Ah, yes who doesn’t love the old world of the mid 1980’s that was dominated by the Commodore 64? Naturally I had one, and like many people in North America, I had the incredibly “fast” and reliable 1541 floppy disk drive. Unfortunately, in Europe it seems that the floppy drive addon was actually quite rare. Many of the systems opted to go with the substantially cheaper, and slower 1530 tape drive.
My only real exposure to the Commodore tape drives was with old PET computers in my grade school library where I’d write meaningless BASIC programs, and save them to tape. But at home I had a floppy drive, so moving programs around never was possible. Not that it really matters.
So while on vacation in Europe, Lorenzo managed to find this awesome score, a Commodore 64 with a tape drive, joysticks and BOXES, yes boxes of tapes! All for €20!
So we get the Commodore home, fire it up and.. none of the tapes work. Well completely many have these turbo boot loaders that load up, but from then on the screen flashes, the tape runs out and nothing happens. Now granted all of this equipment has been stored in a garage for a decade (or two?) so it does look like the entire lot has bit rotted. Going through some major effort we did find out that there were a few programs written to let you visualize the tape data to adjust the read/write heads, or even just determine if the tapes were just plain bad.
Then looking around some more online we pretty much come to the conclusion that we will need some kind of special cable to connect to the Commodore 64, and a Pentium 150-200Mhz class machine (no faster, no slower) to emulate a tape drive and feed the programs to the computer.
With everything looking down, we suddenly have a breakthrough by finding a Windows program that can convert a tap file, to an audio WAV(e). Luckily Lorenzo has a working tape deck, new tapes, and a CD Player, so we burn the WAV to a CD-ROM, then record the CD Audio to a Tape, and amazingly, it worked!
So was it worth it? For 20 Euros it was cool, it is kind of neat being able to play it on the old ‘iron’ again. And a joystick was kind if a fun throwback vs the modern era of gamepads, I guess since we wound up using tap images converted, emulation would just be plain easier. And it is worth noting that the majority of the joysticks that we got didn’t work properly. Old things eventually die out.
But just as there is companies out there still making floppy drives, I’m sure someone is out there making a digital USB Joystick..