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 »

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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 »


EasyFlash 3 hands-on

February 16, 2012

At the end of last year skoe released the EasyFlash 3 design. Just like the original EasyFlash, the design is open source, so basically anyone is able to start making those. It’s likely that these boards start surfacing from different sources. The first place selling assembled EasyFlash 3 cartridges I found was Retro-Donald’s Sinchai-Shop, and mine’s from there.

There are already at least two board designs. One like mine here, a short cartridge with buttons on both sides. The other design has longer board and the buttons are at the back in the usual way.

You North-American folks are probably pleased to know that RETRO Innovations is going to manufacture and sell them as well.

And yes – this is your JiffyDOS on a stick .. err.. cart solution!

Seriously, calling EasyFlash 3 just that is a vile devaluation (and I’ve seen it already happen). It’s much more than “just” a KERNAL on a cartridge. Read the rest of this entry »


Stuff from Retro-Donald

January 21, 2012

Just a quick heads-up, I recently ordered some stuff from Retro-Donald’s Sinchai-Shop. Finally the goods arrived, and above you can see the loot I got.

Top: Micromys V3. Below, from left to right: EasyFlash 3, MMC2IEC + programmed AVR, Nano SwinSID, Super PLA.

Sinchai.de is an online shop that is specializing in Commodore 8 bit accessories and DIY kits. Unfortunately the site is in German only, as is all communication and support. Additionally the information and instructions for the products may be very slight, and most of the product support seems to be at the German C64 forum Forum-64. The shop supports the community there and vice versa it appears.

At least the product assortment is very interesting, and they ship worldwide. And Google Translate is your friend if you are like me and don’t speak nor read German.

Apart from the language barrier and almost three weeks’ delivery time I’m very pleased with the experience. Might be that Donald is busy putting the now-released EasyFlash 3 boards together! The pieces I finally got are of good quality, and the packaging was well done. Postage rates were reasonable, and generally, so are the prices at the shop. My recommendations.

Quick run-down of the stuff I ordered Read the rest of this entry »


Reviving old C64-tower project

January 8, 2012

This is my C64 tower. It has been built nearly 12 years ago by me and a friend of mine. It has seen it’s best days long time ago, but now I’m about to make it better than it ever was.

Built into the old IBM case is a C64E motherboard (the new, short board) from a late C64 C and a much older 1541 disk drive. Basically the machine is an original hardware setup – including the original power supplies. The C64 motherboard is mounted horizontally at he bottom of the case. The C64 PSU is attached to the flank of the case – not very discreet I know. The drive mechanics of the bulky 1541 drive fit perfectly to one of the 5 1/4″ drive bays. The motherboard (or logic board) and transformer have been relocated around the mechanics.

An external power cord plugs into the rear of the machine. The mains voltage is routed to the original transformers trough a two-stage switch and fuses. The two stage switch makes it possible to power the C64 without starting up the disk drive and also to switch off the 1541 while C64 remains on.

The obvious issue of keyboard was also solved in a rather straightforward manner. The keyboard ribbon was simply cut, and then wired to the PC’s serial port connector at the back of the machine. An extension cable for the keyboard was done from old printer cable, which then plugs into the port. Not pretty but does its job!

The other necessary connectors were also routed to the back of the machine. A composite video, dual mono audio and RF antenna connections were routed to the added back plate of the machine using RCA plugs. The transparent back plate is in place of the missing PC PSU. Joystick ports are available at the bottom, as the motherboard barely fits inside the case.

The C64 and 1541 use the case’s power and HDD LEDs as their power LEDs. The power button of the case acts as a reset button for the C64. Read the rest of this entry »


EasyFlash fastloader comparison

December 26, 2011

Unseen has finally released a new version of the sd2iec firmware. This new firmware version of 0.10.2 does not bring that many updates, but one that I have been waiting for; sd2iec has now support for the fastloader that has been in EasyProg since ages.

I wanted to make a little comparison of the now supported fastloader’s performance using uIEC. Which is faster, EasyProg fastloader or JiffyDOS? Will it take even less time to flash the cartridge if the cartridge image is compressed using EasySplit?

Hardware & software configuration:

The image I flashed several times using different configurations was Prince of Persia C64 version 1.1. It is a 513 kb cartridge image, closely half of the flash memory size of EasyFlash. When the image is compressed using EasySplit, the file size is 159 kb. In Commodore terms, the images were 2069 and 644 blocks respectively. Read the rest of this entry »


New hardware for C64: uIEC

July 19, 2010

uIEC and new JiffyDOS chips

Few days ago I got myself a uIEC/SD ordered from Jim Brain. I also bought a set of JiffyDOSes which should make a perfect match with uIEC. Even though I am a happy 1541 Ultimate user I wanted to get familiar with this device as it and other SD memory card applications using the same sd2iec firmware seems to be very popular. Also, this one can be nicely used in Commodore machines where the C64 Expansion port is not available.  Read the rest of this entry »


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