Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The C64, and you.

There are several options for the commodore 64 as a weapon in the battle of ... chip music vs. you not making any. But one thing that keeps popping up in IRC chats fir instance (irc.espernet.com/6667 #8bc) is how best to straddle the pony and ride his dwarf bones into sound town. Let's take a look at your options.

Part the A) Why the c64

Answer - this. The MOS SID. This titan of 8bit audio comes replete with 3 VCOs with 4 selectible waveforms, 1 VCF, amazing PWM capabilities, and some inherent glitches that permit both the playback of 4 bit digital waveforms and some glitchy distortions. In short, it's a titan.

Now, you are no doubt asking, how do i get this (see img) into this (see other img). The answer is not with an ax(e).

Over the years, numerous excellent and crummy solutions have arisen, and vanished. I WIll skip all the ones that i think are fatuous and infantile (hardsid4u for example!) and cut through the BS to give you your answer(s).

Part 1 - A C64

Your first option is having a real c64. That's a nice clunky old beige keyboardy thing, that has a 2 lb power supply, and a 10lb disk drive that operates at this speed

Also, if you want to back up your songs, you have to save them to disks, and if you want them to be safe, you have to back them up to your computer, which requires a parallel port (old printer port) and a custom built cable (that you could build yourself) and then a lot of prayer and time making sure your LPT port works. If you computer doenst' have one, you can buy one for a PCI-e slot, that may or may not be compatible with any of the openCBM flavors out there (openCBM is software that lets your computer talk to a C64, or a c64 disk drive, called a 1541, 1571, or 1581).

This option represents "the old skool" method. The dinosaur method. It's the method i have used for many years, and includes me carrying a c64 disk drive to shows, in a suitcase that weighed 50 lbs. This is the many tears method, and the angels burning in a lake of fire method.

Times have changed.

Part 2 - the new times that the old times have changed into.

At the dawn of the modern epoch (around 2007) some good new things began to emerge in the world. USB having supplanted the parallel and serial interfaces of yesteryear (anyone remember the funny DB-9 connector for their old mouse? ?!?! or was it DB-15, i cant' even remember!!!). If you want to talk to a c64, you've now got a multitude of options, some even including USB (others, not, but who cares, because they work with USB adaptors!)

i) c64tpc - the turkish delight
This quaint looking piece of kit comes from Turkey, home of the great innovations of cultural history. From the fez, to the angora sweater, these mavins have set the trends for shriners and 1950s teenie boppers since forever.
This device and its associated PC side software (which is here, and only for windows, sorry mac fanboys) can emulate up to 4 (i think) drives at once. You load disk images on the emulated drive, and bing bang boom. EVEN BETTER, it can laod and save FROM ANY WINDOWS DIRECTORY WITHOUT needing to mounta disk image. In laymans terms, youdon't have to go through the trouble of loading starcommander and making disk images, you can save your mssiah and p64 songs as .arr files directly in windows. This is good. It's fully compatible with mssiah (i even helped beta test the original software!), it uses an RS232 (old serial style DB9) interface, BUT, can connect using an RS232 to USB adaptor. So yes, you can plug it into a USB slot.

Stats: cost 29.99 USD (here)
Connections RS232(serial) and USB (with rs232>USB adaptor)
Drawbacks - it isn't much faster than the c64's drive. Windows only.

ii) 1541ultimate - holy terror
This device, which is now open source, is a 1541 drive emulator that can be used either as a cartridge in the c64 cartridge port (making it incompatible with mssiah in that form) or, as a standalone unit (like a real disk drive) connected to the c64s serial port (the one you plug a disk drive into!) It uses an SD card to store d64 images, is apparntly compatible with mssiah (so FirebrandBoy claims), and has a host of other features, including support for ethernet! However, it costs like 90939000$

However, its totally badass

Stats: cost 119 euroes, OR, 159 euroes (With ethernet) (here)
connections: SD card (fat16), cart port/disk port
bonuses: much much much much much faster than c64 disk drive, robust, and amazing

drawbacks: damned expensive (159... EURO! you feel me?)

iii) vapourware? the xum1541 cable

Building on the x1541, there has been a dream for a USB version for many years. many projects have started and been abandoned. This one is the most recent, and may NOT have been abandoned yet.. but no word since January.. (here) No word on price, no word on speed.. but if it works, my guess is that it will be the cheapest solution (build your own, upload the firmware, under 20$).

Stay tuned for part 2, software for the C64! (and PC, goattracker included)
part 3 - MOS SID solutions outside the c64 (midibox sid 2.0!)
part 4 - Emulation

all, this week, on CANADA OF 8BIT!

No comments:

Post a Comment