Retro computing with a touch of modern and the home for all things, retroCombs (aka Steven Combs).
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by Steven B. Combs, Ph.D.
While spending time in the MEGA65 Discord group, I found a link to Weihnachten auf dem Commodore (WADC), or Christmas on the Commodore. There have been editions printed since 2018 and I ordered all three available editions. Inside pages are filled with type in BASIC programs for all manner of Commodore 8-bit computers. Below is an excerpt form the C64 Wiki page about these annual publications.
The idea behind the creation of the booklet is based on the fact that for some users of the C64 there is a certain connection with Christmas, as many originally got it for Christmas at that time or the Christmas season symbolizes a contemplative, quiet time in that you can take out your home computer to do the typing of BASIC programs like in the old days…Although the listings are intended for the C64, the magazine is not limited to this computer. Listings for other Commodore home computers such as the C128 or Plus/4 can be found in it. To enable the most error-free typing possible, the booklet contains the checksum tool F64Summer, which was developed by Zirias in the course of the first edition.
You can order your copies of all three volumes here. For 3.00 EUR (or ≈ $3.50 USD) per issue, purchase all three. Shipping to the United States is 3.60 EUR and if you order all three, no additional shipping is applied. It’s a steal. You do need to be aware that the magazines come in the German language. There is not an English version; however, for someone who had four years of German I in high school, I am able to decipher much of it and in those cases where I can’t figure it out, I turn to Google Translate. It’s a wonderfully technological world we live in.
In my prime, back in the 1980s, I would have poured through these magazines and typed in every program and then watch them run in all their 8-bit glory. I’d save them to a cassette tape. It was many years, and a Commodore 128, later before I could afford a disk drive. Back in the day, I had free time to do this; however, times they do a change. While I will type in one or two of the programs in these magazines, I don’t have time to type them all.
What’s a Commodore retro-computing fan to do? Use what he learned while producing the Commodore Plus/4 User’s Manual series and share how to convert these BASIC programs from print to physical Commodore computers.
Before you read my process below, look at the FAST LOAD video below that shows my technique.
[2021-04-16] In the first section of my typing example, my original video had the Commodore screen superimposed in the upper-right hand corner; however, that screen capture became corrupt; leaving a huge gap in my video composition. It was disappointing; however, I decided to not recreate this portion of the video because this project had already been in the hopper for a week.
Below are the links I mention in the video. All Amazon links are affiliate links. Thanks for supporting the blog and the YouTube channel!
Don’t misunderstand, there’s educational opportunity to be had from typing in Commodore BASIC programs. You learn command syntax, keyboard layout, program structure, and an entire realm of programming concepts when you take the time to enter each line. But, man! It can eat at your free time, even with the thoughtful bookmark and space ruler that each issue of WADC includes.
And in the case of the Checksum program (a program designed to verify you’ve typed each line correctly), there’s little value since the program is a series of pokes to create a machine language program. Normal humans can’t process these programs.
The first step of the process is to use a tool that includes optical character recognition (OCR) to scan the BASIC program. My preference is the free Adobe Scan for my Pixel 4XL. There are other mobile device scan apps, paid and free, that do the same thing. I prefer an app over a dedicated scanner. My workflow is faster. Here are my steps below:
You now have a PDF with the entire BASIC program on your desktop or laptop.
Our next step is to transfer the contents of the OCR file to a text editor in these easy steps:
Text Editors: In my video, I use iaWriter. It’s not meant for coding, but for writing; however, it has all the tools I need to get this job done. For more sophisticated text editing including regex, advanced fine and replace, multiple cursors, syntax highlighting, and packages, I use Atom. There’s a learning curve, but it is worth the time. Atom is the tool I use to manage my blog on GitHub pages. It is a free application for Mac, Linux, and Windows. Other great options include Sublime Text and Visual Studio Code. Alternatively, every computer OS includes a rudimentary text editor that you can use for this conversion.
Once you’ve made edits and have a good copy of the the printed program, you are ready to move it over to the VICE emulator.
We will use The Versatile Commodore Emulator (VICE) to load, edit, and execute the code. The application creates
.d81 disk images that we will use to transfer programs from VICE to a physical computer. Follow these steps:
runand cross your fingers. If the program works, continue to step 6.
newcommand in vice to clear memory and paste in the new code. Repeat this step until the program executes properly.
.txtfile in the text editor. Having this backup will come in handy and these files are super small.
VICE can create disk images. Choose the File | Create and attach an empty disk image… option. The Create and attach a new disk image dialog box will appear as shown below:
.d81file as shown in sample above.
With a working program saved to a Commodore disk image, you are ready to transfer the program to your physical computer.
The imagee transfer process depends on the device you choose to mount your disk image. I won’t share each in detail but here’s a quick summary for transfer using a Pi1541 on original Commodore hardware and using a THEC64/VIC20.
.d81disk image to a properly formatted microSD card on a Mac, Linux, or Windows computer. Consider creating a folder on the microSD to make file management easier on the Pi1541.
dload"name"(depending on the version of Commodore BASIC) command load the file.
runcommand to execute the program.
You can now load and save programs to disk images on the Pi1541.
TIP: As highlighted in the video, I made a mistake and didn’t use the proper syntax when writing over a file in Commodore 64 mode. To overwrite an existing file on the disk image use this syntax:
.d81disk image to a properly formatted USB drive on a Mac, Linux, or Windows computer.
Press the lower-right red button on the joystick. The menu below will appear:
Use the joystick to highlight Media access and press the fire button. The Media Access page appear as shown below:
load"name",8command load the file.
runcommand to execute the program.
You can now load and save programs to disk images on the USB drive.
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🕹️ retroCombs, OUT!