Issue 49, March 2011
Free to download magazine dedicated to Commodore computers
Available as PDF, HTML, TXT, SEQ, D64 disk image
and now as ePUB and MOBI e-book




This month is another loose issue based around music, I did an interview with Lukasz Dziwosz, owner of and I have re-done an article about Midi and how to connect the various pieces of hardware to your Commodore machines, although this really relates to the Commodore 64 its can be used for any Commodore hardware as long as the computer had a Midi interface made for it at some point in its history.

The website seems another great idea and you wonder why no one has attempted it before, I know there are various archive projects for musical instruments but don’t know of any other websites devoted to just the Commodore 64 and Midi. Did the Plus 4 and Commodore 16 have much Music software produced for the machine? Let me know if you are a plus4/16 midi user I would be very interested in what software and hardware was produced for the machine.

Orders Gentlemen Please

I have on order a Commodore Book: A Company on the Edge, if I ever manage the time to finish reading it I will print my review in a later issue of Commodore Free magazine. Having read the first book “The Story of Commodore: A Company on the Edge” I am looking forward to the extra content that has been included in the new edition. Some information about ordering the book and a German version is printed in the news section of this issue of Commodore Free.

Here Comes The Summer

Looking out of my window it would appear here in the U.k. at least Summer has finally decided to emerge from its long winter slumber, a large yellow burning object has appeared in the sky and looking back at historical documents I see this usually named “the sun” it does seem to have an amazing effect on the temperature, and should I ever feel the urge to venture out into the wild I must remember to ensure this new mystical “SUN” is working on my “out side days”

Not Only But Also

I have finished an the magazine with an article called “to have and to hold” its basically about how software is now virtual rather than a physical, and touchable item, what I mean is that most of the time we now download files and don’t actually have a physical media to play. How long will it be before CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray have disappeared and we have to download everything. Some will welcome the idea, although I did see a downloadable book priced at £8 and the same book from a well known book suppliers as a physical paperback I.e. cut down ex tree edition cost only £6 not sure this is actually process from the point of view of the purchaser, especially when the book will have to have been supplied in a digital format.

And Finally

My friend told me he was going on holiday for 2 weeks the conversation then went like this

ME I asked “when are you going”

My friend looked at his watch, thought for a moment, then looked up at me and said “late August!”

Nigel (supposedly the editor)


Speedlink Competition Pro 25th Anniversary Edition

COMPETITION PRO 25th Anniversary Edition & Games Collection Gold

The Golden Competition Pro is a special edition of the legendary classic of a joystick, finished with an exclusive, stylish gold lustre. Each of these limited edition joysticks includes a certificate bearing its unique serial number, identifying the joystick as a real collectors’ item for gaming enthusiasts.

The accompanying CD-ROM includes 50 original C64 and Amiga® games from the golden age of home computing that will revive the 80s on your Windows® PC

10,000 joysticks are available with certificate of authenticity

A standard edition joystick is also available

Priced at £20 the limited gold edition will be something to show off to your pc mates.


Games That Weren’t: ‘Starglider 2’ 1989 Rainbird

The sequel to one of the biggest 16-bit vector games was started on the C64 way back in 1989, trying to improve on the original version.

Way back in August 1988, the 16-bit versions were reviewed. In the interview with Jez San that followed, he says:

“In the end we found some good Commodore 64 programmers and they are going to be working with us. We’re going to supply our routines and lots of help, and they’re going to be programming the 6502… everyone in our company is a 16-bit programmer, no-one wanted to go back to 8-bit.”

Additionally worthy of note, but the Amstrad and Spectrum versions actually surfaced... so no doubt this was no impossible conversion.

An official conversion in the making, which seems to be what we have here. Similar to Mercenary, but nowhere near as good, the game was scrapped due to speed issues, a shame as it was starting to develop nicely and take shape. With the preview which has been out there for a while, you can actually leave the planet, and go into 'Elite' mode and hunt around. Quite an impressive preview, it's not known how complete this preview actually is - though it actually seems to be we believe practically the complete game.

Recently in 2009, we had an email from Pete Baron who said that this was his game!.... Whilst working on Myth, Pete was offered to do the C64 conversion. In total, 6 months was spent on actual coding whilst doing Myth, and Pete spent a lot of time trying to get up on the 3D side of things on the C64. He had never done any 3D work on the C64 before, but had been promised by Jez Sans to get any resources possible from their team to help. He had some info, but had to do a lot of working out himself. He managed to get some routines and got to work. A bit through the project, Pete demonstrated things to Jez who felt the game was far too slow. Pete then tried to improve things, and did manage to... but then Space Rogue happened...

Space Rogue featured solid filled vectors on the C64 and was very, very fast for a 0.98mhz machine. It blew Pete's work out of the water and Jez had seen it too. They now had to try and match Space Rogue, so Pete now had the impossible mission of getting a solid version working. He did just that, but the frame rate was just too poor filled in. In the end, the project was canned and no more. (You can read more detail from Pete in the Creator Speaks section)

Just how the game sneaked out in its current form is unknown, but the fantastic news was that Pete did actually do a complete conversion of the game in the end that never got released, and in two flavours... the wireframe edition, and potentially a filled vector version too.

Pete in late 2010 dug out all the remains he had of Starglider 2, which was believed to be the very last build of the game. Jani Tahvanainen very kindly spent a lot of time digging through and reconstructing the game. Unfortunately though it seems that once compiled, that even though the date suggests it was a last build - the preview seems far more complete in comparison.

The version salvaged does not feature a complete game panel area, and starts with a test screen with Pete's name mentioned and a date of 1988. You can use the F1 key to start moving around, and going into space just gives you a black screen. Unfortunately although the Solid 3D flags were present in the source code, the actual implementation doesn't seem to be present.

It is believed that an additional block of work was done to get the panels in and starfields, and the solid 3D work was completed. It seems very much so that the preview which we already had may well be a build from the very final version of the source code. Just sadly we won't be able to unlock the solid 3D version without the source. As a result, this could be a complete version of Starglider 2, though it may need playing through to clarify.

However, as well as getting a build of the game which has elements not in the preview, a long lost piece of work by Bob Stevenson has been salvaged, and would have been the game's loading screen. Also Pete has very kindly allowed us to release the source code that was recovered, which you can now download to check out for yourself. There are two versions, Pete's original supplied source code, and a tweaked/fixed up version by Jani.

So we have to now close the case for this one (Unless the supplier of the old preview to GP has the sources?), as what Pete recovered was all that Pete had and could still be read from disk. Every physical piece of media was dumped after digitally preserving what could be preserved, and before Pete left the UK to travel the world.

Have an explore around and see what you can uncover. Maybe there is more to the old "preview" than we all first thought?

Space exploration going a step further on the C64... Case closed!

Frank and Andrew.


Code: Pete Baron
Music: N/A
Graphics: Bob Stevenson and Pete Baron

(Additional source credits - Glenn Rune Gallefois, Pete Baron, Bob Stevenson, Patrick Furlong, Jazzcat, Jani Tahvanainen)

Amiga Media Center (AMC)

We are glad to announce that purchasing AMC once means you get 3 licenses. This way you can install it for example 1x on AROS, AmigaOS and MorphOS (still in progress). Just run the registration process again on another hardware and send the resulting .rgs-files to

The only thing you have to take care of is that the activation-file will be personalized so don't share it.

If you don't know what AMC is... it is a Media Center application like Apple's Frontrow, Geexbox and XBMC.

More info via:

Some videos can be seen on (gallery)

The license can be bought on

Fabio Falcucci
and Pascal Papara

C & A Fan 7 Released


AmigaOne X1000 News Update

Penguins anyone?

As part of the pre-qualification process, Varisys have created a minimal PowerPC Linux kernel to ensure that all components and subsystems are working as expected on the revision 2 Nemo motherboard. Understandably, Linux driver support is far more extensive and by creating a minimal Linux system Varisys can demonstrate that the board they deliver to the AmigaOS4 developers it fit for purpose. As an extension of this testing process we have commissioned Varisys to create a desktop Linux port complete with GUI. Although we realize that many Amigans will exclusively run AmigaOS4 we thought that giving the AmigaOne X1000 a working Linux option would add extra value and allow users to run software and utilities that may not be currently available under AmigaOS4.

"It don't matter if you're black or white"

We have been working very closely with AmigaKit to produce "AmigaOne X1000" and "Boing Ball" branded peripherals and merchandise to compliment the excellent A1-X1000 tower case design created by Andrew Korn. In July 2010, AmigaKit began selling a matching black A1-X1000 PS/2 & USB compatible "Boing Ball" keyboard and mouse. These peripherals can be used with the SAM range as well as PC or Mac computers and are also compatible with Classic Amigas by using Cocolino, Micromys, Subway USB or Deneb USB devices. The original A1-X1000 design was based around a black tower case but, after receiving many requests from customers, we decided to also produce a white version with matching keyboard and mouse combination. AmigaKit began stocking the white mouse at the end of 2010 and hope to be in a position to offer customers and Amiga resellers a choice of the black or white "Boing Ball" tower case in the near future.

A-EON Technology CVBA

AmigaOne X1000 & Classic Amiga Experience

A-EON Technology is pleased to announce that the next issue of "Amiga Future" magazine will contain an update article with a general review of the AmigaOne X1000 development. Issue 89 (March/April) should be released in early March and can be ordered from the Amiga Future website.

Also, behind the scenes, a special AmigaOne X1000 forum has been established on the Hyperion Entertainment Message boards for the exclusive use of A1-X1000 Beta Testers for dissemination of news and information relating to the A1-X1000 project.

We are also pleased to support (through Trevor Dickinson) the JIT/E-UAE project recently assigned to Álmos Rajnai the author of Petunia for AmigaOS4. Although our main interest is for the AmigaOne X1000 we believe that JIT/E-UAE development will benefit all AmigaOS4 users. In a related development, as part of Trevor's Developer Hardware donation programme, Jan Zahurancik has been working on a AmiKit E-UAE distro for AmigaOS4. The combination of Rachy's JIT/E-UAE with AmiKit's Classic distro should provide all AmigaOS4 users with the ultimate Classic Amiga experience. Please visit the and AmiKit websites if you wish to donate towards these worthwhile projects.


JIT enabled E-UAE for AmigaOS4

AmiKit - the ultimate Classic Amiga distro

Finally, we have been informed that Mathias Parnaudeau (the author of "Song Player") has written a review article for the Obligement Webzine on the PA Semi PA6T-1682M CPU which powers the AmigaOne X1000. We are told the article should appear on the Obligement website within the next few days.

A-EON Technology CVBA

Commodore: A Company on the Edge

From: bbagnall
To: Commodore users
Subject: UPDATED: Commodore Book: A Company on the Edge

Thanks to everyone for their interest in the book! I wanted to post an update and answer some questions here. The book is now available in wide release. There was some craziness for a while on Amazon regarding the pricing of the book and availability but it seems to be ironed out now.

You can also go to your local bookstore and if they don't have a copy they should be able to order it in relatively quickly.

We're currently looking into ways to make it easier for Europeans, especially in the UK, to get their hands on the book. I've heard it can be painfully slow and expensive to order the book from North America, so hopefully we'll have a solution soon for readers to get the book locally.

The same goes for Australia, which is especially slow and costly.

Regarding the German edition, as Robert mentioned this is quite outdated as the translation was based on "On the Edge". German readers who want the updated material would be best to wait for a translation of "Commodore: a Company on the Edge".

I hope those of you who have the new book are enjoying it. Don't hesitate to email me your frank comments and criticisms.

Charpad V1.7 Released

Also available is Sprite pad

The other applications presented here, Sprite Pad and Char Pad are cross-development tools aimed squarely at developing graphics for Commodore 64 games and will hopefully ease and inspire the production of new games software for this immortal and unique platform.

Please note that all our software is written in C/C++, runs on Microsoft Windows and does not require installation or additional libraries to be installed

New features...

Turbo Demo Card

Turbo Demo Card - The TDC (Turbo Demo Cart) is a 2 MHz speeder for the Commodore 64. At the moment there is only a proto type but you can view two little demo's, Doom 64 and Black Hole, that are working on a 2 MHz C64. The trick is based on over-clocking the CPU and stopping the CPU when the VIC chip does its job

LukasSid has started a new web page. On this web page you will find information about midi hardware and software. If you have any information, pictures, software or hardware related to making music with Commodore 64 computer, not mentioned on this web page you can contact the team of

COMMODORE FREE: Also this month has an interview with LukasSid

C128 System Information 7.5

C128 System Information 7.5 MIRKOSOFT released version 7.5 of his System Information for the Commodore C128. With this update you can now recognize new type of storage devices like the SD2IEC.

VICE Emulator Update

The Commodore Emulator has received another update

VICE is a program that runs on a Unix, MS-DOS, Win32, OS/2, Acorn RISC OS, BeOS, QNX 4.x, QNX 6.x, Amiga, GP2X, Dingoo, Syllable or Mac OS X machine and executes programs intended for the old 8-bit computers.

The current version emulates the C64, the C64DTV, the C128, the VIC20, almost all PET models, the PLUS4 and the CBM-II (aka C610).

This file lists the most important user-visible changes for each official release of VICE. See `src/ChangeLog' for a more detailed list of all the changes in the code.


If you run into trouble please try removing any VICE configuration files left from previous installs. (vice.ini / .vicerc / vice2.cfg / vice-sdl.ini depending on platform)

Changes in VICE 2.3

C64/C128 changes
C64 changes
C128 changes
VIC20 changes
PLUS4 changes
PET changes
CBM2 changes
Unix changes
MS-Windows changes
AmigaOS changes
DOS changes
Mac OS X changes
SDL UI changes
BeOS changes
OS/2 changes

Ultimate 1.6.4 pack for MorphOS 2.7 announced the availability of the pack Ultimate 1.6.4 for MorphOS 2.7.

Look at the readme file before the installation.

List of changes :

Commodore C64 - Car wash

An article about controlling a Staudinger GmbH. toy car wash using a custom interface and a commodore 64 running a program written in Basic. The listing can be downloaded as a D64 image from the site Staudinger GmbH. make educational toys that can be controlled via PLC The Car wash (says the article)could be controlled via any Commodore machine but this article covers only the Commodore 64

The article describes the parts needed and how to make the interface and a description of the inputs and outputs

The full article can be read here

Retro Gaming Newsletter

1. ARG @ Midwest Gaming Classic show in Brookfield, WI (10th anniversary)

The Midwest Gaming Classic is the largest all-encompassing electronic gaming trade show in the Midwest, celebrating it's 10th anniversary in 2011! Take a look at a brief introduction from one of the event founders to see what to expect.

Our 10th anniversary event will be held on Saturday, March 26, 2011, from 10:00am to 8:00pm and Sunday, March 27, 2011, from 10:00am to 5:00pm. Also, don't miss our Arcade: Factory to Floor tour Friday, March 25th.

The Midwest Gaming Classic is also a great opportunity for people who usually only play games online to get acquainted with electronic gaming and play some great classic arcade games.

Come and see the Arcade Retro Gaming team and explore the Multiple Classic Computer live on a big screen TV.

We will have a special surprize during the show for all Arcade and Classic Computer fans.

2. New Release: MCC-216 Pong Limited Edition with 255+ C64 games

NEW product in our Online Store !

The MCC-216 Pong Limited Edition is for all C64 fans who like to get more exiting games.

This bundle ships now with more than 255+ C64 games and the ATARI 2600 core.

Do you miss your C64 and ATARI 2600? How about 255+ C64 games on one system? This bundle is the answer for you.

Please check out our Online store for more details:

3. World Wide Shipment

We are very pleased to announce that we ship our products now world wide.

Please visit our E-Bay store for the latest products from ARG:


4. BLOG for the Multiple Classic Computer, Retro Gamer and Arcade Fan

Arcade Retro Gaming is proud to present to the Retro Gamer, Arcade Fan and Multiple Classic Computer user his own forum.

Now you can add your own feature whish list for the AMIGA implementation.

Don’t miss out to sign up and start blogging.

In this forum you can chat with friends, post your fun experience with the MCC and classic games, ask technical questions, join the growing development community, check the schedule for retro gaming events, post your own setup and your classic computer selection, talk about retro games and development, sell/buy/trade and much, much more.

Don’t miss out on this and SIGN UP today on our BLOG home page.


Dear Retro Computing and Arcade Fans,

We just released our new video which presents the new Commodore C64 on the Multiple Classic Computer MCC-216.

Please enjoy the link enclosed:

Please visit as well our BLOG: and send us your comments.

Thanks for watching our new movie.

Happy Retro Gaming and Classic Computing !


Online Shops:

DotBASIC Released as a Free Download

Introducing: DotBASIC Plus

Back in 2004 or so, I met Dave Moorman at the Louisville Kentucky LUCKI expo. Dave was showing off a new programming extension he was writing called DotBASIC. It was impressive. It boasted mouse support, windows and menu creation, and a lot of other neat features. It also introduced me to event regions. These are areas of the screen defined to trigger certain actions when the mouse pointer moved over it or clicked on it. Very impressive. It also seemed kind of complicated and clunky, at least for a novice programmer like myself.

Dave was (and is) a charming guy, so we talked quite a bit at that expo. I purchased a Loadstar Tower CD from him, and he sent me home with a copy of DotBASIC. As soon as I returned, I promptly put it in a box and forgot about it.

About a year later, I was struggling to find a usable BASIC extension for the Commodore 64. There are a lot of them, I tried most of them, and they were all lousy. Each had some serious flaw that made it basically (pun) useless – which probably explains why there was never an extension made for the C64 that really took off. Finally, I remembered DotBASIC. I was still somewhat put off by its complexity, but I printed out the documentation and jumped in.

There was a learning curve, but when it finally clicked into place it seemed as though DotBASIC was everything I was looking for. It was powerful, it didn’t require any special hardware (like a Simon’s BASIC cartridge, for example), and best of all – the programs I wrote with DotBASIC could be run on any stock C64 just like a regular BASIC program. I was in love.

I contacted Dave Moorman to report my enthusiasm (and a few bugs), and was surprised to learn that he had scrapped DotBASIC in favour of an all new project: DotBASIC Plus. He sent me a copy, and I was blown away. The power of the original DotBASIC was still there, but the complexity was gone. With DotBASIC Plus, Dave had created an environment that could give novice C64 users a way to create very professional looking programs in BASIC.

The DotBASIC Plus documentation was a series of mostly unorganized Loadstar text files that I printed out on a dot-matrix printer. To make things easier, I converted all these texts to a Microsoft Word document. I tidied up the formatting a little, prettied it up a bit, printed it out, and found that I had something far more practical and better looking than those original text files. For my own amusement, I continued to spruce up the document and emailed the result to Dave as a Christmas gift. Dave was appropriately impressed, and soon we both had the idea that, with some work, this document could be made into a professional looking DotBASIC Plus User Guide. I loved the idea. I thought DotBASIC Plus was a great program and it deserved a great looking manual.

The DotBASIC Plus Utility Disk Menu

What seemed like a straightforward task turned into a two year long labour of love. As I edited the manual I found myself trying out most of the commands and features so that I could be sure I knew what I was talking about as I worked. Soon, I started discovering bugs and by default became a beta-tester. As I would ask Dave for clarifications, he would often get ideas for new features that required more testing and documenting. While Dave remained the primary author, I wound up writing a significant amount of new material to fill in gaps Dave left, subjects he ignored, or to tie together disparate bits of text.

It was a very fun, very engaging working relationship and the result was a great product that Dave sold at a reasonable price. When Dave exited the Commodore scene, he kindly gave me permission to continue distributing DotBASIC Plus however I saw fit. After a lot of thought, I’ve made the decision to release DotBASIC Plus as a free download. While DB+ is certainly worth paying for (and I’ll be glad to accept any donations), my biggest motivation is to see DotBASIC being used. So here it is.

DB Design, one of the many tools on the DotBASIC Utility Disk

The download includes the DotBASIC Library disk in D64 format. Also included is the DotBASIC Utility disk, which is provided as a D81 or four D64s. There’s also a disk of “extras” and finally, the DotBASIC Plus User Guide, in PDF format.


Download here:

What is DotBASIC?

If you are interested in BASIC programming for the C-64, then you have probably used a BASIC Extension at some point. Most of us are familiar with Commodore’s Simons’ BASIC cartridge. Unfortunately, most of these extensions aren’t very useful. Simons’ BASIC, for example, has a pretty lousy set of commands. Many of them are basically (pun) useless. It’s also a very confusing set of commands — there are no consistent conventions used, making it necessary to constantly refer to the manual.

Further, a program written with Simons’ BASIC can only be run on a C-64 with a Simons’ BASIC cartridge. Pretty limiting.

DotBASIC Plus is similar to other extensions in one way: you get a lot of new commands (or DotCommands, of course) — over 100 so far. But that’s where the similarities end.

The DotCommands

Over 100 new commands, all using a consistent, easy to remember syntax: .command,parameters

So, the DotCommand that draws a box on the screen is .BOX, the DotCommand that creates a scrolling menu is .SCMENU, and so on. All the new commands work just like regular BASIC commands

Modern GUI With Complete Mouse / Joystick Support

With DB+ you can create modern looking programs with just a few lines of code. Your programs can have mouse support, complete with a great looking ‘arrow pointer’, drop down menus, file requestors and more.


Your programs will run on any C-64. Although everyone should own DB+, of course, you don’t need to do anything special to run a program written in DotBASIC.

DotBASIC Plus Is Always Growing

With DotBASIC, you include the DotCommands you need by creating REM statements at the top of your program. If your program will use the commands .SPRITE, .SID, .MENU, and .STASH, for example, you would add a line like this:


As you are coding, you can include new DotCommands as you need them by simply amending your REM statements.

This method has two big advantages. First, it makes your programs smaller. Why waste all that RAM for 100 commands if you only need 5? More importantly, it means that new DotCommands can easily be added to your library. When new updates are released, simply add the new files to your Library Disk and start using the new DotCommands.

Some "Extras" for your amusement are included.

What’s Included

The Library Disk contains all the DotCommands (so far). The Utility Disk is full of tools, including a screen and font design program, a sprite editor, and more. You also get an 80 page manual. The manual has a professional look, with detailed reference charts, tutorials, screenshots and a complete index.

Interview with Lukasz Dziwosz

Owner of

Q. Please introduce yourself to our readers

Hi my name is Lukasz Dziwosz known to some as dj Lukass or luke-beataddicts or LukasSid, I was born in Poland, However I moved to London and have lived there since 2002

Q. When and how did you receive your first Computer what was it and how did your hobby take off from there

I was about 12 years old when my Dad bought us a Commodore 64. I was more into demos and SID music than games though. Latterly after 18 years I rediscover the Commodore 64; but this time as a midi synthesizer, thanks mainly to the Messiah cartridge.

Q. Can you explain your love of all things Commodore Related?

First i saw a Commodore 64 in my school friend’s house; I suppose I must have been about 8 years old it was however “love at the first sight” and I have been in love with the machine ever since

Q. Do you think ducks feet are to big

Ermmm “You talking to me?”, Well yes and no, yes they are big but I presume without them they wouldn’t swim as well. Although on land they do look strange

Q. Can you explain your website what do you hope to achieve

The website is about making sure that all music making programs and hardware for Commodore 64 ware preserved and documented.

Q. The site is quite new at the moment, when will more content be added

Yes the site is new, however I'll be adding new material every 2-3 weeks or so as I get time to update things.

Q. Are you more reliant on user support or do you have quite a lot of hardware and software personally to add to the site

I got nice collection of both hardware and software myself; but I'm sure there is more stuff out there, if your are reading please get in touch with me.

Q. How can our readers help you with the project

Any reader can send me scans of manuals and adverts as well as d64/g64 images; once received I will verify them and then post them on where they will live forever (I hope).

Q. If our reader has a software package can you explain some good ways how to create D64`s of this software or would you prefer them send the disks and you create the disk images by way of a donation

I'm learning that process of disk imaging myself at the moment; I have been speaking to some guys on lemon64 they have all the knowledge and processes required to archive files. I have just purchased a Zoom Floppy now and I just need to modify my 1541-II drive this is how I plan to create image files of my personal software collection. I should be ready soon to add more stuff very soon and will update the website at regular periods. I would prefer to receive d64's instead of real disks through the post; but I can help when I master the archiving process myself.

Q. Can you explain what Midi hardware and software is to our readers

Ok briefly here goes

Midi hardware is a device with an interface called a (midi interface) no surprise there, the interface allows other hardware to connect and communicate,

Midi software comes in all sorts of configurations, you have software that will record note presses and can then send the information over a midi interface to a midi hardware device

I suppose that’s the description however they is a lot more to midi than just this brief outline

Q. So Midi is a protocol standard to connect other compatible devices and communicate to them by some form of language

Yes correct, midi is a protocol with the language you can synchronize musical instruments but you can also send data like patches (presets) to synthesizers and even note data (so play this not for this duration at this time). The great thing about Midi is that is multiplatform! You can synchronize 30 years old machinery with modern computers. So you could have a Commodore 64 controlling something that is brand-new, this is why the standard is so exciting

Q. Can you describe some of the products that were created for the Commodore 64 with midi control in mind

The Most recent is the Messiah cartridge which is a set of four programs for c64, it's a must have for any music producer who likes the real sound of the Sid chip. But in the Commodores history we have had things like Midi controllers from various companies to actually control various hardware we have had sequencer programs to write music, but the list is really quite endless.

Q. Were there any successful bands using Commodore 64`s, For example; I know Vince Clarke of Erasure/Yazoo used to sequence tracks on a BBC Micro computer

Well I don't know to be honest, there were some very complete packages produced but as to famous user I don’t know.

Q. What midi hardware do you own and what is your most treasured possession

I have quite a few midi interfaces for C64 like Sonus and Passport, nothing to excited really . I also have Yamaha DX7 synth. I suppose the Commodore 64 is the most treasured possession though.

Q. What is the midi hardware you would like to get hold of the most

I would love to own Moog Song Producer and Seinberg Midi Interface with original copy of Steinberg Pro-16, this was the first ever product of Cubage makers.

Q. I believe things like patch editors were created for various synthesizers (actually I know this for a fact as I have 2 such editors) can you explain to our readers what a patch editor is and how you would use it with the Commodore 64 ;

Let's say you got Yamaha DX7, well a patch editor will let you edit sounds or voices on your synthesizer. You can also store them on Commodore disks for future use, some makes editing the machine more accessible and easier.

Q. What limitations did the Commodore 64 and Midi impose to the song creator, for example what was the maximum number of tracks and song length the machine could handle, and do you know any ways people managed to get round this, for example I used my machine to program drums I would have a number of drum sounds on different channels, I would record an 8 bar loop on a sampler then trigger the sampler to play the loop, this would save memory from the machine as I would sonly have to trigger 1 event every 8 bars and also only need 1 channel to send the trigger (or key press on). I would also miss out some notes on heavy sequences the theory there was they wouldn’t be herd with all the other instruments, hence I would save maybe 1 or 2 notes from memory and be able to use this elsewhere :-(

That's why the C64 was never a serious computer for musicians I'm afraid. The Atari ST was the first computer that could really do what people wanted to do. The C64 however has got a Sid chip.

Q. The main problem for me was the "real-estate" needed to have all the hardware connected and plugged in; it also takes some considerable time to set everything up, I know you have sound modules capable of multichannel and multivoices but to get the retro feel you need analogue hardware and most was only capable of 1 midi channel. I suspect only real diehard composers are still using the Commodore 64

I don't think anybody uses C64 for that. I think its better to use it as a instrument or patch librarian.

Q. Do you actually compose music with Commodore hardware

Yes I use Mssiah and Cynthcart. I also use Dr.T's Librarian for Yamaha DX7. I have a brilliant sound collection for that synth and its all stored on 5.25" Commodore disks.

Q. Many people may ask "what was wrong with the SID chip" that we had to use Midi devices

Sid wasn't truly appreciated in the 80's so people used the C64 to synchronize other instruments.
Today people are using other instruments to synchronize the good old C64 and it's Sid chip. It’s a Funny old world when you think about it.

Q. I had many happy hours creating tunes with my Commodore and external hardware, ok it wasn’t any good but that didn’t matter much it was the process that interested me.

I wish to have more time to do that. Wasting time on Commodore stuff is what I love..

Q. If you were the owner of Commodore what would you have done differently?

In the 90' I would work more on new OS for Amiga instead making game consoles.

Q. Is there any other comments you would like to add

Please if you are reading this and have anything musical or music hardware and software for the C64 then I urge you to get in touch with me, and you can do that via a contact form on the website.


Editors Comments

Making music with the Commodore 64 was a truly superb waste of time, I would sit for hours programming voices and copying music from manuscripts and trying to get some sort of “musical” output from my commodore, later as I obtained midi hardware playing the same music and my creations became a bit of a hobby. I moved to the Amiga and my midi hardware was useful then I used Drt`s kcs 3.5 level II on the Amiga and although I have used things like Cubase on the pc, nothing was as intuitive for me as Drt`s, it even had a built in programming language, that was totally lost on me, I did figure out how to program things like every 7th note if it’s a g increase the volume by 10% however if its an f reduce the volume by 25% etc but never really full explored its full potential

What is Midi

MIDI (musical instrument device interface)

Is a language, a description of playing the music, the language sends note information as a series of instructions. These instructions can include; what note to play, at what pitch the note should be played the duration or time the note should be played and the tempo or speed at which the notes should be played. Other information could include what instrument or voice to use and at what volume the instrument should play the note. Midi works on channels with the original specification featuring 16 channels. So each device would need to listen on a set channel, you could have a drum machine on channel 16 and bass synthesizer on channel 10 for example, without this of course all the synthesisers attached would think the information is for them and play simultaneously.

Because the MIDI information is sent as a language or series of Data statements it is therefore possible to change the information; so you could for example change the pitch, volume, instrument by the Midi program. Of course this is more flexible than a digital recording or sample where the information is fixed.

So Midi instruments are therefore controlled via a language or programming set of instructions, this information can as you would expect be saved to a file and played back at a later date. This ability is what made Midi so popular, and of course the ability to store the data for editing at a later date, or passed to friends to replay.

The Midi standard covers both the software language and the hardware to connect devices together, before its creation it could be difficult to synchronise various pieces of hardware together, and sometimes with no set way to record data. It was not usual for the instruments to trigger pre programmed music patterns on other devices.

The midi hardware can be a device plugged into a computer to send or receive data, a keyboard a sound processing unit or a digital recording device (sampler) The original specification of the standard was to allow communications in real time between enabled devices; however over time the interfaces and cables have developed originally the specification was a serial Din plug, now USB and Fire wire interfaces have emerged. However related to older Commodore hardware we will mainly be looking at the Din plug connectors, this is due to the fact all the Commodore 64 interfaces had a Din plug connector.

The format of the midi files is .MIDI, extensions to the format have added more features over the years

To control a keyboard from your computer you need

Most instruments have a Midi in and a midi out. Some also feature a midi through port.

To control a synthesizer from your computer you would take the output of the computer side to the input of the Synthesizer, the through port permits the chaining of devices so you can add more equipment to the loop

This is a simplistic look at the requirements to give a brief understanding of how to connect a basic system, something that may confuse people initially is the sounds are played from the keyboard or synthesiser NOT the computer itself so your synthesizer would need to be plugged into headphones/ speakers or a mixing unit

Commodore Free

To Have And To Hold

By Commodore Free

I noticed recently that we seem to be loosing “the Physical device”; what I mean by this is; with so many flash games and java devices around, it doesn’t matter what hardware you use as they game will play on anything capable of displaying flash and java. So it seemed to me that the actual hardware is not important and we don’t actually own a cartridge or cd, with the games listed as just a download or even a website link where we can play the game online. This could be seen as progress by most people, as after all it frees the user from the proprietary formats, although some hardware manufacturers would like to tie us to the hardware and ensure games only work on that system.

So; then as Commodore users where does that leave us? Well I think it means that now we need to archive , collect and ensure as many machines as possible are in working order and can be demo`d to the younger generation. As the reliance on physical devices disappears we need to ensure that future generations can see the hardware.

I personally think Its great to grab an old tape and put it into a machine and then type “load” and watch the screen as the game loads into memory, it is still a magical process to me and brings back the same feelings as when I first received my Commodore computer a good number of years ago, probably far more years than I care to remember. What Will our children remember about the hardware of today, after all a PC is just a pc isn’t it, some are faster than others, so is an old Dell 486 any different to a modern Dell (or another machine manufacturer) apart from the speed is there really a market to collect such old machines?

I suppose (although I haven’t explained myself very adeptly) that Commodore hardware is special, yes we all have 1 or two items we have purchased and spent more than we should have, I have bought items on Ebay that I would never have been able to afford as a child, but remembered looking at the adverts and the item has stuck with me into adulthood.

Today’s emulators are getting better and better but can they ever reach the point where we can say they are better than the real physical hardware. I personally don’t think so, yes they are valuable tools for development and even allow you to use commodore’s in places where taking a real machine would not be practicable like on holiday, you could play Commodore games on your IPhone or other mobile phone if you really wanted to. Would you really want to take a Commodore 64 TV and disk away with you.

So it looks like we will have a world where the hardware is unimportant, as long as the device has enough power to turn on and connect to the web, this will then permit the various applications held on websites to process all the user’s needs, word process, picture editing and playing games. Progress is a great thing but I will miss having my software as a “thing I can hold”

Personally I still miss being able to buy all my music on vinyl and having games on tapes and disk, yes they load quicker now when using d64`s with extra hardware and you cant really spill tea on a virtual disk, but something is lost maybe its magic, yes that’s it some of the magic has gone, from the process of getting the software putting it into a device and then loading it.

Either the magic has gone or my old age has come really early, imagine telling your kids about the process of loading a game

Hmmmmmm looking at this it does sound a bit rubbish doesn’t it

Back to the Past

Issue 10, July 2007

By Neil Reive

As we continue our ‘Back to the Past’ feature, we go back to July 2007 and look at issue ten of Commodore Free… The front cover reported some sad news with the passing away of Jim Butterfield. Jim was known as ‘The Commodore Guru and was a renowned programmer of public domain software.

In the news section there was an eBay listing of a C64 disk containing rare music demos from legendary music artists from the 1980s: Rob Hubbard and Martin Galway. With such tunes from classic such as Thing on a Spring, Parallax, Wizball and more, it seemed to be a rare find indeed. However, the editor explained that similar compilations were freely available to download years previously. Also in the news was an update on the IDE64 Prototype and the Commodore Scene VGA project, which had been terminated.

As usual, CF catered for the coders in all of us with various articles on programming. In Programming The Great Adventure of Creativity and Logic, Dave Moorman took us through Process Logic, statements, commands and more. The HEX files series continued with part 5 as Jason Kelk took the reader through some code writing.

The first interview of the month was with Mario Misic, host of The Big Book of Amiga Hardware mirror site. The BBoAH is basically a website with articles on the Amiga’s hardware, as well as offer downloads of installation guides and manuals. However, the downloads were removed due to requests from the copyright owners, resulting in Mario remarking that “The BBoAH Team is annoyed about copyright owners, who actually support the AMIGA platform in NO WAY, but "attack" the BBoAH with legal and copyright.” – something that Commodore Free knows all to well, as issues 1, 2 & 3 had to be removed for similar reasons.

Next up is an interview with Frantic, a member of a demo group called Hack’n Trade and Codebase 64. Codebase 64 was a wiki website set up to include articles on C64 coding. A Potrace creator FAQ preceded an interview with Peter Selinger, creator of the raster to vector software program. Steve Judd, creator of the SLANG 6502 C64 programming language, was next up to get the CF interview treatment.

Nick Coplan, creator of HDD64, was also interviewed. HDD64 is a program that allows the use of a PC to be used as a hard drive on the C64. “Isn't using a PC for backup and loading applications a little like worshipping the devil?” asked out intrepid editor. To which Nick replied: “Some find it a wonderful irony to make a "modern powerful machine" act as a slave to a humble 8bit machine from 25+ years ago ;)”

And rounding off the interviews this month was an interview with Jim Butterfield, which had been re-printed with permission from When asked what he thought of the computing evolution since the days of the PET, Jim replied, “the average computer user today has a lot less fun than we still have with the early machines. The industry message today is "Buy it and use it, and then turn it off. Don’t worry or think about how it all works". That's sure a lot less fun for tinkerers.