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ScuzzBlog: Diaries November 2018

Entry 22nd November 2018: Post 01: Commodore VIC 20 - Setting Up

Commodore VIC 20 - Setting Up

I have one VIC 20 set up for general use and it is plugged into a
large Trinitron TV. The unit is accompanied by a VC-1541 5.25 inch
floppy drive which I do generally use with the machine for storing
and transferring files in that format. I have never photographed
this particular computer properly and thought it was time to do so.
In carrying out the exercise I thought I would explain the processes
involved in connecting the computer and loading data and games.

First up you need the VIC 20 or VC-20 depending on the country you
are in. The VIC 20 released in 1981 was also called the VC-20 in
Germany and the VIC-1001 in Japan. The difference in the main is the
power supply. The VIC-20 having the square style power input. The
reference to twenty is not really known though the fact it has a
combined ROM of 20KB may have something to do with it.

The unit was basically introduced as a more economic PET. The CPU
is the MOS Technology 6502. It really was a pretty nifty machine
in its day though was overshadowed somewhat by the C64 which I
guess turned out to be more successful.

When you first look at the unit it has the dual purpose function
keys to the right and otherwise a pretty standard keyboard layout.
However you will note the special symbols on the keys. Additionally
there is the Commodore Key and the RunStop Key. Both these keys
are used in the loading of tapes.

Lets get started. The first item I show is the VIC-1110 8K RAM
cartridge. I have included this simply to show how a cartridge fits
into the rear of the machine. There are various games cartridges
available. It is useful having the extra RAM though not essential.

Secondly I show the tape unit. The one I use here is the original
C2N Cassette unit. It connects to the smaller of the rear expansion
ports. The lettering of ports to the rear basically starts with the
C64. The interface is standard and you can even get a special port
converter so you can use the 1531 which was designed for the C16 and
the Plus/4 models. The 1530 is white the 1531 brown. This tape machine
has a crude connector and you should be aware of the slot in the
interface which will only go in one way.

The tape only works when the computer is powered on. To activate the
tape to load the keys Shift and RunStop need to be pressed. The trick
here is always to press the Shift first and then the RunStop. During
loading the computer will stop and normally say its found a title. To
force the computer to load you can press the C= key. Otherwise the
computer itself will eventually continue the process. Pressing the
Shift Runstop will always activate the TAPE.... not the Disk Drive.

Next I show what I always call the modulator box. This permits the
connection for the Aerial to a standard TV outlet. The connector is
shown in the last picture. This disappears with the C64, thank goodness.
You will see that the DIN circular connector goes to the first hole
nearest the RAM expansion cartridge.

The 1541 5.25" disk drive is next and these things are heavy. They
are computers in their own rights and can be modified with various
chips to speed up and enhance disk loading activities. This one is a
basic unit and one specifically designed for the VC range of machines.
They come in various flavours and vary in terms of the door operation
to the front letter box. Connection is via the Serial Port and is the
second of the circular connectors on the back of the unit next to
the TV modulator port. It is worth getting a manual for any of the
disk drives for the VIC and C64 range of machines as they carry
guidance on siting and maintenance which I will not go into here.

To activate the drive you basically use the LOAD "file",8 or maybe
even say LOAD "file",8,1. You can insert a wild card like "$",8 which
will list the directory contents of the drive. Formatting is a bit
tricky and involves opening a channel. I am not going into that now
but do cover it in previous blogs. If you want to load the first file
on the drive input LOAD "*",8

To save you basically insert your formatted 5.25" disk and then enter
the command line SAVE "file",8 . It really is that easy.

It is possible to daisy chain another drive from the back of the drive.

OK the last item to connect before plugging in the TV or maybe a joystick
is the power supply. Here is the rub... you need either the circular or
the square depending on your VIC or VC and so the C64 will or will
not work. It gets a little more tricky when some of the external drives
also have square and or circular connectors. And the Plus/4 is different
yet again. Getting the correct power supply for what you have can be
a bit of a pain so make sure it comes with the computer.

The power connects to the power port on the side. Note also that the
VIC only has one Control Port.

OK with the TV also connected its time to switch on. You will see the
CBM BASIC V2 and the amount of BYTES free.

I have created a very simple program and saved to the 5.25" drive to
carry out a test. I then hit the SHIFT and RUNSTOP and loaded the
game Hunchback from the cassette. All was working fine, which wasn't
a surprise to me as I use this computer quite a lot. I do have a
selection of games that I keep close to the computer for a bit of fun.

Anyway I hope that helps. It is a wonderful computer in anyone's
collection. I never worry about the discolouration as they do tend
to go very yellow. Have fun.

Commodore VIC 20

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Last updated 22nd November 2018

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