwinSID and 1541 Ultimate projects.

Micro SwinSID has got two firmware updates since my review. The updates have improved the ADSR envelope and filter emulation closer to real SID chip. The latest firmware also introduces 6581 filter emulation that can be selected by e.g. a switch by grounding one of the AVR pins. Unfortunately I haven’t had the change to get first hand impressions of the improvements as I’m lacking the means to program the microcontroller. Read the rest of this entry »


New models of HardSID and 1541 Ultimate

February 3, 2010

Two of my favourite C64-toys have been updated with new models; HardSID and 1541 Ultimate – both of which I have covered here and here earlier.

The announcement of 1541 Ultimate II is already old news, although it is not available yet. The new model is an evolution of the previous version with new features. The announced new features are support for USB storages, tape emulation and somethig still-mysterious related to audio. There will be much more – I’m sure about that. There are rumours about accelerator like SCPU emulation, but those are just rumours… One remarkable thing is that the device comes with a case. So no more “naked” board (that won’t even fit into standard cartridge case) pointing out from the back of your Commodore. It’s not all improvement however; the new model uses micro-SD cards instead of SD and the built-in ethernet is no longer an option. But it’s cheaper!

What is not old news is that two new HardSID models were announced just yesterday! The new models are HardSID Uno and HardSID UPlay and they are aimed for SID music enthusiastics. Compared to the HardSID 4U the main differences for target audiences are support for only one (Uno) or two (UPlay) SID chips and no need for separate power supply – and a lower price. The new HardSIDs have a very cool looking aluminium case and have no noise producing fan. Seems like these new models have replaced the “standard” 4U as it is no longer available – only the much more expensive Studio Edition of 4U.

To me it looks like that the Uno and UPlay are basically the same device with identical hardware and board. Only difference being that in UPlay you can (relay) switch between the two installable SID chips with software, and in Uno that has to be done manually with a jumper or something like that. Maybe it’s because of power consumption, as it is USB that is powering the device. If I’m wrong, I’ll correct my assumption.

All in all, great stuff!


1541 Ultimate

July 12, 2009

I came across this interesting C64 hardware add-on project some time ago and I was so impressed over it that I ordered one for myself right away. I have had it for some time already, so maybe I could write some thoughts about it.

1541U_setup1

1541 Ultimate with travel speakers

In short, 1541 Ultimate is a floppy drive replacement for Commodore 64, hence the name. It’s a SD card based solution which allows you to store and use disk images on the SD card as if they were floppy disks on a real drive. But it doesn’t end there. 1541 Ultimate offers an impressive list of great features that makes it perhaps the single best peripheral ever made for C64  to date. I’m not going to copy-paste the specifications and feature list here, those can be found from the project site.

When I got my unit, I honestly had an empty feeling for a while. I realized that 1541 Ultimate made just about every C64 peripheral I had obsolete and even offered more. Now that I have grown out of that empty feeling, here’s a little sum-up of my thoughts on the device. Read the rest of this entry »


%d bloggers like this: